Voter Transcripts Feed Floodtide Of Election Doubt
New Ohio Voter Transcripts Feed Floodtide Of Doubt About Republican Election Manipulation
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
November 25, 2004
A floodtide of evidence of questionable practices in the 2004 election is mounting fast against Ohio Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Republican Franklin County Board of Elections (BOE) Director Matt Damschroder. New transcriptions of sworn voter testimony, presented below for the first time, confirm growing suspicions of widespread use of rigged machines. Voters experienced hostility from poll workers, refusal of Republican election officials to follow the law, and discriminatory manipulation of voting machine placement, driving significant numbers of Democrats away from the polls.
The Columbus Dispatch, central Ohio's dominant conservative daily newspaper, which endorsed Bush for the presidency, says Damschroder “has faced criticism locally and across the country from groups that contend an already short supply of voting machines were shifted from Democratic precincts in Columbus to Republican areas outside the city.”
Damschroder is the former head of the Franklin County Republican Party. He claims that the 23.4% increase in voter turnout is a success story. He admitted to the Dispatch on Tuesday, November 23, that he had not asked the Franklin County Commissioners for any additional money this year for new machines, despite a 24% increase in voter registration. “If we had 5000 machines we would have put every one of them out there,” Damschroder says. But he also defends his refusal to ask for more in the run-up to the election.
In fact, according to the Dispatch, Damschroder's own records show large numbers of voting machines were not deployed on election day despite frantic requests from inner city poll workers. According to the Dispatch, Damschroder's office received 32 calls from precinct judges requesting more machines, not one of which was filled. Only nine of those calls came from suburban precincts, while 23 came from the Inner City.
Overall the board logged 101 calls for voting machine problems this year. In 2000 the number was just 46.
Through it all, Damschroder insisted in a Dispatch interview that, “From our perspective, there are (thousands of) stories of people who stood in line and voted.”
But many voters had very different views. The Free Press offers the following sworn statements from public hearings held at the Franklin County Courthouse November 15:
Janine Smith-White, Youngstown:
“I went to my polling place approximately about 9:45 to vote. I waited, I would say, 30 minutes in a line. When I did get to my machine, I pushed John Kerry and my vote immediately jumped up to George Bush. After I started screaming about them cheating again, the aide hurried up and came over and said, oh, that's been happening a lot. Just go ahead and push John Kerry again and I'm saying, you say that's been happening a lot and it hasn't been corrected? Yes, but we can't do anything about it. So I did push John Kerry again and the vote did stay on John Kerry. Even though I completed my voting and after I went over my ballot and I pushed the vote button, I'm still not sure that I voted for John Kerry because, I mean, did my first vote that went to George Bush count or did John Kerry count.”
Steven Heyman, Pickerington:
“I noticed that one of the big problems was on Molar Road there are two different buildings that you can vote in, 1201 and 1560 Southmore Middle and Bowler School. People were sometimes confused as to which precinct they were supposed to vote in. I had a listing of all the voters for 51 A and if I could catch them before they went in and [stand] in line for two or three hours, and they were really upset if they were in the wrong precinct and had to go to the other one. We probably lost at least 75 voters during the 12 and a half hours I was there.”
“I need to tell you what happened on my first experience voting in Ohio. On November 2nd, I got to my polling station early, so I got -- I wanted to get there early so I got in the car and I headed over to nearby Livingston School and I signed in and waited about 45 minutes in a line that looked to have about 60 people waiting to vote. Once in the library, we noticed that there were only three voting machines. Once it was my turn, I got inside and looked over the voting machine, and this is one of the electronic voting machines. It consisted of an array of blinking lights urging you to vote for something, and once you did vote for something, the blinking light would go out and a steady red light would appear next to your selection. On the upper left-hand part was the selection for president. I wanted to do this, I wanted to get this out of the way, that's what I came here, to vote, that was my number one priority. So I pushed the button for John Kerry for president of the United States. And the light -- the flashing light went out and the light next to John Kerry's name came on. I then mulled over the rest of the propositions and local races that were taking place, some of which I knew about, some of which I didn't. It took the better part of five minutes or so to get through them all. Some of the political players locally I don't know about so I just left them blank because I think you should be making an informed decision and not just pressing buttons. Once I was finished, I got down to the lower right-hand corner and the big green vote button was beckoning. I almost pushed it and I said, no, wait a minute, I want to -- I want to proofread what I just did. I want to look over my selections. I looked up into the upper left-hand corner and the area for president of the United States was now flashing again. My vote for John Kerry had been neutralized. It had been reset. Now, you can call this a glitch, you can call this a design flaw, you can call it a bologna sandwich if you want, but whatever you call it, that machine nearly threw out and neutralized my vote for John Kerry.”
“I went ahead and walked in because the lines at that point were four hours long. Again, this used to be my polling location, after the last presidential location it was my polling location and at that time there were two precincts and there were four booths per precinct. This year the first thing I noted that there were three and not one of the precincts had a booth down, so they were operating on two, just 50 percent the amount that they had the election before. The next thing I noted that there were more people in line, probably, at that point than I had probably had ever voted in that precinct. I had voted there for several times. It was just absolute chaos. People were wandering this way and that. The first thing someone said to me is, I don't think they want me here. This is confusing. I voted here for years and I'm leaving. And I asked him to stay, but he wouldn't.. . . So I would say at least a third of the people that were in line were elderly or had mobility challenges. A lot of those people would be standing in line for one to three hours to then come across some steep steps that would be even challenges for the average able-bodied person. One side of the steps could -- one side of the steps didn't even have a rail to hang onto and there was no one to assist people down, okay.”
