Harvey Wasserman

How Ohio’s fascist pro-nuke attack on democracy threatens the referendum process across the nation

A terrifying series of gestapo-style assaults, petiton buying, bribery, mass media manipulation and systematic intimidation has smacked into the attempt of Ohio citizens to repeal a billion-dollar bailout for two dangerously failing atomic reactors on Lake Erie.

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Disaster Spiraling Out of Control at Fukushima as Japan's Prime Minister Asks for Global Help

Japan’s pro-nuclear Prime Minister has finally asked for global help at Fukushima. It probably hasn’t hurt that more than 100,000 people have signed petitions calling for a global takeover; more than 8,000 have viewed a new YouTube on it.

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Why Obama Must Pardon Leonard Peltier

Barack Obama has taken his two daughters on a dramatic visit to the Robben Island cell once occupied by Nelson Mandela.

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Victory for Grassroots Activism and Public Safety: San Onofre Nuclear Plant Closure Announced

From his California beach house at San Clemente, Richard Nixon once watched three reactors rise at nearby San Onofre.  As of June 7, 2013, all three are permanently shut.  

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Why the Nuclear Industry Is Beginning to Collapse

This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

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Showdown at San Onofre: Why the Nuclear Industry May Be Dealt a Big Blow

This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.

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Pot Prohibition Is the Cornerstone of a Police State

The simple truth about America's marijuana prohibition: any law that allows the easy incarceration of any citizen any time those in power want to do it is the ultimate enemy of democracy. With 800,000 annual arrests over an herb used by tens of millions of Americans, it is the cornerstone of a police state.

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Another Feeble-headed Nuke Drops Dead

As the "reactor renaissance" desperately demands new billions from a lame duck Congress, one of its shining stars has dropped dead. Other much-hyped "new generation" plans may soon die with it.

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6 Reasons Nuclear Energy Advocate Stewart Brand Is Wrong

Stewart Brand has become a poster boy for a "nuclear renaissance" that has just suffered a quiet but stunning defeat. Despite $645 million spent in lobbying over the past decade, the reactor industry has thus far failed to gouge out major new taxpayer funding for new commercial reactors. 

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You Are Now Paying for the Next 3 Mile Island

As radiation poured from 3 Mile Island 31 years ago this past weekend, utility executives rested easy.

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Is the Climate Bill Becoming an Excuse to Promote Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power?

Is the Climate Bill morphing into an excuse to promote fossil fuels and new nuclear power plants?

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Bush and McCain Happily Presiding Over Massive Transfer of Wealth to Oil Companies

The Bush/McCain gas price escalation is an Enron rerun. It is Chapter 2 of the scam that Bush crony "Kenny Boy" Lay used in 1999-2001 to steal $100 billion from California ratepayers.

Now this administration is replicating that crisis to funnel untold billions into the coffers of its oil baron backers ... and to push the failed strategies of offshore drilling and nuke power.

There is no doubt that we are at the edge of the petro-abyss. Peak oil is upon us, as is the global-warmed finale of Earth's carrying capacity for burning more fossil fuels. It is the perfect storm that must end the age of fossil/nuke.

But the immediate situation is not so clear. Bush/McCain say soaring prices are due to a lack of supply, and there are those who agree.

The Saudis, and others with more credibility, argue the price rise is contrived by bankers and speculators. Their mega-theft comes not only at the gas pump, but in food prices and other essentials.

Whatever the case, remember that during the Enron con, there was no shortage of electric generating capacity. Enron's operatives laughed into their PCs as they selectively shut perfectly operable power stations and jacked up electric prices 700 percent and more. Enron, of course, later went bankrupt, wiping out countless thousands.

Contrived or otherwise, today's soaring gas prices are a tangible bonanza for Bush/McCain. Offshore drilling would put billions in their cronies' pockets but would not lower gas prices a single cent. Nuke power could mean billions more in radioactive lucre for reactor builders who may never deliver a single electron of electricity.

It's no accident that what Bush/McCain are not advocating is a massive shift to increased efficiency and renewable energy.

Prior to the Enron disaster, green power advocates proposed that some 600 megawatts of renewables and efficiency be installed in California. They said this "floor" was needed to protect the state from precisely the kind of gouging Enron then did.

But Southern California Edison's John Bryson helped kill the green power proposal. Bryson now likes to be photographed in front of photovoltaic arrays. But he used a deregulation package promising a "free market in energy" to help pay off failed reactors at San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. Then he stepped back while Enron cashed in.

Today, despite years of grassroots advocacy, Bush has done everything in his power to squelch the conversion to a green-powered economy. Even as gas prices soar, there is no meaningful commitment to reviving mass transit, increasing fuel efficiency, or promoting renewable energy.

