Massive Election Day irregularities are emerging in reports from all over Ohio
after the introduction of Diebold's electronic voting in nearly half of the Buckeye
State’s counties. A recently released report by the non-partisan General
Accountability Office warned of such problems with electronic voting machines.
E-voting machine disasters
Prior to the 2005 election, electronic voting machines from Diebold and other
Republican voting machine manufacturers were newly installed in 41 of Ohio’s
88 counties. The Dayton Daily News reported that in Montgomery County, for example,
“Some machines began registering votes for the wrong item when voters
touched the screen correctly. Those machines had lost their calibration during
shipping or installation and had to be recalibrated. . . .”
Steve Harsman, the Director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections (BOE),
told the Daily News that the recalibration could be done on site, but poll workers
had never performed the task before.
The city of Carlisle, Ohio announced on November 22 that it is contesting the
results of the November 8 general election as a result of Montgomery County
vote counting problems. Carlisle Mayor Jerry Ellender told the Middletown Journal
that the count on the city’s continuing $3.8 million replacement fire
levy is invalid “since they are not sure if Carlisle voters received the
right ballots on the new electronic voting machines.”
Harsman, according to the Journal, said, “poll workers incorrectly encoded
voter cards that are used to bring up the ballots on the electronic machines
in precincts in Germantown and Carlisle.”
At least 225 votes were registered for the fire levy in precincts with only
148 registered voters, according to the Journal. In addition, 187 voting machine
memory cards were lost for most of election night in Montgomery County, according
to the Dayton Daily News.
In Lucas County, election results appeared more than 13 hours after the close
of polls. The Toledo Blade cited “‘frightened’ poll workers,”
intimidated by the new “touch-screen voting machines.”
The Blade found that despite an $87,568 federal grant to the Lucas County Board
of Elections for “voter education and poll worker training . . .”
only $1,718.65 was spent from the grant.
The Blade also reported that ten days after the 2005 election, “Fourteen
touch-screen voting machines have sat unattended in the central hallway at the
University of Toledo Scott Park Campus.” The GAO report warned that touch-screen
machines are easily hacked and should be kept secure at all times.
In Miami County, the Board of Elections fired the Deputy Director, Diane Miley,
following a 20-minute closed-door session reviewing the November 8, 2005 general
The Free Press had reported that in the 2004 presidential election, Miami County
was cited in the seminal Moss v. Bush election challenge case. The county was
specifically cited for an early morning influx of 19,000 additional votes, mostly
for Bush, after 100% of the vote had been reported.
The AP reported additional irregularities in the 2005 election in Ohio. In
Wood County, election results were not posted until 6:23 a.m. after poll workers
at four polling places accidentally selected the wrong option on voting machines
preventing the machine memory cards from being automatically uploaded, according
to the Board of Elections Deputy Director Debbie Hazard.
In five counties – Brown, Crawford, Jackson, Jefferson and Marion –
using Diebold machines, there were problems with the counting of absentee ballots
as a result of “the width of the ballot,” the AP reported.
In Scioto County, the vote count was not finished until 4:30 a.m.. Board of
Elections Director Steve Mowery informed the Portsmouth Daily Times that, as
a result of machines undergoing insufficient testing and absentee problems,
things went “poorly.”
Many counties used “roving employees” assigned to pick up memory
cards from voting machines. In Lucas County, these “rovers” traveled
“to multiple locations before delivering the cards to the election office
at Governmental Center.” The polls closed at 7:30 p.m. but, “The
final memory cards were delivered to the Board of Elections office just before
midnight,” according to WTOL Channel 11 News, Toledo.
Toledo’s WTOL Channel 11 News posed the simple question: “Did the
delay in returning memory cards to the election office open the door to possible
Amidst these massive glitches, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell,
who personally negotiated the deal for the Diebold machines that he called the
“best in the nation,” insisted through his spokesperson Carlo LaParo
that “The new touch-screen systems went well.”
Odd results for election reform initiatives
The Reform Ohio Now (RON) campaign saw polls throughout the state showing two
of its four election reform to be passing easily. Both the Columbus Dispatch
and University of Akron Bliss Institute polls predicted victories for Issue
2 and Issue 3, only to see them go down to sudden and statistically unexplainable
defeat. Issue 2 allowed for early voting in Ohio and Issue 3 reduced the amount
of money an individual can give a candidate from $10,000 to $2,000. Both were
predicted to pass with 59% and 61% of the vote, respectively.
