Thursday, December 16, 2004

Congressional hearings in Ohio-- looks like a stolen election

Startling new revelations highlight rare Congressional hearings on Ohio vote
by Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman, Free Press

December 13, 2004

Startling new revelations about Ohio's presidential vote have been uncovered as Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee join Rev. Jesse Jackson in Columbus, the state capital, on Monday, Dec. 13, to hold a rare field hearing into election malfeasance and manipulation in the 2004 vote. The Congressional delegation will include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, and others.

Taken together, the revelations show Republicans – in state and county government, and in the Ohio Republican Party – were determined to undermine and suppress Democratic turnout by a wide variety of methods.

The revelations were included in affidavits gathered for an election challenge lawsuit filed Monday at the Ohio Supreme Court. Ohio's Republican Electoral College representatives are also to meet at noon, Monday, at the State House, even though the presidential recount, requested by the Green and Libertarian Parties, is only beginning the same day.

On Sunday, John Kerry spoke with Rev. Jesse Jackson and urged him to take an more active role in investigating the irregularities and ensuring a fair and impartial recount. Kerry said there were three areas of inquiry that should be addressed: 92,000 ballots that recorded no vote for president; qualifying and counting provisional ballots; and supported an independent analysis of the software and set-up of the optical scan voting machines.

What follows are excerpts from some of the affidavits for the election challenge.

- In Warren County, where election officers declared a homeland security emergency on Election Day, and barred reporters and others from watching the vote count, it now has been revealed that county employees were told the previous Thursday they should prepare for the Election Day lockdown. That disclosure suggests the lockdown was a political decision, not a true security risk. Moreover, statements also describe how ballots were left unguarded and unprotected in a warehouse on Election Day, and they were hastily moved after county officials received complaints.

- In Franklin County, where Columbus is located, the election director, Matt Damschroder, misinformed a federal court on Election Day when he testified the county had no additional voting machines – in response to a Voting Rights Act lawsuit brought by the state Democratic Party that minority precincts were intentionally deprived of machines. It now appears as many as 81 voting machines were being held back, out of 2,866 available, according to recent statements by Damschroder and Bill Anthony, the chairman of the Franklin County Board of Elections. The shortage of machines in Democratic-leaning districts lead to long lines and thousands of people leaving in frustration and not voting. Damschroder's contradictory statements raise the possibility of perjury.

- Also in Franklin County, a worker at the Holiday Inn observed a team of 25 people who called themselves the "Texas Strike Force" using payphones to make intimidating calls to likely voters, targeting people recently in the prison system. The "Texas Strike Force" members paid their way to Ohio, but their hotel accommodations were paid for by the Ohio Republican Party, whose headquarters is across the street. The hotel worker heard one caller threaten a likely voter with being reported to the FBI and returning to jail if he voted. Another hotel worker called the police, who came but did nothing.

- In Knox County, students at Kenyon College, a liberal arts school, stood in line for up to 11 hours, because only one voting machine was in use. However, at nearby Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, there were ample voting machines and no lines. This suggests the GOP shorting of voting machines was a more widespread tactic than just targeting inner-city neighborhoods.

- Reports in sworn affidavits affirm numerous instances of direct official interference with the right to vote. In Warren County, Democrats were being targeted and forced to use provisional ballots, even if they had proper identification. These ballots were then subjected to more rigorous standards to be counted than were other ballots. In a half-dozen precincts in Franklin County, people who were not inside polling places by 7:30 PM were told to leave - even if they had waited in line for hours. This is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. Sworn affidavits also confirmed reports of old voter rolls being used, meaning that new voters were not on the list and would be given provisional ballots, if allowed to vote at all.

Affidavits were also filed in support of the election challenge suit raising questions about manipulating exit poll results and computer tabulation of county and statewide votes.

In one exit poll affidavit, Jonathan David Simon, an expert witness, notes that at 12:53 a.m. the exit polls altered the projected winner – even though the same number of votes had been cast. "Although each update reports the same number of respondents (872), the reported results differ significantly, with the latter (12:53 a.m.) exit poll results apparently having been brought into congruence with the tabulated vote results." In other words, the exit polls were made to conform to a political decision to declare Bush the victor.

Another exit poll affidavit, filed by Ron Paul Baiman, an economist and statistician at the University of Illinois and University of Chicago, said the swing in national exit poll results, recorded at 12:33 a.m., when Kerry was winning with 50.8 percent of the vote, to Bush winning with 51.2 percent, was, "in lay terms, impossible."

"This is more than a 100 percent swing in the other direction of the exit poll margin," he said. "There is less than a one in 25,000,000 (1/25,507,308) chance of this occurring."

Another affidavit by Richard Hayes Phillips, a geomorphology Ph.D. from University of Oregon with a special expertise in spotting anomalous data, found dramatic examples of erroneous voting patterns – with votes taken away from Kerry - that can only be explained by computer manipulation.

For instance, in 16 precincts in Cleveland, he found votes that were shifted from Kerry to other candidates. In at least 30 precincts, there was ultra-low voter turnout reported – as low as 7.1 percent or 13.05 percent – and seven entire wards where total turnout was below 50 percent. He writes, "Kerry won Cleveland with 83.27 percent of the vote to 15.88 percent for Bush. If voter turnout were really 60 percent of registered voters, as seems likely based on turnout in other major cities of Ohio, rather than 49.89 percent as reported, Kerry's margin of victory in Cleveland has been wrongly reduced by 22,000 votes."

