By Brad Friedman on 6/1/2006, 11:43am PT  

As reported yesterday exclusively by BRAD BLOG, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s exposé "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" on the gaming of the 2004 Presidential Election is now live at Rolling Stone's website.

The online version of the article has detailed footnotes for sourcing, etc., which Rolling Stone tells us are not available in the published articles to hit stands tomorrow around the country. The issue is currently available on newsstands in both NYC and LA, according to an RS spokesman.

Here are extended excerpts from the article...

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Republicans derided anyone who expressed doubts about Bush's victory as nut cases in "tinfoil hats," while the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as "conspiracy theories," and The New York Times declared that "there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale." But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004.

Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad never received their ballots ? or received them too late to vote ? after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations. A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states, was discovered shredding Democratic registrations. In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes, malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots. Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment ? roughly one for every 100 cast.

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. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.
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But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election.
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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, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots. And that doesn't even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes ? enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.
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Indeed, the extent of the GOP's effort to rig the vote shocked even the most experienced observers of American elections. "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."

Kennedy offers fresh evidence and testimony on a number of aspects long questioned concerning the 2004 election.

The Exit Polls were one of the first indicators that soemthing was amiss that night. One month later, when Exit Polling in Ukraine showed the challenger winning in their country's election for Prime Minister, yet Final Results showed the encumbant winning, the Bush Administration cried foul, declaring the disparity between the Exits and the Finals was a prima facea indication of electoral fraud.

The same company responsible for conducting Exit Polls in Ukraine, Mitofsky/Edison, administered the most extensive Exit Polling ever in the United States on November 2nd, 2004.

A few excerpts concerning the Exit Polls from Kennedy's article...

On the evening of the vote, reporters at each of the major networks were briefed by pollsters at 7:54 p.m. Kerry, they were informed, had an insurmountable lead and would win by a rout: at least 309 electoral votes to Bush's 174, with fifty-five too close to call. In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair went to bed contemplating his relationship with President-elect Kerry.

As the last polling stations closed on the West Coast, exit polls showed Kerry ahead in ten of eleven battleground states ? including commanding leads in Ohio and Florida ? and winning by a million and a half votes nationally. The exit polls even showed Kerry breathing down Bush's neck in supposed GOP strongholds Virginia and North Carolina. Against these numbers, the statistical likelihood of Bush winning was less than one in 450,000.
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In its official postmortem report issued two months after the election, [Exit Polling firm] Edison/Mitofsky was unable to identify any flaw in its methodology --- so the pollsters, in essence, invented one for the electorate. According to Mitofsky, Bush partisans were simply disinclined to talk to exit pollsters on November 2nd --- displaying a heretofore unknown and undocumented aversion that skewed the polls in Kerry's favor by a margin of 6.5 percent nationwide.

Industry peers didn't buy it. John Zogby, one of the nation's leading pollsters, told me that Mitofsky's ''reluctant responder'' hypothesis is ''preposterous.''
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Now, thanks to careful examination of Mitofsky's own data by Freeman and a team of eight researchers, we can say conclusively that [Mitofsky/Edison's] theory is dead wrong. In fact it was Democrats, not Republicans, who were more disinclined to answer pollsters' questions on Election Day.
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What's more, Freeman found, the greatest disparities between exit polls and the official vote count came in Republican strongholds. In precincts where Bush received at least eighty percent of the vote, the exit polls were off by an average of ten percent. By contrast, in precincts where Kerry dominated by eighty percent or more, the exit polls were accurate to within three tenths of one percent ? a pattern that suggests Republican election officials stuffed the ballot box in Bush country.

"When you look at the numbers, there is a tremendous amount of data that supports the supposition of election fraud," concludes Freeman. "The discrepancies are higher in battleground states, higher where there were Republican governors, higher in states with greater proportions of African-American communities and higher in states where there were the most Election Day complaints. All these are strong indicators of fraud ? and yet this supposition has been utterly ignored by the press and, oddly, by the Democratic Party."
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The wildest discrepancy came from the precinct Mitofsky numbered "27," in order to protect the anonymity of those surveyed. According to the exit poll, Kerry should have received sixty-seven percent of the vote in this precinct. Yet the certified tally gave him only thirty-eight percent. The statistical odds against such a variance are just shy of one in 3 billion.
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According to Ron Baiman, vice president of the archive and a public policy analyst at Loyola University in Chicago, "No rigorous statistical explanation" can explain the "completely nonrandom" disparities that almost uniformly benefited Bush. The final results, he adds, are "completely consistent with election fraud ? specifically vote shifting."

On the illegal "caging lists" targeting Democratic voters through use of registered mail by GOP operatives to "prove" voters were illegally registered. When they weren't...

