Wednesday, January 12, 2005

It's Over
Article published January 11, 2005

Lawsuit over Ohio election dropped

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three dozen voters challenging the presidential election results in the Ohio Supreme Court asked to drop their lawsuit today, saying it is moot with last week’s certification of the electoral vote and the upcoming inauguration.

Citing fraud, lawyers representing 37 voters on Nov. 2 had asked the court to examine several problems with voting procedures in the hopes of overturning President Bush’s victory in the state.

The election turned on Ohio’s 20 electoral college votes, and not until preliminary results were available early on the morning of Nov. 3 did Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry concede.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of the state Supreme Court must still rule on the motion to dismiss the case, and is expected to go along with the request In a ruling last month declining a request that he remove himself from the case, Moyer, a Republican, called voters’ evidence “woefully inadequate.”

Without giving specifics, attorney Cliff Arnebeck said challenges of the results would continue in state or federal courts. But he conceded that there was nothing available now to try to prevent Bush’s inauguration.

© 2004 The Blade.

Now, except for Conyers' pledge to push on for general reform, there is nothing left but to knuckle under or head for the hills.


jazzolog said...
The Plain Dealer
Activists drop a challenge to Bush's Ohio victory
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
T.C. Brown
Plain Dealer Bureau

Columbus- A coalition of activists dropped its legal challenge Tuesday in the Ohio Supreme Court over the president's re-election, but the group is not giving up.

In a paragraph-long request, the group of 40 grass-roots plaintiffs asked justices to dismiss their case, in which they had alleged that numerous voting machine errors, irregularities and intentional fraud by the George W. Bush campaign skewed the results in favor of the president.

The court is expected to grant the motion soon to dismiss the matter.

Coalition attorney Cliff Arnebeck said the effort had been derailed by the refusal of members of the Bush-Cheney campaign and Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to submit to sworn depositions.

"It is not a fruitful forum or endeavor at this point in time, given the fact that the other parties refused to cooperate," Arnebeck said. "There are other productive avenues which we can continue to pursue."

Arnebeck also faulted the Supreme Court for not acting more quickly on its legal challenge.

"The court should have knocked heads and said, 'Let's get to the merits at the earliest possible time because of the importance of the matter and the shortness of time,' " Arnebeck said.

Congress certified the vote of the Electoral College last week.

The group is considering filing a lawsuit in federal court alleging civil rights violations or seeking to intervene in a federal suit filed by the Green and Libertarian parties.

"It's not over," Arnebeck said.

Carlo LoParo, Blackwell's spokesman, said the group never presented a shred of clear evidence to prove that voting irregularities would have altered the election results.

"Mr. Arnebeck and his colleagues have saved themselves from further discredit by withdrawing this filing from the Ohio Supreme Court," LoParo said. "That document was frivolous and not based in reality and now will take its place on the dustbin of history."

Besides presenting accusations of fraud and irregularities, plaintiffs said that significant deviations from exit polling done by an international expert should have been enough evidence for the Supreme Court to accept the challenge and revisit the vote.

A recount showed that Bush topped Sen. John Kerry in Ohio by 118,599 votes.

The group also asked the high court to dismiss its challenge of the re-election of Republican Chief Justice Thomas Moyer over his Democratic challenger, C. Ellen Connally, a retired Cleveland Municipal Court judge.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 1-800-228-8272

Copyright 2005

jazzolog said...

An impressive photo essay of various demonstrations across the country and around the world on Inauguration Day is here~~~

jazzolog said...

The emperor of vulgarity
By Mike Carlton
January 22, 2005

George Bush's second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of triumphalism probably unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French in Notre Dame in 1804.

The little Corsican corporal had a few decent victories to his escutcheon. Lodi, Marengo, that sort of thing. Not so this strutting Texan mountebank, with his chimpanzee smirk and his born-again banalities delivered in that constipated syntax that sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look, and his grinning plastic wife, and his scheming junta of neo-con spivs, shamans, flatterers and armchair warmongers, and his sinuous evasions and his brazen lies, and his sleight of hand theft from the American poor, and his rape of the environment, and his lethal conviction that the world must submit to his Pax Americana or be bombed into charcoal.

