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'None dare call it stolen'

Sadly, it's no longer shocking when someone comes out with the position that the 2004 presidential election was riddled with enough "irregularities" that it could rightfully be called "fraudulent," and thus perhaps the presidency was "stolen" (again! you'd say, but last time it was given away, I'd respond).

In any event, eminent media critic Mark Crispin Miller has written an exhaustive analysis of the 2004 election, centered almost entirely around the linchpin state of Ohio, for Harper's Magazine. The article, which makes a very strong case that, shall we say, fair play was not the highest priority in Ohio, is a good read, but so enraging that you might want to read it in very short bursts. The full piece is not available online, but Mary Anne Saucier has summarized the article on

These are just a few among the many, many instances of dirty play Miller catalogues:

  • County boards of elections were ordered to reject all Ohio voter-registration forms not printed on white, uncoated paper of not less than 80 lb. text weight.
  • There was a prearranged FBI terrorist attack warning in Warren County which kept reporters from observing a post-election ballot-counting.
  • There was restriction of foreign monitors from "watching the opening of the polling places, the counting of the ballots, and, in some cases, the election itself.
  • In Cuyahoga and Franklin Counties, "the arrows on the absentee ballots were not properly aligned with their respective punch holes, so that countless votes were miscast."
  • In Mercer County, 4000 votes were mysteriously not in the final count.
  • Secretary of State [and Republican Party operative] J. Kenneth Blackwell created rules for the Ohio recount (requested by the Green and Libertarian Parties) which would prevent "countywide hand recounts by any means necessary." The end result was "the Ohio vote was never properly recounted, as required by Ohio law."

On a related note, I've been reading Andrew Gumbel's Steal This Vote, a comprehensive history of vote fraud, vote theft, and dirty tricks in American politics for the last 200+ years. In one sense, it's a bit relieving to know that stolen elections are nothing new; at least it gives a bit of perspective when folks cry that the democracy is dead, that "now that the right wing controls the voting machines we'll never beat them." Obviously our electoral infrastructure has been dominated by members of both parties at different times in the past -- perhaps what's more frustrating is that now we seem to have both the means and ideas of creating a more fair system, but it lies forever beyond our grasp.

I'll have much more to say about Gumbel's excellent book, but in the meantime go check out the summary of Miller's article, or pick up the latest Harper's.

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