A New York Times analysis before the election found that new registrations in traditional Democratic strongholds were up 250 percent, compared to only twenty-five percent in Republican-leaning counties. "The Democrats have been beating the pants off us in the air and on the ground," a GOP county official in Columbus confessed to The Washington Times.
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[D]uring the summer of 2004, the GOP targeted minority voters in Ohio by zip code, sending registered letters to more than 200,000 newly registered voters in sixty-five counties. On October 22nd, a mere eleven days before the election, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett ? who also chairs the board of elections in Cuyahoga County ? sought to invalidate the registrations of 35,427 voters who had refused to sign for the letters or whose mail came back as undeliverable. Almost half of the challenged voters were from Democratic strongholds in and around Cleveland.

There were plenty of valid reasons that voters had failed to respond to the mailings: The list included people who couldn't sign for the letters because they were serving in the U.S. military, college students whose school and home addresses differed, and more than 1,000 homeless people who had no permanent mailing address. But the undeliverable mail, Bennett claimed, proved the new registrations were fraudulent.

By law, each voter was supposed to receive a hearing before being stricken from the rolls. Instead, in the week before the election, kangaroo courts were rapidly set up across the state at Blackwell's direction that would inevitably disenfranchise thousands of voters at a time ? a process that one Democratic election official in Toledo likened to an "inquisition." Not that anyone was given a chance to actually show up and defend their right to vote: Notices to challenged voters were not only sent out impossibly late in the process, they were mailed to the very addresses that the Republicans contended were faulty.
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On October 27th, ruling that the effort likely violated both the "constitutional right to due process and constitutional right to vote," U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott put a halt to the GOP challenge ? but not before tens of thousands of new voters received notices claiming they were improperly registered.

On Ohio Sec. of State (and Bush/Cheney '04 co-chair) J. Kenneth Blackwell's illegal order --- disenfranchising perhaps scores of thousands of voters, or more --- requiring voter registration forms be accepted only on "eighty-pound unwaxed white paper stock." As many as "72,000 voters were disenfranchised through avoidable registration errors ? one percent of all voters in an election decided by barely two percent." ...

Justifying his decision to Rolling Stone, Blackwell portrayed it as an attempt to protect voters: "The postal service had recommended to us that we establish a heavy enough paper-weight standard that we not disenfranchise voters by having their registration form damaged by postal equipment." Yet Blackwell's order also applied to registrations delivered in person to election offices.
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Blackwell's directive clearly violated the Voting Rights Act, which stipulates that no one may be denied the right to vote because of a registration error that "is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under state law to vote." The decision immediately threw registration efforts into chaos. Local newspapers that had printed registration forms in their pages saw their efforts invalidated. Delaware County posted a notice online saying it could no longer accept its own registration forms. Even Blackwell couldn't follow the protocol: The Columbus Dispatch reported that his own staff distributed registration forms on lighter-weight paper that was illegal under his rule. Under the threat of court action, Blackwell ultimately revoked his order on September 28th ? six days before the registration deadline.

But by then, the damage was done.
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State inspectors who investigated the elections operation in Toledo discovered "areas of grave concern." With less than a month to go before the election, Bernadette Noe [wife of Thomas Noe, former head of the Toledo GOP who yesterday pled guilty to three counts of funnelling $45,000 illegal contributions to Bush/Cheney '04] and her board had yet to process 20,000 voter registration cards. Board officials arbitrarily decided that mail-in cards (mostly from the Republican suburbs) would be processed first, while registrations dropped off at the board's office (the fruit of intensive Democratic registration drives in the city) would be processed last.
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In April 2005, Noe and the entire Board of Elections were forced to resign. But once again, the damage was done. At a "Victory 2004" rally held in Toledo four days before the election, President Bush himself singled out a pair of "grass-roots" activists for special praise: "I want to thank my friends Bernadette Noe and Tom Noe for their leadership in Lucas County."

On Blackwell's illegal gaming and denial of provisional ballots to eligible voters...

In Ohio, Blackwell worked from the beginning to curtail the availability of provisional ballots. (The ballots are most often used to protect voters in heavily Democratic urban areas who move often, creating more opportunities for data-entry errors by election boards.) Six weeks before the vote, Blackwell illegally decreed that poll workers should make on-the-spot judgments as to whether or not a voter lived in the precinct, and provide provisional ballots only to those deemed eligible. When the ruling was challenged in federal court, Judge James Carr could barely contain his anger. The very purpose of the Help America Vote Act, he ruled, was to make provisional ballots available to voters told by precinct workers that they were ineligible: "By not even mentioning this group ? the primary beneficiaries of HAVA's provisional-voting provisions ? Blackwell apparently seeks to accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000."
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But instead of complying with the judge's order to expand provisional balloting, Blackwell insisted that Carr was usurping his power as secretary of state and made a speech in which he compared himself to Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and the apostle Paul ? saying that he'd rather go to jail than follow federal law. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Carr's ruling on October 23rd ? but the confusion over the issue still caused untold numbers of voters across the state to be illegally turned away at the polls on Election Day without being offered provisional ballots. A federal judge also invalidated a decree by Blackwell that denied provisional ballots to absentee voters who were never sent their ballots in the mail. But that ruling did not come down until after 3 p.m. on the day of the election, and likely failed to filter down to the precinct level at all.

