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2004-12-15

Rep. John Conyers Seeks Inquiry Into Ohio Vote

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We speak with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who is leading the charge to review voting irregularities in Ohio. Conyers is now planning to ask the FBI and an Ohio county prosecutor to explore election tampering in at least one and possibly several Ohio counties. [includes rush transcript]

Just two days after the Ohio delegation to the Electoral College cast its votes for President Bush, Michigan Congressmember John Conyers is planning to ask the FBI and an Ohio county prosecutor to explore election tampering in at least one and possibly several Ohio counties. This according to the New York Times.

The request for an investigation is based largely on a sworn affidavit provided by deputy director of elections in Hocking County, Sherole Eaton.

Eaton claims that a representative of Triad Governmental Systems, the firm that created and maintains the vote-counting software in dozens of Ohio counties, made several adjustments to the Hocking County tabulator last Friday, in advance of the state’s recount.

Third party candidates, David Cobb of the Green Party and Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party successfully sought recounts in each of Ohio’s 88 counties that will begin this week.

  • Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), held a hearing in Washington last week looking into voting irregularities in Ohio.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress Member John Conyers is on the line with us right now. He held a hearing in Washington last week, looking into voting irregularities in Ohio. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Congress Member.

JOHN CONYERS: Always good to be here, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Good to have you. Can you explain what is happening now in Ohio, and what you are calling for?

JOHN CONYERS: Well, we have received, of course, thousands of complaints of irregularities, failure of process, suppression of voting rights, and so we have come now — have came up in the hearings we went to Columbus on Monday, and to really be there and to attempt to have the electoral disposition of the presidential vote in Ohio delayed until we have investigated some of these complaints. Sure enough, we had staff interview a person who was supposed to have had direct evidence about misconduct, and we have a sworn affidavit, a courageous person. We’re hoping that others will come forward, and we are asking that the Ohio F.B.I. and the county prosecutor all get into this case, and if necessary, we may be required to go back in ourselves.

AMY GOODMAN: Realistically, what do you think will happen now?

JOHN CONYERS: Well, realistically, we’d like the right thing to happen. Namely, that we get enough support in and out of the state to persuade those running the electoral college to realize that holding this up until we get some of these questions resolved would strengthen the confidence in the electoral process in Ohio where there have been more complaints than from anywhere else, even including Florida, which had the second highest number of complaints. So this is not an anti-Bush operation or sour grapes. All we want to do is to have this kick in and the Secretary of State there has been amazing in holding back cooperation of being political at the same time that he conducts the presidential —- supervises the presidential election in Ohio. So, realistically, we want people to realize that there are some serious problems, and -—

AMY GOODMAN: Now, that’s legal, right? That’s legal, Ken Blackwell, the Ohio —

JOHN CONYERS: The deputy director was pretty stunning.

AMY GOODMAN: Just let me ask one thing. That is legal, the Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, also heading up the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, he can be in charge of the recount and he is pushing for Bush to be president?

JOHN CONYERS: Right. He’s — and also administers the November — administered the November 2 election, too. We think that is something that should not ever happen again from any of the secretaries.

AMY GOODMAN: Who makes that law? Is it a federal law — it’s federal law that Secretaries of State like Katherine Harris in Florida, Ken Blackwell in Ohio, can engage in political activity, can head the re-election campaign for the president and also preside over the election.

JOHN CONYERS: I think it’s more that the federal laws allow the states to set up their own system.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s go back to this issue of this sworn affidavit. Again, if you can explain the significance of it. Sherole Eaton, the Deputy Director of Elections in Hocking County, Ohio, saying that a representative of Triad Governmental Systems, the firm that created and maintains the vote counting software in dozens of Ohio counties, made several adjustments to the Hocking County tabulator last Friday in advance of Ohio’s recount. What exactly does that mean?

JOHN CONYERS: What that is interpreted to mean is that if the Triad people can come in and adjust the machines before the recount and the re-examination of the election vote itself, then there’s no way anyone’s ever going to find out what really happened. So, it suggests very strongly that that was a very improper act on their part, and the question, of course, is raised, are other Triad computer experts doing the same thing?

AMY GOODMAN: Now, The New York Times quoted Brett Rapp, the president of Triad, saying that although it would be unusual for an employee to ask about a specific precinct, preparing the machines for a recount is standard procedure and was done in all 41 counties where Triad handles vote counts. He said he welcomes an investigation.

JOHN CONYERS: Well, I’m glad that we can enjoy his cooperation. But it still raises not only to those of us that have examined this, but to the Deputy Director of Elections in the county of Ohio that was talking person to person to the Triad expert. So this is what we want to resolve. You know, I’m not trying to pretend that this ends the matter, or that it’s — what we want is an examination, if it can be explained, fine. But it sure didn’t sound like it to Sherole Eaton at the time that she was talking to the computer expert that he wasn’t doing anything that wasn’t improper.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress Member Conyers, final question, and that is: How much is John Kerry helping here? There’s been the call for the recount by the parties that can least afford to support this recount, though they have scrounged up the money, the Green and Libertarian Parties, but John Kerry has $51 million left in his war chest, more money than any presidential candidate in history. I think it’s something like twice what Bush ended up with. Is he helping in any way?

JOHN CONYERS: Well, he has done the following things as a result of discussions with Reverend Jackson. I missed him when he was in the air in a flight, but he did send one of his lawyers were present in the hearings on Monday in Columbus, and he has now called for a complete recount in one of the contested counties, Delaware County, and so there seems to be in light of the action of the members of Congress and others, that he’s moving in the right direction.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe John Kerry might have won Ohio?

JOHN CONYERS: Well, I can’t tell you that. There are enough discrepancies, if they all played out in favor of the challenger, there is that possibility.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Congress Member John Conyers.

JOHN CONYERS: Pleasure as always.

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