Indeed, Bush/McCain's two-step obsession with fossil fuels and nuke power is perfectly suited to guarantee that the public's money does not go to renewables and efficiency. Those technologies could actually solve both the climate and the energy supply crisis. But they would strip the fossil/nuke cartels of their death grip on the global economy.

Ironically, soaring fossil fuel prices make building reactors even more expensive. Using high gas prices to push nukes that only produce electricity (and radioactive waste) is a complete disconnect.

Today's wind and solar technologies are far cheaper than atomic energy, not to mention quicker to build, safer, more reliable and ecologically sound. The one thing certain about reactor construction is that it will stretch out years longer than planned. Capital costs are certain to at least double or triple before the first reactor could ever come on line, taking atomic energy totally out of the price range of renewables.

New drilling is also absurd. The offshore and other protected areas Bush/McCain would destroy have limited, expensive oil beneath them. The GOP "energy plan" is that of a desperate junkie, tearing apart the planet for a few last grains of white powder to snort up its nose. That there will then be no more does not seem to matter.

The United States once had the world's greatest mass transit system, which was consciously destroyed by the auto and oil industries to sell more cars and gas.

It once had a virtual monopoly on the renewable and efficiency technologies that can solve global warming and give us energy independence, with local communities taking control of their energy supply.

Enron's hucksters staged that fake electricity crisis to gouge California while pushing back the transition to a green-powered economy.

Now Enron II, the gas price crisis, is about gouging the whole nation. And about yet again postponing a community-owned, green-powered future.

The Solartopian conversion to renewables and efficiency could put the Bush/McCain barons of fossil nuke out of business. The sooner the better.

Is the Supreme Court Trying to Swing the Election?

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.

Will Congress Make Taxpayers Fund Terror-Target Nuke Reactors?

Within a matter of days Congressional back-room deals may rubber stamp huge taxpayer loan guarantees to build dozens of what amount to pre-deployed "dirty bombs" for terrorists.

The terror attacks of September 11, 2001, showed that atomic power plants are supremely vulnerable. The first jet that hit the World Trade Center flew directly over Indian Point, whose two active reactors --plus one more that's retired -- sit next to some very fragile high-level waste storage pools.

Had that first jet hit Indian Point, 35 miles north of Manhattan, with tens of millions of Americans closely downwind, the devastation would have been unimaginable. In fact, the 9/11 Commission found that Al Quaeda at one point considered crashing two planes into two nuclear facilities as part of its original plan.

Yet Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) is trying desperately to force taxpayers to underwrite $50 billion and more in loans to build still more of these radioactive bulls-eyes. A decision to include these provisions in the Energy Bill may be made as you read this, which is why safe energy advocates are asking citizens to flood Congress with calls, demanding the provisions be removed.

There is effectively nothing that can protect an atomic power plant from a terror attack. After 9/11, a global internet debate erupted over whether a jet could penetrate a reactor containment dome. Fortunately, there is no experimental data...yet.

But at very least more than two dozen early reactor domes, including Indian Point's, were never required to withstand a jet crash. They were designed in the 1960s with no anticipation of the much bigger planes now filling our skies. There is nothing to indicate they could withstand the kind of impact or fire that hit the WTC towers.

It would not be necessary for terrorists to hijack another jet, since Osama bin Laden among others has more than enough money to buy his own.

Nor would they need to penetrate a containment. The impact and fire alone on or near a reactor could devastate pipes, pumps, cooling systems, electronic controls, human operators, off-site power and communications, and any number of additional vital pressure points capable of causing a melt-down.

Chernobyl did explode in 1986, and Michigan's Fermi I fast breeder almost did so in 1966. In 1979, Three Mile Island faced the possibility of a hydrogen explosion. But its lethal radiation, which killed people and animals nearby, vented through stacks that remained intact throughout the disaster.

Arizona's entire three-reactor Palo Verde complex was recently shut because a single worker had what may have been a pipe bomb in his car.

All these events highlight the vulnerability of any society dependent on nuke power for its energy. A recent earthquake in Japan forced shut seven reactors in a single moment. The US now has 104 such plants generating some 20 percent of our electricity. Many are also near earthquake faults. All are vulnerable individually and as a fleet to a terror shut-down without a moment's notice.

Domenici's loan plan has been denounced by nearly every major environmental group in the United States, along with taxpayer groups and free marketeers such as the Cato Institute and Forbes Magazine, plus Congressional conservatives concerned about the budget process.

Domenici and his neo-con cohorts have been clear in their willingness to shred the Constitution in the name of national security.

But they would simultaneously force us to underwrite easily ignitable engines of radioactive mass destruction pre-deployed on our own soil.

The decision on whether these radioactive loan guarantees will be in the Energy Bill is being made as you read this. Call the Congressional leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and tell them these bailouts for terror-target nukes must be stopped.



Election Theft Goes Global

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.

The Ohio Vote Debacle

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.

Stay tuned.

The End of Democracy in Ohio?

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"?

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