The US Supreme Court has just dealt a serious blow to voters' rights that could help put John McCain in the White House by eliminating tens of thousands of voters who generally vote Democratic.
By 6-3 the Court has upheld an Indiana law that requires citizens to present a photo identification card in order to vote. Florida, Michigan, Louisiana, Georgia, Hawaii and South Dakota have similar laws. Though it's unlikely, as many as two dozen other states could add them by election day. Other states, like Ohio, have less stringent ID requirements than Indiana's, but still have certain restrictions that are strongly opposed by voter rights advocates.
The decision turns back two centuries of jurisprudence that has accepted a registered voter's signature as sufficient identification for casting a ballot. By matching that signature against one given at registration, and with harsh penalties for ballot stuffing, the Justices confirmed in their lead opinion that there is "no evidence" for the kind of widespread voter fraud Republican partisans have used to justify the demand for photo ID.
Voting rights activists have long argued that since photo ID can cost money, or may demand expensive trips to government agencies, the requirement constitutes a "poll tax." Taxes on the right to vote were used for a century to prevent blacks and others from voting in the south and elsewhere. They were specifically banned by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1964.
But the Court's lead opinion, written by Justice Stevens, normally a liberal, said that though rare, the "risk of voter fraud" was nonetheless "real" and that there was "no question about the legitimacy or importance of the state's interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters." The burden of obtaining a voter ID, said the court, was not so difficult as to be deemed unConstitutional. Ohio election protection Attorney Cliff Arnebeck believes Stevens joined the decision to divide the Court's conservative majority, and to leave the door open for further litigation.
But there is no indication the corporate media or Democratic Party will be pursuing significant action on this issue any time soon. Though the Kerry Campaign solicited millions of dollars to "protect the vote" in 2004, it has not supported independent research into that election's irregularities. In the King-Lincoln Civil Rights lawsuit, in which we are attorney and plaintiff, 56 of Ohio's 88 counties destroyed ballot materials, in direct violation of federal law. There has been no official legal follow-up on this case, no major media investigation, and no support from the Democratic Party either to investigate what happened in Ohio 2004, or to make sure it doesn't happen again in 2008. The issue has yet to be seriously raised by the major Democratic candidates despite the fact that it could render their campaigns moot.
This latest Supreme Court decision is yet another serious blow to voting rights advocates -- and probably to the Democratic nominees for President and other offices. It will clearly make it far more difficult for poor, minority, elderly and young citizens to vote. Tens of thousands of normally Democratic voters in key states -- especially Florida, Michigan, Georgia and Louisiana -- will simply be prevented from getting a ballot.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law in its "Friend of the Court" brief noted that between 10% and 13% of eligible voters lack the identification now required in Indiana. People without an official photo ID tend to be disproportionately minorities and poor, ushering a new Jim Crow era based on race and class apartheid. One Indiana study, according to Inter Press Service reporter Jim Lobe, found that 13.3% of registered Indiana voters lacked the now-required ID, but the numbers were significantly higher for black voters at 18% and young voters age 18-34 at more than 20%.
Kathryn Kolbert, President of People for the American Way, put the number at "millions of eligible voters who don't have the ID these laws require."
Photo ID has long been a lynchpin of a concerted GOP strategy to eliminate Democratic voters. In the wake of the theft of the 2004 election in Ohio, Republican activists produced heavily publicized allegations of massive voter fraud, virtually all of which proved to be false.
Nonetheless, the drumbeat for restrictive ID requirements has been steadily rising from GOP strongholds. Other such laws are now virtually certain to follow in states with Republican-controlled legislatures, though it's unclear how many more can be put into law by November.
Nor has the GOP let up in its other campaigns to restrict access to the polls. Extremely harsh limitations on voter registration campaigns in Florida have severely restricted attempts by the League of Women Voters and others to sign up new voters. GOP election officials also have made it clear they will severely restrict the franchise of those who have minor irregularities in the registration forms, such as an errant middle initial or changed address.
It is also unclear how many electronic voting machines will still be in place come November. Despite a wide range of high-level studies showing them easily hackable, the elimination of touch screen voting machines has proceeded at a glacial pace. No significant federal legislation has been passed to eliminate electronic voting machines or even to make them more secure. With a few exceptions, most notably Florida, progress at the state level has been minimal.
Thus the GOP hope that millions of Americans will be voting on hackable computers this November, and that millions more may be eliminated from the rolls altogether, seems very close to fruition. Whether this will swing the election to John McCain remains to be seen. But this Supreme Court decision allowing the demand for photo ID makes it much more likely.
From Ohio and California to Scotland and France, the disputes surrounding electronic voting machines have gone truly global.
