How The 2004 Central Ohio Vote Was Manipulated
How A Republican Election Supervisor Manipulated The 2004 Central Ohio Vote, In Black And White
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
November 23, 2004
The Republican head of the Board of Elections in Franklin County, Ohio, manipulated the supply of voting machines on November 2, denying thousands of likely Democrats the right to cast their votes in a fair and timely manner.
As indicated in the sworn testimony below, offered here for the first time, the election was engineered to make voting as difficult as possible for inner city residents, and to drive away those who could not afford to stay away from work or families, or whose health made it imprudent or impossible to endure the long, cold, wet lines.
Amidst one of the hottest presidential elections in US history, voters in Columbus, capitol of Franklin County and of Ohio, faced 35 separate ballot choices. Eleven were extensively worded Issue questions. For Columbus voters, it was one of the longest ballots in history. Yet in many inner city precincts, the Republican-run Board of Elections demanded voters cast their ballots within five minutes after waiting in many cases more than three hours.
In addition to deciding whether George W. Bush would get another term in the White House, inner city voters faced Issue One, amending the Ohio Constitution to ban gay marriage and other forms of civil union. They also had to read through eight infrastructure bond issues, a zoo levy and a school levy.
The man running the show in Franklin County was Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroder, former head of the county's Republican Party. Damschroder now admits that at least 77 of his machines (out of 2866) malfunctioned on Election Day. The most infamous has been the machine in Gahanna Ward One-B that registered 4258 for George W. Bush in a precinct where only 638 people voted.
Damschroder's official records also show that while desperate poll workers called his office throughout the day, at least 125 machines were held back at the opening of the polls and an additional 68 were never deployed. Thus while thousands of inner city voters stood in the rain, were told their cars would be towed, and were then forced to vote in five minutes or less, Damschroder sat on machines that could have significantly sped the process.
Put another way: if voters took ten seconds each to read and push the button for the 24 candidates on the ballot, it would take four minutes, leaving one minute to wade through long paragraphs describing eleven Issues, including one of the most complex and controversial amendments ever offered to the Ohio Constitution.
Census data indicates that the suburban areas have higher levels of literacy and educational achievement. This suggests that in a fairly administered election, there should have been more machines in the central city to avoid rushing voters through the ballot after a 2-7 hour wait in line, mostly in a driving rain.
Despite an increase of 25% in voter turnout, 29% of precincts in Columbus had fewer machines than in the 2000 election.
The testimony below was sworn under oath at the Monday, November 15, 2004 hearing at the Franklin County Courthouse. Note the clear discrepancies between the voting experience in the affluent white suburban areas of Franklin and Delaware counties versus the conditions in the wards of Columbus' central city, where the heavy majority was expected to vote Democratic."
Jason Perry, Columbus:
"I live in Franklin County and was a poll monitor at Columbus 12A the whole day. While there was the usual things on a very high turnout election day, such as lack of poll workers, when I voted at 6:45, the head judge was asking for a Democratic volunteer. There was a shortage of poll workers such as they had no greeter. In my polling site, the actual polling was down in the basement, down a single narrow flight of stairs and they had no election officials on the upstairs, nobody checking names before you waited three hours, nobody looking for elderly or women with multiple children. I don't think that there was any problems in terms of electronic voting fraud, but what there was, in this precinct, at least, for a decade there had been four voting machines, and this election there was only three." [Columbus precinct 12A had 1655 registered voters, a 29% increase over the 2000 presidential election. The Franklin County Board of Elections designated one less voting machine for the 2004 election.]
Jay Wemsley, Columbus:
"They had machines that broke at some point during the day at the Broad Street Presbyterian Church, and from that time on the lines were more like four hours. In the middle part of the day, because were standing in these lines -- and it's my understanding that each of those six precincts each had three voting booths. In the middle part of the day, we decided -- I and the other member of our team, drove to some other precincts, two in Upper Arlington, one at Upper Arlington High School, a firehouse on Coach Road in Upper Arlington and then the Whetstone Recreation Center, which was partially in Upper Arlington and partially Clintonville. And in each of those, they had at least four machines per precinct, and one of the four precincts at Whetstone Recreation Center had five machines. And so the disparity was pretty stark out there on election day." [Broad St. Presbyterian Church, precinct 7-D had 1071 registered voters and an 18% increase over the 2000 election, but no new machines were allocated.]
