Can we transform labor’s Buckeye victory
into a new era of election protection?
By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman / The Rag Blog / November 14, 2011
The crushing defeat Ohio’s working people dealt 1% politicians last week has critical implications for a whole other issue — election protection.
In a voting process that might otherwise have been stolen, a concerted effort by citizens committed to democracy — NOT the Democratic Party — guaranteed an official Ohio tally that finally squares with reality. The defeat of millionaire Republican Governor John Kasich’s union-busting Issue 2 by more than 20% actually squared with exit polling and other reliable political indicators.
In the 2008 election, Richard Charnin has demonstrated how there was a more than 5% shift towards the Republican presidential candidate John McCain than predicted by the highly accurate exit polls, the gold standard for detecting election fraud. In Ohio’s 2010 election, exit polls revealed a 5.4% unexplained “red shift” towards the Republican Party. The shift led to the defeat of Democratic Governor Ted Strickland as well as Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.
But both of those elections were administered under a Democratic governor and secretary of state. This year’s reasonable vote count on Issue 2 came under Republican Secretary of State John Husted and Republican Governor John Kasich who had a strong interest in seeing the opposite outcome. For those of us in Ohio, that was the REAL groundshaker of Issue 2’s defeat.
The most shocking news from Ohio’s 2011 election was the inability of Franklin County Board of Elections officials to post election results at the precinct level due to faulty software programming. In a close election, this could have been pivotal in allowing electronic election fraud. See: “Election night computer software meltdown in Franklin County.”
Can we now build on this to bring reliable vote counts to the entire nation? See the proposal below.
But first, understand: Since 2004, Ohio has been the poster chlld for the art and science of stealing elections. When Karl Rove and then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell flipped a 4%-plus victory for John Kerry into a 2%-plus victory for George W. Bush, they forged overnight a new frontier of high-tech election thievery. See “New court filing reveals how the 2004 Ohio presidential election was hacked.”
The fraud was carried out with a stunning array of techniques. More than 300,000 likely Democratic voters were knocked off the registration rolls. Grassroots registration efforts were intimidated and shredded. Voting machines were shorted, manipulated, and flipped. Voters were misled and misguided. Whole bags of ballots disappeared. Electronic screen tallies jumped from Kerry to Bush. Polls closed illegally and often. You name it, the GOP did it… and then some.
In our How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election we documented well over a hundred different ways the Republicans robbed the process to give George W. Bush a second term.
Not only did John Kerry and the Democrats say nothing about it. Kerry conceded with nearly a quarter-million votes uncounted, then used a Republican law firm to attack election rights activists’ attempts to reveal what had been done.
Then, in 2005, Blackwell and Rove outdid themselves. A grassroots-based election reform referendum ran right up to voting day with a 25-plus margin of victory. It mandated extended voting access for all Ohio citizens and a range of other reforms. With clear benefit to the vast majority of Ohio voters, all major polls showed that year’s Issue 2 passing with ease. See “Has American Democracy died an electronic death in Ohio 2005’s referenda defeats?“
But somehow, on election day, it went down in flames. Ohio’s electoral process remained a thieves’ paradise.
In 2006, amidst massive GOP scandals and Blackwell’s impossible run for the statehouse, the Democrats swept in. They oversaw Obama’s victory in the Buckeye state, a key to all presidential elections.
They did virtually nothing to reform the structure of Ohio’s electoral process. But the grassroots strength of those committed to democracy became established.
This year, democracy advocates were again out in force. Independent monitors showed up at polling stations throughout the state, sponsored by the Free Press’ Election Protection project and Green Party observers were active as well. A careful eye was kept on electronic voting machines. Ballot custody was tracked and potential fraud was challenged. Numerous pollworkers contacted the Free Press when they were unable to post precinct-level results.
And thus this critical election was not stolen, as well it might have been. Labor’s critical victory was preserved, and perhaps a new era has opened in our national politics, aimed at rolling back the reactionary tide of corporate personhood and its minions of mammon.
But it cannot proceed without election protection. Our voting process is non-transparent, inherently corrupt, unfair, and prone to theft by the highest briber.
So we are now in the process of drafting a constitutional amendment. It can go state by state, and nationwide. Language will vary and evolve. We hope you will join the process and use it to define the electoral process in years to come:
A protection amendment for the states and nation:
- All citizens shall be automatically registered to vote upon turning 18 years old. Registration is lost only upon revocation of citizenship or death.
- A legal signature, accurately provided under penalty of felony law, shall be sufficient to procure a ballot
- Voting shall take place by mail, as prescribed by local officials, and at voting stations open on a designated four-day period including Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
- All ballots shall be printed on recycled paper.
- All ballots shall be hand-counted, and preserved for at least 10 years after every election.
- All polling places shall host exit polls conducted by independent agencies under the supervision of an independent non-partisan agency.
An informed, committed citizenry will still be needed to guarantee fair elections. Reform of the financial aspects of election campaigns also needs to be addressed.
But in terms of guaranteeing an accurate vote count, we believe these six measures are key. We are sure these reforms will come over a long, difficult process.
But paper ballots are used in Germany, where vote counts square to within 0.1% of exit polls, and in Japan, Switzerland, Canada, and elsewhere. Elections on paper can certainly be stolen, but it’s a lot harder to do than with the absurdly corruptible electronic voting machines and non-transparent hardware and software manufactured by partisan corporations.
No system is flawless. But think about where America would be right now if the 1% had stolen Ohio’s labor law and destroyed its public unions.
Our survival as a nation depends on establishing a fair, reliable voting process. We believe this is a start. Won’t you join us?
[Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books about election protection. Bob’s Fitrakis Files are at freepress.org, where this article was first published. Harvey Wasserman’s History of the U.S. is at HarveyWasserman.com, along with Solartopia! Our Green-powered Earth. Read more of Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis’ writing on The Rag Blog.]