E-voting machines have already been extensively studied and condemned by a wide range of expert committees, commissions and colleges, including the General Accountability Office, the Carter-Baker Commission, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Stanford University and others. Rigging of a recount in Cleveland has resulted in two felony convictions. The failures of e-voting machines have been the subject of numerous documentary films, including the aptly titled HBO special "Hacking Democracy."
Now the secretaries of state in Ohio and California are subjecting e-voting to still more official review. Ohio's Jennifer Brunner has announced she'll seek bids to conduct independent studies of both touch-screen machines, which record votes electronically, and optical scanners, which tabulate paper ballots electronically.
Brunner has already removed the entire board of elections of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) in part because of a major fiasco caused by new electronic machines in the state's 2006 primary election. Voting rights activists vehemently opposed the $20 million purchase, but it was rammed through by Board Chair Robert Bennett and Executive Director Michael Vu.
The machines then caused long reporting delays. Vu resigned under pressure from the board. Bennett then resigned---along with the rest of the board---under pressure from Brunner. Bennett chairs the Ohio Republican Party, works closely with White House advisor Karl Rove, and was instrumental in delivering Ohio's decisive votes to George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. Two felony convictions have so far arisen from what prosecutors call a "rigged" recount that occurred that year in Cleveland, under Bennett's supervision.
The specifics of Brunner's investigation, which she wants done by September, are not yet public. But the newly elected Democrat says she intends to "fill in the gaps" on studies of Diebold, ES&S and Hart InterCivic machines whose vote tallies were key to giving Bush a second term. The conservative Columbus Dispatch has already predicted that the results of the investigation "likely will disappoint conspiracy theorists."
California's new Secretary of State Deborah Bowen will begin her study May 14, and wants it done by late July. An interagency agreement with the University of California will use three "top-to-bottom review teams" with about seven people each to inspect documents, previous studies, computer source code and a penetration attack to test system security. Cost is estimated at $1.8 million to be covered by system vendors and the Help America Vote Act. Systems from Diebold, ES&S, HartIntercivic, Sequoia and InkaVote of Los Angeles will be examined.
Other states are also re-evaluating their electronic voting systems, and fierce controversy is raging nationwide over a federal bill from Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) which institutes certain voting reforms but allows the use of electronic machines to continue.
Now the issue has spread worldwide. Widespread cries of theft and fraud erupted in Ukraine, just before the US 2004 election. A forced re-vote ousted the "official" winner.
In Mexico, leftists contend the recent presidential election there was stolen just as Bush did it in the US, with some of the same personnel pulling it off.
Now similar cries are coming from Scotland and France. May 3 elections in Scotland using new electronic counting systems resulted in as many as 100,000 votes being classed as "spoilt papers." (About 90,000 such ballots from Ohio 2004 remain uncounted to this day).
Complex methods of tabulating and weighting the Scottish votes yielded "chaos." Several vote counts were suspended. In some races the tally of rejected ballots was greater than some candidates' winning margin. "This is a temporary interruption to one small aspect of the overall process," says a spokeswoman for DRS, the company responsible for the vote counting technology.
The language in France has not been so polite. A watershed presidential election has just been won by Nicolas Sarkozy, a blunt right-wing Reagan-Bush-style extremist over the socialist Segolene Royal. Sarkozy is a hard-edged authoritarian whose intense anti-immigrant rhetoric matches his support for the American war in Iraq and his avowed intent to slash France's social service system, including a public health program widely considered among the best in the world.
Like the balloting in Ukraine, the US, Scotland and Mexico, Sarkozy's victory was marred by angry, widespread complaints about dubious vote counts whose discrepancies always seem to favor the rightist candidate. Throughout France, the cry has arisen that the conservatives have done to Segolene Royal what Bush/Rove did to John Kerry.
In the not-so-distant past, other elections were engineered by George H.W. Bush, head of the Central Intelligence Agency and father of the current White House resident. During the Reagan-Bush presidencies, in the Philippines, Nicaragua, El Salvador and other key third world nations, expected leftist triumphs somehow morphed into rightist coups. "CIA destabilizations are nothing new," said former CIA station chief and Medal of Merit winner John Stockwell in 1987. "Guatemala in 1954, Brazil, Ghana, Chile, the Congo, Iran, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay -- the CIA organized the overthrow of constitutional democracy."
The recent trend to privatizing vote counts, with corporations claiming "proprietary rights" to keep their hardware and software covert, has added a new dimension to an old tradition. The recent "e-victories" in the US and France have significantly tipped to the right the global balance among the major powers. So while Ohio and California conduct their studies of electronic voting, the whole world will be watching.
