"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Election of 2004

In addition to working to put Nader on the ballot, the Republicans in 2004 attempted to hold down the number of registered voters who were most likely to vote for Democrat Kerry. In Arizona, challenging Hispanic Voters was a tradition, and five organizations ramped up to intensify this activity in 2004. The Missouri legislature passed new voter identification legislation that made it easier to prevent Blacks from voting. In 2000, this was accomplished there by opening black voting places several hours late. In the past, “ballot security” teams went into minority neighborhoods photographing minority voters and demanding identification cards. This process was repeated in 2004. In 2004, South Dakota authorities demanded that Native American voters in the primaries produce identification cards, which are not required by law.

In Texas, local authorities threatened to prosecute students at African American Prairie View A and M if they attempted to vote.. The Republican Secretary of State in Ohio attempted to invalidate voter registration forms in Cleveland because they were not printed the right weight paper. A quarter of a million African Americans in Ohio received letters warning them that they could not vote; among the reasons given were being registered by the NAACP. Misleading pamphlets were also sent to Milwaukee blacks in an effort to discourage their voting. John Pretzel, Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of representatives, openly stated it was necessary to suppress the black vote in Philadelphia.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, the Republicans hired Voters Outreach of America to register voters. The firm’s managers were caught destroying Democratic registration forms. Employees said they were being paid only for Republican signature. In Oregon, the same firm was discovered to be repeating this performance. However, there it sometimes used public libraries, claiming to be official registrars. Its employees were reported to have told University of Oregon students that by registering as Republicans they were somehow fighting the sexual abuse of children. Similar problems appeared in West Virginia.. In Florida, election officials tried to remove another 22,000 Blacks from the voter roles, even though they were not felons. Republican Secretary of State Glenda Hood disqualified an additional 10,000 registration forms of likely Democrats because they had checked off in only one place rather than two that they were citizens of the United States.

Former President Jimmy Carter, whose center has monitored elections around the world, noted that the process in Florida did not meet international standards in part because people holding “strong political biases operate it,” and he predicted that the 204 Florida election would again be characterized by irregularities. The usual efforts of those in power to prevent some groups from voting were much in evidence. In Minnesota, the Secretary of State refused to give Democratic workers street lists. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, voting officials dumped 5,000 votes, but Kerry still managed to carry the state. In many places in the North and South, Democratic precincts seemed to have far more voting machine problems than in Republican areas. Southern state officials routinely denied black college students the right to vote in college towns or made the process so tedious that few were able to cast ballots. Voting officials permitted blatant intimidation of black voters by private individuals and party operatives across the South.

The Republican Party and its allies also used traditional means to hold down the Democratic vote. In Michigan, state Representative John Pappageorge spoke openly about the necessity to “suppress the Detroit vote.” A Republican official in Philadelphia said the same about his city’s black vote. In South Carolina, African Americans received bogus NAACP letters saying that people with parking tickets would go to jail for ten years if they voted in 2004. This was a variant of the old tactic of telling blacks that if they had any outstanding debt they could not vote. In South Dakota, volunteers followed members of the Yankton Sioux tribe to the polls and copied down their license plate numbers. This intimidation tactic helped Christian conservative John Thune defeat Senator Tom Daschle. The newest and most effective technique in holding down the Democratic vote was the use of private firms to register voters and help people apply for absentee ballots. The papers of those identifying themselves as Democrats were lost. This was widespread in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio. The firm accused of doing much of this was Sproul and Associates. After the election, George W. Bush entertained the firm’s founder, Nathan Sproul.

Civilian American voters living abroad tend to vote Democratic. These three million found it difficult to vote because the Pentagon shut down the web site that was supposed to be used by these people to register to vote. Almost a million military personnel live abroad, and the military distributed absentee ballots at all its foreign bases. These people are immersed in a conservative military culture, given access to Rush Limbaugh daily on armed services radio, and are exposed on a daily basis to the pro-Republican views of NCOs and officers.

Swift-Boating John Kerry
Democratic efforts to feature Kerry’s distinguished war record were quickly countered by claims that he had lied about his service and did not deserve his medals. Early in the campaign, and again in August and thereafter, a GOP-backed “independent” group of veterans called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, ran advertisements that claimed that John Kerry did not deserve his three purple hearts, the Bronze Star, and the Silver Star. They claimed that he had lied to get them. They were also angered by the fact that he later denounced the war and spoke of atrocities that had occurred. Reminding veterans that Kerry had criticized the war involved a very potent gut issue. It reminded many Vietnam veterans of the shabby treatment they had received upon returning to the United States, and it invited them to blame Kerry for their abuse then. The Bush administration claimed no connection to the group but refused to disavow their advertisements .The “527” advocacy group had ties to the Bush campaign and two Bush campaign officials, including general counsel Benjamin Ginsberg, had to resign their posts. Much of their money came from Bush’s top fund-raiser in Texas, a man who was also a close friend of strategist Karl Rove. Take-over specialist T. Boone Pickens donated $500 million and Texas oil men gave massive amounts to the $6.7 million the group collected by September 11. “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” a conservative 527 group operating out of Texas, aired a series of advertisements claiming John Kerry had lied to obtain his medals. The Bush administration claimed no connection to the group but refused to disavow their advertisements. The advertisement apparently sharply reduced Kerry’s support among veterans and forced the Kerry campaign to spend precious resources answering it.

