Racing to prepare for Guest Hosting the Peter B. Collins Show later today, so can't give more context for now (more on this during the show today, no doubt), but this out this morning from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
Regular BRAD BLOG readers will be familiar with the stories of the three Cuyahoga County, OH Elections Workers who have been indicted on felony charges for gaming the 2004 recount, but this report provides many more details and corroboration from the Prosecutors. It also reminds us, that though the Elections Workers have been indicted on felony charges, they continue to work at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections! Only in Ohio! (well, okay, maybe Florida, too...)
This is incredibly mind-blowing...Even to us...
After the 2004 presidential election, Cuyahoga County election workers secretly skirted rules designed to make sure all votes were counted correctly, a special prosecutor charges.
Three top county elections officials have been indicted, and Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter says more indictments are possible.
Internet bloggers have cried foul since 2004 about election results in Ohio, one of the key states in deciding the election. They have been tracking Baxter's investigation with online posts about the indictments.
Baxter's prosecution centers on Ohio's safeguards for ensuring that every vote is counted.
Baxter charges that Cuyahoga election workers - mindful of the monthlong Florida recount in 2000 - not only ignored the safeguards but worked to defeat them during Ohio's 2004 recount.
Candidates for president from the Green and Libertarian parties requested the Ohio recount. State laws and regulations specify how a recount works.
Election workers in each county are supposed to count 3 percent of the ballots by hand and by machine, randomly choosing precincts for that count.
If the hand and machine counts match, the other 97 percent of the votes are recounted by machine. If the numbers don't match, workers repeat the effort. If they still don't match exactly, the workers must complete the recount by hand, a tedious process that could take weeks and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But the fix was in at the Cuyahoga elections board, Baxter charges.
Days before the Dec. 16 recount, workers opened the ballots and hand-counted enough votes to identify precincts where the machine count matched.
"If it didn't balance, they excluded those precincts," Baxter said.
"The preselection process was done outside of any witnesses, without anyone's knowledge except for [people at] the Board of Elections."
On the official recount day, employees pretended to pick precincts randomly, Baxter says. Dozens of Cuyahoga County election workers sat at 20 folding tables in front of dozens of witnesses and reporters.
They did the hand and machine count of 3 percent of the votes 34 of the 1,436 precincts and when the totals matched, the recount was completed by machines.
"They screwed with the process and increased the probability, if not the certainty, that there would not be a full countywide hand count," Baxter said.
[Executive director of the Cuyahoga County elections board, Michael] Vu acknowledged that the selection of precincts was not completely random because precincts with 550 votes or fewer were not used.
Nor were precincts counted where the number of ballots handed out on Election Day failed to match the number of ballots cast.
Baxter has said he can't understand why the three people indicted all managers - continue to work at the election office.
UPDATE 1/24/2007: Two of the indicted election officials found guilty of gaming the recount, charged with maximum penalty. Details...