Article — From the August 2005 issue

None Dare Call it Stolen

Ohio, the election, and America’s servile press

( 4 of 6 )

The electoral fraud continued past Election Day, but by means far more complex and less apparent than the bullying that marked the day itself. Here the aim was to protect the spoils, which required the prevention of countywide hand recounts by any means necessary. The procedure for recounts is quite clear. In fact, it was created by Blackwell. A recount having been approved, each of the state’s eighty-eight counties must select a number of precincts randomly, so that the total of their ballots comes to 3 percent (at least) of the county’s total vote. Those ballots must then be simultaneously hand counted and machine counted. If the hand count and the new machine count match, the remaining 97 percent of the selected ballots may be counted by machine. If, however, the totals vary by as little as a single vote, all the other votes must be hand counted, and the results, once reconfirmed, must be accepted as the new official total.

The Ohio recount officially started on December 13—five days after Conyers’s hearings opened—and was scheduled to go on until December 28. Because the recount (such as it was) coincided with the inquiry, Conyers was able to discover, and reveal in his report, several instances of what seemed to be electoral fraud.

On December 13, for instance, Sherole Eaton, deputy director of elections for Hocking County, filed an affidavit stating that the computer that operates the tabulating machine had been “modified” by one Michael Barbian Jr., an employee of Triad GSI, the corporate manufacturer of the county’s voting machinery.

Ms. Eaton witnessed Mr. Barbian modify the Hocking County computer vote tabulator before the announcement of the Ohio recount. She further witnessed Barbian, upon the announcement that the Hocking County precinct was planned to be the subject of the initial Ohio test recount, make further alterations based on his knowledge of the situation. She also has firsthand knowledge that Barbian advised election officials how to manipulate voting machinery to ensure that [the] preliminary hand recount matched the machine count.6

6. In May 2005, Eaton was ordered by the Hocking County Board of Elections to resign from her position.

The committee also learned that Triad similarly intervened in at least two other counties. In a filmed interview, Barbian said that he had examined machines not only in Hocking County but also in Lorain, Muskingum, Clark, Harrison, and Guernsey counties; his purpose was to provide the Board of Elections with as much information as possible—“The more information you give someone,” he said, “the better job they can do.” The report concludes that such information as Barbian and his colleagues could provide was helpful indeed:

Based on the above, including actual admissions and statements by Triad employees, it strongly appears that Triad and its employees engaged in a course of behavior to provide “cheat sheets” to those counting the ballots. The cheat sheets told them 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. If true, this would frustrate the entire purpose of the recount law—to randomly ascertain if the vote counting apparatus is operating fairly and effectively, and if not to conduct a full hand recount.

The report notes Triad’s role in several other cases. In Union County the hard drive on one tabulator was replaced after the election. (The old one had to be subpoenaed.) In Monroe County, after the 3 percent hand count had twice failed to match the machine count, a Triad employee brought in a new machine and took away the old one. (That machine’s count matched the hand count.) Such operations are especially worrying in light of the fact that Triad’s founder, Brett A. Rapp, “has been a consistent contributor to Republican causes.” (Neither Barbian nor Rapp would respond to Harper’s queries, and the operator at Triad refused even to provide the name of a press liaison.)

7. The recount itself was the result of a joint application from the Green and Libertarian parties.

There were many cases of malfeasance, however, in which Triad played no role. Some 1,300 Libertarian and Green Party volunteers, led by Green Party recount manager Lynne Serpe, monitored the count throughout Ohio.7 They reported that: In Allen, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Morrow, Hocking, Vinton, Summit, and Medina counties, the precincts for the 3 percent hand recount were preselected, not picked at random, as the law requires. In Fairfield County the 3 percent hand recount yielded a total that diverged from the machine count—but despite protests from observers, officials did not then perform a hand recount of all the ballots, as the law requires. In Washington and Lucas counties, ballots were marked or altered, apparently to ensure that the hand recount would equal the machine count. In Ashland, Portage, and Coshocton counties, ballots were improperly unsealed or stored. Belmont County “hired an independent programmer (‘at great expense’) to reprogram the counting machines so that they would only count votes for President during the recount.” Finally, Democratic and/or Green observers were denied access to absentee, and/or provisional ballots, or were not allowed to monitor the recount process, in Summit, Huron, Putnam, Allen, Holmes, Mahoning, Licking, Stark, Medina, Warren, and Morgan counties. In short, the Ohio vote was never properly recounted, as required by Ohio law.

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