2004 Ohio general election
Just like Florida in 2000, Ohio was the focal swing state in the 2004 presidential election. GOP election officials and voting system contractors engaged in many forms of election manipulation, ranging from dirty tricks to outright fraud, to ensure Bush won the state over Kerry. Thousands of eligible Democratic voters were disenfranchised due to voter registration irregularities and voter suppression. Voting systems, meanwhile, were manipulated to reverse the election outcome to Bush. Private companies such as ES&S and Triad tampered with central tabulators, and the vote counts were routed through partisan out-of-state servers that left them vulnerable to remote alteration. A recount was similarly corrupt, with ballots altered to match the electronic count, and election officials and vendors colluding to prevent discrepancies with the machines from being discovered.
- 1 Exit polls
- 2 Issues
- 3 Recount
- 4 Voting systems by county
- 5 Aftermath
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Voter registration fraud
Polling place voter suppression
Provisional ballot miscounting
In 2006, Richard Hayes Phillips led a citizen audit of the 2004 Ohio election. He obtained election records such as ballots and poll books to analyze them for irregularities. Phillips faced obstructionism: 56 of 88 counties illegally destroyed all or some of their records, and in Delaware County, a policeman from a security contractor was hired to stop citizens from examining the records. Still, Phillips gathered enough evidence to expose severe problems with the vote count.
Among the counties examined by Phillips, two types of operations emerged: local fraud to rig ballots on election night and manipulation of records after election night to match a fraudulent electronic vote count.
Cuyahoga and Warren counties took advantage of ballot rotation (as studied by James Q. Jacobs for Cuyahoga) to shift Kerry votes to other candidates. (That said, Cuyahoga also showed signs of central tabulator rigging, confirmed by the recount legal violations.) Clark, Hamilton, and Montgomery counties had prepunched ballots, so that a Kerry vote would lead to 2 holes and disqualify the ballot as an overvote.
Several other counties showed signs of after-the-fact manipulation consistent with making the paper ballots match rigged official vote counts. These official vote counts, if they did not originate from ballots marked by the voters, would most likely have come about electronically. After the discovery of a SmarTech man-in-the-middle, which went into effect at 11:14 PM on election night, Phillips also noted a curious pattern regarding which counties had irregularities. 11 counties known to have reported before 11:14 PM showed no signs of fraud, while 13 out of 25 counties known to have reported after 11:14 PM all had signs of fraud. Of those counties, here are the ones consistent with an attempt to cover for electronic fraud:
- Butler: 3 precincts had large numbers of consecutive Bush ballots, 4 precincts had more ballots/votes than the total number issued to voters, and 2 precincts had ballots that didn't match the tabulator count. These techniques are evidence of ballot tampering to match a rigged electronic vote count.
- Clermont: 13 large precincts had more ballots than the total number issued to voters, indicating that election officials filled out fake ballots. And the ballots don't quite match the electronic count, suggesting an imperfect attempt to match a rigged count.
- Mahoning: Issues with the electronic touchscreens popped up for Kerry voters. Many voters reported the Kerry option flipping to Bush, even after multiple tries. In one precinct, some voters never even saw the presidential option, yet there were no undervotes. Somehow, the undervotes were flipped to Bush, either by altered code in the machines or a rigged tabulator responding to SmarTech.
- Geauga: The number of registered voters was severely inflated. Despite 2 voter roll purges since the 2000 election, 6 townships had 75-80% of the population registered, compared to 69.6% in Ohio overall. One village had over 95% of the population registered, which is virtually impossible. These inflated registration figures would have given SmarTech a window to inflate the vote count.
- Delaware: Voter registration figures were also inflated. Between March and April, 14751 new voters were added to the rolls; 7917 were purged, but the BoE could only identify 16435 new registrants, leaving 6233 unaccounted for. Voter turnout was also implausibly high - 80% countywide compared to 72% statewide, with two precincts exhibiting 91% turnout - and the county refused to produce the poll books that would show how voters turned out. All of this indicates that voter turnout was inflated to match an inflated vote count.
