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Tin Foil Hats, the MSM and Election Mischief

Kurt Jacobsen



as the 2004 election, perchance, fixed? 1 in 5 Americans, according to a December Gallup poll, suspect so.[1] Four out of five fellow Americans never heard a peep about rigging, believed scoffing authorities, or, being Bush backers, gloated. The first whiff our solid, and mostly white, middle class usually got of electoral mischief was the brief but brave challenge lodged at a joint Congressional election certification session January 6 by thirty-one Congressmen/women and California Senator Barbara Boxer.[2] Indeed, if not for the maligned blogs demanding investigations, such as the forums by Congressman John Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee Democrat minority, ordinary citizens reliant on mainstream media (the MSM, in blogospheric parlance) would imagine that every vote was counted, just as the Fox News fairy tale goes. The MSM insisted that the rumors were, well, you know, a conspiracy made up of internet conspiracy theorists foisting sore loser views on sensible citizens who ought to believe everything they read in the New York Times (thanks for the war, Judith Miller) or watch on cable.

Given the utmost need for a trustworthy voting system it was very odd to watch a suddenly fastidious press, guardians of the public trust, do everything they could to tamp down percolating ‘mis-election’ reports – dismissing them with a royal wave of the hand as sour grapes or batty conspiracy theorizing.[3] In upper media circles it is axiomatic that there are no such things as conspiracies. It was a bit rich, even bitterly amusing at times, to behold highly ambitious journalists and scholars, whose career fortunes (as they are most acutely aware) are decided in small rooms by unaccountable people, ruling out conspiracy from the start. Likewise axiomatic is their notion that villains with common interests must keep in intimate contact to pull off misdeeds. So only conspiracies are newsworthy, except they don’t exist. And if there is no cheek-by-jowl conspiracy at work then villains can’t be working toward a common end, and so they don’t really matter. Neat logic. One wonders whether our intrepid media today would have stirred in 1972 if, say, some naïf noticed that a special White House unit was targeting domestic foes. Maybe if G. Gordon Liddy crossed his heart and promised to confess first?

So were Americans in November really 'dumb' enough, as an understandably testy British newspaper headline lamented, to elect a war-mongering, duplicitous, clueless, inarticulate buffoon as president?[4] Has Dubya, this reactionary dynastic 'aberration' slouching out from the 2000 Florida non-recount, now become a popular personification of a whole bellicose Orwellian 'era,' as a supercilious Guardian journalist suggested?[5] As small a consolation as it is to an apprehensive planet, a majority of Americans who trudged off to polling stations, it increasingly appears, fully intended to elect John Kerry (despite his long dreary list of shortcomings and misplays). Apart from numerous voter suppression gimmicks built into the rickety US electoral system, as chronicled by Greg Palast and others, it was, according to a growing chorus of well-credentialed skeptics and congressional investigators, the deployment of easily-rigged electronic voting machines that may well have clinched the result for Bush.[6]  Does the charge withstand scrutiny?

Contrary to soothing media accounts, the 2004 election was marred by tens of thousands of reported 'irregularities,' potentially affecting votes running to 6 and 7 figures. For starters, ask yourself what other modern country would be so staggeringly ill-prepared to handle a turnout of about 60 per cent? Scroll through the teeming complaints in Ohio - half of them afflicting the heavily populated Democratic county of Cuyahoga.[7] All one needed do to suppress decisive masses of Kerry votes, as the implacable Republican Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is accused, is to deploy needed voting machines away from inner city working class Democrats who, with clock-in jobs and children with no nannies, then had to linger in often impossibly long lines for many hours. The press, initially, saw no problem whatever with this sly maneuver. Breaks of the game, guys.

