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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

BREAKING | The Conyers Report: What Went Wrong in Ohio

Below is the Executive Summary of the critical Conyers Report on the Ohio
Elections. I post it here to expand its readership as much as possible, so
concerned am I that its contents will be ignored by the mainstream news
organizations. But we must use it to force one of our senators to stand with
the Black Congressional Caucus and Conyers to challenge Ohio's electors.

A personal note here: John Conyers and I worked together with other local
Democrats to reform the corrupted government of a small inner city suburb
surrounded by the City of Detroit known as Highland Park, Michigan in the
mid-1970's. At the time, Highland Park's mayor was a black Republican by the
name of Robert Blackwell, who had peppered this little city (birthplace of
Henry Ford's mass production of cars) with adult bookstores, movie theaters,
and other exploitive businesses that blighted its corridors. Blackwell
appeared to feed off making Highland Park's unique urban island location
into a center-city red-light district where money could be made and extorted
at the price of civic pride and economic stability. HP was then about 85%
black residents, supplemented by a few whites and several Middle Eastern
immigrants. Only the old bureaucrats were still white.

Blackwell's in-your-face attitude and Tammany Hall-like machine finally
provoked local power Democrats into financing the overthrow of Blackwell's
little money-printing scam. They picked a black Laborer's Union business
agent who lived in town and had made some noise to stand for election
against Blackwell and result was the election of Jesse Miller, and the
recruitment of two outsiders to help him run the city (the mayor being the
full time executive). I was one of the two. I became Miller's chief of
staff; the other guy, a black political operative out of Ohio state
government, Troy Grigsby, became his political director, and we remained
close to Conyers as we attempted major reforms.

The rest of the story is too long for this page, but the irony visiting us
today is that, once again, Conyers is fighting a black Republican named
Blackwell, Ohio's discredited Secretary of State for his attempts at
suppressing Ohio's black vote in this last presidential election. I would
not be at all surprised if Kenneth Blackwell and Robert Blackwell spring
from the same genetic well.

What strange turns life can take.

Andy Driscoll

BREAKING | The Conyers Report: What Went Wrong in Ohio
http://www.truthout.org/docs_05/010605Y.shtml

Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio
Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff

Wednesday 05 January 2005

Executive Summary

Representative John Conyers, Jr., the Ranking Democrat on the House
Judiciary Committee, asked the Democratic staff to conduct an investigation
into irregularities reported in the Ohio presidential election and to
prepare a Status Report concerning the same prior to the Joint Meeting of
Congress scheduled for January 6, 2005, to receive and consider the votes of
the electoral college for president. The following Report includes a brief
chronology of the events; summarizes the relevant background law; provides
detailed findings (including factual findings and legal analysis); and
describes various recommendations for acting on this Report going forward.

We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio
presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of
voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of
thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether
it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen
in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and
constitutional standards.

This report, therefore, makes three recommendations: (1) consistent with
the requirements of the United States Constitution concerning the counting
of electoral votes by Congress and Federal law implementing these
requirements, there are ample grounds for challenging the electors from the
State of Ohio; (2) Congress should engage in further hearings into the
widespread irregularities reported in Ohio; we believe the problems are
serious enough to warrant the appointment of a joint select Committee of the
House and Senate to investigate and report back to the Members; and (3)
Congress needs to enact election reform to restore our people's trust in our
democracy. These changes should include putting in place more specific
federal protections for federal elections, particularly in the areas of
audit capability for electronic voting machines and casting and counting of
provisional ballots, as well as other needed changes to federal and state
election laws.

With regards to our factual finding, in brief, we find that there were
massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio. In
many cases these irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and
illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth
Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio.

First, in the run up to election day, the following actions by Mr.
Blackwell, the Republican Party and election officials disenfranchised
hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens, predominantly minority and
Democratic voters:

€ The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long
lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of
predominantly minority and Democratic voters. This was illustrated by the
fact that the Washington Post reported that in Franklin County, "27 of the
30 wards with the most machines per registered voter showed majorities for
Bush. At the other end of the spectrum, six of the seven wards with the
fewest machines delivered large margins for Kerry." (See Powell and Slevin,
supra). Among other things, the conscious failure to provide sufficient
voting machinery violates the Ohio Revised Code which requires the Boards of
Elections to "provide adequate facilities at each polling place for
conducting the election."

€ Mr. Blackwell's decision to restrict provisional ballots resulted
in the disenfranchisement of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of voters,
again predominantly minority and Democratic voters. Mr. Blackwell's decision
departed from past Ohio law on provisional ballots, and there is no evidence
that a broader construction would have led to any significant disruption at
the polling places, and did not do so in other states.