While life goes on during the Bush2 nightmare, so does the research on what really happened in Ohio in 2004 to give George W. Bush a second term.
Pundits throughout the state and nation -- many of them alleged Democrats -- continue to tell those of us who question Bush's second coming that we should "get over it," that the election is old news.
But things get curiouser and curiouser.
In our 2005 compendium "How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008," we list more than a hundred different ways the Republican Party denied the democratic process in the Buckeye State. For a book of documents to be published Sept. 11 by the New Press entitled "What Happened in Ohio," we are continuing to dig.
It turns out, we missed more than a few of the dirty tricks Karl Rove, Ken Blackwell and their GOP used to get themselves four more years. In an election won with death by a thousand cuts, some that are still hidden go very deep. Over the next few weeks we will list them as they are verified.
One of them has just surfaced to the staggering tune of 175,000 purged voters in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), the traditional stronghold of the Ohio Democratic Party. An additional 10,000 that registered to vote there for the 2004 election were lost due to "clerical error."
As we reported more than a year ago, some 133,000 voters were purged from the registration rolls in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and Lucas County (Toledo) between 2000 and 2004. The 105,000 from Cincinnati and 28,000 from Toledo exceeded Bush's official alleged margin of victory -- just under 119,000 votes out of some 5.6 million the Republican Secretary of State. J. Kenneth Blackwell deemed worth counting.
Exit polls flashed worldwide on CNN at 12:20 am Wednesday morning, Nov. 3, showed John Kerry winning Ohio by 4.2 percent of the popular vote, probably about 250,000 votes. We believe this is an accurate reflection of what really happened here.
But by morning Bush was being handed the presidency, claiming a 2.5 percent Buckeye victory, as certified by Blackwell. In conjunction with other exit polling, the lead switch from Kerry to Bush is a virtual statistical impossibility. Yet John Kerry conceded with more than 250,000 ballots still uncounted, though Bush at the time was allegedly ahead only by 138,000, a margin that later slipped to less than 119,000 in the official vote count.
At the time, very few people knew about those first 133,000 voters that had been eliminated from the registration rolls in Cincinnati and Toledo. County election boards purged the voting registration lists. Though all Ohio election boards are allegedly bipartisan, in fact they are all controlled by the Republican Party. Each has four seats, filled by law with two Democrats and two Republicans.
But all tie votes are decided by the secretary of state, in this case Blackwell, the extreme right-wing Republican now running for governor. Blackwell served in 2004 not only as the man in charge of the state's vote count, but also as co-chair of the Ohio Bush-Cheney campaign. Many independent observers have deemed this to be a conflict of interest. On election day, Blackwell met personally with Bush, Karl Rove and Matt Damschroder, chair of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections, formerly the chair of the county's Republican Party.
The Board of Elections in Toledo was chaired by Bernadette Noe, wife of Tom Noe, northwestern Ohio's "Mr. Republican." A close personal confidante of the Bush family, Noe raised more than $100,000 for the GOP presidential campaign in 2004. He is currently under indictment for three felony violations of federal election law, and 53 counts of fraud, theft and other felonies in the "disappearance" of more than $13 million in state funds. Noe was entrusted with investing those funds by Republican Gov. Robert Taft, who recently pled guilty to four misdemeanor charges, making him the only convicted criminal ever to serve as governor of Ohio.
The rationale given by Noe and the Republican-controlled BOE in Lucas and Hamilton counties was that the voters should be eliminated from the rolls because they had allegedly not voted in the previous two federal elections.
There is no law that requires such voters be eliminated. And there is no public verification that has been offered to confirm that these people had not, in fact, voted in those elections.
Nonetheless, tens of thousands of voters turned up in mostly Democratic wards in Cincinnati and Toledo, only to find they had been mysteriously removed from the voter rolls. In many cases, sworn testimony and affidavits given at hearings after the election confirmed that many of these citizens had in fact voted in the previous two federal elections and had not moved from where they were registered. In some cases, their stability at those addresses stretched back for decades.
The problem was partially confirmed by a doubling of provisional ballots cast during the 2004 election, as opposed to the number cast in 2000. Provisional ballots have been traditionally used in Ohio as a stopgap for people whose voting procedures are somehow compromised at the polls, but who are nonetheless valid registrants.
Prior to the 2004 election, Blackwell made a range of unilateral pronouncements that threw the provisional balloting process into chaos. Among other things, he demanded that voters casting provisional ballots provide their birth dates, a requirement that was often not mentioned by poll workers. Eyewitnesses testify that many provisional ballots were merely tossed in the trash at Ohio polling stations.
