E-mails being sought from Karl
Rove's computers, and recent revelations about critical electronic
conflicts of interest, may be the smoking guns of Ohio's stolen 2004
election. A thorough recount of ballots and electronic files, preserved
by a federal lawsuit, could tell the tale.The major media has come to
focus on a large batch of electronic communications which have
disappeared from the server of the Republican National Committee, and
from White House advisor Rove's computers. The attention stems from the
controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors by Attorney-General
But the time frame from which these e-mails are missing also
includes a critical late night period after the presidential election
of 2004. In these crucial hours, computerized vote tallies may have
been shifted to move the Ohio vote count from John Kerry to George W.
Bush, giving Bush the presidency.
Earlier that day, Rove and Bush flew into Columbus. Local election
officials say they met with Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth
Blackwell in Columbus. Also apparently in attendance was Matt
Damschroder, executive director of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board
These four men, along with Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett, were at the
core of a multi-pronged strategy that gave Bush Ohio's twenty Electoral
College votes, and thus the presidency. Bennett and Damschroder held
key positions on election boards in the state's two most populous
counties, with the biggest inner city concentrations of Democratic
There were four key phases to the GOP's election theft strategy:
1. Prior to the election, the GOP focused on massive voter
disenfranchisement, with a selective reduction of voter turnout in
urban Democratic strongholds. Blackwell issued confusing and
contradictory edicts on voter eligibility, registration requirements,
and provisional ballots; on shifting precinct locations; on denial and
misprinting of absentee ballots, and more. Among other things, election
officials, including Bennett, stripped nearly 300,000 voters from
registration rolls in heavily Democratic areas in Cleveland, Cincinnati
2. On election day, the GOP focussed on voter intimidation, denial
of voting rights to legally eligible ex-felons, denial of voting
machines to inner city precincts, malfunctioning of those machines,
destruction of provisional ballots and more.
In Franklin, Cuyahoga and other urban counties, huge lines left
mostly African-American voters waiting in the rain for three hours and
more. A Democratic Party survey shows more than 100,000 voters failed
to vote due to these lines, which plagued heavily Democratic inner city
precincts (but not Republican suburban ones) throughout the state. The
survey shows another 50,000 ballots may have been discarded at the
polling stations. In addition, to this day, more than 100,000
machine-rejected and provisional ballots remain uncounted. The official
Bush margin of victory was less than 119,000 votes.
3. After the final tabulation of the votes, and the announcement
that Bush had won, the GOP strategy focussed on subverting a statewide
recount. A filing by the Green and Libertarian Parties required Ohio's
88 county boards of election to conduct random precinct samplings, to
be followed by recounts where necessary.
A lawsuit was filed to delay the seating of Ohio's Electoral College
delegation until after the recount was completed. Among other things,
the plaintiffs sued to get access to Rove's laptop. But Blackwell
rushed to certify the delegation before a recount could be completed.
The issue became moot, and the suit was dropped. In retaliation,
Blackwell tried to impose legal sanctions on the attorneys who filed it.
But two felony convictions have thus far resulted from what
prosecutors have called the "rigging" of the recount in Cuyahoga County
(where Bennett has been forced to resign his chairmanship of the board
of elections). More are likely to follow.
The practices that led to these convictions were apparently repeated
in many of Ohio's 88 counties. The order to violate the law--or at least
tacit approval to do so--is almost certain to have come from Blackwell.
4. Ultimately, however, it is the GOP's computerized control of the
vote count that may have been decisive. And here is where Rove's
e-mails, and the wee hours of the morning after the election, are
Despite the massive disenfranchisement of Ohio Democrats, there is
every indication John Kerry won Ohio 2004. Exit polls shown on national
television at 12:20am gave Kerry a clear lead in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and
New Mexico. These "purple states" were Democratic blue late in the
night, but, against virtually impossible odds, all turned Bush red by
Along the way, Gahanna, Ohio's "loaves & fishes" vote count,
showed 4,258 ballots for Bush in a precinct where just 638 people
voted. Voting machines in Youngstown and Columbus lit up for Bush when
Kerry's name was pushed. Rural Republican precincts registered more
than 100% turnouts, while inner city Democratic ones went as low as 7%.
Warren County declared a "Homeland Security" alert, removed the ballot
count from public scrutiny, then recorded a huge, unlikely margin for
These and many more instances of irregularities and theft were
reported at www.freepress.org and then confirmed by U.S. Representative
John Conyers and others who researched the election.
But the most critical reversals may have come as exit polls
indicated that despite massive Democratic disenfranchisement, and even
with preliminary vote count manipulations, Kerry would win Ohio by
4.2%, a margin well in excess of 200,000 votes.
The key to that reversal may be electronic. It has now become widely
known that the same web-hosting firm that served a range of GOP
websites, including the one for the Republican National Committee, also
hosted the official site that Blackwell used to report the Ohio vote
This astonishing conflict of interest has been reported at the
epluribusmedia.org on-line investigative service. Cross-postings have
come from luaptifer at Dailykos and blogger Joseph Cannon's
Cannonfire.blogspot.com. They all confirm that the RNC tech network's
hosting firm is SMARTech.com, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. SMARTech
hosts georgew.bush.com, mc.org and gop.com among other Republican web
domains, in a bank basement.