“I was a poll worker at 39B at Creeder Wood School. Quickly, the polls did not open at 7:00. They didn't open until 7:20. We did not sign our tapes like we were supposed to at the beginning. We signed everything at the end and it was very chaotic. The presiding judge was very inexperienced and lacked training. He was very judgmental against a lot of people that came into our poll, one especially that I want to speak out for today. . . . during the day he turned away several people that were in our precinct from work who said they had signed up but they weren't on our books. . . .I wanted to assist him going downtown because I was afraid he was going to open up the provisional ballots and do something with them because I fought so hard and so long all day trying to protect them. And it was a horrible, horrible experience.. . . The police were involved. The police did escort him down to the Board of Elections, but a Democratic representative could not go with the presiding Republican judge in a Democratic precinct, period. . . .Our presiding judge was Republican in a Democratic precinct and they would not let me, the Democratic poll worker accompany him downtown, . . .Only one person went with the ballots and the tapes and I begged and pleaded and called everybody I could. . . .We did not sign the tapes until the end of the evenings. Signs on how to use the machines weren't posted and people were turned away.”
Mark Dunbar, Columbus:
“I got off work about 9:30 that morning. I went down and dropped off some ballots down at the Board of Elections. Then I went to my home near Eastgate Elementary. I arrived there at 10:00. I went in. There was no signs as to how to use the voting machines. I heard one of the poll workers tell a guy in one of the booths that he had one minute because he had been in there four minutes. So they were actually rushing people in and out of the polls. The line was about three hours when I got there. There was only three voting booths and I remembered the last time I vote there, we had at least four to five voting booths, so we were down to three. They did allow the people to sit in chairs and move the chairs up and down the line. They did have an elderly woman who was in a wheelchair just sitting there for a couple hours and she was still sitting there when I left. So she didn't get to vote the kind of way she should have. She should have been taken to the front but I didn't see any accessible voting booths and I saw -- I counted at least 27 to 30 people who left while I was there, but I didn't leave. I had to vote.”
John Perry, Upper Arlington:
“For the record, I did observe, in my voting place, that there was a sticker over the ballot and spot apparently originally intended for Ralph Nader. However, in looking at the machine times from other precincts, I noticed that there were numerous machine votes, not write in votes but machine votes for Nader in other precincts. So apparently if you pushed the button for the Nader spot, it was recorded as a vote for Nader and printed out as such on the tape.”
Monica Justo, Columbus:
“I ran 6 wards for the Kerry campaign in the Clintonville corridor. At 8:00 -- my precinct location was 19H -- it is run out of the Southwick Funeral Home by Bill Good. Bill Good is a Republican. At 8:00 in the morning, he went out to the people in line. There was already over an hour wait at this time and informed them that they all needed to get out of line and move their cars because he had a funeral coming. . . . According to the Franklin County Board of Elections, it was their fault for not verifying that business was not being held on that day, that they needed to inform them of that.”
Michael Greenman, Westerville:
“I live in Westerville, voted in precinct 3B. I voted there in the elections for the last five years. When I went to the precinct this last election, I came in and looked at the list and my name was not on the list. It was a computerized list. My wife's name was on the list. I asked them how this could be. They had no explanation. They were very cooperative, gave me a provisional ballot. I was in and out right quick like. They were very efficient, it was a good precinct. But I cannot imagine how many could have been removed from the list without some active action. I'm a political activist. I'm the head of a political group called Citizens for Democracy and the corporate rule but I don't know why my name was not on the list.
MS. TRUITT: [Hearing Examiner] Had you voted within the last five years?
MR. GREENMAN: Every year, every time for the last five years at that precinct.”
Tom Kessel, Bexley:
“. . .in precincts 4 A and 4 C in Bexley. What it was is Republican challengers got there about 7:30 in the morning. Precinct 4 C was going fine, so I watched her. On three different occasions, I caught her sitting at the table with the poll workers. Each time I had to go up there and say, excuse me, you're not allowed here, you know, you're not allowed to be sitting there. She was not challenging it. She was talking and kibitzing and working with the poll workers. I don't know. One time I went outside, I came back in, she was actively going over some sort of computerized list she had with the precinct judge in precinct 4A in Bexley. One of the three machines went down and they were not able to get the tape out of it and the cartridge at the end of the day. Later on, when I got the poll -- data from Franklin County poll workers, that machine which had the lowest numbers of votes had the highest percentage of Bush votes. The other two machines were coming back 30 percent for Bush. This one came back 40 percent for Bush. I don't know. Also, they sealed up their provisional ballots before I had a chance to count them and let them know how much provisional ballots were there. Also, she signed off as an official witness at the end of the day, even though she was a Republican worker. I was met with open hostility from the workers in precinct 4 A in Bexley. They let me know in no uncertain terms that they were Bush people.”
Dr. Bob Fitrakis, JD, moderated the public hearings on voter suppression held in Columbus November 13 and 15. He is publisher of freepress.org, of which Harvey Wasserman is senior editor. Their ANOTHER STOLEN ELECTION: VOICES OF THE DISENFRANCHISED, 2004 will soon be available at freepress.org.