Saturday, November 19, 2005
Democracy Breakin': Ohio's Electric Boogaloo
The Corporate Mainstream Media may not give a damn about our democracy. Neither might the bulk of our politicians on both the Left and Right side of the aisle. But clearly the citizens do, and even at least one rightwing blogger who has recently seen at least some of the light...
The response to our article on the "staggeringly impossible" results of last week's election in Ohio on several Election Reform initiatives which would have struck deep into the heart of far-right Republican Ohio Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has been notable to say the least.
We felt the report was notable enough that we decided to cross-post it both at BRAD BLOG and at HuffPo where—though it was never added to the front page as a "featured blog"—it has already received an extraordinary 93 comments as of this posting.
To give you an idea of what that story documented, here are the numbers from just one of the four Election Reform initiatives which all ended up failing by numbers which defy reasonable explanation when compared to the historically accurate Columbus Dispatch poll completed and published just days before the Election in the Buckeye state:
ISSUE 3 (Revise campaign contribution limits) PRE-POLLING: 61% Yes, 25% No, 14% Undecided FINAL RESULT: 33% Yes, 66% No
The results on that issue alone was so far askew that it was enough to give the usually dubious Mark Blumenthal of Mystery Pollster pause enough to comment, "These results had MP seriously wondering whether the pollsters or election officials had mistakenly transposed 'yes' and 'no' in their tables."
See the original post for a comparison of Polling vs Final Results for all of the initatives, but suffice to say while the one above was the most inexplicably out-of-whack, the others, with the exception of Issue 1 -- which was the only one supported by Ohio's Republican Governor and on which the Dispatch poll was virtually right on the money on "Yes" voters—all of the initiative Final Results bring the entire election machinery in Ohio once again under deservedly fresh scrutiny.
(We'll remind you that Ohio's results in the '04 Presidential Election squeeker, where just 6 votes for Kerry instead of Bush at each precinct would have changed the entire result for the nation. And also that the results from that election remain completely suspect, largely uncounted, and never recounted according to state law even while several elections officials have either been indicted or remain under investigation for their role in gaming that fiasco...the one in the state which gave Bush enough electoral votes to claim the Presidency).
The original report we filed, discussed an article by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman of the Free Press in Columbus where they've been detailing an extraordinary amount of the election chicanery and "irregularities" under the iron-fisted rule of Blackwell, the Ohio elections arbiter and Bush/Cheney '04 Co-Chair in a state which is currently a snakepit of Republican machinery and out-and-out corruption.
Amongst the comments at both BRAD BLOG and HuffPo where the blog item was posted, a few, as expected, have knee-jerked that it must have been the Columbus Dispatch polling that was wrong, rather than the Final Results reported by the State which added brand-spankin' new, and wholly unaccountable, unrecountable, untransparent, and undemocratic Electronic Voting Machines for the first time in this election to 44 of its 88 counties. Machines which use secret software on which voters are asked to trust—but not verify—that their votes will be recorded accurately...or at all.
In addition to those 44 counties (41 of them using the same machines by Diebold, Inc. that the Republican Sec. of State in California recently decertified for their 20% failure rate), several other counties already use Electronic Voting Machines, and nearly all of them use electronic tabulating machines of one brand or another to count those votes.
We spoke yesterday to Fitrakis about the Dispatch poll's "historic accuracy" (which he described as "legendary" in our phone call) and about the various wingnuts who predictably presume the polling, instead of the election results, were wrong.
Fitrakis commented himself on The BRAD BLOG in response to some of folks who he suspects are part of a "deliberate campaign" to spread enough disinformation to put an end to the entire discussion. If so, we will work hard to ensure that they fail at that. Here's the bulk of Fitrakis' response, from which he also pulls information from some of noted-pollster Blumenthal's posts on the matter:
Fact: The Dispatch has always used a mailed-in ballot poll. It was completed on Thursday Nov. 3, just prior to Election Day. The Dispatch poll is so accurate at least two academic studies have been published in Public Opinion Quarterly (POQ). The first paper documents that the Dispatch mail-in poll between 1980-1984 was far more accurate than telephone polling. The study showed the Dispatch error rate at only 1.6 percentage points versus phone error rates of 5%. A companion study published in POQ in 2000 dealt specifically with the question of statewide referenda. A quote from the study: "The average error for the Dispatch forecast of these referenda was 5.4 percentage points, compared to 7.2 percentage points for the telephone surveys."