To this day, more than 16,000 provisional ballots (along with more than 90,000 machine-spoiled ballots) cast in Ohio remain uncounted. The secretary of state refuses to explain why. A third attempt by the Green and Libertarian parties to obtain a meaningful recount of the Ohio presidential vote has again been denied by the courts, though the parties are appealing.
Soon after the 2004 election, Damschroder announced that Franklin County would eliminate another 170,000 citizens from the voter rolls in Columbus. Furthermore, House Bill 3, recently passed by the GOP-dominated legislature, has imposed a series of restrictions that will make it much harder for citizens to restore their names to the voter rolls, or to register in the first place.
All this, however, pales before a new revelation just released by the board of elections in Cuyahoga County, the heavily Democratic county surrounding Cleveland.
Robert J. Bennett, the Republican chair of the Cuyahoga Board of Elections, and the chair of the Ohio Republican Party, has confirmed that prior to the 2004 election, his BOE eliminated -- with no public notice -- a staggering 175,414 voters from the Cleveland-area registration rolls. He has not explained why the revelation of this massive registration purge has been kept secret for so long. Virtually no Ohio or national media has bothered to report on this story.
Many of the affected precincts in Cuyahoga County went 90 percent and more for John Kerry. The county overall went more than 60 percent for Kerry.
The eliminations have been given credence by repeated sworn testimony and affidavits from long-time Cleveland voters that they came to their usual polling stations only to be told that they were not registered. When they could get them, many were forced to cast provisional ballots which were highly likely to be pitched in the trash, or which remain uncounted.
Ohio election history would indicate that the elimination of 175,000 voters in heavily Democratic Cleveland must almost certainly spell doom for any state-wide Democratic campaign. These 175,000 pre-2004 election eliminations must now be added to the 105,000 from Cincinnati and the 28,000 from Toledo.
Therefore, to put it simply: at least 308,000 voters, most of them likely Democrats, were eliminated from the registration rolls prior to an election allegedly won by less than 119,000 votes, where more than 106,000 votes still remain uncounted, and where the GOP secretary of state continues to successfully fight off a meaningful recount.
There are more than 80 other Ohio counties where additional pre-November 2004 mass eliminations by GOP-controlled boards of elections may have occurred. Further "anomalies" in the Ohio 2004 vote count continue to surface.
In addition, it seems evident that the Democratic Party will now enter Ohio's 2006 gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, and its 2008 presidential contest, with close to a half-million voters having been eliminated from the registration rolls, the vast majority of them from traditional Democratic strongholds, and with serious legislative barriers having been erected against new voter registration drives.
A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor. Despite massive corruption scandals besieging the Ohio GOP, any hope that the Democratic party could win this most crucial swing state in future presidential elections, or carry its pivotal U.S. Senate seat in 2006, are about to end.
House Bill 3 has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is about to be approved by the Republican-dominated Senate, probably before the holiday recess. Republicans dominate the Ohio legislature thanks to a heavily gerrymandered crazy quilt of rigged districts, and to a moribund Ohio Democratic party. The GOP-drafted HB3 is designed to all but obliterate any possible future Democratic revival. Opposition from the Ohio Democratic Party, where it exists at all, is diffuse and ineffectual.
HB3's most publicized provision will require positive identification before casting a vote. But it also opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.
The GOP is ramming similar bills through state legislatures around the U.S., starting with Georgia and Indiana. The ID requirements in particular have provoked widespread opposition from newspapers such as the New York Times. The Times, among others, argues that the ID requirements and the costs associated with them, constitute an unconstitutional discriminatory poll tax.
But despite significant court challenges, the Republicans are forcing changes in long-standing election laws that have allowed citizens to vote based on their signature alone. Across the U.S., GOP Jim Crow laws will eliminate millions of Democratic voters from the registration rolls. In swing states like Ohio, such ballots are almost certain to be crucial.
The proposed Ohio law will demand a valid photo ID or a utility bill, a bank statement, a paycheck or a government document with a current address. Thousands of Ohio citizens who are elderly, homeless, unemployed or who do not drive will be effectively disenfranchised. Many citizens, for example, rent apartments where the utilities are paid by landlords. In such cases, the number of people living in utilities-included apartment rentals could actually determine an election.
During the 2004 presidential election, Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, also issued statewide threats against ex-felons and people whose names resembled those of ex-felons. Thousands of such threats were delivered to registered voters who were never convicted of anything, or who were eligible to vote after being released from prison. In 2004 a "Mighty Texas Strike Force" came to Columbus with a specific mandate to threaten ex-felons with arrest if they dared to vote.