On Blackwell's gaming of the placement of voting machines, disenfranching thousands in only pinpointed Democratic-leaning locations...

At liberal Kenyon College, where students had registered in record numbers, local election officials provided only two voting machines to handle the anticipated surge of up to 1,300 voters. Meanwhile, fundamentalist students at nearby Mount Vernon Nazarene University had one machine for 100 voters and faced no lines at all.
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An analysis by voter advocates found that all but three of the thirty wards with the best voter-to-machine ratios were in Bush strongholds; all but one of the seven with the worst ratios were in Kerry country.
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The result was utterly predictable. According to an investigation by the Columbus Free Press, white Republican suburbanites, blessed with a surplus of machines, averaged waits of only twenty-two minutes; black urban Democrats averaged three hours and fifteen minutes.
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By midmorning, when it became clear that voters were dropping out of line rather than braving the wait, precincts appealed for the right to distribute paper ballots to speed the process. Blackwell denied the request, saying it was an invitation to fraud.
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[From on of many hand-written affidavits included in the article, this one from] Precinct 40:
"I am serving as a presiding judge, a position I have held for some 15+ years in precinct 40. In all my years of service, the lines are by far the longest I have seen, with some waiting as long as four to five hours. I expect the situation to only worsen as the early evening heavy turnout approaches. I have requested additional machines since 6:40 a.m. and no assistance has been offered."
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As day stretched into evening, U.S. District Judge Algernon Marbley issued a temporary restraining order requiring that voters be offered paper ballots. But it was too late: According to bipartisan estimates published in The Washington Post, as many as 15,000 voters in Columbus had already given up and gone home.

On the Faulty Voting Machines...

In heavily Democratic areas around Youngstown, where nearly 100 voters reported entering "Kerry" on the touch screen and watching "Bush" light up, at least twenty machines had to be recalibrated in the middle of the voting process for chronically flipping Kerry votes to Bush. (Similar "vote hopping" from Kerry to Bush was reported by voters and election officials in other states.) Elsewhere, voters complained in sworn affidavits that they touched Kerry's name on the screen and it lit up, but that the light had gone out by the time they finished their ballot; the Kerry vote faded away.
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In fact, some 95,000 ballots in Ohio recorded no vote for president at all ? most of them on punch-card machines. Even accounting for the tiny fraction of voters in each election who decide not to cast votes for president ? generally in the range of half a percent, according to Ohio State law professor and respected elections scholar Dan Tokaji ? that would mean that at least 66,000 votes were invalidated by faulty voting equipment. If counted by hand instead of by automated tabulator, the vast majority of these votes would have been discernable. But thanks to a corrupt recount process, only one county hand-counted its ballots.

On out and out fraud...

[T]he worst theft in Ohio may have quietly taken place in rural counties. An examination of election data suggests widespread fraud ? and even good old-fashioned stuffing of ballot boxes ? in twelve sparsely populated counties scattered across southern and western Ohio: Auglaize, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Darke, Highland, Mercer, Miami, Putnam, Shelby, Van Wert and Warren. (See "The Twelve Suspect Counties," Page 56.) One key indicator of fraud is to look at counties where the presidential vote departs radically from other races on the ballot. By this measure, John Kerry's numbers were suspiciously low in each of the twelve counties ? and George Bush's were unusually high.

Take the case of Ellen Connally, a Democrat who lost her race for chief justice of the state Supreme Court. When the ballots were counted, Kerry should have drawn far more votes than Connally ? a liberal black judge who supports gay rights and campaigned on a shoestring budget. And that's exactly what happened statewide: Kerry tallied 667,000 more votes for president than Connally did for chief justice, outpolling her by a margin of thirty-two percent. Yet in these twelve off-the-radar counties, Connally somehow managed to outperform the best-funded Democrat in history, thumping Kerry by a grand total of 19,621 votes ? a margin of ten percent. The Conyers report ? recognizing that thousands of rural Bush voters were unlikely to have backed a gay-friendly black judge roundly rejected in Democratic precincts ? suggests that "thousands of votes for Senator Kerry were lost."

