With the very real possibility of an Ohio recount as announced yesterday by the new coalition of the Green and Libertarian Party candidates, I hope you'll take a look at this excellent article by David S. Bernstein in The Portland Phoenix. It's one of the best, most comprehensive overviews I've read of the situation, as it stands for the moment, on the ground in Ohio.
It pulls together the bulk of the most troubling reports of mistabulation, voter intimidation and suppression and potential chicanery in the registration, voting and counting processes.
Bernstein may have buried the lead though, because it's not until page 2 that he gets to the most scandalous nugget at the heart of the entire stinking mess there, and the systematic way in which the man in charge with regulating Ohio's election, Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (who also just happened to serve as the Bush/Cheney '04 Campaign Chair in Ohio!) suffocated the minority vote through the invidious gaming of voter management and supression at the precinct by precint level.
Ohio received some $133 million from the Federal Government's "Help America Vote Act" earmarked to pay for new electronic machines in state.
To pave the way for these machines, which, the theory goes, were to have been more efficient (and more expensive), the state narrowed down the number of voting precincts. Closing and consolodating many of them largely, of course, in minority areas.
But at the last minute, after the precincts had already been gerrymandered, Blackwell decided the technology in the E-Voting machines was not proven secure.
So the $133 million stayed in the bank, but the plan for the reduction of the number of polling sites in minority areas stayed in place! Game over.
And what do you think happened next? Bernstein explains...
Of Ohio's 88 counties, 20 suffered a significant reduction shutting at least 20 percent (or at least 30) of their precincts. Most of those counties have Republicans serving as Board of Elections director, including the four biggest: Cuyahoga, Montgomery, Summit, and Lucas.
Those 20 counties went heavily to Gore in 2000, 53 to 42 percent. The other 68 counties, which underwent little-to-no precinct consolidation, went exactly the opposite way in 2000: 53 to 42 percent to Bush.
In the 68 counties that kept their precinct count at or near 2000 levels, Kerry benefited more than Bush from the high turnout, getting 24 percent more votes than Gore did in 2000, while Bush increased his vote total by only 17 percent.
But in the 20 squeezed counties, the opposite happened. Bush increased his vote total by 22 percent, and Kerry won just 19 percent more than Gore in 2000.
If the reduced number of precincts in those counties accounts for the difference, it cost Kerry about 45,000 votes.
Mission accomplished. Infuriating. Our own electoral systems --- the very basis of our democracy --- are now officially and systematically gamed to within an inch of their life for the pure maximum partisan advantage of those in charge.
So when will we see reform of the electoral system so it's run by Nonpartisan Elections Boards instead of Partisan Party Hacks? As long as those who've benefited from the hackery are still in charge and entrusted with regulating the system, I'm guessing that day may not come any time soon.
Unless, of course, you're in the mood for a velvet revolution.