It is legal for ex-felons in Ohio to vote, even if they are in half-way houses or on parole. But HB3's identification requirement, combined with the confusion Blackwell has introduced into the process, will intimidate such Ohioans from voting in 2006 and beyond.
HB3 will also reduce voter rolls by ordering county boards of elections to send cards to registered voters every two years. If a card comes back as undelivered, the voter must rely on a provisional ballot. But tens of thousands of provisional ballots were arbitrarily discarded in 2004, and some 16,000 are known to remain uncounted to this day.
HB3 also imposes severe restrictions on voter registration drives. It allows the state attorney-general and local prosecutors wide powers to prosecute vaguely defined charges of fraud against those working to sign up voters. The restrictions are clearly meant to chill the kind of Democratic registration drives that brought hundreds of thousands of new voters to the polls in 2004 (even though many were turned away in Democratic wards due to a lack of voting machines).
Those electronic machines will also be exempted from recounts by random sampling, even in close, disputed elections like those of 2000 and 2004.
In 2004, scores of Ohio voters reported, under oath, that they had pressed John Kerry's name on touchscreen machines, only to see George W. Bush's name light up. A board of elections technician in Mahoning County (Youngstown) has admitted that at least 18 machines there suffered such problems. Sworn testimony in Columbus indicates that votes for Kerry faded off the screen on touchscreen machines there. Other charges of mis-programming, re-programming, recalibrating, mishandling and manipulation of electronic voting software, hardware and memory cards have since arisen throughout Ohio 2004.
For the 2005 election, some 41 additional Ohio counties (of 88) were switched to Diebold touchscreen machines. Despite polls showing overwhelming voter approval, two electoral reform issues went down improbable defeat. Issue Two, meant to make voting easier, and Issue Three, on campaign finance reform, were shown by highly reliable Columbus Dispatch polls to be passing handily.
The Dispatch was within 0.5% on Issue One, a bond issue, and has rarely been significantly wrong in its many decades of Ohio polling. Even opponents of Issues Two and Three conceded that they were highly likely to pass.
On the Sunday before the Tuesday 2005 election, the Dispatch predicted Issue Two would pass by a vote of 59% to 33%, with about 8% undecided. But Tuesday's official vote count showed Issue Two failing with just 36.5% in favor and 63.5% opposed. For that to have happened, the Dispatch had to have been wrong on Issue Two's support by more than 20 points. Nearly half those who said they would support Issue Two would have had to vote against it, along with all the undecideds.
The numbers on Issue Three are equally startling. The Dispatch showed it winning with 61%, to just 25% opposed and some 14% undecided. Instead just 33% of the votes were counted in its favor, with 67% opposed, an almost inconceivable weekend turnaround.
No other numbers were comparable on November 8, 2005, or elsewhere in the recent history of Dispatch polling. The startling outcome has thus raised even more suspicion and doubt about the use of electronic voting and tabulating machines in Ohio, which account for virtually 100% of the state's vote count.
The federal General Accountability Office (GAO) has recently issued a major report confirming that tampering with and manipulating such machines can be easily done by a very small number of people. Charges are widespread that this is precisely what gave George W. Bush Ohio's electoral votes, and thus the presidency, in 2004, not to mention the suspicious referenda outcomes in 2005.
HB3 will make it virtually impossible for any challenge to be mounted involving any votes cast or counted on electronic machines or tabulators -- meaning virtually every vote cast in Ohio.
Indeed, HB3 will raise the cost of mounting a recount from $10 per precinct to $50 per precinct. In 2004, Secretary of State Blackwell forced citizen groups to raise private funds for a recount, which he proceeded to sabotage. The process, which became a futile electronic charade, cost donors committed to democracy more than $100,000. Three partial, meaningless faux recounts resulted. To date more than 100,000 votes cast in Ohio remain uncounted, including some 93,000 easily-read machine-rejected ballots. .
During the 2004 election process Blackwell, manipulated the number of precincts in Ohio, and issued inaccurate information about their location and boundaries, making a meaningful precise number hard to come by. But with more than 10,000 precincts still in existence, HB3 would make funding an attempt at another recount in 2006 or 2008 cost more than $500,000.
Such an effort might also result in official retaliation. In 2004, Blackwell and Ohio Attorney-General Jim Petro -- both of whom are now Republican candidates for governor -- tried to impose stiff financial sanctions against attorneys who filed a legal challenge to the seating of the Ohio electors who gave George W. Bush the presidency. The Ohio Supreme Court disallowed the sanctions after the challenge was withdrawn. But HB3 would make such a federal election challenge illegal altogether.
With the electoral process in Ohio all but disemboweled, those hoping for a change of party in upcoming state and national elections are probably kidding themselves.