Phillips points to other counties where has says "there is compelling evidence of fraud." In Miami County early on election night, when 31,620 votes had been counted, and later, when 50,235 votes were counted, "Kerry had exactly the same percentage, 33.92 percent, and the percentage for George Bush was almost exactly the same, dropping by 0.03 percent from 65.80 to 65.77 percent. The second set of returns gave Bush a margin of exactly 16,000 votes, giving cause to question the integrity of the central counting device for the optical scan machines. "

He cites many other examples, but summarizes his findings: "It is my professional opinion that John Kerry's margins of victory were wrongly reduced by 22,000 votes in Cleveland, by 17,000 votes in Columbus, and by as many as 7,000 votes in Toledo. It is my further professional opinion that John Kerry's margins of defeat in Warren, Butler, and Clermont Counties were inflated by as many as 37,000 votes in the aggregate, and in Miami County by as many as 6,000 votes. There are still 92,672 uncounted regular ballots that, based upon the analysis set forth of the election results from Dayton and Cincinnati, may be expected to break for John Kerry by an overwhelming margin. And there are still 14,441 uncounted provisional ballots."

This is disgusting! John Kerry Won Ohio. We got to get moving to prevent this from happening again.... educate more peeps to be pollwatchers, lobby for our rights to more voting machines, count our own votes, and kick out any official who has the audacity to be a chair to his political party and wants to run his state's non-partisan election.

I'm pissed off... how bout you?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Wangari Maathai wins the Nobel Peace Prize

Transcript from Democracy Now!, December 9, 2004:

JUAN GONZALEZ: This is Wangari Maathai speaking today in Oslo.

WANGARI MAATHAI: As the first African woman to receive this prize, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa and indeed the whole world. I am especially mindful of women and girl-child. I hope to encourage them to raise their voices and take more space for leadership. I know the honor also gives a deep sense of pride to our men, both old and young. As a mother, I appreciate the inspiration this brings to the youth and I urge them to use it to pursue their dreams.

Although this prize comes to me, it acknowledges the work of countless individuals and groups across the world. They work quietly and often without recognition to protect the environment, promote democracy, defend human rights and ensure equality between women and men. By so doing, they plant the seeds of peace. I know they too are proud today. To all who feel represented by this prize I say use it to advance your mission and meet with the high expectations the world will place on all of us. This honor is also for my family, friends, partners and supporters throughout the world. All of them helped shape the vision and sustain the work which was often accomplished under hostile conditions.

I'm also grateful to the people of Kenya who remained stubbornly hopeful that democracy could be realized and the environment managed sustainably. Because of this support I'm here today to accept this great honor.

I am immensely privileged to join my fellow African Peace Laureates, President Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the late Chief Albert Lutuli, the late Anwar al-Sadat and the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. I know that African people everywhere are encouraged by this news.

My fellow Africans, as we embrace this recognition let us use it to intensify our commitment to our people to reduce conflicts and poverty and thereby improve the quality of life of our people. Let us embrace democratic governance, protect human rights and protect our environment. I'm confident that we shall rise to the occasion. I have always believed that solutions to most of our problems will have to come from us.

In this year's prize the Norwegian Nobel Committee has placed the critical issue of environment and its linkage to democracy and peace before the world. For their visionary action I'm profoundly grateful. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come. Our work for over the past 30 years has always appreciated and engaged these linkages.

My inspiration partly comes from my childhood experiences and observations of nature in rural Kenya. It has been influenced and nurtured by the formal education I was privileged to receive in Kenya, the United States of America and Germany. As I was growing up I witnessed forests being cleared and replaced by commercial plantations which destroyed local biodiversity and the capacity of forests to conserve water.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, in 1977 when we started the Green Belt Movement, I was partly responding to the needs identified by rural women, namely lack of firewood, clean drinking water, balanced diets, shelter and income. Throughout Africa, women are the primary care takers, holding significant responsibility for tilling the land and feeding their families. As a result, they are often the first to become aware of environmental damage as resources become scarce and incapable of sustaining their families.

The women we worked with recounted that unlike in the past they were unable to meet their basic needs. This was due to the degradation of the immediate environment, as well as the introduction of commercial farming which replaced the growing of household food crops, but international trade controlled the price of exports from these small scale farmers and a reasonable and just income could not be guaranteed.

I came to understand that when the environment is destroyed, plundered or mismanaged, we undermine our quality of life and that of our future generations. Tree planting became a natural choice to address some of the initial basic needs identified by women. Also, tree planting is simple, attainable and guarantees quick, successful results within a reasonable amount of time. These are all important to sustain interest and commitment.

So together we planted over 30 million trees that provide fuel, food, shelter and income to support the children and education and household needs. The activity also creates employment and improves soils and watersheds. Through their involvement, women gained some degree of power over their lives, especially their socioeconomic position and relevance in the family. This work continues.

Initially the work was difficult because historically our people have been persuaded to believe that because they are poor they lack not only capital but also knowledge and skills to address their challenges. Instead, they are conditioned to believe that the solutions to their problems must come from outside.

Further, women did not at that time realize that meeting their needs depended on their environment being healthy and well managed. They were also unaware that a degraded environment leads to a scramble for scarce resources and may culminate in poverty and even conflict. They were also unaware of the injustices of international economic arrangements. In order to assist communities to understand these linkages we developed a citizen education program during which people identify their problems, causes and solutions. They then make connections between their own personal actions and the problems they witness in the environment and in society.

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