This successful bottlenecking tactic finally is getting long-delayed coverage, as is a repertoire of dirty disenfranchising tricks. Blackwell, who also chaired Ohio’s Bush/Cheney campaign, earlier overruled state guide lines when he decided that provisional votes (mostly given to inner city voters under contrived challenges, or while suffering long queues) be cast only in their own precinct and, a bit earlier, dictated that new and mostly Democratic voter registrations be deemed valid only if printed on 80 pound weight paper in shocking pink ink (okay, I added, the pink ink bit).[8]

New voters were at the mercy of often ignorant, indolent or downright devious poll workers, but that’s nothing new.[9] Swat squads of Republican ‘challengers’ pestered likely Democrats (the tip-off usually being skin hue) at polling places so as to extend their voting ordeals; citizens were herded into wrong precinct lines in the right buildings, lifelong Democrats were purged from voting lists (mostly for not voting in two previous elections or changing their addresses, which the less affluent do more often). In Ohio’s Warren County furtive officials expelled independent observers from the vote count by claiming, ludicrously, that the FBI warned them of imminent terrorist attack. In short, every demented trick that superannuated frat rat Republican cretins could dream up was dragged slimily out. Why? In a crucial national election, with Democratic registration way up and Independents and undecided voters likely to break for Kerry (as they did), Republicans could win only if they disenfranchise a goodly slice of opponents.[10] All that is at stake, after all, is hundreds of billions of public dollars, all those cool Pentagon playthings, and control of the law enforcement (or law flouting) apparatus of the nation. A quick scan of Conyer’s Committee 102 page report covers many of the insidious gags the Republicans pulled off.[11]

Yet the single most disturbing electoral element in 2004 remains the role of eccentric, to say the least, electronic voting devices recording 30% of the US vote (versus 13 per cent in 2000) and, in addition, tallying 80 per cent of nationwide ballots in central tabulators minded by partisan pro-Bush private firms. The software ‘source codes’ are, serendipitously, proprietary information. Your electoral system , in case you didn’t know it, is virtually privatized. Why should anyone get excited about such irrelevant details? The MSM were extremely annoyed, and indeed baffled,.by the internet outcry. Republicans – even when displaying ample motive, means and opportunity (not to mention, sleazy history) – wouldn’t try to exploit this frightfully advantageous situation, would they?[12] Perish the thought. Get over it. Pop another Prozac..

In the roiling aftermath, as recounts were demanded (but the Kerry camp remained formally aloof), the protective mantra was that no one actually hoped to change the outcome. Only indiscreet third Parties, at first, dared get into the investigative act. In New Hampshire Ralph Nader forced a teensy-weensy partial recount (11 of 301 precincts) in which Kerry gained votes but not what was deemed a significant number. In Ohio, at the behest of Michael Bednarik of the Libertarians and David Cobb of the Greens - later obliquely joined by Kerry/Edwards - a highly crimped recount was permitteded to proceed only after Blackwell certified a state vote replete with screamingly obvious anomalies, such as more votes than voters showing up in certain precincts.

A team of Kerry's lawyers did descend on Ohio, they tactfully said, "to make sure all votes are counted." One worthwhile service performed by these suits was preserving as much evidence as possible for perusal afterward. The official count of Ohio provisional ballots (77% accepted) cut Bush's margin to under 119,000. Of 147,000 hand-counted provisional and absentee ballots, Kerry took 54.46%, which by itself might raise a few eyebrows. Yet another remarkable electoral oddity is an obscure, underfunded Afro-American Democratic nominee C. Ellen Connally for the Ohio state Supreme Court gathering a six figure vote excess over Kerry. The candidate at the head of the ticket usually leads as vote-getter. So what happened?

The Ohio ‘recount’ itself was a series of travesties reported as routine truth. Precincts were not randomly selected, as stipulated by law, but largely picked by Blackwell. Triad, a voting machine manufacturer supplying 41 of 88 Ohio counties, dispatched technicians who, according to affidavits (not “anecdotes”), re-jigged devices in several counties before the recount began and also set up cheat sheet to enable lazy or pliant officials to match tallies and so avoid full hand recounts.[13] Some re-counters found ballots were pre-sorted, not random; that signature counts did not match official recorded votes; and other anomalies. One can’t help but marvel at Board of Election officials – and in Ohio Democrat and Republican alike were appointed by Blackwell – who behaved as if this nuisance of a voting system must not dare to inconvenience them. Blackwell brushed off subpoenas like they were gnats. It is difficult to come away from a survey of ‘incidents’ without deducing that nothing in the USA today seems a prosecutable offense where vote tampering is concerned. How many ‘incidents,’ amateur and real lawyers alike wonder, add up to fraud anyway?

