Was the 2004 Election Stolen?
noimage grannyd Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.

by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Published on Thursday, June 1, 2006 by Rolling Stone magazine
For more, see exclusive documents, sources, charts and commentary.

The article is also here.

See the Rolling Stone Editorial: A Call For Investigation below.
See Sources and Commentary below.

Like many Americans, I spent the evening of the 2004 election watching the returns on television and wondering how the exit polls, which predicted an overwhelming victory for John Kerry, had gotten it so wrong. By midnight, the official tallies showed a decisive lead for George Bush -- and the next day, lacking enough legal evidence to contest the results, Kerry conceded. 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,''(1) and The New York Times declared that ''there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale.''(2)

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(3) never received their ballots -- or received them too late to vote(4) -- after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) 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.(10)

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.(11)

[The full article.]


Rolling Stone calls for an Investigation:

Editorial: A Call for Investigation

Electronic voting machines pose a grave threat to democracy

For more, see exclusive documents, sources, charts and commentary.

Election officials across the country are currently scrambling to install electronic voting machines in time for the midterm elections this fall. The touch-screen technology, they insist, will make voting as easy and secure as withdrawing cash from an ATM. ''This technology has been used effectively for ten to fifteen years,'' says David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold, a leading manufacturer of electronic voting machines.

There are certainly good reasons to modernize the nation's ridiculously outdated voting equipment; it was Florida's ''hanging chads,'' after all, that cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000. But mounting evidence suggests that touch-screen machines present a far graver threat to the integrity of America's elections -- and that leading Republicans have taken money from Diebold to push local election officials to adopt its technology. It is time for Congress and the Justice Department to launch a full-scale investigation into the company and its equipment.

Vote Rigging Repeated studies have shown that touch-screen machines, which provide voters with no paper record of their ballots, are highly susceptible to tampering. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the leading federal watchdog agency, the machines are ''eminently hackable.'' It takes only a few minutes to open the machines and insert a PC card containing malicious code that will switch votes from one candidate to another. In a demonstration conducted last year before the Board of Elections in Leon County, Florida, computer security expert Herbert Thompson cracked into an electronic machine in under sixty seconds, altering the internal code and changing the vote count.

''Every board of election has staff members with the technological ability to fix the election,'' says Ion Sancho, supervisor of the election board in Leon County. ''Even one corrupt staffer can throw an election. Without paper records, it could happen under my nose and there is no way I'd find out about it.''

Avi Rubin, a computer-science professor at Johns Hopkins University who has received $7.5 million from the National Science Foundation to study security for electronic voting, says it doesn't take a corrupt official to rig a federal election. ''With electronic machines, you can commit wholesale fraud with a single alteration of software,'' he says. ''There are a million little tricks you can build into the software that allow you to do whatever you want. I could do it for you right now on software I have.''

Undue Influence After the Florida fiasco in 2000, Diebold saw an opportunity. To persuade Rep. Bob Ney to promote its machines in a package of election reforms he was drafting called the Help America Vote Act, the company hired two lobbyists with close ties to the Ohio congressman. Diebold paid at least $180,000 to David DiStefano, Ney's former chief of staff. And it shelled out as much as $275,000 to the lobbying firm of the best-connected man on Capitol Hill: Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff has now been convicted of bribing Ney -- but Americans will be paying for the results of Diebold's influence for years. As part of the Help America Vote Act, every precinct in America is now required to install at least one machine accessible to disabled voters -- a mandate that has already fueled the spread of touch-screen technology and cost taxpayers almost $3 billion. ''These vendors have a Halliburton-like hold on the Republican leadership,'' says Rep. John Conyers.

Diebold's influence extends to Ohio, where top Republicans have pushed hard to install the company's machines. Matt Damschroder, the chair of the Franklin County Board of Elections, was fined a month's pay last year for accepting a $10,000 check from Diebold made out to the county GOP in 2004, on the same day the board accepted bids for new voter-registration software. Once he was caught, Damschroder ratted out his friend, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, telling authorities that a Diebold consultant boasted of funneling $50,000 to Blackwell's ''political interests.''

Blackwell and Diebold deny the transactions ever took place. But in April of last year, after engaging in secret negotiations with the company, Blackwell emerged with the triumphant announcement that he'd reached a deal to equip Ohio with Diebold machines at a cut-rate price. He didn't bother to mention that he had just bought nearly $10,000 in Diebold stock -- a ''mistake'' he now blames on his financial manager. He also neglected to reveal that as part of the deal -- as revealed in a company e-mail to Blackwell -- Diebold insisted he use his influence as secretary of state in a way that would guarantee the company a state monopoly. Blackwell complied by setting such an early cutoff date for counties to select their new machines that other manufacturers would be unable to get their equipment certified in time. A lawsuit filed by a Diebold competitor and thirty-two counties in Ohio eventually forced Blackwell to roll back the deadline. But in the end, Diebold still wound up selling its machines to forty-seven of the state's eighty-eight counties -- just in time for elections this fall.

Enough. Only a complete investigation by federal authorities can determine the full extent of any bribery and vote rigging that has taken place. The public must be assured that the power to count the votes -- and to recount them, if necessary -- will not be ceded to for-profit corporations with a vested interest in superseding the will of the people. America's elections are the most fundamental element of our democracy -- not a market to be privatized by companies like Diebold.


Posted Jun 01, 2006 12:02 PM


Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Sources and Commentary

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and ROLLING STONE spent four months investigating the 2004 election in Ohio. To assemble a conservative estimate of the number of voters in the state who were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted, we interviewed dozens of election officials, pollsters, candidates, voter advocates and political scientists, and reviewed reports by federal officials, statisticians, voter advocates and journalists.

Kennedy is president of Waterkeeper Alliance and writes frequently about issues affecting American democracy. His story ''Deadly Immunity'' appeared in RS 977/978. Additional research and reporting for this piece were provided by contributing editor Tim Dickinson, who covers politics for ROLLING STONE, and writes National Affairs Daily, where he will be exploring the article in greater depth in the coming days.

Below is a list of sources and additional materials on the 2004 election.


The Charts

The Books:

Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them) by Mark Crispin Miller

Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? : Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count by Steve Freeman, Joel Bleifuss

How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008 by Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman

The Reports:

Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio

Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio
The DNC investigation

Lucas Country Board of Elections -- Results of Investigations Following November 2004 General Election

Analyses of Voter Disqualification, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, November 2004

Additional Materials:

The Blackwell Fundraising Letter


Posted Jun 01, 2006 12:05 PM