- Van Wert: Kerry received fewer votes than Gore in 2000, despite there being more voters in 2004 and no Nader on the ballot. This implies that Bush would have had to receive close to all the new voters, all the Nader voters, and some of the Gore voters. 9 precincts where Kerry lost had ballots that matched the tabulator count, but the ballots themselves were substituted after-the-fact. The breakdown of regular and absentee ballots didn't match the poll books, and there were 75 "provisional voters" across the 9 precincts with the same handwriting. Ballots were most likely altered to match a rigged count, succeeding but leaving evidence that fake ballots were substituted.
- Miami: The voter turnout in one precinct was 98.55%, a virtually impossible outcome. Across the county, the number of votes cast never matched the number of voters who signed in. 567 ballots were remade for the recount, with an artificially high number of undervotes. The ballots for the hand recount were presorted, indicating they were already counted beforehand, likely to determine which precincts were "clean". Even then, the hand count didn't match the official results. All of this points to an imperfect attempt to match a fraudulent electronic count.
A likely possibility that different counties used varying techniques to deliver Ohio's vote to Bush. Some ran fully local operations to manipulate ballots before they were tabulated, while others had SmarTech manipulate results and covered it up after the fact. Another is that SmarTech served as a guide to local manipulation providing "first look" capability, like Bev Harris and Cliff Arnebeck have suggested. Either way, the use of SmarTech appears linked to the direct evidence of election irregularities that were investigated in depth by Richard Hayes Phillips.
Server issues with Ohio's election reporting website were linked to anomalous returns favoring Bush. At 11:14 PM on election night, the election reporting site went down, and was rerouted to a backup system in Chattanooga TN. The company handling the backup, SmarTech, hosted servers for Republicans and was heavily tied to GOP politics. Following SmarTech's takeover of the results reporting, several counties began reporting massively higher ratios of Bush votes. Analysis in the years following found unexplained anomalies in the counties that reported after 11:14 PM, and that SmarTech was well-positioned to alter the election results. It was also discovered that SmarTech took over several times during the night.
Ken Blackwell contracted with GovTech Solutions, owned by Michael Connell, to develop the election night reporting system. Connell was an IT manager for Bush and Karl Rove, who designed websites and email systems for GOP politicians and causes. Part of GovTech's contract was to develop a mirror site, which would take over displaying election results if the primary servers got overwhelmed. For this purpose, Blackwell and Connell brought in SmarTech.
Researchers at ePluribus Media first discovered SmarTech's takeover of the election returns in 2006. As per the contract, SmarTech was only meant to provide a backup system if Ohio's primary system crashed. But Connell testified that to the best of his knowledge, "it was not a failover situation", as did Blackwell's IT specialist, who was sent home that night at 9 PM.
SmarTech's position in the Ohio election reporting system made it a man-in-the-middle (MITM) between county tabulators and the statewide aggregator in the SoS's office. County election results were routed through SmarTech before reaching the SoS. This gave SmarTech real-time access to election returns, and a point in the network to talk to both county and state tabulators.
Cliff Arnebeck, lead attorney of the King Lincoln case, suggests SmarTech's "first-look" capability was used to target counties for old-school methods of election fraud. "The SmarTech people may have been guiding the manipulation of paper ballots in places like Warren County," said Arnebeck. In other words, SmarTech operators would inform corrupt local election officials of exactly how many votes they needed to alter for Bush to win.
Stephen Spoonamore, a network security engineer, believes that SmarTech's role extended to manipulating vote tallies in real-time. He laid out his theory in two affidavits for the King Lincoln case. Back in 2004, Spoonamore noticed that around 11 PM on election night, several counties suddenly began reporting radically different ratios of Bush to Kerry votes, favoring Bush. He theorized that this shift was due to a malicious system (a MITM) inserted between the county tabulators and the SoS's office. After studying the election reporting network that included SmarTech as a MITM, Spoonamore affirmed this theory.