The 2004 election in the Buckeye state was riddled with deception, fraud, intimidation, manipulation and outright theft, all of which were essential to the triumph of George W. Bush. In 2005, four electoral reform ballot initiatives were allegedly defeated despite huge poll margins showing the almost certain passage of two of them. The most credible explanation for their defeat lies in electronic manipulation of voting machines, tabulators and memory cards which the GAO confirms have no credible security safeguards.
With campaign finance, voter registration, electronic voting, public recounts, district gerrymandering and overall electoral administration now firmly in the pocket of the GOP, and with Democratic opposition that is virtually non-existent on the issue of vote fraud and election manipulation, there is little reason to believe the Republican grip on Ohio will be loosened at any point in the near future.
In traditional terms, the scandal-ridden Ohio GOP would appear to be more vulnerable than ever. Governor Robert Taft has become the only Ohio governor to be convicted of a crime while in office. With an astonishing 7% approval rating, he has been compared to Homer Simpson by the state's leading Republican newspaper. Republican US Senator Mike DeWine appears highly vulnerable. The GOP has never won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.
But HB3 will solidify the GOP's iron grip on the electronic voting process and all that surrounds it. Unless they break that grip, Democrats who believe they can carry any part of Ohio in 2006 or 2008 are kidding themselves.
When it comes to 2008, can you say "Jeb Bush"?
The Democratic National Committee's investigation into Ohio's 2004 presidential election irregularities is the perfect postscript to the party's 'election protection' efforts last fall: it is a shocking indictment of a party caught completely off-guard in its most heated presidential campaign in years, and a party that still doesn't fully understand what happened and how to avoid a repeat in the future.
The report primarily documents the fact that Jim Crow voter suppression tactics targeting Democratic African-American voters were rampant in Ohio's cities during the 2004 presidential election. It cites and spends most of its time analyzing the most visible problems: from shortages of voting machines in minority precincts, to unreasonable obstacles to voter registration, to disproportionate use of provisional ballots on Election Day among new voters and Democratic constituencies, to inadequate poll worker training and election administration, to poor post-Election Day record keeping.
But the DNC reports says those factors do not mean John Kerry won the election, nor does it mean that the new electronic voting machines are unreliable Ã¢â‚¬â€� even though some of the precincts with the highest percentages of reported problems were outfitted with the new electronic voting machines, known as DREs. The DNC asked for access to the new electronic voting machines and their software, but was denied by local election officials and the private manufacturers. The report leaves the matter there.
It is statements like this one, on page 189, and a failure to follow-through that make the report more than a disappointment to election protection workers, voter rights advocates and those grassroots activists who worked for John Kerry's campaign. Speaking of the new electronic voting machines, the DNC report states, that "many of the county boards (of elections) do not actually control the electronic records created during the tallying process." When the Fairfield County Board of Elections was asked for election results, they merely forwarded data from a private vendor.
Since county vote totals are tabulated on computers and sent directly to the Secretary of State's office Ã¢â‚¬â€� who has real-time access to those figures Ã¢â‚¬â€� you might expect the report to address the question of whether the 2004 vote count was susceptible to fraud. It doesn't.
The DNC says it sought access to the computers used to record and tabulate Ohio votes, but those same county boards of election that didn't control the data -- and the voting machine manufacturers who did Ã¢â‚¬â€� declined, citing "security concerns" (p.187) and "vendors pointed out their extreme discomfort with providing this sort of access to a partisan organization."
That might sound reasonable, if you don't recall Ã¢â‚¬â€� and the report does not recall Ã¢â‚¬â€� that the chief executive of the nation's largest electronic voting machine manufacturer, Diebold's Walden O'Dell, was not only a top-tier fundraiser for George W. Bush, but also promised in an infamous August 14, 2003 fundraising letter to Republicans that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." Also, both ES&S and Triad corporations, the latter which tabulated ballots in 41 of Ohio's 88 counties, have well-established Republican ties.
The DNC report is filled with omissions of that magnitude and dismissals of the work of citizen-activists who Ã¢â‚¬â€� with no help from the DNC, or Kerry campaign Ã¢â‚¬â€� fought for a fair accounting of the 2004 vote after Election Day.
Consider these paragraphs from an introductory letter to the report from Donna Brazile, the chair of the DNC's Voting Rights Institute.
"Although voters across America voiced concerns which questioned the fairness and the accuracy of the 2004 general election, President George W. Bush's narrow victory in Ohio (a pivotal state) provided sufficient electoral votes to ensure his re-election. There was a myriad of litigation surrounding the general election in Ohio that targeted controversial conduct on the part of the Office of the Secretary of State.
