Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Jailed For Questioning Ohio Secretary Of State

Ukiah Rabble-Rousers Jailed For Questioning Ohio Secretary Of State

By Dan Hamburg
From via

On Monday, December 6, my wife Carrie and I, accompanied by a local ABC cameraman and a local radio talk show host, attempted to deliver a letter to the Secretary of State of Ohio, J. Kenneth Blackwell. Mr. Blackwell is housed on two floors of the Borden Building in downtown Columbus. We requested that Secretary Blackwell commence the recount of votes in Ohio, that he refrain from certifying Rebublican electors until the recount was completed, that he respond to questions posed to him by 12 House Judiciary Committee members led by Rep. John Conyers regarding the election and that he formally recuse himself from the recount.

I was surprisesd that very few Ohioans I spoke with over my week in the Buckeye state knew that the Secretary of State - in addition to being the constitutional officer in charge of the election - also served as co-chair of the Ohio campaign to elect Bush/Cheney, and as the spokesman for the state ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. This is the second time in two elections that the Secretary of State in the crucial battleground state also served as teh Bush/Cheney campaign chair. In 2000, it was Katherine Harris, who now represents Florida's 13th district in the U.S. Congress. Word in Ohio is that Blackwell's sights are even higher. He intends to run for governor of Ohio in two years, no doubt with significant help from the Bush machine.

From the moment we presented identification (God forbid anyone should try to go anywhere in post-9/11 America without picture identification!), there was trouble. Private security officers moved in to discourage us to pass through the now-omnipresent metal detectors and on to the elevators. However, we breezed past them, found an elevator and whom should we find on the same elevator that we were taking but J. Kenneth Blackwell himself.

"Hello, Mr. Secretary," I said. "I'm former congressman Dan Hamburg from California. We have a letter for you, requesting you recuse yourself from the upcoming recount of Ohio's presidential vote. We have also raised several other issues that need your attention immediately." Blackwell quickly launched into a blustering monologue about how we didn't understand Ohio law because if we did, we'd know that he had nothing to do with counting the votes. With the floors whizzing by, my wife Carrie asked Blackwell whether he thought there might be at least the appearance of a conflict of interest in his serving as both final arbiter of the vote and as co-chair of Ohio Bush/Cheney. Blackwell frowned, the elevator door opened, he made a beeline for his private office and disappeared behind glass and steel. However, we were far from alone. There to meet us as we stepped out was a phalanx of law enforcement and security officers - Columbus Police, Ohio Highway Patrol, Borden Building security, and several husky plainclothesmen.

I remember thinking that Columbus must be a really low crime town since they had the ability to assign so many officers to a couple of 50-plus-year-olds who hadn't even let off a loud chant. After being rebuffed from attending the Secretary's press conference (despite our Bullhorn press credentials) we retreated to Zuppa's, a very untrendy cafe located on the north side of the lobby. We ordered orange juice and sat down at a table. Within minutes, security was all over us.

"You must leave this building now," said the exasperated Borden security cop, his hands shaking quite visibly. "What's this charge?" I asked. "Are we trespassing or do you just 'reserve the right to refuse service to anyone?'" "You must leave this building now," he repeated. "Sorry, we're not going. We don't believe we're trespassing by sitting here drinking our orange juice. We're not interfering with other patrons of the building. We're not blocking or obstructing anything. But we understand that you're just doing your job. Please try to understand that we also need to do ours."

It took about 15 minutes for several Columbus police and Highway Patrol officers to appear on the scene. We were cuffed, and taken out behind the building to a waiting patrol car. That was the beginning of our experience as arrested midemeanants under the authority of Franklin County. Over the next 30 hours, we were printed (not just fingers but hands) twice, photographed three times, cuffed and uncuffed more times than we could count, held in unheated and odor-challenged holding tanks for hours on end, served endless smashed baloney-on-white sandwiches, and subjected continuously to the sneering looks and acid tongues of our jailers.

We also had the opportunity to meet some of the people we had come to Ohio to see-- poor, mostly African-American folks, the people for whom voting on November 2 had often been such a challenge. From inside the Franklin County Corrections Center (known affectionately as "The Workhouse") I heard stories from people who knew people who had waited many hours and braved lousy weather just to cast a vote to rid the country of the stench of George W. Bush.

It was not by chance that in Franklin County there were less voting machines available than in 2000, depite the fact that election officials, from Ken Blackwell on down, knew that registration was up nearly 25%. By contrast, the strong GOP precincts were provided with more machines.

Katherine Harris rode her performance in the duel roles of Florida Secretary of State and co-chair of the Bush/Cheney capaign to the US congress. How far will Ken Blackwell go, having delivered Ohio in 2004? Elected officials like Harris and Blackwell sow discord by taking on multiple, and conflicting roles, especially when the presidency is at stake. Blackwell has caused another problem by housing himself in a private building, secluded from the public that pays his freight. A private corporation like Borden should not be running interference for elected officials. Nor should the police. It would have been more appropriate for Borden security, or Blackwell himself, to have made citizen's arrests and then let the court decide whether those arrests are appropriate to the circumstances.


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news