The Bliss Institute of Applied Politics’ survey was completed on October
20 at the University of Akron Survey Research Center, and found that Issue 2
seemed likely to win approval with more than three-fifths of likely voters.
The Dispatch mail-in poll was completed on Thursday Nov. 3, just prior to Election
Day. The Dispatch poll is so accurate, that at least two academic studies have
been published about it in the Public Opinion Quarterly (POQ). The first paper
documents that the Dispatch poll between 1980-1984 was far more accurate than
telephone polling. The study showed the Dispatch error rate at only 1.6 percentage
points versus phone error rates of 5%. A companion study published in POQ in
2000 dealt specifically with the question of statewide referenda. A quote from
the study: "The average error for the Dispatch forecast of these referenda
was 5.4 percentage points, compared to 7.2 percentage points for the telephone
The academic study concluded that the Dispatch's mail survey outperformed telephone
surveys for both referenda and candidate's races.
The fact that the Dispatch was nearly 30 points off in predicting the "YES"
vote on Issue 3 should raise concerns.
Dispatch Associate Publisher Mike Curtin shrugged off the worst polling performance
since the infamous Literary Digest predicted that Alf Landon would beat FDR
in 1936. In an email obtained by the Free Press, Curtin told California voting
rights activist Sheri Myers, “There is no evidence of any irregularities
in Ohio’s 2005 voting results.” Curtin, according to election attorney
Cliff Arnebeck, had also dismissed anyone who raises issues about Ohio’s
2004 presidential election results as “conspiracy theorists.”
Curtin co-authored the scholarly papers on the Dispatch’s legendary polling
accuracy. Editorially, the Dispatch has not endorsed a Democratic presidential
candidate since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
Curtin pleaded with the voting rights activists, “Please don’t
buy into the conspiracy theories without any shred of evidence.” Curtin
did not deal with the specifics about how the polling, which he was so proud
of, was up to 40 points off on certain issues for the first time ever. In another
email explaining the unprecedented Dispatch polling debacle, Dispatch Editor
Darrel Rowland told a Tribune Media Services columnist that, “I also can’t
imagine voting technology is to blame, when both Democrats and Republicans are
involved in every crucial step of the way.”
Under oath testimony at public hearings sponsored by the Free Press after the
2004 presidential election revealed that election workers admit that they have
little or no knowledge of how e-voting technology works and are totally reliant
on private vendors for vote counting inside the “black box.” Ohio’s
other major newspapers routinely suggest what Rowland “can’t imagine.”
Rowland did note that despite the Dispatch’s recent embracing of its
unprecedented incompetence at polling that, “Over the years we have found
that the people who return our mail poll are likely voters – the holy
grail in political polls. Our track record in gauging public opinion in this
state regarded as a national political bellwether is unparalleled.
Don McTigue, the attorney for RON, told the Free Press that Blackwell had issued
a ruling barring RON volunteers from the county vote counting rooms on election
eve. McTigue and the RON volunteers had filled out a request form to view the
counting eleven days prior to Election Day, but Blackwell had added a new form
to verify which group was representing the issues. This new form was not filled
out, McTigue admits.
Matt Damschroder, the Franklin County Board of Elections Director, allowed
the RON observers in anyway, despite their being barred from the vote counting
rooms in other counties.
This is the second straight election in which the polling organizations were
spectacularly wrong in Ohio. In the 2004 election, the media consortium exit
polls, as well as the Harris and Zogby polls, all declared Kerry the winner
on Election Day.
Democracy in jeopardy
One of the first times electronic voting machines were used, in the 1988 New
Hampshire presidential primary, former CIA director George Herbert Walker Bush
pulled off a stunning and unpredicted upset. The last poll before that primary
showed Senator Bob Dole winning with 8 percentage points. Bush won by 9 points,
a startling 17-point shift. Bush’s e-voting victory allowed him to claim
the White House and paved the way for his son to become the United States’
Diebold electronic voting machines use non-transparent, proprietary software
to count the votes. Diebold’s CEO Wally O’Dell is one of President
Bush’s major donors and fundraisers.
Election Day news coverage from the 41 counties that adopted Diebold touch-screen
machines makes it clear that poll worker ignorance about how to use the high-tech
equipment and machine glitches were widespread problems in 2005. Diebold technicians
in many areas were key in producing the final vote results.
Use of e-voting machines has resulted in two elections with improbable
results in Ohio, with potentially catastrophic outcomes for American democracy
– especially if they are ignored.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE
AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org
and at www.harveywasserman.com, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED
IN OHIO?, to be published by the New Press in 2006.