The Annenberg Election Survey found that 46% of undecided voters found the Swift-Boaters charges believable, even though very few of them saw either of the commercials in their entirety. The group held joint rallies with the Bush Republicans in Texas and was financed by leading Bush fund-raisers, one of whom was a friend of Karl Rove. Their claims contradicted Navy documents and had numerous inconsistencies. Several of these veterans had previously praised Kerry. One veteran was interviewed by them under the impression he was helping Kerry, and they deleted from his comments proof that Kerry was under fire in the incident that led to his receiving the Bronze Star. They alleged that the shrapnel that Kerry still carries was the result of a self-inflicted wound. Their claims were widely covered, especially on cable television, and the wall-to-wall coverage could have helped spread their stories and could have been instrumental in reducing Kerry’s support. Jerome Corsi who co-authored the group’s book attacking Kerry was forced to admit that he had sent anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim posts to a conservative web site.

Rear Admiral William L. Schachte, Jr., one of those involved with the Swift Boaters, had been involved in the 2000 effort to smear Mc Cain in South Carolina and was a lobbyist for a firm that recently won a large defense contract. His partner was chairman of the 2004 Republican convention in New York., Soon after the controversy gathered steam, former GOP nominee Bob Dole went on the stump to attack Kerry’s war record, and Rush Limbaugh devoted a large part of his daily program to interviewing the leader of the Swift Boat Veterans. John McCain criticized the advertisements but vigorously campaigned with Bush for some time. He also asked Kerry to drop an advertisement that showed him criticizing Bush for using similar tactics against him in 2000, and Kerry immediately complied. When asked why people could believe that Kerry had lied about his Vietnam service, McCain responded, “With enough ads, you can convince people that pigs fly.” The claims of this group dominated the broadcast and cable news for almost three weeks. The pattern for covering them was to give equal time to the accusers and to those trying to make rebuttals, but there were not many efforts to get at the facts themselves.

At the Republican National Convention, many delegates were wearing Band-Aids with purple hearts attached to them, a way of saying Kerry had not bled enough and did not deserve his three Purple Hearts or other medals. At an early morning prayer breakfast, the presider assured others that “the people who hate George Bush hate God.” The Republican National Convention endorsed a very conservative platform but featured a host of moderate sneakers, in an effort to attract undecided moderate voters. The Republican administration of New York City scooped up 1,821 peaceful demonstrators, and depositing them in an abandoning bus depot before depositing them in cells. A few of the people were not demonstrators but people unfortunate enough to be leaving their apartments at the time.

The Los Angeles Times released polling data on August 26 showing that the attacks on Kerry’s military record had weakened him. This poll showed Bush ahead 49-46; a CNN poll showed Kerry maintaining a one point lead. In this case too, Kerry had lost support with half as many voters as a month before believing his service record was a positive indicator with respect to his ability to function as commander in chief. Most of those who had abandoned Kerry were conservative Democrats, who had long been unhappy with the party’s position on racial and cultural matters. Fully 15% of declared Democrats planned to vote for Bush, while very few Republicans planned to abandon their standard-bearer. In late October the Sinclair Broadcasting Corporation preempted 90 minutes on all 62 of its stations to broadcast the Swift Boat Veterans film attacking John Kerry. It was entitled “Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal.” The firm regularly sends tapes of right-wing political commentary to its affiliates to be presented in news broadcasts.

Carlton Sherwood produced the film, which came very close to saying Kerry’s anti-war activities were treasonous. Sherwood has worked for The Washington Times, and in the 1980s wrote Inquisition: The Persecution of Reverend Sun Myuung Moon. The four Smith brothers, who own Sinclair, gave 97% of their political contributions in 2004 to Republicans. They ordered their ABC stations not to air the Ted Koppel April 30 telecast in which he honored those who had died in Iraq.

Bush’s War Record Dispute Helps GOP
In September someone fed a CBS producer false documents that showed that George W. Bush had attempted to evade his responsibilities to the Texas Air Guard. A little examination would have shown that the documents were forgeries, but CBS accepted them after a cursory effort to review their authenticity, perhaps because the documents only verified what was already known from other sources.

CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” aired documents allegedly written by George Bush’s National Guard commander that related to his refusal to take the required physical examination in 1972. The refusal to take the physical examination was well known, but the documents also indicated that Bush received favored treatment and had been given a direct order to take the examination. Long-time anchor Dan Rather had been a devil figure of conservatives since the Nixon era, and they did not stint on their efforts to discredit him and this story. In time, Rather had to admit that he could not verify the authenticity of the documents. Almost from the beginning, media attention focused on CBS rather than on Bush’s Guard service. This incident chilled interest in Bush’s Guard Service. CBS subsequently cancelled a one-hour special on the claims used to bring the US into the war in Iraq because airing the program before the election would be inappropriate.
There was much speculation that the documents on which the program was based came from the Democratic National Committee, but few considered the possibility that the forgery of these documents was a supremely successful Rovian trick.