€ Mr. Blackwell's widely reviled decision to reject voter
registration applications based on paper weight may have resulted in
thousands of new voters not being registered in time for the 2004 election.

€ The Ohio Republican Party's decision to engage in pre-election
"caging" tactics, selectively targeting 35,000 predominantly minority voters
for intimidation had a negative impact on voter turnout. The Third Circuit
found these activities to be illegal and in direct violation of consent
decrees barring the Republican Party from targeting minority voters for poll
challenges.

€ The Ohio Republican Party's decision to utilize thousands of
partisan challengers concentrated in minority and Democratic areas likely
disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal voters, who were not only
intimidated, but became discouraged by the long lines. Shockingly, these
disruptions were publicly predicted and acknowledged by Republican
officials: Mark Weaver, a lawyer for the Ohio Republican Party, admitted the
challenges "can't help but create chaos, longer lines and frustration."

€ Mr. Blackwell's decision to prevent voters who requested absentee
ballots but did not receive them on a timely basis from being able to
receive provisional ballots 6 likely disenfranchised thousands, if not tens
of thousands, of voters, particularly seniors. A federal court found Mr.
Blackwell's order to be illegal and in violation of HAVA.

Second, on election day, there were numerous unexplained anomalies and
irregularities involving hundreds of thousands of votes that have yet to be
accounted for:

€ There were widespread instances of intimidation and
misinformation in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act
of 1968, Equal Protection, Due Process and the Ohio right to vote. Mr.
Blackwell's apparent failure to institute a single investigation into these
many serious allegations represents a violation of his statutory duty under
Ohio law to investigate election irregularities.

€ We learned of improper purging and other registration errors by
election officials that likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters
statewide. The Greater Cleveland Voter Registration Coalition projects that
in Cuyahoga County alone over 10,000 Ohio citizens lost their right to vote
as a result of official registration errors.

€ There were 93,000 spoiled ballots where no vote was cast for
president, the vast majority of which have yet to be inspected. The problem
was particularly acute in two precincts in Montgomery County which had an
undervote rate of over 25% each - accounting for nearly 6,000 voters who
stood in line to vote, but purportedly declined to vote for president.

€ There were numerous, significant unexplained irregularities in
other counties throughout the state: (i) in Mahoning county at least 25
electronic machines transferred an unknown number of Kerry votes to the Bush
column; (ii) Warren County locked out public observers from vote counting
citing an FBI warning about a potential terrorist threat, yet the FBI states
that it issued no such warning; (iii) the voting records of Perry county
show significantly more votes than voters in some precincts, significantly
less ballots than voters in other precincts, and voters casting more than
one ballot; (iv) in Butler county a down ballot and underfunded Democratic
State Supreme Court candidate implausibly received more votes than the best
funded Democratic Presidential candidate in history; (v) in Cuyahoga county,
poll worker error may have led to little known third-party candidates
receiving twenty times more votes than such candidates had ever received in
otherwise reliably Democratic leaning areas; (vi) in Miami county, voter
turnout was an improbable and highly suspect 98.55 percent, and after 100
percent of the precincts were reported, an additional 19,000 extra votes
were recorded for President Bush.

Third, in the post-election period we learned of numerous irregularities
in tallying provisional ballots and conducting and completing the recount
that disenfranchised thousands of voters and call the entire recount
procedure into question (as of this date the recount is still not complete):

€ Mr. Blackwell's failure to articulate clear and consistent
standards for the counting of provisional ballots resulted in the loss of
thousands of predominantly minority votes. In Cuyahoga County alone, the
lack of guidance and the ultimate narrow and arbitrary review standards
significantly contributed to the fact that 8,099 out of 24,472 provisional
ballots were ruled invalid, the highest proportion in the state.

€ Mr. Blackwell's failure to issue specific standards for the
recount contributed to a lack of uniformity in violation of both the Due
Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clauses. We found innumerable
irregularities in the recount in violation of Ohio law, including (i)
counties which did not randomly select the precinct samples; (ii) counties
which did not conduct a full hand court after the 3% hand and machine counts
did not match; (iii) counties which allowed for irregular marking of ballots
and failed to secure and store ballots and machinery; and (iv) counties
which prevented witnesses for candidates from observing the various aspects
of the recount.

€ The voting computer company Triad has essentially admitted that
it engaged in a course of behavior during the recount in numerous counties
to provide "cheat sheets" to those counting the ballots. The cheat sheets
informed election officials how many votes they should find for each
candidate, and how many over and under votes they should calculate to match
the machine count. In that way, they could avoid doing a full county-wide
hand recount mandated by state law.

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