Recount demands were lodged in Nevada (refused) and New Mexico (still pending) too. With the Democratic Party and media investigators missing in action, Reverand Jesse Jackson Sr. visited Ohio in early December to rally support for investigation of anomalies that he justly said cast the US election as much into question as the notorious one in the Ukraine where exit polls discrepancies set off heeded alarms.[14] House Judiciary Committee Democrats led by Conyers commenced looking into voting maladies and produced a

102 page Dorian Gray portrait of Ohio. Purported whistleblower Clint Curtis, who says several years ago he was asked by Florida Republican honcho and now Congressman Tom Feeney to devise a nifty prototype software program to switch opponent votes – one in 20 would do the trick - to Republicans, bore up rather well under grilling.[15]

Yet the US media, except for a few (like Keith Olbermann of MSNBC news or Randi Rhodes on Air America radio) shied well away from what it disdainfully dubbed "tin foil hat" conspiracy theories.[16] The best way to prove one's case is, of course, to go and prove it either way. Commendably keeping the noisome issue alive in the blogosphere and internet news services were, in no particular order, such sites as Democratic Underground, blackcommentator.com, Smirking Chimp.com, Daily Kos, Brad blog, Freepress.org, cursor.org, bluelemur.com, Raw story, corporatenewslies.com, Buzzflash, wikipedia.org and many others one can find through links in the foregoing list. The MSM was daintily disdainful, although right wing blogs evidently propelled the mainstream’s insanely beside-the-point denunciation of Dan Rather for his use of the wrong memo copy to prove an utterly accurate Bush National Guard AWOL story.

Still, the stony silence the mainstream media exhibited on electoral ‘mishaps’ betrayed an inherent rivalrousness with blogs that formerly were beneath notice. In amazingly haughty retorts the MSM relied less on argument or evidence than upon their increasingly tarnished authority to carry the day. The blogs, for their part, may be wildly varied in tone and temper but there is an intriguing core that meets high criteria. In the Democratic Underground threads, for instance, one finds a few loopy comments (as one does daily in seminar or news rooms) but any theorizing got tested for rigor and (not quite the same thing) public persuasiveness. A lawyer would weigh in, then a computer programmer, then a manager of a software company, then a statistician, then another lawyer or someone with ‘insider’ experience to show why this or that notion would or wouldn’t fly. They ultimately subjected arguments to some reasonable first round tests of logic and evidence so as to satisfy (ideal) mainstream requirements. It wasn’t all that bad as modern town hall meetings go. And there most definitely is first rate investigative reporting out there among the dubious stuff. You have to pick though it with a critical attitude, just like when reading the daily papers. People in threads love to play devil’s advocate too. While no substitute for our more staid institutions, they can be valuable correctives and one is glad these alternatives are there.

For what is potentially at stake is not 500-some Florida votes but upwards of five million national ballots or more. The new electoral machinery is the rather wormy fruit of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which funded electronic voting as a panacea for past punch card ills. Yet Republicans fiercely resisted a paper trail requirement proposed in separate House (sponsored by Rush Holt) and Senate bills (sponsored by Hilary Clinton and others). Venezuelan electronic machines offer auditable paper trails, why not US ones? Every computer expert not on partisan payrolls testifies that these ditzy machines are a perfect invitation to program/reprogram whatever result manufacturers or rogue programmers please, and with no unsightly trace. So how to detect tampering? The machines, as chance would have it, are manufactured mainly by four US firms which boast strong Republican (including nutcase Christian fundamentalist) ties.[17] Diebold’s CEO Wally O’Dell, infamously promised assembled corporate brethren in the Summer of 2003 that he would "deliver" Ohio to the Republicans. (Blackwell bragged last month in a fund-raising letter that he ‘delivered” Ohio to Bush). Anybody listening?  Some 40 million votes passed through the innards of these delicate gadgets, and indications that some underwent a sudden 'conversion experience' there or, much more likely, inside easily hacked central tabulators, is accumulating.