Difficult to know what was more repellent: the estimated $US40 million cost of this jamboree (most of it stumped up by Republican fat-cats buying future presidential favours), or the sheer crassness of its excess when American boys are dying in the quagmire of Bush's very own Iraq war.

Other wartime presidents sought restraint. Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address in 1865 - "with malice toward none, with charity for all" - is the shortest ever. And he had pretty much won the Civil War by that time.

In 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened his fourth-term speech with the "wish that the form of this inauguration be simple and its words brief". He spoke for a couple of eloquent minutes, then went off to a light lunch, his wartime victory almost complete as well.

But restraint is not a Dubya word. Learning nothing, the dumbest and nastiest president since the scandalous Warren Harding died in 1923, Bush is now intent on expanding the Iraq war to neighbouring Iran.

Condoleezza Rice did admit to the US Senate this week that there had been some "not so good" decisions. But the more I see of her gleaming teeth and her fibreglass helmet of hair and her perky confidence, the more I am convinced that back in the '60s she used to be Cindy Birdsong, up there beside Diana Ross as one of the Supremes of Motown fame. I don't think it's a good idea to let her make a comeback as Secretary of State.

THE war in Iran is under way already, if we believe Seymour Hersh, the distinguished investigative writer for The New Yorker magazine.

Hersh reported this week that clandestine US special forces have been on the ground there, targeting nuclear facilities to be bombed whenever Bush feels the time is ripe.

"The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran's ability to go nuclear," he wrote, quoting reliable intelligence sources.

"But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership."

Naturally, Pentagon flacks rushed out to deny all. But then they did that when Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, and again when he revealed the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A tussle for the truth between Hersh and the Pentagon is no contest.

What terrifies me most is the people planning this new war. The CIA professionals have been frozen out: too weak and wimpy for the Bushies.

The Defence Secretary, the incompetent Donald Rumsfeld, has seized control, aided by two Pentagon under-secretaries. One is Douglas Feith, a mad-eyed Zionist largely responsible for the post-invasion collapse of order in Iraq, a civilian bureaucrat memorably described by the former Centcom commander, General Tommy Franks, as "the f---ing stupidest guy on the face of the Earth".

The other is army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, whose name also rings a bell. Jerry is a born-again Christian evangelical, a three-star bigot who, in his spare time, stumps the country in full uniform, preaching that America's enemy is Satan, Allah is a false idol, and that George Bush has been ordained by the Lord to rout evil.

"He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this," Jerry told a prayer meetin' in Oregon just a while back.

Be very afraid.

I FEEL as sick as a parrot, so to speak, for my part in Mark Latham: His Downfall. It was me who devised the wicked ALP policy of bringing the troops back from Iraq by Christmas last year. In a 2UE radio interview with Latham last March I suggested that exact phrase, "home by Christmas". He evidently liked it. He grabbed it, repeated it and ran with it to electoral disaster. Mea culpa.

This week's orgy of ALP number-crunching is tedious beyond measure. But I would like to offer the powerbrokers one more piece of advice, if I may: for heaven's sake, tell Kim Beazley to stick a sock in it.

Kim is a lovely man in every way, but his speech announcing his run for the leadership took most of an afternoon to deliver, and on into the night. Attendant hacks were dropping dead from boredom. For all we know, he was still droning on at sunrise next morning.
Copyright © 2005. The Sydney Morning Herald.

jazzolog said...

This from assistant professor of law Dan Tokaji~~~

Thursday, January 20
Ohio AG Seeks to Sanction Contest Attorneys

The office of Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has filed a motion with the state supreme court to sanction four attorneys who filed a contest petition challenging the results of the 2004 presidential election. The AP has this report and the Cleveland Plain-Dealer this one . The AG's sanctions motion contends that the contest petition, filed on behalf of 37 voters by attorneys Cliff Arnebeck, Robert Fitrakis, Susan Truitt and Peter Peckarsky, was "meritless." The AG also accuses the contesters of having partisan motives. Arnebeck responds that the AG's sanctions motion is "frivolous" and accuses Secretary of State Blackwell of "stonewalling."

My take: I've noted my skepticism of the claims made in the contest petition from the time it was filed. But the true outrage here isn't the contest petition. Rather, it is the AG's office abusing its authority by seeking sanctions. While the AG may disagree with the petition's claims that the flaws in Ohio's election were enough to swing the election -- as I do -- his disagreement doesn't remotely justify sanctions against the attorneys who filed that petition. That's particularly true, given the paucity of case authority on what's required to sustain an election contest. The uncertain state of the law in this area makes the AG's assertion that the contest petition was sanctionable even more tenuous.

