Much has been written about the 2004 presidential election, and questions have abounded about whether or not the election was stolen. The issue is far from settled, though not so much talked about now. But what reawakened my interest was a recent article posted online by Rolling Stone Magazine: “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. It’s a long article, and heavily annotated, but it’s well worth reading. If even a fraction of the allegations about voter fraud in the state of Ohio (the state I grew up in) are true, then the implications are staggering.
I won’t try to summarize the many points, but here are a few quotes:
The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush’s victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency…. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count….
In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls….
”Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen,” Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling, told me. ”You look at the turnout and votes in individual precincts, compared to the historic patterns in those counties, and you can tell where the discrepancies are. They stand out like a sore thumb….”
…In the battle for Ohio, Republicans had a distinct advantage: The man in charge of the counting was Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of President Bush’s re-election committee. As Ohio’s secretary of state, Blackwell had broad powers to interpret and implement state and federal election laws — setting standards for everything from the processing of voter registration to the conduct of official recounts. And as Bush’s re-election chair in Ohio, he had a powerful motivation to rig the rules for his candidate. Blackwell, in fact, served as the ”principal electoral system adviser” for Bush during the 2000 recount in Florida, where he witnessed firsthand the success of his counterpart Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who co-chaired Bush’s campaign there.
My sister, living in Ohio, remarked: “Ohio Republicans as a whole have put on an amazing display of corruption for the past year or more…” while another Ohio-dwelling friend said, “From where I sit…Ken Blackwell is the Darth Vader of Ohio politics…. How #$@&ing long can we waste our energy on the bullcrap issues and ignore the fundamental disintegration of our physical, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual infrastructure?”
You must of course draw your own conclusions. I personally am convinced that there was more than enough chicanery in the Ohio elections alone to account for the outcome of the 2004 election. Regular readers know well enough by now what I think about the current administration. But more important even than the consequences we face down the road from current policy is the risk of losing our democratic process altogether from rigged elections.
I’ll just end by quoting Robert Kennedy’s closing paragraphs:
If the last two elections have taught us anything, it is this: The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting system. If people lose faith that their votes are accurately and faithfully recorded, they will abandon the ballot box. Nothing less is at stake here than the entire idea of a government by the people.
Voting, as Thomas Paine said, ”is the right upon which all other rights depend.” Unless we ensure that right, everything else we hold dear is in jeopardy.