Amy Goodman / Democracy Now – 2005-11-08 07:49:19
Was the 2004 Election Stolen?:
A Debate on Ohio One Year After Bush’s Victory
(November 4th, 2005) — A year later, questions remain over the outcome of the Ohio election and whether George W. Bush fairly won the state and the presidency. We explore some of these questions with a debate between Mark Crispin Miller and Mark Hertsgaard.
There were widespread reports of voter intimidation; suspiciously long lines in heavily Democratic areas; faulty voting machines; mishandled absentee and provisional ballots; election results that contradicted exit polls…and then there were the electronic voting machines. For years critics of these machines have warned that they could be manipulated in ways to fix elections.
Last week the Government Accountability Office – the investigative unit of Congress – issued a major report on the safety of electronic voting machines.
Although the report has received little attention in the corporate media, its findings have startled critics of electronic voting.
There are three main problems the GAO found with the machines:
• First, some electronic voting systems did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected.
• Second, it was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate.
• Third, vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level.
The GAO concluded, “some of these concerns were reported to have caused local problems in federal elections — resulting in the loss or miscount of votes.”
* Mark Crispin Miller, author of Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them). He is a professor at New York University and author of several other books including Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney’s New World Order and The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder.
* Mark Hertsgaard is an investigative reporter who recently examined the 2004 election for Mother Jones magazine. He is the author of many books including The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World and Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future. He is also the environment correspondent for The Nation and the political correspondent for LinkTV.
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AMY GOODMAN: A year ago today on Democracy Now! we aired John Kerry‘s concession speech on the steps of Faneuil Hall in Boston. This is what Kerry had to say.
JOHN KERRY: Earlier today I spoke to President Bush and offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory. We had a good conversation. We talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing. In America, it is vital that every vote count and that every vote be counted. But the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process. I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail. But it is now clear that even when all of the provisional ballots are counted, which they will be, there won’t be enough outstanding votes for us to be able to win Ohio. And, therefore, we cannot win this election.
AMY GOODMAN: Senator John Kerry, presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. A year later questions still remain over the outcome of the Ohio election, if George W. Bush fairly won the state and thus the presidency. There were widespread reports of voter intimidation, suspiciously long lines in heavily Democratic areas, faulty voting machines, mishandled absentee and provisional ballots, election results that contradicted exit polls, and then there were the electronic voting machines. For years critics of these machines have warned they could be manipulated in ways to fix elections.
JUAN GONZALES: Last week the Government Accountability Office, the investigative unit of Congress, issued a major report on the safety of electronic voting machines. Although the report has received little attention in the corporate media, its findings have startled critics of electronic voting. These are the three main problems the G.A.O. found with the machines: (1) Some electronic voting systems did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected; (2) It was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works, so that votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate; and (3) Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level. The G.A.O. concluded, quote, “Some of these concerns were reported to have caused local problems at federal elections, resulting in the loss or miscount of votes.”
AMY GOODMAN: Today we are going to explore some of the questions that still persist over the 2004 election. We are joined in our studio here in New York by New York University professor, Mark Crispin Miller. He is author of a new book; it’s called Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One, Too, (Unless We Stop Them). We are also joined on the telephone by investigative journalist, Mark Hertsgaard. He has investigated the claim that the elections were stolen, has written on the subject in the new issue of Mother Jones magazine. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Mark Crispin Miller, let’s begin with you. Lay out your arguments.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, I think we’ve focused understandably on Ohio, understandably because Ohio was the pivotal state that allegedly put Bush over the top, but there’s a problem with that focus, and the problem is that the evidence of major election fraud is ubiquitous. It’s all over the place. I wrote this book, Fooled Again, to provide the reader with a panoramic view of what went on from coast to coast in the United States before and on, and in some cases after, Election Day.
There was election fraud — extensive election fraud in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. But there was also election fraud throughout the nation, places as different as West Virginia, Oregon, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Jersey, even in solidly Democratic states. There seemed to be a general program of doing everything possible, using the broadest possible array of tactics, to cut down the Kerry vote and to hype or pad the Bush vote, and this even extended to the expatriate vote.
I have a chapter in Fooled Again on the G.O.P.’s extensive efforts and successful efforts to cut back on the votes of those Americans living abroad, a constituency sometimes referred to as the 51st state, includes between four and seven million votes, a lot of people. The vote tends to skew Democratic, and the stuff that the government pulled – I should say, yeah – well, this one-party government pulled to interfere with that vote is quite, quite stunning.
My aim here – let me just say one thing – my aim here is not to challenge the outcome of the election in any way that would mean let’s, like, install Kerry in the White House. That’s not constitutional, and I think when Kerry conceded, he forfeited his moral right to do that anyway. The purpose of this book is to jumpstart a crucial movement for election reform. We need electoral reform as soon as possible, because if we don’t have it, if we don’t let the scandal of last year resonate and we don’t have the requisite response of reform, we are cooked, we’re finished as a democracy.