Particularly galling is the AG's office accusation that the contest was filed for "partisan political purposes." Any election contest is likely to be driven by partisan motivations of some sort -- most often the belief that your party's candidate really won. Moreover, the accusation of partisanship seems to rest on the very same sort of "conjecture" that the AG's office sanctimoniously purports to condemn. And does anyone seriously believe that the AG is acting on nonpartisan motives in seeking sanctions?

Let's hope that the Ohio Supreme Court sees fit to reject the AG's motion outright. In my view, there are strong First Amendment interests at stake here, including the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. Put simply, sanctioning the attorneys would have a chilling effect on future contest petitions. This may be just what the AG and his client Secretary of State Blackwell are hoping for.

I think the contestors were wrong to assert that Kerry would have won the election if not for the problems -- and they were serious -- that occurred in Ohio before, on, and after November 2, 2004. But those citizens had a right to make that claim without being subject to retaliation by the powers that be in state government.
- posted by Dan Tokaji @ 10:08 PM

jazzolog said...

For us old-timers, seeing ourselves framed as outsiders and freaks is nothing new. In fact if you were raised on radio crime shows, you heard about somebody getting "framed" all the time---and that meaning serves me well today. The Almanac Singers and then The Weavers sang to me all about it. Lester Young, after he served his country, and the younger Charlie Parker played it on their saxophones---and so strong was the message one's horn got nicknamed your "ax." If you're old enough to have been called a beatnik for your political beliefs, then you've been called a hippie too...and you know there is great peace going on the road. Kerouac and Vonnegut and a legion of other writers, playwrights, moviemakers, religious leaders and world artists everywhere have comforted us around the campfire. And now a new generation is learning it as we did---the hard way.

Since my daughter came running up to me in tears in the Middle School cafeteria during that lunch period when she learned Kerry had conceded, and we sat at a table with our arms around each other as the entire 8th grade and staff looked on in wonderment, I have been watchful for disillusion among the younger generations. They needn't be bitter. There is hope in our great tradition.

And yet the realities are stark. My West Coast friend Astrid has introduced a writer who is new to me but beginning to be heard. He has a daring voice singing a song that sounds familiar. This was written by Mike Palecek on Christmas Day~~~

Get On The Bus

To go looking for bigfoot is to go in search of the truth about America.

My deepest held belief is that George W. Bush and his men attacked their own country in order to gain the mandate to then attack Iraq and Afghanistan and steal the oil.

I also believe they killed Paul Wellstone in order to gain control of the U.S. Senate.

I believe we are being manipulated minute by minute by a news media: television, print, radio, that is based solely on profit, rather than the search for truth we imagine.

I believe we Americans have no idea what the truth is about our country. We know every name of the cast of "Survivor" but we do not know about the existence of "Operation Northwoods".

That is why I wrote "Looking For Bigfoot".

"Looking For Bigfoot" is a novel. The main character is Jack Priest, a middle-aged man who lives with his family in the farm house on the "Field of Dreams" movie site just outside of Dyersville, Iowa.

With gigantic questions about his marriage, his career, his country—his high school baseball coach, and Bigfoot—Jack climbs aboard a bus and heads to Oregon, trying to find the truth.

I've been trying to do that myself with all my books: KGB, Joe Coffee's Revolution, The Truth, Twins, The Last Liberal Outlaw.

I've been trying to find out the truth for myself in the writing, sitting up here in this second floor room overlooking the old middle school and the church and the four-way stop.

To me, prisons and poverty and war are crimes. To me, America is not a great nation. I guess we could be, whatever that means, to be a great nation. To me, we are aggressors, criminals, killers, thieves.

I know most people don't believe that, but I do.

My deepest held beliefs might not be the beliefs of my family members or neighbors, that's true. For the past ten years I have been writing novels, trying to dig down into myself with a pencil, like a convict trying to make a tunnel with a spoon—yearning toward freedom.

My freedom was to come only when I could find out what was real in my world and what was illusion.

I do not know very much, but I do know more than when I started. I am not to the end of my tunnel, but I can see daylight.