The academic study concluded that the Dispatch's mail survey outperformed telephone surveys for both referenda and candidate's races.
The fact that the Dispatch was nearly 30 points off in predicting the "YES" vote on Issue 3, which reduced campaign contributions from $10,000 to $2,000, has nothing to do with their widely-respected polling technique. Their astonishingly inaccurate poll can best be explained by the introduction of brand new private partisan company-controlled e-voting machines using secret source code in 44 Ohio counties and the chaos that resulted from untrained election workers being totally reliant on Diebold technicians for results.
People need to look at the recent AP story that describes the massive breakdown at the polling places and the Board of Elections wherever these new e-voting machines were introduced.
Free Press Editor
Ph.D. Political Science
We still wait for the Dispatch to investigate the matter themselves. It is, after all their credibility at stake. At least if they wish for anybody to ever take one of their polls seriously again.
In the meantime, Mystery Pollster Blumenthal—who had pooh-poohed the concerns many of us have about the historically accurate Exit Poll descrepancy with the Final Results in last year's Presidential Election, where they were accurate virtually everywhere...except in the key swing states -- has again decided that it must be the polls that are wrong, never the Election Results:
the venerable Columbus Dispatch mail-in poll, which after decades of outperforming conventional telephone surveys turned in one of the more spectacularly inaccurate performances in recent memory.
While Blumenthal extols the accuracy of the Dispatch polling over the years, whose methodology has been honed for decades, he again takes for granted that results counted on newly invented and programmed voting machines, verified and double-checked for accuracy by nobody, should be trusted instead. That, despite U.S. Homeland Security warnings from just prior to last year's election verifying that Diebold's central vote tabulators are hackable by just a single malicious user, and the non-partisan GAO Report, released barely a month ago after a year-long investigation, which showed that Electronic Voting Machines are not secure, not properly certified and indeed confirming that "[C]oncerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."
Hello?! Earth to AP...NY Times...Reuters...WaPo...Anybody out there in Corporate Mainstream Medialand...[thump, thump]...Is this thing on?
But not all is lost. Perhaps the message is getting out despite ostriches like Blumenthal, and democracy haters like those commenters who would do anything to try and discredit those who might put forward information which gives doubt to the legitmacy of elections like those which handed George W. Bush the "Presidency" and showed that Ohio voters are actually crazy about the terrific way that elections are being run in their state!
While readers who follow our work closely know that we have never personally made the charge that Bush stole the '04 election, we have documented for months a mountain of evidence to suggest that it was quite likely stolen for him by somebody, or at least contained enough screaming, troubling and unexplained "irregularities" to put the entire election wholly into doubt.
So with that in mind, we are delighted to see that John Cole, the proprietor of the far-Right leaning blog "Baloon Juice" has displayed enough intellectual honesty and courage in a post yesterday to at least concur that "While none of this means that it actually happened, it certainly means vote manipulation with electronic voting machines could happen and could have happened."
Right. If Cole's pride requires he avoid out-and-out acknowledging the mountain of documented problems with our recent elections (he had previously pounded relentless on those of us who had been making these points), we're okay with that. However, he arrived at his conclusion, we'll take it:
"Electronic voting needs to go the way of the Edsel," said Cole, "if enough of the electorate thinks the vote has been manipulated...that in and of itself does a great deal of damage and should be avoided at all cost."
Thank you. That is no small news from a rightwing blogger who regularly refers to those who question such matters as "moonbats" and "tin foil hat wearers." So in that spirit, we congratulate "wingnut" Cole for understanding at least what is at stake here.
Cole says he is currently reading Mark Crispin Miller's FOOLED AGAIN: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them). So perhaps it's because Cole has bothered to actually educate himself on some of these matters—unlike most of his rightwing brethren—that he goes on to add about the damage done to our democracy if only due to the growing perception that something is going horribly awry.
I generally am of the belief that in government, if the truth is on your side, perceptions should take a back seat. This is not one of those cases.
It certainly isn't. And even Cole's commenters seem to be finally seeing the light now that they've been given the permission by one of their own.
All of which leads us once again to dust off one of our oft-used phrase: This isn't a matter of Right versus Left, it's a matter of Right versus Wrong.
And furthermore, in hopes that you might help to spread this article, and others like it, far and wide—while the entirety of the Corporate Mainstream Media still refuses to mention even one word about that GAO Report or last years' Homeland Security Warning about Diebold or just about anything else on these matters: Be the Media...cuz someone's got to!