JUAN GONZALES: The Ohio race, in particular, obviously has gotten the most attention because of the pivotal electoral votes involved there. Could you talk a little bit about what are some of the key or the most flagrant examples of what you think were done there to steal that election?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, well, the Conyers Report, which is available on a paperback called What Went Wrong in Ohio is very good on the subject. I have about ten pages in the book paraphrasing the report and describing what happened to the report, because it really fell into a black hole when it was published on January 5th of this year.
There were three phases of chicanery. First, there was a pre-election period, during which the Secretary of State in Ohio, Ken Blackwell, was also co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, which is in itself mind-boggling, engaged in all sorts of bureaucratic and legal tricks to cut down on the number of people who could register, to limit the usability of provisional ballots. It was really a kind of classic case of using the letter of the law or the seeming letter of the law just to disenfranchise as many people as possible.
On Election Day, there was clearly a systematic undersupply of working voting machines in Democratic areas, primarily inner city and student towns, you know, college towns. And the Conyers people found that in some of the most undersupplied places, there were scores of perfectly good voting machines held back and kept in warehouses, you know, and there are many similar stories to this. And other things happened that day.
After Election Day, there is explicit evidence that a company called Triad, which manufactures all of the tabulators, the vote-counting tabulators that were used in Ohio in the last election, was systematically going around from county to county in Ohio and subverting the recount, which was court ordered and which never did take place. The Republicans will say to this day, ‘There was a recount in Ohio, and we won that.’ That’s a lie, one of many, many staggering lies. There was never a recount.
Now, I found stuff in writing Fooled Again that the Conyers people didn’t go over. I talked to some people who worked in Ohio and have documentary evidence that some 10 to 20% of all the hard line Democratic voters in their precincts just disappeared from the rolls. I have all the details in the book, but it was systematic. There was something having to do with the computer program. Suffice it to say, Ohio’s situation was egregious. It actually looks good compared to Florida, but the fact is this is simply a version of what happened nationwide.
JUAN GONZALES: Well, Mark Hertsgaard, you have written an article looking at some of these allegations in this book and some others that have come out about the elections, and while you find problems, you also find holes in some of the allegations in the stolen election theory. Could you talk about that?
MARK HERTSGAARD: Yes, that’s true. And I should say up front here that I’m friendly and a former colleague with Mark Crispin Miller, so I approach the topic with that, I guess, bias to some extent, and let me say, I’m not as persuaded as he is that the election was definitely stolen in Ohio. I do think, though, that he and other — John Conyers and especially the people at Free Press in Ohio who did a lot of the original reporting on this have turned up a lot of very suspicious stuff.
But there’s a difference between something being suspicious and it definitely being the case. For example, one of the things that is constantly offered in Ohio is this idea that in Warren County that there was a supposed lockdown on election night of the building where the votes were being counted and that this was defended by a supposed terrorist threat and that the F.B.I. then denied that any such threat had been given. And there’s some truth to that story, but not as much as is said in the Conyers Report. Yes, the F.B.I. denied any such terrorist threat. Yes, the county did say that originally. But it is not true that those votes were then counted in secret. Those votes were counted in front of both the Democratic and the Republican election board supervisors, as is always the case. And the only — according to people on both sides of that, the only person who was supposedly locked out of that counting was the reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer who later wrote the story, and rightly or wrongly, in Warren County reporters have never been allowed into the counting room.
Likewise, in Miami County, the story — of Ohio — the story is told that somehow overnight an extra 13 or 19 thousand votes were mysteriously added after the final 100% precincts had reported. When I went and talked to the person who actually was involved with that, he said, ‘Look, I’m a liberal Democrat. I would be very happy to be able to say there was fraud here and to turn this election over to Bush – from Bush, rather, to Kerry. But that’s not what happened, and the skeptics who read it that way made an understandable error in reading the returns, that they assumed that when it said 100% precincts reporting, that that was the total vote and, in fact, that’s not the way we count votes in Ohio, at least in Miami County. As soon as there’s one vote from the precinct, that precinct is noted as reporting.’ And so, between the final and the next-to-final votes of the postings of the night there were those extra votes there, but they were already in the system. And he said it’s an understandable error to make, but I tried to mention it to the Free Press, and they continued to insist that they just basically ignored it.
And that — I think part of the problem is that there are some people who don’t want to believe that Bush won that election. And, as I say, there’s a lot of smelly stuff, but there’s a difference between an allegation and a fact, and as a journalist, I have to look at facts, not just allegations.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Mark Hertsgaard, investigative reporter, did a piece for Mother Jones called “Recounting Ohio: Was Ohio Stolen? You Might Not Like the Answer.” We are also joined by Mark Crispin Miller. He wrote Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One, Too. We’ll be back with both of them in a minute.