I believe I have found out some things about the country I live in, and that is freedom of a sort, better than walking around in a fog.

We are criminals when we protect our bank accounts and our homes while others go without—and then call ourselves Christians.

We are liars when we go across the world, kill others and call that protecting our own freedom.

When professional athletes go on television, say at Christmas, and say thanks to the troops for protecting our freedom, that is a huge lie. They are not protecting us. They are killing for Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney and others in order to make the rich men even richer.

How stupid do they think we are?

In "KGB" I tried to tell about a group of men in jail who were not stupid. Who figured out that if Pinochet is a war criminal, then George Bush is as well.

In "Joe Coffee's Revolution" I tried to portray an idealistic young man running for office within the Democratic Party, and what that might be like, because the Democratic Party is not idealistic. It is pragmatic and shallow and not at all what it should be.

In "The Truth" I wrote about a father who lost a son in the war.

In "Twins" I wrote about two brothers in Minneapolis/Saint Paul who fought over right and wrong.

In "The Last Liberal Outlaw" I told the story of a reporter who tried to do his job as it was supposed to be done.

And in "Looking For Bigfoot", to be released in the spring by Howling Dog Press of Colorado, I am following Jack Priest around, jotting down notes as I watch this guy trying to find out the truth about America, knowing that the truth is not available in any newspaper stand or magazine or from the lips of Tom Brokaw.

To find the truth about America you have to look in the shadows, under the rocks, run after the loose pieces of paper blowing across the convenience store parking lot.

The truth about America is not to be found in any morning news meeting agenda for CBS.

It is to be found in pencil scribbles of prisoners in solitary confinement in Terre Haute Penitentiary and written on the back of a Pine Ridge liquor store receipt.

If you want to find out the truth about America you need to open your mind. You need to be ready to believe in things they laugh about on "The Tonight Show" and over morning coffee at the truck stop.

You will need to say to hell with what you guys think. There is something out there and I'm going to find out what it is.

You need to go "Looking For Bigfoot".

Copyright © 2004-2005 Iowa Peace

jazzolog said...

Vanity Fair's editor Graydon Carter says Mark Danner used "post-factual" in The New York Times to describe the current era in Washington. Carter reminds us Bush strategists outwardly mock those who still consider the reality of other people rather than forging our own by sheer willpower. "...Facts are passe, old hat; last year's news.... (Washington) is a place where a calamitous war and subsequent occupation are declared a success, and where a Social Security program that not only works but works well is branded a failure.... It is a place where the war avoider gets to strut the world stage like a be-medaled bantam rooster, and the war hero was made to crab-walk to the wings of the Senate like a wimp." (Editor's Letter, Vanity Fair March issue, p. 110)

I'm not a subscriber to Vanity Fair. It's essentially a fashion magazine after all, and Dana doesn't care for them---although Ilona gobbles them up of course. But I've been scanning newsstands for the last several days, waiting for this issue because I heard an article was going to be in it. I used to enjoy the writings of Christopher Hitchens, but a year or 2 ago he became disillusioned with and downright nasty toward us liberals and I crossed him off my list. He continued on this bent straight through the election and even went out of his way to taunt conspiracy theorists afterwards. He thinks John Kerry was not fit to be President. But wait---in his new article "Ohio's Odd Numbers" he urges Americans to examine what happened here for the sake of "democracy and common sense." I needed to read it, so yesterday I shelled out my $4.50 for a copy because I didn't think Vanity Fair was going to put it up at their site. But last night Dana found it there...and so here it is~~~
Ohio's Odd Numbers
Are the stories of vote suppression and rigged machines to be believed? Here is "non-wacko" evidence that something went seriously awry in the Buckeye State on Election Day 2004

If it were not for Kenyon College, I might have missed, or skipped, the whole controversy. The place is a visiting lecturer's dream, or the ideal of a campus-movie director in search of a setting. It is situated in wooded Ohio hills, in the small town of Gambier, about an hour's drive from Columbus. Its literary magazine, The Kenyon Review, was founded by John Crowe Ransom in 1939. Its alumni include Paul Newman, E. L. Doctorow, Jonathan Winters, Robert Lowell, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and President Rutherford B. Hayes. The college's origins are Episcopalian, its students well mannered and well off and predominantly white, but it is by no means Bush-Cheney territory. Arriving to speak there a few days after the presidential election, I found that the place was still buzzing. Here's what happened in Gambier, Ohio, on decision day 2004.

