Unfinished Business: Did the GOP hack the 2004 Ohio Vote?

As the 2008 presidential election heads to Tuesday's vote, there is some unfinished business concerning 2004 presidential election -- and whether the Republican Party had the means to electronically alter the vote count -- that will come before a federal court in Ohio on Monday.

At issue is whether Republican computer consultants, working for then Secretary of State and Bush-Cheney campaign co-chair, J. Kenneth Blackwell, had the technical capacity to collect the electronic vote totals that were being reported on Election night by Ohio's 88 county boards of elections -- and delay publishing them on the state of Ohio's election results website until the numbers ensured a George W. Bush victory.

In the spring of 2007, AlterNet was first to publish a report -- written by me, Bob Fitrakis of Columbus, Ohio, and anonymous citizen journalists from E Pluribus Media -- that documented how the official Ohio Election Night results website was hosted on servers in Tennessee that also were home to hundreds of other GOP websites. The speculation then, and now, was whether the GOP had the means -- just as anyone who has access to a website's content management system does -- to review what is being published, and edit it if necessary, before making it live online.

In other words, we believed that events on the ground on Election Night 2004, such as a declaration of a homeland security alert in Warren County, where all the ballots were taken by local law enforcement to a locked warehouse, and wildly high voter turnout figures from several of the state's southwestern Bible Belt counties that were the last in the state to report, when there was no video tape of polling places from those counties jammed with people, all covered up an intentional GOP data diversion scheme to alter the results. Subsequent analysis of precinct-by-precinct results found, for example, more than 10,000 people in these same evangelical-rich counties who voted for Bush and in favor of gay marriage, a highly implausible claim, if the official results were true. All these factors have led a small team of lawyers in Columbus to methodically use a federal voting rights lawsuit to do discovery into what happened on Election Day in 2004, including looking at the Ohio's computer infrastructure that collated the vote count and reported it to the world.

Already, this litigation has revealed that nearly two-thirds of Ohio counties defied a federal court order and destroyed the 2004 ballots. meaning an accounting by academics or a 'recount' well after the fact would be impossible. But on Monday, in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, the GOP's computer IT guru, Mike Connell, is scheduled to be deposed. As a very good report in EPluribusMedia.net sums up, the lead attorney in this case, Cliff Arnebeck of Columbus, believes that his questioning will reveal much about the GOP's capacity in 2004 -- and today -- to intercept and potentially alter electronic vote counts.

As Arnebeck told EPluribusMedia:

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