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2006-08-31

Public Outcry Forces Ohio to Delay Destruction of Presidential Ballots

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A public outcry in Ohio has forced the state to delay its plans to destroy the ballots from the contested 2004 Presidential elections. Allegations of fraud and disenfranchisement in the state continue to cause people to question the results which declared Bush the winner by a 130,000 vote margin. We speak with Steven Rosenfeld, co-author of the forthcoming book, "What Happened in Ohio." [includes rush transcript]

We turn to Ohio where a public outcry has forced the state to delay its plans to destroy the ballots from the contested 2004 Presidential elections. Allegations of fraud and disenfranchisement in the state continue to cause people to question the results which declared Bush the winner by a 130,000 vote margin. Just yesterday Senator John Kerry- who lost to Bush-sent an email to Democratic supporters. He stated that the Secretary of State of Ohio, Kenneth Blackwell, used his office to "suppress the Democratic vote."

A lawsuit will be filed in a Federal court in Ohio today that seeks to preserve those ballots so that voting problems in that election can be fully investigated and understood. The suit is being filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and several Ohio civil rights attorneys.

  • Steven Rosenfeld, co-author of the forthcoming book, "What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election."

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Steven Rosenfeld, co-author of the forthcoming book, What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Elections. Can you explain what’s happening? Will a lawsuit be filed, or will the announcement by this state of Ohio that they won’t destroy the ballots preempt the lawsuit?

STEVEN ROSENFELD: A lawsuit will be filed. And the lawsuit will say that voters in Ohio in 2004 were deprived of equal treatment, which is a civil rights claim. And it’s actually pretty easy to prove that that was the case, because we can show that there were long lines in many urban cities, we can show that there were voter purges that actually targeted cities where African Americans were the vast majority of the population. And there are many things like that. And the relief that — well, what we were initially seeking was, as we filed that suit, was to preserve the evidence of the 2004 election, which is the actual ballots and voter sign-in books and things that — it’s really the paper trail that says which votes were counted, which votes were not counted, were they counted accurately, and so forth.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And do you see the state’s actions, announced yesterday, as an attempt to head off your lawsuit?

STEVEN ROSENFELD: Well, clearly, yes. It was absolutely prompted by it. You know, the rule is that federal ballots must be held for 22 months. Now, 22 months is — the 22-month anniversary of the 2004 election is September 2. So, absolutely, under a threat of this civil rights suit and questioning by some major media that was covering this, the Secretary of State announced that he would issue an order. It would actually create a process by which ballots could be destroyed, but the immediate effect is to postpone that for a couple of months. So, actually, that enables us and other people who are investigating what happened to keep looking at these ballots. And it should be — it’s to be contrasted with Florida, where in 2003 the Secretary of State ordered that all their 2000 ballots be sent to the state archives. So, you can see the difference.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about Ken Blackwell, the Secretary of State of Ohio. What role has he played in this?

STEVEN ROSENFELD: Well, Ken Blackwell is now running for governor. It’s a very partisan campaign. But he has been perhaps the most heavy-handed secretary of state or election administrator in recent U.S. history, we would say, those of us who have investigated what happened in Ohio, more so than Katherine Harris in Florida.

What happened in Ohio was that the Republicans, at basically every level of their political organizations, targeted the voting process to create all kinds of obstacles that ended up disenfranchising literally tens of thousands of people in cities across the state. And then — and that’s really — you could see the evidence for that is really clear. It was the long lines. It was the voter purges. It was all the disqualified ballots. It was all kinds of rules for which ballots would be counted. It was voters who were challenged with their registrations when they walked into polls.

The other half of that is that it looks like in the Republican areas that were very strong, all those standards were not applied evenly. And it looks like, to us, that the vote counting was — we think we found what looks like ballot box stuffing. And when we say that, what we mean is we actually have gone in to count the paper records, and we say, here, several hundred voters signed in to vote, but when you look at the official results, there were 100 more or 150 more, precinct by precinct.

So all of this happens under a secretary of state who created atmosphere that was very permissive, that allowed this to happen. And he set the tone, because he basically created all these rules that would say which voters would be allowed to vote, which ballots would be qualified, disqualified, etc. And that’s the way he has run the state. And he’s done this with this incredibly sanctimonious personality and air that he’s, you know, "Mr. Election Integrity."

AMY GOODMAN: Steven Rosenfeld, we’re going to have to leave it there, but I want to thank you very much for being with us, co-author of forthcoming book, What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election.

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