The polls opened at 6:30 a.m. There were only two voting machines (push-button direct-recording electronic systems) for the entire town of 2,200 (with students). The mayor, Kirk Emmert, had called the Board of Elections 10 days earlier, saying that the number of registered voters would require more than that. (He knew, as did many others, that hundreds of students had asked to register in Ohio because it was a critical "swing" state.) The mayor's request was denied. Indeed, instead of there being extra capacity on Election Day, one of the only two machines chose to break down before lunchtime.

By the time the polls officially closed, at 7:30 that evening, the line of those waiting to vote was still way outside the Community Center and well into the parking lot. A federal judge thereupon ordered Knox County, in which Gambier is located, to comply with Ohio law, which grants the right to vote to those who have shown up in time. "Authority to Vote" cards were kindly distributed to those on line (voting is a right, not a privilege), but those on line needed more than that. By the time the 1,175 voters in the precinct had all cast their ballots, it was almost four in the morning, and many had had to wait for up to 11 hours. In the spirit of democratic carnival, pizzas and canned drinks and guitarists were on hand to improve the shining moment. TV crews showed up, and the young Americans all acted as if they had been cast by Frank Capra: cheerful and good-humored, letting older voters get to the front, catching up on laptop essays, many voting for the first time and all convinced that a long and cold wait was a small price to pay. Typical was Pippa White, who said that "even after eight hours and 15 minutes I still had energy. It lets you know how worth it this is." Heartwarming, until you think about it.

The students of Kenyon had one advantage, and they made one mistake. Their advantage was that their president, S. Georgia Nugent, told them that they could be excused from class for voting. Their mistake was to reject the paper ballots that were offered to them late in the evening, after attorneys from the Ohio Democratic Party had filed suit to speed up the voting process in this way. The ballots were being handed out (later to be counted by machine under the supervision of Knox County's Democratic and Republican chairs) when someone yelled through the window of the Community Center, "Don't use the paper ballots! The Republicans are going to appeal it and it won't count!" After that, the majority chose to stick with the machines.

Across the rest of Ohio, the Capra theme was not so noticeable. Reporters and eyewitnesses told of voters who had given up after humiliating or frustrating waits, and who often cited the unwillingness of their employers to accept voting as an excuse for lateness or absence. In some way or another, these bottlenecks had a tendency to occur in working-class and, shall we just say, nonwhite precincts. So did many disputes about "provisional" ballots, the sort that are handed out when a voter can prove his or her identity but not his or her registration at that polling place. These glitches might all be attributable to inefficiency or incompetence (though Gambier had higher turnouts and much shorter lines in 1992 and 1996). Inefficiency and incompetence could also explain the other oddities of the Ohio process—from machines that redirected votes from one column to the other to machines that recorded amazing tallies for unknown fringe candidates, to machines that apparently showed that voters who waited for a long time still somehow failed to register a vote at the top of the ticket for any candidate for the presidency of these United States.

However, for any of that last category of anomaly to be explained, one would need either a voter-verified paper trail of ballots that could be tested against the performance of the machines or a court order that would allow inspection of the machines themselves. The first of these does not exist, and the second has not yet been granted.

I don't know who it was who shouted idiotically to voters not to trust the paper ballots in Gambier, but I do know a lot of people who are convinced that there was dirty work at the crossroads in the Ohio vote. Some of these people are known to me as nutbags and paranoids of the first water, people whose grassy-knoll minds can simply cancel or deny any objective reasons for a high Republican turnout. (Here's how I know some of these people: In November 1999, I wrote a column calling for international observers to monitor the then upcoming presidential election. I was concerned about restrictive ballot-access laws, illegal slush funds, denial of access to media for independents, and abuse of the state laws that banned "felons" from voting. At the end, I managed to mention the official disenfranchisement of voters in my hometown of Washington, D.C., and the questionable "reliability or integrity" of the new voting-machine technology. I've had all these wacko friends ever since.) But here are some of the non-wacko reasons to revisit the Ohio election.

