Friday, June 2, 2006

Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr in Rolling Stone makes the case that there were enough irregularities in vote count in Ohio alone to give the 2004 election to George W. Bush. But he also says it wasn’t just in Ohio were things went strangely Republican.

Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America’s voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. ”We didn’t have one election for president in 2004,” says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. ”We didn’t have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities.”

But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I’ve become convinced that the president’s party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election.

If Mr. Kennedy’s allegations are true — and he has over 200 footnotes to back up his claims — it presents a rather frightful usurpation of the election process. And in spite of the fact that nothing can be done to alter the outcome of the election now and this article will provide a feeding frenzy for the righties as they prepare to demolish another Kennedy, both on his research (“Look! A comma splice! The whole thing is flawed!”) and on his person (“Heh, his cousin’s in rehab”), the article does raise enough questions through enough objective sources that it should be taken seriously.

The report centers on the election in Ohio. Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, the official in charge of the state’s election system, is a hard-right conservative Republican. He is presently running for governor to succeed disgraced and term-limited Gov. Bob Taft. And it was in Ohio where voter registration forms from Democrats were destroyed, precincts were reduced, voting machines misallocated to provide for too few in large precincts and cause long lines, and a variety of irregularities that even if you give Sec. Blackwell and his office the benefit of the doubt and say that shit just happens during an election, it hardly serves as a recommendation for him to be elected to higher office.

Vast government conspiracy theories usually fall apart because they depend on two axioms: 1) the government is competent enough to pull something off on a massive scale that requires precise timing and elaborate manipulation, and 2) that such a large conspiracy can have so many people involved who can keep a secret. So the idea that Karl Rove sits in his West Wing office doing his Dr. Evil act (with Mini-Me down the hall in the oval one) is a little over the top. But all it takes is one state — like Ohio — with an official who makes no secret about who he would like to win the election, and you have a lot of questions left unanswered.

Frankly, I expect there to be dirty tricks and vicious campaigning in any election. I don’t like it, but I expect it. But to mess around with an election is an assault on the idea of what this country stands for, far more than flag burning or singing the national anthem in Spanish. An election should be the one thing we can count on that is fair and honest because it is the source of all the power in this country. Election fraud is the same as jury tampering.

The right wing has already begun to spin this as just another case of lefty sour grapes or tin-foil-hat VRWC worthy of Oliver Stone. In one of the more circular dismissals, Tucker Carlson told Mr. Kennedy that it couldn’t possibly be true because the media hasn’t said anything about it. (Who wants to hit that one out of the park?) But they said the same thing about Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib, and the NSA warrantless wiretapping. If this doesn’t get people wondering what the hell happened, perhaps we deserve what we got.