Citing "homeland security concerns", Warren County, OH was alone in locking out media from their counting of ballots on Election Night. They were amongst the last to report their tallies that night, and according to Ohio's Election Night website Warren County ended up having the highest percentage of Bush votes amongst all of Ohio counties that had a total vote turnout greater than 22,500.
There were only four counties with a higher percentage vote for Bush, and they all had 22,279 voters or less:
So what happened that night in Warren County when all of America was waiting for the counting to finish in Ohio to decide the election? Why was it the only county in all of Ohio where media was not allowed to witness the counting?
The Cincinnati Enquirer explained it this way:
County officials say they took the action Tuesday night for homeland security, although state elections officials said they didn't know of any other Ohio county that closed off its elections board. Media organizations protested, saying it violated the law and the public's rights. The Warren results, delayed for hours because of long lines that extended voting past the scheduled close of polls, were part of the last tallies that helped clinch President Bush's re-election.
"The media should have been permitted into the area where there was counting," Enquirer attorney Jack Greiner said. "This is a process that should be done in complete transparency and it wasn't."
Warren County Emergency Services Director Frank Young said he had recommended increased security based on information received from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in recent weeks.
Commissioners made the security decisions in a closed-door meeting last week, but didn't publicize the restrictions that were made until after polls closed.
Typically, the Warren County commissioners' room is set up as a gathering place for people to watch the votes come in. But that wasn't done this year.
A representative of The Associated Press, which had stringers at every Ohio board of elections site, said no such election-night access problems were reported outside of Warren County.
It's ashame both Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are apparently now dead, isn't it?
UPDATE: MSNBC is reporting that "the federal government" was involved in the lock-down!:
Connect. The. Dots. People.
UPDATE: 11/10/04 5:5pm PT Keith Olbermann of MSNBC's Countdown --- virtually the only major media organization giving this story the coverage it deserves --- has just reported that both the FBI and the Homeland Security Dept. have denied giving warnings in Ohio to anybody about anything. That would be contrary to the claims made in this report which quotes a letter from the President of the Elections Board in Warren explaining that the lockdown was due to warnings they'd recieved from the FBI. The letter says in part:
Okay. So now who's telling the truth? And why did they lock down Warren County and, unlike every other county in Ohio, disallow reporters from witnessing the vote tallying?
UPDATE: 11/23/04 Cincinnati Enquirer, the paper which broke the Warren County Lockdown story originally, reports that the county had been planning the action for at least a week prior to the election. Details...