The election – despite Bush’s apparent 3 million vote majority - came down to whomever nabbed Ohio. Just a one per cent voter swing would make Kerry president. There were scores of startling cases of voters touch-screening Kerry and having Bush flash up or the screen go blank.[18] But visible miscues are the least of the problems.

Despite a veritable mountain of facts attesting that these machines can be altered with ridiculous ease, our proud pundits instantly and without exception opted to explain the wide discrepancies between exit polls and final tallies as entirely the fault of historically highly reliable exit polls. Exit polls should not be confused with pre-election polling, as the post-election press likes to do. Exit polls customarily are accurate to within 0.4 per cent of final tallies whereas pre-election polls have a margin of error ten times larger. In Germany exit polls regularly predict election outcomes within a quarter of a percentage point margin or less, and are regarded as checks on election mischief.  Former Clinton guru Dick Morris stated that US exit polls are ‘almost never wrong’ and suggested in this case that the polls, not the vote, must be sabotaged.[19] The American MSM en masse genuflected to the immensely fallible machines. Where is a Luddite when you need one?

“Kiev?  What about Cleveland?” Reverand Jesse Jackson archly asked about exit poll discrepancies in one of the first published mainstream op-eds at the end of November.[20] Jackson and John Conyers crankily insisted, so the testy press saw it, that mounting problems, electronic and otherwise, warranted serious inquiries. The most peculiar thing about the myriad of reported malfunctions, as Jackson and Conyers pointed out, is that nearly all malfunctioned in favor of Bush. Their gutsiness was fueled in no small part by the disgraceful fact that, by far the most targeted and disenfranchised group were blacks, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. The MSM saw nothing particularly personal or racist in this, just ordinary and insignificant political high jinks, although many blacks didn’t see it quite that way. Little wonder that Jackson and Conyers took the lead in generating what paltry and belittling attention that the newspapers and networks were willing to devote.

Were these dark suspicions so preposterous? In October 2004 California ordered 15,000 touch-screen Diebold  machines not be used because of serious flaws. "[Diebold] literally engaged in absolutely deplorable behavior and, to that extent, put the [2002] election at risk, jeopardizing the outcome of the election," said California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.[21] A voting machine in one Ohio county precinct awarded Bush about 4000 votes despite there being only 638 registered voters. Was it an isolated error? Detecting errors is precisely the problem. Had a plausible number of votes been cast the discrepancy might not have come to light. A North Carolina County machine lost 4,500 votes. Other machines began counting backwards after a certain numerical point (32,000 votes).[22] The list goes on as one scans especially (but not only) the ‘battleground’ States.

In a controversial chart of the Florida vote, strange results leaped out. In 22 counties with non-electronic machines one showed a slight drop in Democratic voting, and they produced an overall Democratic majority. However, of 52 counties using electronic machines 37 displayed often steep drops in Democratic turnout and huge rises in Republican turnout, so as to pull off a half million vote majority for Bush - despite both 2000 figures and exit polls predicting the opposite result)[23] In 22 non-electronic counties Bush and Kerry showed similar improvement in turnout while in electronic counties Kerry's vote was flat while Bush soared 45 per cent. Was this remotely credible in such a fiercely fought contest? The Republicans’ smug claim that they worked harder than Democrats to get out their vote is what they say reports of voting mischief are, anecdotal.

The Florida chart was airily dismissed in The New York Times when a couple of obliging academics were summoned to point out that small rural communities in that region often are "Dixiecrat" (registered Democrats voting Republican).[24] Sober leftists, including David Corn of The Nation, accepted this apparent debunking and joined in the mocking chorus, a weirdity since The Nation earlier published the single best forewarning of electronic hanky-panky, a piece by Ronnie Dugger.[25]  Alexander Cockburn, Rick Perlstein, Michael Moore and others likewise scoffed. Yet contempt is not the soundest scientific attitude with which to approach data either. Eager to convict, the mainstream assumed the chart creators were gullible and that they themselves were not. Yet their rebukes misfired inasmuch as the original chart analysts, knowing this, instead had averaged 26 mid-sized counties and still came up with an identical unlikely tilt to Bush.