"Following the election recount, the House Judiciary Democratic Staff published an exhaustive report, "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio" that is replete with anecdotal evidence of numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters."People who put their lives on hold and went to Ohio to work for John Kerry will shake their heads. Brazile cites "a myriad of litigation" that her party and candidate fought, did not fund and sought to undermine. Moreover, the reference to the House Judiciary Committee's Democrat Staff inquiry as "anecdotal" is an insult to voting rights activists and volunteer lawyers who conducted public hearings -- at their own expense, not the DNC's Ã¢â‚¬â€� and took sworn testimony from more than 1,000 voters who cared enough and volunteered to testify under oath and file affidavits. The hearings were anything but anecdotal; they were perhaps the largest group of people to testify under oath about elections in the history of the state. The first two hearings in Columbus occurred within two weeks of Election Day. Four other hearings in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Warren occurred more than a month before the DNC could conduct its phone survey from the east coast.
It's worth remembering the timing and origin of this report. The Democratic Party and its allied supporters, such as Americans Coming Together, spent millions of dollars on their election protection efforts. The same Ohio Democratic Party that told John Kerry not to challenge the result and to concede to Bush, also was completely caught off-guard with Republican's resurrection of Jim Crow voter suppression tactics, according to its own report. What kind of a party stations hundreds of lawyers at polls in anticipation of poll challenges that don't happen, but isn't aware that voting machines will not be evenly distributed among white and black neighborhoods? Or isn't aware of the fact that newly registered voters aren't receiving proper precinct information, or are being targeted with new provisional ballots that are likely to be disqualified on frivolous technicalities?
There's more history to the DNC report. The DNC announced it would investigate election irregularities on December 6th, two days before Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, and Democrats on the House Judiciary opened their first of several hearings into the 2004 Ohio presidential vote. In effect, the DNC knew Conyers' inquiry would be explosive and sought to pre-empt his investigation by announcing its inquiry first.
The Ohio Democratic Party wanted nothing to do with examining the evidence of voting fraud Ã¢â‚¬â€� what Brazille derides as "anecdotal" Ã¢â‚¬â€� and did not participate in the election recount. The Kerry-Edwards campaign joined the recount effort late, only after it was embarrassed by the Libertarian and Green Parties. The Kerry campaign gave several hundred thousand dollars to the gubernatorial recount in Washington, but didn't advance a dime to the Ohio election challenge lawsuit.
What the DNC did was announce Ã¢â‚¬â€� two days before Conyers' first hearing Ã¢â‚¬â€� that its review would not contest the election results, but would "fulfill the Democratic Party's commitment to ensuring that every eligible voter can vote and every vote cast is counted." Rather than achieve that lofty goal, the party conceded for a second time Ã¢â‚¬â€� Kerry's concession being first Ã¢â‚¬â€� by confirming Bush's victory before a recount was completed and similarly by avoiding participation in a voter challenge suit.
The report contains other outrages. It states African-American voters waited an average of 52 minutes in line, compared to white voters waiting an average of 18 minutes. That calculation defies the experience of thousands of voters who waited four, five or six hours. That figure is the kind of statistical averaging is akin to having a tornado touch down in Columbus and having the National Weather Service say its been a breezy day across the state.
In the primarily African American 55th ward in Columbus, on the ground election protection volunteers clocked an average wait of three hours and 15 minutes. In the adjacent inner city 5th ward, the wait was three hours and five minutes. The Franklin County Board of Elections, under the control of former Franklin County Republican Party Chair Matt Damschroder failed to put out 76 voting machines by his own admittance. All 76 from the Democratic-rich city of Columbus and 42 of them from the African American wards on the city's near east side. Apparently, a few blacks in Bucyrus didn't wait long and needed to be averaged into the DNC's report totals.
But the biggest disappointment of the DNC report is that it gives no indication that the old-school Jim Crow abuses will be addressed and rectified, and that the newer school electronic voting machine abuses will be similarly addressed. The report portrays a statewide landscape of separate and unequal rules in election jurisdictions across the state. It says local and statewide election officials Ã¢â‚¬â€� and the private companies they hire Ã¢â‚¬â€� aren't interested in cooperating to make the system more transparent and equitable. And the party hierarchy that commissioned this report dismisses the work of its activists and loyal volunteers who worked before and after the 2004 race for electoral justice.
Is that any way to prepare for 2006 or 2008? Read the report at www.democrats.org and decide for yourself if the DNC learned the real lessons of 2004 in Ohio.
Humans have long sought to control the weather. Early people learned how to make fire and modify their micro-environments; rain dances and other rituals to alleviate droughts are part of our folklore. So news that the government is engaged in secret experiments to control the weather should come as no surprise -- especially after a long history of "cloud seeding," "atom splitting" and cloning revelations.
