Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Monday, November 29, 2004

Jesse takes Ohio... and a weird, new irregularity

It's alive, it's alive, says Keith Olbermann in his latest blog post.

Jesse Jackson has thrown himself into the thick of it in Ohio. "'John Kerry supports a full investigation' of the voting irregularities in Ohio, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told reporters Saturday before he began two days of rallies in the state to push for an investigation - and a recount. 'I talked with John Kerry last night (Friday), and he supports the investigation,' The Chicago Sun-Times further quoted Jackson. 'His lawyers are observing it closely.'"

More than that, there's a new weird Ohio irregularity that has yet to be explained. More from Keith:

Well, evidently Rev. Jackson can observe the body twitching even if the rest of us are still where we were when Senator Kerry made his direct-to-video, M.C. Escher drawing of a statement: “regardless of the outcome of this election.” We’re scratching our heads with one hand, and wanting to use the other to poke the tall, supine creature with a stick to see if it really is alive.

Several reporters on Saturday’s conference call asked about the event that ensured the mainstream media silence that has been roundly mistaken as a “lock-down”: Senator Kerry’s concession speech on November 3rd.

“Kerry was inclined to believe what he was told,” begins Jackson’s quote in The Cincinnati Enquirer, “and he was told the election was over. But now we’re unearthing information that did not surface at first. I suppose the more information Kerry gets, the more you will hear from him.”

In his news conference and at his rally Sunday in Columbus, Jackson hit the now-familiar main points of the Ohio inquiry. He called the disconnect between exiting polling and actual voting “suspicious,” invoked the infamous Multiplying Voting Machine of Gahanna, cited the Warren County lockdown, and criticized Kenneth Blackwell’s dual role as Ohio’s Secretary of State (and thus its chief electoral official) and as Co-Chairman of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign there. Love him or hate him, Rev. Jackson still has the knack for perfect imagery. “We need to investigate, coordinate, litigate, recount and recuse. Mr. Blackwell cannot be both the owner of the team and the umpire.”

But Keith has buried the lede:

Jackson may or may not have also introduced a new rotting fish into the pile of evidence that suggests Ohio did a very lousy job of running an election four weeks ago. “We don’t want to be presumptuous, but these numbers in Butler, Clermont, Warren and Hamilton counties are suspicious.” Jackson refers in part to what several voters’ groups see as the incongruity of an underfunded Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, C. Ellen Connally, getting a net 45,000 more votes in Butler County relative to her Republican opponent than Kerry did relative to his. She finished ahead of her party’s presidential nominee by 10,000 net votes or more in five Ohio counties; by 5,000 or more in ten others.

It is not unprecedented for a statewide candidate - especially a popular, well-publicized one - to finish “ahead of the ticket.” But Connally was a retired African-American judge from Cleveland, and Butler County is as about as far away from Cleveland (on the Indiana border, and 40 miles north of Kentucky) as you can get and still be in Ohio. Moreover, The Cleveland Plain Dealer noted that the Republican candidates in the three Supreme Court races raised 40% more in official campaign funds than did Connally and the other Democrats. The Toledo Blade showed that the fund-raising, and thus visibility, was far more lopsided than even the party documents would suggest: “Citizens for a Strong Ohio, a nonprofit arm of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, raised $3 million to fund TV and radio ads that gave the winners exposure Democrats couldn't match,” the newspaper reported on November 4th.

The fun continues throughout the Buckeye State. The Cincinnati Post Saturday quoted Chairman Tim Burke of the Hamilton County Board of Elections as saying that approximately 400 of the 3,000 provisional ballots invalidated in his jurisdiction were thrown out for an extraordinary reason. In some cases, one polling place served more than one voting precinct - and though they were in the correct building, voters were disqualified because they got in the wrong line. “400 voters were in the right place,” Burke says, “but not at the right table.” The newspaper says Burke plans to object to those disqualifications when Hamilton County meets Tuesday to certify its vote.

Other discarded provisional ballots will be sued over. Cuyahoga County tossed a third of all its provisionals, and a group called ‘The People for the American Way Foundation’ filed Friday for a writ of mandamus against Secretary of State Blackwell in the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals, asking the court to order Blackwell to notify each of the 8,099 disqualified voters and afford them the opportunity to contest their disenfranchisement.

And lastly, though he legally has until December 6 to certify the Ohio vote, Cincinnati television station WCPO reported Sunday that Blackwell is in fact expected to do so on Wednesday of this week.

Yes, whether it's "mathematically impossible" or not for John Kerry to win this -- and it only is likelyl impossible if we accept the tabulations up until now as legitimate -- every vote should be counted. And every irregularity should be explained.