At last one contrite internet journalist committed the initial “Dixiecrat” mistake, and was promptly corrected not by the MSM but by the original compilers of the chart.[26]  Although he retracted his speculation within hours of first posting, the MSM gleefully seized it and wouldn’t let it go – circulating the story to this day as proof of the ineffable daffiness of the internet. News editors, of course, figured it was a low-risk call to ignore the electoral flap because Kerry didn’t contest the result and because they believed that no tree falls in our modern forest unless their press corps says in fit print they heard it do so. ‘Scoops’ on the internet don’t count. Anyway, as one managing editor of a major British newspaper told me, if the reported irregularities can’t change the election result, why bother? 

Yet troublesome studies poured in. Statistician Colin Shea at the Zogby Poll web site (which predicted a Kerry victory) reckoned that the consistent four per cent advantage reaped by Bush in closely fought states had a statistical improbability of 50 thousand to one. University of Pennsylvania researcher Steven Freeman reported that chances that the gaps between exit polls and votes in three key states were due to random error were 250 million to 1.[27] Freeman was criticized for underplaying design effects and exaggerating the odds.[28] But, if so, by how much?

Collectively, exit polls had Kerry handily winning both the electoral college and the popular vote - including Ohio, Florida and new Mexico-  before the polls underwent a midnight “correction” aligning them with the incoming votes – which ruins the polls as independent devices. The poll data, owned by a private consotium, also is proprietary information. A Cal Tech/MIT Voting Technology Project study, glommed onto by the New York Times as the infallible final word, turned out to have employed this useless ‘adjusted ‘poll data to refute charges of a fix.[29] That is, they circularly used the results they were supposed to check to verify the results. The demand by bloggers, critics and Conyers for the ‘raw data” from the NEP was even ridiculed on the rather contradictory grounds that raw data is meaningless and that anyway this raw data isn’t raw anyway since it already has undergone transformations in the course of being recorded.[30] Yet what this means is that one cannot appraise the validity of the transformations or results without examining ‘raw data,’ or whatever one cares to call it, too. Indeed, even the National Commission on Elections and Voting in a much-cited report hostile to the rigging charges recommended ‘full data disclosure.”

University of California professor Michael Hout found that in Florida's heavily Democratic Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties that Bush was awarded 130-260,000 excess votes, whether by error or design. (Bush won Florida by 380 thousand votes): "No matter how many factors and variables we took into consideration, the significant correlation in the votes for President Bush and electronic voting cannot be explained," asserted Hout.  Yet another study found it within a 95% probability that Kerry was the popular vote winner, to boot.[31] If studies reckoned the odds against Bush winning were only 2 to 1, might a bit of poking around be in order? You know, just in case?

In this hypersensitive fray, mainstream viewers resort to the discrediting ploy of exaggerating their opponents’ claim to say exit polls are more accurate than vote tallies all the time. Authorities say that although it is true exit polls are used in German elections at a very high accuracy, or were used in Mexico to assure that the ruling party wasn’t rigging against Vicente Fox, that the US polls are constructed for different purposes with different sample sizes so that, and here they stretch a bit, they are no use for prediction, even though that is at least one purpose the networks who pay them for. They are not a ‘warning light’ on the dashboard, as the US State Department insisted, in Ukraine. The speculation that exit polls were off because Kerry voters might have been more eager than pathologically bashful Bush voters to speak to pollsters is beyond the realm of the lame as an excuse. How does one account for the vast preponderance of the breaks from the exit poll predictions – 42 of 51 units (including Washington D.C) - going in the same direction, toward Bush, anyway?