In fact, a vast majority of people would be shocked to learn that this orphan of the cold war is still in practice. As the U.S. and former Soviet Union spent trillions of dollars on their militaries, their commitment to mutually assured destruction led to extensive experimentation with the use of weather as a weapon. In 1977, the Saturday Review cited a CIA report hinting that the U.S. government already had the power to massively manipulate the weather for war purposes.
As the Soviet Union disintegrated, a 1993 Isvestia article suggested the U.S. might want to partner with the Russians in peddling their top-secret technology to the world. Oleg Klugin, a high-ranking KGB officer, bragged of his involvement in geophysical weapons research to a London newspaper. The grid patterns of jet chemtrails now spotted throughout the Western world are likely the application of these technologies to new military and civilian uses.
The military is not attempting to hide its long-term goals. "Weather is a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025" is a white paper that can be found on a Pentagon-sponsored website. The paper�s abstract reads: "In 2025, U.S. aerospace forces can �own the weather� by capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies towards fighting applications. Such a capability offers the war fighters tools to shape the battle space in ways never before possible� In the U.S., weather modification will likely become a part of national security policy with both domestic and international applications."
Wired magazine wrote about the paper and extensively quoted physicist Bernard Eastlund in its January 2000 article "Activate Cloud Shield! Zap a Twister!" The article detailed the military�s plan for "made-to-order thunderstorms" and "lightning strikes on demand."
Eastlund managed programs for Controlled Thermal Nuclear Research for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission from 1966 to 1974; he was a key researcher in the 1980s� Strategic Space Initiative (aka Star Wars). Since 1996, Eastlund served as CEO and president of Eastlund Scientific Enterprises Corporation. The company boasts on its website that it specializes in "weather modification" and "tornado modification" among other high-tech services.
Eastlund considers the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) in Alaska a smaller version of what he envisions for weather modification. In response to Michael Theroux of Borderland Sciences -- who asked Eastlund whether the HAARP station could affect the weather -- Eastlund replied: "Significant experiments could be performed� The HAARP antenna as is it now configured modulates the auroral electrojet to induce ELF waves and thus could have an effect on the zonal winds."
At the Space 2000 Conference and Exposition on Engineering, Construction, Operations and Business in Space, sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Eastlund outlined his plan for zapping tornados with an electromagnetic radiation beam from the proposed Thunderstorm Solar Powered Satellite he�s developing with the help of the European Space Agency and Jenkins Enterprises.
U.S. patent number 6315213, filed on November 13, is described as a method of modifying weather and should concern the public. A scientist from Wright Patterson Air Force Base acknowledges that planes are spraying barium salt, polymer fibers, aluminum oxide and other chemicals in the atmosphere to both modify the weather and for military communications purposes. The patent abstract specifically states: "The polymer is dispersed into the cloud and the wind of the storm agitates the mixture causing the polymer to absorb the rain. This reaction forms a gelatinous substance which precipitate to the surface below. Thus, diminishing the cloud�s ability to rain."
Answering the age-old question, Who�ll stop the rain?: Apparently our government and a few of their closest friends in the military industrial-complex. The emergence of Edward Teller promoting this startling technology is more than scary. (Teller was the father of the H-Bomb and grand promoter of Readi Kilowatt, our perky little radiation friend from the �50s; one of his bright ideas from the �50s was to create harbors by nuking our own coastline.) The April 24 New York Times reported that Teller "has promoted the idea of manipulating the Earth�s atmosphere to counteract global warming." The computer simulations on the use of aluminum oxide to counter global warming come from the Lawrence Livermore Weapons Laboratory, where Teller serves as director emeritus.
There should be little doubt that this would be a priority for the government -- or for for-profit military contractors. While 2001 was the second-hottest year on record (1998 holds the record as the hottest year), the nine hottest years on record have occurred since 1990. But why would the government conduct anti-global warming experiments in secret?
Investigative reporter William Thomas holds that there�s a link between the recent increase in asthma, allergies and upper respiratory ailments and the chemtrail spraying. Sound crazy? Remember, it sounded absurd when reports first came out that the government had conducted radioactivity experiments on U.S. citizens and released radiation from nuclear plants to test the effect on civilian populations. It sounded bizarre when news first filtered out that the government was engaged in the MK-Ultra mind-control experiments using LSD. The CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency admit they were responsible for many of the UFO sightings in the 1950s in order the explain away experimental military technology.
From public documents to mainstream news accounts, the record is filled with reports of weather-modifying technology left over from the Cold War. Now we have a right to know what, if anything, the government plans to do with it.