There were long lines in Ohio Democratic precincts, while there were none or short ones in Republican ones, which typically had more and better voting machines. By placing outmoded equipment in black precincts, Ohio election officials greatly increased the chance of having many “spoiled votes.” In the 47 Dayton, Ohio precincts that went heavily for Kerry, the spoilage rate was 5.16%, compared to 1.31% for the rest of Montgomery County. This is partly why blacks have a 800 % greater chance of not having their votes counted than whites. Similarly, placing too few machines in black precincts created great lines and discouraged people from voting. The situation was so blatant in Ohio that the very Republican Columbus Dispatch felt obliged to report on it. It found that the number of machines in Democratic parts of Franklin County was reduced by 17 while the Republican precincts received eight more machines. Gambier, Ohio mayor Kirk Emmert asked the state election commission for more machines because Kenyon College students were expected to vote in large numbers. The request was denied and only two machines were available in the ward where students could vote, and one of them broke down before noon. In Democratic Cuyahoga and Summit Counties, old machines were used and the average number of votes per machine was less than half those per machine in the Columbus area. In Akron, Democratic volunteers learned on Election Day that almost 10% of their voters had been removed from the rolls.

The provisional ballot, a new technique made possible by HAVA, allowed people to provisionally vote if they showed up at the wrong place or broke some other regulation. These votes were usually not counted. There were 1,090,729 provisional ballots thrown out in 2004 and another 3,600,390 that were classified as spoiled. In addition, there were 526, 420 uncounted absentee ballots that were discarded, especially in swing states. These techniques were widely used, especially in Ohio, and boosted the number of uncounted votes to the 3,000,000 mark. In addition there were 95,000 lost votes in Franklin County, 12,000 in Mahoning, and 6,400 in Warren County. Often, the HAVA provision on provisional ballots is used in conjunction with sophisticated caging techniques to disqualify voters. Hispanics and African Americans who move frequently are targeted by highly developed caging operations. Perhaps mail is sent to an old address and the returned letter is used to strike someone from the voting rolls. Should the targeted person remain in the rolls, he or she can be challenged at the polls and then given a provisional ballot, which voting officials have the power to simply ignore.

In some southwest white Republican, Bible-belt counties, C. Ellen Connally, an underfunded African American running for Ohio Supreme court, somehow ran far ahead of John Kerry. It has been argued that maybe these conservative Christian voters did not know that she was black or a supporter of gay marriage. Even two large black precincts in Cleveland voted in this very unusual way. The normal pattern is that vote totals are highest at the top of the ticket and drop off significantly thereafter.

The Ohio recount was marred by allegations of fraud. Triads Corporation, which services the punch card voting system in 41 counties, was found to be sending people to court houses to prepare computers for recounts. The clearest case of abuse was in Hocking County, where “Michael” from Triad appeared to brief workers on “tricky” questions attorneys might ask and to work with tabulators and computers. He asked which precincts had been designated for recount and then worked on the computer, telling the employees not to turn it off as the correct results were then on display. He also helped employees post a “cheat sheet” to help them with the recount. In Lucas County, a Diebold technician reprogrammed machines prior to the recount, and in suburban Sylvania Precinct 3 the programming card was reprogrammed.. Voting officials in Shelby County admitted they had destroyed critical materials, making a recount there impossible to the recount, Secretary of State Blackwell ordered voting officials in the counties to prohibit others from examining poll registers, a violation of Ohio law which made it impossible for Democratic observers to analyze the election or make sense of the recount.

Blackwell did not bother to impound any machines or computers before the recount and refused to appear before a House Committee investigating the matter even though its chair was a Republican Blackwell, himself a black, saw to it that minority precincts received too few machines. Often these precinct voting sites were relocated without sufficient notice to residents. Before the election, he had written to other Republican officials that retaining the old punch card machines would guarantee many errors, and he followed his own advice by placing defective ones in black precincts in Cleveland. There were similar complaints about serious misconduct on the part of the secretaries of state in Florida and Minnesota.

Progressive journalist Mark Hertsgaard has examined many of the issues raised above and has bent over backward to weigh Republican explanations for many strange circumstances. He concluded that the evidence of conventional vote fraud techniques is not enough to warrant the conclusion that the GOP stole the election. However, he “came away [from Ohio] persuaded there was indeed something rotten in the state of Ohio in 2004.” He gave only a cursory glance at claims that there was electronic vote fraud. It is in this area where the largest number of votes could have been flipped.

Alaska Democratic officials suspected that results in the state’s very close election had been manipulated. They sued to get access to tabulations and found that 293 manual changes had been made after the election. Such entries are made when a ballot cannot be scanned. By contrast, only seventeen manual entries were made after the primary. The Board of Elections refused to let them see the tally and the Democrats had to resort to very time-consuming litigation before they were permitted to see the records in 2006. In 16 state house districts, the turn out was 200%. An honest total for Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski was 149,446 but the official total was 226,992. Bush received 190,889 votes, but the official tally showed 292, 267 votes.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!