First, the county-by-county and precinct-by-precinct discrepancies. In Butler County, for example, a Democrat running for the State Supreme Court chief justice received 61,559 votes. The Kerry-Edwards ticket drew about 5,000 fewer votes, at 56,243. This contrasts rather markedly with the behavior of the Republican electorate in that county, who cast about 40,000 fewer votes for their judicial nominee than they did for Bush and Cheney. (The latter pattern, with vote totals tapering down from the top of the ticket, is by far the more general—and probable—one nationwide and statewide.)

In 11 other counties, the same Democratic judicial nominee, C. Ellen Connally, managed to outpoll the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nominees by hundreds and sometimes thousands of votes. So maybe we have a barn-burning, charismatic future candidate on our hands, and Ms. Connally is a force to be reckoned with on a national scale. Or is it perhaps a trick of the Ohio atmosphere? There do seem to be a lot of eccentrics in the state. In Cuyahoga County, which includes the city of Cleveland, two largely black precincts on the East Side voted like this. In Precinct 4F: Kerry, 290; Bush, 21; Peroutka, 215. In Precinct 4N: Kerry, 318; Bush, 11; Badnarik, 163. Mr. Peroutka and Mr. Badnarik are, respectively, the presidential candidates of the Constitution and Libertarian Parties. In addition to this eminence, they also possess distinctive (but not particularly African-American-sounding) names. In 2000, Ralph Nader's best year, the total vote received in Precinct 4F by all third-party candidates combined was eight.

In Montgomery County, two precincts recorded a combined undervote of almost 6,000. This is to say that that many people waited to vote but, when their turn came, had no opinion on who should be the president, voting only for lesser offices. In these two precincts alone, that number represents an undervote of 25 percent, in a county where undervoting averages out at just 2 percent. Democratic precincts had 75 percent more undervotes than Republican ones.

In Precinct 1B of Gahanna, in Franklin County, a computerized voting machine recorded a total of 4,258 votes for Bush and 260 votes for Kerry. In that precinct, however, there are only 800 registered voters, of whom 638 showed up. Once the "glitch" had been identified, the president had to be content with 3,893 fewer votes than the computer had awarded him.

In Miami County, a Saddam Hussein–type turnout was recorded in the Concord Southwest and Concord South precincts, which boasted 98.5 percent and 94.27 percent turnouts, respectively, both of them registering overwhelming majorities for Bush. Miami County also managed to report 19,000 additional votes for Bush after 100 percent of the precincts had reported on Election Day.

In Mahoning County, Washington Post reporters found that many people had been victims of "vote hopping," which is to say that voting machines highlighted a choice of one candidate after the voter had recorded a preference for another. Some specialists in election software diagnose this as a "calibration issue."

Machines are fallible and so are humans, and shit happens, to be sure, and no doubt many Ohio voters were able to record their choices promptly and without grotesque anomalies. But what strikes my eye is this: in practically every case where lines were too long or machines too few the foul-up was in a Democratic county or precinct, and in practically every case where machines produced impossible or improbable outcomes it was the challenger who suffered and the actual or potential Democratic voters who were shortchanged, discouraged, or held up to ridicule as chronic undervoters or as sudden converts to fringe-party losers.

This might argue in itself against any conspiracy or organized rigging, since surely anyone clever enough to pre-fix a vote would make sure, just for the look of the thing, that the discrepancies and obstructions were more evenly distributed. I called all my smartest conservative friends to ask them about this. Back came their answer: Look at what happened in Warren County.

On Election Night, citing unspecified concerns about terrorism and homeland security, officials "locked down" the Warren County administration building and prevented any reporters from monitoring the vote count. It was announced, using who knows what "scale," that on a scale of 1 to 10 the terrorist threat was a 10. It was also claimed that the information came from an F.B.I. agent, even though the F.B.I. denies that.

Warren County is certainly a part of Republican territory in Ohio: it went only 28 percent for Gore last time and 28 percent for Kerry this time. On the face of it, therefore, not a county where the G.O.P. would have felt the need to engage in any voter "suppression." A point for the anti-conspiracy side, then. Yet even those exact-same voting totals have their odd aspect. In 2000, Gore stopped running television commercials in Ohio some weeks before the election. He also faced a Nader challenge. Kerry put huge resources into Ohio, did not face any Nader competition, and yet got exactly the same proportion of the Warren County votes.