One reliable protective mainstream device is the familiar phenomenon of differential application of healthy doubt to those theories the viewer dislikes versus those the viewer favors. The first ‘credible alternate explanation’ that is mooted is duly bought right on the spot, without bothering to kick the tires or look under the hood. With watchdogs like these guys who needs stooges? Consider the instructive following summary, a few days prior to the election, of our wartime President’s standing, cited by a writer who nevertheless argues that the Bush camp’s mesmerizing  ‘narrative’ (‘Strength! Leadership! Character! Integrity!’) carried the day:[32]

Most notably, more Americans (55 percent) said they thought the country was “headed in the wrong direction” than those who said it was headed in the right one, and fewer than half the Americans polled (49 percent) said they approved of the president’s performance in office. More disapproved than approved of the President handling of foreign policy (49 to 45 percent) and of the economy (51 to 43 percent). Finally, more Americans disapproved than approved of the president; handling of Iraq (50 to 45 percent), and, perhaps more striking, two of three Americans told pollsters that Mr. Bush’s tax cuts – his signal domestic achievement – had either been bad for the economy (17 per cent) or had not made much difference (51 percent).

Yet, after a rocky day, during which an aide informed him that he was likely to lose, Bush wins handily. (Republican experts believed the exit polls they now disparage, which ought to tell us something.)[33] The question is not whether there are plenty of suckers in America but whether there were enough to elect our tongue-tied P. T Barnum. So analysts of every description and caliber on or via the internet are poring over physical incidents as well as testing statistical relationships between votes and kinds of voting devices (paper, punch card, opti-scan and electronic) plus differences between exit polls and recorded votes, and subjecting them all to every imaginable test. By way of evidence gathering, Bev Harris' organization Black Box Voting (whose video demonstration of easy electronic meddling is at www.votergate.tv) is carrying out the largest Freedom of Information trawl ever for public records from thousands of counties. According to Harris: "Among the materials requested are internal audit logs, polling place results slips, modem transmission logs, and computer trouble slips.

Were there earlier inklings of problems? Plenty. (See, for example, www.ecotalk.org/VotingMachineErrors.htm) Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska happened to be chief executive of a voting machine company which blanketed his state with its nifty gadgets just before his 1996 upset victory. Hagel miraculously captured almost every group, including many blacks who never before showed any fondness for Republican in suits or sheets. In the all-electronic state of Georgia pre-election polls showed Democratic Senator Max Cleland with a two to five point leads over Republican challenger Saxby Chambliss - and losing by seven per cent. In one Texas County in 2000 three Republicans got 18,181 votes each - with two more outside Texas scoring exactly that total too. 

The macho naïveté that many leftists have displayed about ‘getting over it” is exceedingly strange. If the evidence pans out, and only investigations can ever find if it will, then the implication is that, uncorrected, there would be no possibility of defeating Republicans ever again. One supposes leftover immiserationists (“the worse things get, the better”) welcome this plight but they’re woefully misled if they imagine they and their constituency will suffer less than the so-called “Red Staters.” in the relentlessly ugly future that Bush yahoos have in store. What is the point of crafting incisive manifestos if it is done on the basis of misinformation and rigged realities? Would the distraction of ‘moral values” rubbish have arisen otherwise?

What’s the upshot of the controversy? For a brief shining moment a fading, far-fetched scenario in deep recesses of the blogosphere was one of an amassing of incontrovertible errors and malfeasances so as to force scrutiny of election and perhaps even a re-vote. Some internet enthusiasts even dreamed Kerry was monitoring events in preparation for a dramatic ‘un-concession’ speech. Evidently not. Still, on the basis of evidence of systematic irregularities, lawyer Cliff Arnebeck of a citizens watchdog group did file in the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn the result and order a state-wide revote, a long shot measured in light years. The suit was rejected after the election result was certified in Congress but it is likely to be filed in Federal Courts next so as to secure a precinct by precinct examination that can yield conclusive data (or disprove suspicions). The Ohio recount flushed out, or was itself the occasion for, ever more seamy events. And it is a mistake to ignore antics in other states, such as New Mexico (a 7000 vote Bush win) where voter suppression was rampant in native American and Hispanic districts, or to assume these antics only began in 2004. 

Jesse Jackson’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to standardize state voting procedures is an essential step forward. Democratic Congressmen duly asked the Government Accounting Office to "immediately undertake an investigation of the efficacy of voting machines and new technologies used in the 2004 election, how election officials responded to difficulties they encountered and what we can do in the future to improve our election systems and administration."  A verifiable ‘paper trail’ must be affixed to electronic devices, although only hand counting of paper ballots really can eliminate the inherent threats of these easily meddled-with machines. What also is vital is lower level investigations that may eventually put the squeeze on cute critters who, if they indeed exist, will blab and offer evidence to save their skins – and begin to unravel things.

