Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ohio Election Looks Grim Already

"Based on reports from the Conyers Congressional Committee, the Government Accountability Office, the Brennan Center, Princeton University and the Carter-Baker Commission among others, the vote count reported by Ohio's voting machines could be flipped by J. Kenneth Blackwell or other election official---or even amateur hackers---in a matter of moments, with a few simple keystrokes.

In sum: there is no way such a manipulation could be definitively stopped, monitored, proven or reversed.

Thus Ohio enters the last week prior to this most critical mid-term election in recent memory in utter vulnerability and chaos. Tens of thousands of absentee ballots already cast are in limbo. Their ultimate status may not be determined until hours before election day, if then. Hundreds of thousands of potential voters remain uncertain about what, if any, forms of identification they will be required to include on their absentee ballots or to present at their polling stations. If the experience of 2004 is repeated, many of those polling stations will be incorrectly listed on the Secretary of State's official web site.

Thousands of Ohio citizens may also not know if they are actually registered to vote. All 88 of Ohio's county boards of election are effectively controlled by Secretary of State Blackwell. Since 2000, without official notification, some 170,000 voters have been stripped from the registration rolls in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), 170,000 in Franklin County (Columbus), 105,000 in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and 28,000 in Lucas County (Toledo).

Overall nearly 500,000 registered voters are known to have been eliminated from the rolls in overwhelmingly Democratic districts in a state where 5.6 million people voted in 2004, and where George W. Bush won with an alleged margin of less than 119,000 ballots. There is no evidence similar eliminations have occurred in Republican areas.

While reports of widespread purges have not proved true, there is increasing evidence that county boards of elections used voter notification cards required by HB3 that were returned by the post office to flag hundreds of thousands of voters' names at the polls throughout Ohio and force them to vote provisionally. An Erie County official placed the number of flagged voters at about 24% in his county.

Blackwell has further ruled that citizens who vote with provisional ballots at their correct polling place but in the wrong precinct (which may be housed in the same building) will not have their vote counted. Back ups of provisional voters created long lines in 2004. The only safe place to cast a provisional ballot is at the county board of elections, but often these votes are disqualified because voters fail to check off a small affirmation box, or do not supply a date of birth or other requested technical information.

Ohio's electoral process is thus once again sinking into a fog of confusion, disenfranchisement and theft perfectly designed to prolong the GOP control of the government. There is every reason to believe that in the week now remaining before the actual election, the GOP and its allies in the federal court system will use the escalating chaos to their advantage in attempting to keep control of the U.S. Congress, here and in other states.

The definitive question hovering over the future of American democracy thus remains: who will do what about it, and when?"


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