Kucinich, a veteran of elections in the state, puts it even more bluntly. "Down-ticket candidates shouldn't outperform presidential candidates like that," he says. "That just doesn't happen. The question is: Where did the votes for Kerry go?"
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The...likely explanation is that they were fraudulently shifted to Bush. Statewide, the president outpolled Thomas Moyer, the Republican judge who defeated Connally, by twenty-one percent. Yet in the twelve questionable counties, Bush's margin over Moyer was fifty percent ? a strong indication that the president's certified vote total was inflated. If Kerry had maintained his statewide margin over Connally in the twelve suspect counties, as he almost assuredly would have done in a clean election, he would have bested her by 81,260 ballots. That's a swing of 162,520 votes from Kerry to Bush ? more than enough to alter the outcome.
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How might this fraud have been carried out? One way to steal votes is to tamper with individual ballots ? and there is evidence that Republicans did just that. In Clermont County, where optical scanners were used to tabulate votes, sworn affidavits by election observers given to the House Judiciary Committee describe ballots on which marks for Kerry were covered up with white stickers, while marks for Bush were filled in to replace them. Rep. Conyers, in a letter to the FBI, described the testimony as "strong evidence of vote tampering if not outright fraud." In Miami County, where Connally outpaced Kerry, one precinct registered a turnout of 98.55 percent ? meaning that all but ten eligible voters went to the polls on Election Day. An investigation by the Columbus Free Press, however, collected affidavits from twenty-five people who swear they didn't vote.

[Ed note: The Clermont County ballot stickers report was originally reported by Larisa Alexandrovna of RAW STORY.]

In addition to altering individual ballots, evidence suggests that Republicans tampered with the software used to tabulate votes. In Auglaize County, where Kerry lost not only to Connally but to two other defeated Democratic judicial candidates, voters cast their ballots on touch-screen machines. Two weeks before the election, an employee of ES&S, the company that manufactures the machines, was observed by a local election official making an unauthorized log-in to the central computer used to compile election results. In Miami County, after 100 percent of precincts had already reported their official results, an additional 18,615 votes were inexplicably added to the final tally. The last-minute alteration awarded 12,000 of the votes to Bush, boosting his margin of victory in the county by nearly 6,000.
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Warren County from devising a way to count the vote in secret. Immediately after the polls closed on Election Day, GOP officials ? citing the FBI ? declared that the county was facing a terrorist threat that ranked ten on a scale of one to ten. The county administration building was hastily locked down, allowing election officials to tabulate the results without any reporters present.

In fact, there was no terrorist threat. The FBI declared that it had issued no such warning, and an investigation by The Cincinnati Enquirer unearthed e-mails showing that the Republican plan to declare a terrorist alert had been in the works for eight days prior to the election. Officials had even refined the plot down to the language they used on signs notifying the public of a lockdown. (When Rolling Stone requested copies of the same e-mails from the county, officials responded that the documents have been destroyed.)

The late-night secrecy in Warren County recalls a classic trick: Results are held back until it's determined how many votes the favored candidate needs to win, and the totals are then adjusted accordingly. When Warren County finally announced its official results ? one of the last counties in the state to do so ? the results departed wildly from statewide patterns. John Kerry received 2,426 fewer votes for president than Ellen Connally, the poorly funded black judge, did for chief justice.

On the gaming of the Ohio recount...

[E]lection officials in Ohio worked outside the law to avoid hand recounts. According to charges brought by a special prosecutor in April, election officials in Cleveland fraudulently and secretly pre-counted precincts by hand to identify ones that would match the machine count. They then used these pre-screened precincts to select the "random" sample of three percent used for the recount.

"If it didn't balance, they excluded those precincts," said the prosecutor, Kevin Baxter, who has filed felony indictments against three election workers in Cleveland. "They screwed with the process and increased the probability, if not the certainty, that there would not be a full, countywide hand count."
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[On admissions that employees from voting machine company, Triad, who provided tabulators for more than half of Ohio's counties --- made adjustments to the tabulators prior to the recount to avoid a full hand-count of all ballots...] Company president Tod Rapp ? who contributed to Bush's campaign ? has confirmed that Triad routinely makes such tabulator adjustments to help election officials avoid hand recounts. In the end, every county serviced by Triad failed to conduct full recounts by hand.

Even more troubling, in at least two counties, Fulton and Henry, Triad was able to connect to tabulating computers remotely via a dial-up connection, and reprogram them to recount only the presidential ballots. If that kind of remote tabulator modification is possible for the purposes of the recount, it's no great leap to wonder if such modifications might have helped skew the original vote count. But the window for settling such questions is closing rapidly: On November 2nd of this year, on the second anniversary of the election, state officials will be permitted under Ohio law to shred all ballots from the 2004 election.

The full Rolling Stone article is now posted here...