Did tens of millions of ordinary Americans stand in line, often for many hours, to vote for an ultra-right winger who has blithely bungled everything he has touched? Perhaps the likely story Republican strategist Karl Rove spread about a vast turnout of rightwing Christians - the American Taliban - is accurate but the numbers so far don't necessarily support it. What is clear is that the first priority is electoral reform to avert a recurrence, or even a suspicion of recurrence, of this election. One can strategize from here to doomsday and it won’t matter one iota if the voting system is rigged. What would advice be today if Kerry were President with a 51-48% victory, as exit polls seemed to predict? Perhaps not so different. Kerry is no savior, a near majority who voted for Bush remain a huge concern, and the MSM stays overwhelmingly rightwing. Yet the stampede, at least, into a lot of little Armageddons, or one great abyss (see Bronner’s grim and insightful accompanying piece), would have been interrupted. No small grace.

A polity that prizes accountability must look into the claims if only to dispel widening fear that the fix was in. Only 53% of Democrats were “very confident”: their vote counted (versus 86% of Republicans).[34] In CNN exit polling 86 per cent of Democrats in Florida and 80 per cent in Ohio 'were not confident that their vote would be counted accurately." That kind of alienation needs to be addressed. Bush continues as President but this controversy is not going to go away quietly.  What bloggers, to whom we owe a debt, are asking is that the media view the evidence through something other than wraparound tin foil spectacles.[35] We’re not (only) in Kansas anymore.[36]

[1]  www.inthe00s.com/index.php/topic,5738.0.html.  ‘77% think Bush won fair and square.’

[2] For many this gesture made some amends for the wrenching scene in Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 when protesting Congressional Black caucus members couldn’t drum up a single Senator to back their objection to the 2000 election result.

[3] Where, many people reasonably wondered, was this debunking zeal when the Bush Administration was concocting its case for invading Iraq?  See, for example, Michael Massing, ‘Iraq, the Press, and the Election” New York Review of Books 16 December 2004

[4] The Mirror (UK) 4 November 2004.

[5] Jonathan Freedland, ‘This is no passing phase, this is now an era’ The Guardian 4 November 2004.

[6] Greg Plast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (New York: Plume Books, 2003).  And his “Kerry won” http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1104-36.htm

[8] Some of these tactics were caught and stopped by Democratic watchdogs but not before doing incalculable damage.

[9] Fritz Wenzel, ‘Purging of Roll, Confusion Anger Voters: 41% of provisional ballots axed in Lucas County’, Toledo Blade  9 January 2005. http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050109/NEWS09/501090334&SearchID=73195662517954

[10] A momentarily candid Republican state legislator in Michigan, for example, blurted, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election cycle." http://www.freep.com/voices/columnists/eholl27_20040727.htm

[11] ‘Preserving Democracy: What went Wrong in Ohio.’ House Judicary Committee Democratic Staff (US House of Representatives 5 January 2005 “We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards.” p. 4.  This PDF can be downloaded many places, including Buzzflash.com.

[12] For a typical specimen of once-over-lightly debunking, see Russ Baker, “Election 2004: Stolen or Lost?’ 10 January 2004. www.alternet.org/story/20934. “As for Diebold and other vilified companies,” Baker writes reassuringly, “in all probability, they didn't, and wouldn't, risk the ignominy and consequences of fixing an election.’ That’s all right then, as Monty Python used to say.

[13] See Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman “Election 2004: Ohio vote count battles escalate amidst new evidence of potential criminal activity.’ 18 December 2004  www.freepress.org. Also see ‘Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong In Ohio?’ (fn 9) pp. 78-95.

[14] Of course, the White House got the result it desired in the USA but not the one it sought in the first election in the Ukraine.

[15] Brad Blog.com broke this story. Curtis’ affidavit downloadable at corporatenewslies.com.  Sworn testimony of Clint Curtis to House Judiciary (http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2004/12/13/18416/541/77#77) Cited in Wikipedia.org.