Robin Smith, Upper Arlington:
"Back home at 8:00 p.m., I watched on TV how some areas of Franklin County still had long lines of people that were going to have to wait hours to vote. This could not have been an accident. In my affluent predominantly Republican community where 62 percent of the people voted for George Bush in the 2000 election, lines were not a problem. In Ward 6 where I worked, every precinct had three or four voting machines which works out to one voting machine for every 164 people who voted. Yet late on election night, the news programs continued to show people in Franklin County and other parts of the state waiting in line to vote hours after the polls had closed. It appeared that these lines were primarily in low income, student or minority communities, areas that consisted predominantly of Democrat voters."
Jonathon Meire, Columbus:
"I voted at Livingston Avenue Elementary on Hale Street. And personally, the precinct official, the precinct judge showed up a half hour late to the polls. And around between 12:00 and 1:00, he left, walked out on the job and quit, leaving the school in a pretty big mess. When I voted, I waited in line and I witnessed at least one person -- I can confirm one person leaving because the precinct official showed up a half hour late. The person had to go to work. And also later on that morning, I went back in the school, as I was there witnessing and saw that there were two lines: One, a line to check in, sign in, get the slip of paper; and then the other line, once you have a slip of paper, to go in and get in line to vote. There was no one directing traffic. So as I stood at the school, people were coming out after being in there for two, two-and-a-half hours in complete frustration and anger saying that they waited in the voting line, did not know that they had to get a slip first before they got in line, so they went out all the way, stood in line for two hours, only to find out that they needed to get a slip first, were sent to get a slip and were made to get back in the end of the line. I went inside to direct traffic and make sure people knew I was totally -- I didn't have any partisan insignia or anything like that and I was kicked out and threatened with arrest for doing that, for directing traffic. Also, throughout the day standing outside, I went back outside and I witnessed two -- I can confirm two people who were -- who had to leave because they were physically ill. The line, I timed the line and after 10:00 a.m., the line time it took, on average, two-and-a-half hours; from two to six hours, six hours maximum. When the precinct judge left there were some people who had to wait in line six hours and the lines were scurrying and it was a mess after the precinct official left. The two people I can confirm who were kicked out because -- or they had to leave because of illness, one was an elderly woman who had cancer and could not breathe inside the building. She stood in line for two hours but could not wait any longer. She had about about another half hour to wait but she couldn't make it, and another person, also a cancer patient who was afraid that the long wait would expose her to illness and she was -- yeah, very ill."
Arthur Liebert, Columbus:
"I voted at Marburn Academy on Walden Road. Let me just frame this first. The first week of August, my neighbor and I, his name is Randy Walker, we visited the Franklin County Board of Elections and after being betted by a couple of mid-level staffers, we ended up talking to Matt Damschroder, and we questioned him on the voting machine and he gave us answers. He told us they were calibrated, they were tested, they were sealed, they were stored and they would be ready to go on election day. And at the end, I asked him about are you going to be able to handle the flow of voters that we're going to have, because everybody knows that this is going to be a mass turnout. And he assured me in no uncertain terms that they would be able to handle it. Well, obviously they didn't. I went to my voting precinct at 6:00 in the morning. I was first in line, one of the first in line. We had six voting machines. Two of them already were not working and the people who worked at the polling place honestly didn't know what they were doing. They kind of did a go over and push a few buttons and hit it on the side a few times, and after about 20 minutes or a half hour, some voting going on, the lights finally came on, which that didn't give me any confidence in using those two machines. And they proceeded to let people vote on them. Well, when it came my turn, I refused to go to either one of those machines and I waited until one that worked became available. I mentioned this to the poll workers. They didn't seem -- they didn't know what to do. They said they would call the Election Board. Well, they never showed up. So these two machines operated all day with a question mark on whether they were viable or not."
Arthur Liebert on Delaware County:
"… Just to put this in perspective, my daughter voted in southern Franklin County -- or southern Delaware County. They had 14 voting machines. They were in and out in about ten minutes. We had six, two of them weren't working and I know the reports of others being three, forever, as we heard tonight." [Southern Delaware County is an affluent Republican enclave just north of Franklin County.]
Jennifer Delaney, on the difference between Columbus and Galloway:
"My particular polling location was the Prairie Township Firehouse in Galloway. I only -- it's a white middle class neighborhood. I had a 30-minute wait. It was fairly easy. But when I asked my students about their wait and they primarily voted in and around Ohio State, I asked if they'd had long waits or any problems and a bunch of hands shot up. So I took down -- I took down names, polling places and contact information for 13 people that had problems and I have a copy for you with all their information."
Dr. Bob Fitrakis, JD, is an attorney with the Alliance for Democracy-Ohio, which is challenging the 2004 election results in Ohio. He is publisher of www.freepress.org, and moderated the public hearings in Columbus November 13 and 15. Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of www.freepress.org. Their ANOTHER STOLEN ELECTION: VOICES OF THE DISENFRANCHISED, 2004, will be published by freepress.org.