Furthermore, the same hosting site that handled redirections from
Blackwell's "official" site also handled the White House e-mail
accounts that have become central to investigations of the Gonzales
purge of eight federal prosecutors, some of whom were themselves
involved in vote fraud investigations.
Conflicts of interest in programming services and remote-access
capability appear throughout the RNC's computer networks, Rove's secret
White House e-mail, and the electronic vehicles used by Blackwell to
finally reveal his "official" presidential vote counts for Ohio 2004.
One factor may be Ohio's electronic touch-screen voting systems, on
which were cast more than 800,000 votes in an election decided by about
one-seventh that total. Such vulnerabilities, among other things, have
been confirmed in exhaustive reports by Conyers's Committee, by the
Government Accountability Office, by the Carter-Baker Commission, by
Princeton University, by the Brennan Center, and by others.
But overall, the electronic record of every vote in Ohio was
transmitted to the Secretary of State's office, and hosted in real time
in Chattanooga. Under such circumstances, the joint hosting of the
White House e-mail system and accessibility by Blackwell and Rove to
the same computer networks linked to the Ohio vote count, takes on an
Mike Connell, a Republican computer expert, helped create the
software for both Ohio's official 2004 election web site, and for the
Bush campaign's partisan web site during the 2000 election. The success
of Connell's GovTech Solutions has been attributed by Connell to his
being "loyal to my network," including the Bush family.
Blackwell shared those loyalties. Like Connell, he worked for the
Bush-Cheney campaign, serving as its Ohio co-chair. He was also in
control of the vote count that was being reported on software Bush
loyalist Connell helped design.
It was in a crucial period after midnight on election night 2004
that these paired conflicts of interest may have decided the election.
As exit polls showed a decisive Kerry victory, there was an unexplained
90-minute void in official reporting of results. By this time, most of
the vote counts were coming in from rural areas, which are
traditionally Republican, and which, ironically, usually report their
results earlier than the Democratic urban areas.
In this time span, Kerry's lead morphed into a GOP triumph. To
explain this "miraculous" shift, Rove invented a myth of the greatest
last-second voting surge in US history, allegedly coming from
late-voting fundamentalist Republicans. No significant evidence exists
to substantiate this claim. In fact, local news reports indicate the
heaviest turnouts in most rural areas came early on election day,
rather than later.
According to a January 13, 2005, release from Cedarville University,
a small Ohio-based Christian academy, Connell's GovTech Solutions
helped make the shared server system run "like a champ ... through the
early morning hours as users from around the world looked to Ohio for
their election results."
After 2am, despite exit polls showing very much the opposite outcome, those results put Bush back in the White House.
In January, 2005, the U.S. Congress hosted the first challenge to a
state's Electoral College delegation in our nation's history. At the
time, the compromised security of the official Ohio electronic
reporting systems was not public knowledge. But the first attempt to
subpoena Karl Rove's computer files had already failed.
Now a second attempt to gain such access is being mounted as the Gonzales scandal deepens.
Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) has raised "particular concerns
about Karl Rove" and his electronic communications about the Gonzales
Rove claims both his own computer records and the RNC's servers have
been purged of e-mails through the time the Ohio vote was being
reversed. Rove's attorney, Robert Kuskin, has told a Congressional
inquiry that Rove mistakenly believed his messages to the RNC "were
being archived" there.
But the RNC says it has no e-mail records for Rove before 2005. Rob
Kelner, an RNC lawyer says efforts to recreate the lost records have
had some success. But it's not yet known whether communications from
the 2004 election can be retrieved.
Nor is it known whether the joint access allowed to top GOP
operatives Rove and Blackwell was responsible for the election-night
reversal that put Bush back in the White House.
But there remains another avenue by which the real outcome of Ohio
2004 could be discovered. Longstanding federal law protected Ohio's
ballots and other election documentation prior to September 3, 2006.
Blackwell gave clear orders that these crucial records were to be
destroyed on that date.
Prior to the expiration of the federal statutory protection, a civil
rights lawsuit was filed in the federal court of Judge Algernon
Marbley, asking that the remaining records be preserved. The request
was granted in what has become known as the King-Lincoln Bronzeville
suit (co-author Bob Fitrakis is an attorney in the case, and Harvey
Wasserman is a plaintiff).
Thus, by federal law, the actual ballots and electronic records
should be available for the kind of exhaustive recount that was
illegally denied--or "rigged," as prosecutors in Cleveland have put
it--by Blackwell, Bennett and their cohorts the first time around.
Ohio's newly-elected Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, has
agreed to take custody of these materials, and to bring them to a
central repository, probably in Columbus.
This means that an exhaustive recount could show who really did win the presidential election of 2004.
It may also be possible to learn what roles--electronic or otherwise--
Karl Rove and J. Kenneth Blackwell really did play during those crucial
90 minutes in the deep night, when the presidency somehow slipped from
John Kerry to George W. Bush.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE
GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at http://www.freepress.org/
and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, from the New
Press. Fitrakis is publisher, and Wasserman is senior editor, of http://www.freepress.org/ where this story was first published.