Q: So one person putting in bad code in a central tabulation machine could affect thousands and thousands or tens of thousands of votes?

A: Right.

Q: And if you had a recount and no paper trail, would that be ... reversible by seeing the discrepancy between the tabulator, the central tabulator code, and what the individual machines which had not been tampered with code?

A: Not if I wrote it.

Q: Why not? In other words...

A: In other words I could make it match.

[16] Tin foil hats, apparently are donned by dazed believers as mental protection from evil telepathic space alien influence. You can see these shiny chapeaus on display in the lamentable M. Night Shyamalan 2002 movie, Signs.

[17] Howard F. Ahmanson, majority owner of ES & S voting machines, is a sugar daddy for Christian Reconstructionist projects, a board member of the religious right theocratic think tank  Chalcedon Institute and a member of the ultra-right Council for National Policy. http://www.bestoftheblogs.com/2003_02_05_bestof.html.

[18] See Richard Hayes Philips, “Default Settings in Mahoning County.’  The Free Press 23 December 2004, http://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2004/1018

[19] Dick Morris, “Faulty Exit Polls”  New York Post 4 November 2004.  http://www.hillnews.com/morris/110404.aspx

[20]  Reverand Jesse L. Jackson, Jr, “Kiev? What About Cleveland?’  Chicago Sun-Times 30 November 2004.

[22]Broward Machines Count Backward,’ Palm Beach Post, November 5, 2004

[24] Faun Otter, ‘Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, are Quickly Buried” New York Times, 12 November 2004. p. 1

[25] Ronnie Dugger,  “How They Could Steal the Election This Time.” The Nation   29 July 2004.

[26] See Thom Hartmann  “Evidence Mounts that the Vote was Hacked.”  www.commondreams.com. 6 November 2004.

[27]  Steven F. Freeman, ‘The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy.’ Research Report, University of Pennsylvania, 29 December 2004.

[29] “Voting Machines and the Underestimate of the Bush Vote” http://www.vote.caltech.edu/Reports/VotingMachines3.pdf  Even more odd, as remarked by a blogger, is that this Cal Tech/MIT Voting Technology Project did not mention its July 2001 report detailing how easy rigging electronic voting can be, entitled “Voting: What is, What Could Be.” http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/nr/2001/VTP_report_all.pdf

[30]  Baker, “Election 2004: Lost or Stolen’

[31] Jonathan Simon and Ron Baiman, “The 2004 Election: Who Won the Popular Vote? An Examination of the Comparative validity of Exit Poll and Vote Count data 28 December 2004 (www.Free Press.org.)

[32] Mark Danner, ‘How Bush Really Won,’ New York Review of Books 13 January 2005, p. 50. Also see Gary Langer, ‘Poll: President’s Year-end Job Approval: Views on Iraq Grow more Negative, Bush’s Approval rating Follows’, ABC News 21 December 2004.

[33]  The aide is Karen Hughes, and the story was reported by Nancy Gibbs in Time magazine, 3 November 2004.

[34] National Annenberg Election Survey, 7 January 2005, p. 2. www.naes04.org

[35] As one blog contributor notes: ‘If you really don't think election fraud this big is possible, please go read about the voting systems: Optech II Eagle Optical Scan readers with modems inside (the tallies of which can be changed using cell-phone technology), Windows-based PC's running Microsoft access to tabulate votes (that can be hacked via modem), touch screen machines that can be set to Bush as the default setting and/or that can be programmed to assign votes correctly unless the candidate you want to have win starts to drop below a chosen value (51% or 54%) at which point votes are assigned so that the vote percentage gets back to your desired value. How about punch card machines that are misprogrammed for precincts in which you think you candidate will lose so that when voters punch the hole for Kerry their vote is counted for Bush and vice versa. Where will you find material about how vote fraud this big could happen? You might start by tracking the links from Edgar Steele's post here http://www.serendipity.li/jsmill/bushwon.htm. (Look at the Devvy link and then at the Ronnie Dugger links in Devvy's post).”

[36] Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004).


Kurt Jacobsen is the book review editor for Logos and a research associate at the University of Chicago.


Logos 4.1 - winter 2005
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