Whichever way you shake it, or hold it to the light, there is something about the Ohio election that refuses to add up. The sheer number of irregularities compelled a formal recount, which was completed in late December and which came out much the same as the original one, with 176 fewer votes for George Bush. But this was a meaningless exercise in reassurance, since there is simply no means of checking, for example, how many "vote hops" the computerized machines might have performed unnoticed.

There are some other, more random factors to be noted. The Ohio secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, was a state co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign at the same time as he was discharging his responsibilities for an aboveboard election in his home state. Diebold, which manufactures paper-free, touch-screen voting machines, likewise has its corporate headquarters in Ohio. Its chairman, president, and C.E.O., Walden O'Dell, is a prominent Bush supporter and fund-raiser who proclaimed in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." (See "Hack the Vote," by Michael Shnayerson, Vanity Fair, April 2004.) Diebold, together with its competitor, E.S.&S., counts more than half the votes cast in the United States. This not very acute competition is perhaps made still less acute by the fact that a vice president of E.S.&S. and a Diebold director of strategic services are brothers.

I would myself tend to discount most of the above, since an oligarchy bent on stealing an election would probably not announce itself so brashly as to fit into a Michael Moore script. Then, all state secretaries of state are partisan, after all, while in Ohio each of the 88 county election boards contains two Democrats and two Republicans. The chairman of Diebold is entitled to his political opinion just as much as any other citizen.

However, there is one soothing explanation that I don't trust anymore. It was often said, in reply to charges of vote tampering, that it would have had to be "a conspiracy so immense" as to involve a dangerously large number of people. Indeed, some Ohio Democrats themselves laughed off some of the charges, saying that they too would have had to have been part of the plan. The stakes here are very high: one defector or turncoat with hard evidence could send the principals to jail forever and permanently discredit the party that had engaged in fraud.

I had the chance to spend quality time with someone who came to me well recommended, who did not believe that fraud had yet actually been demonstrated, whose background was in the manufacture of the machines, and who wanted to be anonymous. It certainly could be done, she said, and only a very, very few people would have to be "in on it." This is because of the small number of firms engaged in the manufacturing and the even smaller number of people, subject as they are to the hiring practices of these firms, who understand the technology. "Machines were put in place with no sampling to make sure they were 'in control' and no comparison studies," she explained. "The code of the machines is not public knowledge, and none of these machines has since been impounded." In these circumstances, she continued, it's possible to manipulate both the count and the proportions of votes.

In the bad old days of Tammany Hall, she pointed out, you had to break the counter pins on the lever machines, and if there was any vigilance in an investigation, the broken pins would automatically incriminate the machine. With touch-screen technology, the crudeness and predictability of the old ward-heeler racketeers isn't the question anymore. But had there been a biased "setting" on the new machines it could be uncovered—if a few of them could be impounded. The Ohio courts are currently refusing all motions to put the state's voting machines, punch-card or touch-screen, in the public domain. It's not clear to me, or to anyone else, who is tending the machines in the meanwhile …

I asked her, finally, what would be the logical grounds for deducing that any tampering had in fact occurred. "Well, I understand from what I have read," she said, "that the early exit polls on the day were believed by both parties." That, I was able to tell her from direct experience, was indeed true. But it wasn't quite enough, either. So I asked, "What if all the anomalies and malfunctions, to give them a neutral name, were distributed along one axis of consistency: in other words, that they kept on disadvantaging only one candidate?" My question was hypothetical, as she had made no particular study of Ohio, but she replied at once: "Then that would be quite serious."

I am not any sort of statistician or technologist, and (like many Democrats in private) I did not think that John Kerry should have been president of any country at any time. But I have been reviewing books on history and politics all my life, making notes in the margin when I come across a wrong date, or any other factual blunder, or a missing point in the evidence. No book is ever free from this. But if all the mistakes and omissions occur in such a way as to be consistent, to support or attack only one position, then you give the author a lousy review. The Federal Election Commission, which has been a risible body for far too long, ought to make Ohio its business. The Diebold company, which also manufactures A.T.M.s, should not receive another dime until it can produce a voting system that is similarly reliable. And Americans should cease to be treated like serfs or extras when they present themselves to exercise their franchise.

Christopher Hitchens is a Vanity Fair contributing editor. His new book, Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays (Avalon) includes some of his pieces from V.F.
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