He also explained how his suspected attack worked. Normally, county tabulators (computer A) would transmit their results to a statewide tabulator in the SoS's office (computer B), which adds up all the votes from all the counties. But in the network setup, a SmarTech computer was placed between A and B. SmarTech would have been able to see incoming vote totals and alter them before passing them along to the SoS's office. Critics have contended that this would only change the unofficial election night results, since the SoS would compile the official results from county tabulator printouts, not election night transmissions. But many counties' tabulators were open to tampering and remote access, allowing the SmarTech MITM to rewrite results at the county level as well.
Richard Hayes Phillips performed an independent analysis of the 2004 Ohio election in his book Witness to a Crime. He examined thousands of ballots, poll books, and more to ascertain what happened. Phillips found 0 irregularities in counties reporting before the rerouting to SmarTech at 11:14 PM, but 13 counties reporting afterwards all had irregularities favoring Bush. As detailed above, many of these manipulations were consistent with an attempt to match rigged results.
Whatever role SmarTech played, it was likely nefarious. Cliff Arnebeck subpoenaed Mike Connell as a key witness in the King Lincoln case, taking his deposition and planning to have him testify again. Connell indicated his willingness to do so, but on December 19, he died after the private plane he was flying crashed. The circumstances of his death were quite suspicious, especially since Connell had previously been threatened over his testimony.
A large number of counties had central tabulators subject to manipulation. Some of them were even witnessed being reprogrammed before the election or in advance of the recount. This mainly includes tabulators serviced by Triad GSI and ES&S.
In late October of 2004, an ES&S technician gained unauthorized access to Auglaize County's central tabulator. The county's deputy director of elections called out this violation, and was suspended before resigning.
The morning of the election, an ES&S technician unexpectedly showed up in Butler County and reprogrammed all 6 punch card tabulators. Butler County had traditionally done its own programming, and never invited an ES&S technician. A forensic analysis of Butler County would find evidence of tampering.
Miami County's central tabulator had no audit log entries for the 2004 election. The system automatically produces the log, so it was almost certainly deleted intentionally to hide proof of tampering. The county's director of elections indicated that he was suspicious of the ES&S technician who came there. Miami County would also exhibit irregularities in a forensic audit, including implausibly high voter turnout.
Triad, which serviced punch card tabulators in 41 of 88 Ohio counties, reprogrammed several counties' tabulators before the recount. Michael Barbian, a Triad technician, reprogrammed tabulators in Hocking, Lorain, Muskingum, Clark, Harrison and Guernsey counties. Other technicians did the same in Greene and Monroe counties. Most disturbingly, Triad remotely dialed into the Fulton and Henry County tabulators, allegedly to ensure only the presidential race was recounted. All of these reprogramming acts, considered standard procedure by Triad, were done with no oversight.
Ohio's county tabulators were networked to the SoS's office, programmed by private companies, and frequently patched by technicians right before being used. Many of the tabulators were even directly modifiable by remote access. It's quite plausible that county tabulators could have been rigged to respond to a MITM control server changing their results, as Spoonamore theorized. Spoonamore has asserted that SmarTech and Triad employees frequently met:
Voting systems by county
- CASE STUDIES IN EMERGENCY ELECTION LITIGATION, "News Media Access to Polls in Ohio"
- US Count Votes, "The Gun is Smoking: 2004 Ohio Precinct-level Exit Poll Data Show Virtually Irrefutable Evidence of Vote Miscount", 2006/01/23 - why the 2004 Ohio exit polls show fraud
- Conyers report on the 2004 Ohio election
- James Q Jacobs on ballot rotation
- Columbus Free Press, "Ohio's 2004 presidential election records missing or destroyed" by Steven Rosenfeld, 2007/07/30
- Richard Hayes Phillips affidavit
- Dr. Phillips analyzes the post-11:14 counties
- 2000 Cuyahoga vote may have been used to fake 2004 vote
- Low Cuyahoga turnout may indicate vote deletion
- Ohio election reporting architecture
- ePluribus Media scoop 1
- ePluribus Media sccop 2
- Arnebeck about SmarTech
- Spoonamore Oct. affidavit
- Spoonamore Sept. affidavit
- Irregularities after 11:14 PM
- McClatchy DC, "Computer expert denies knowledge of '04 vote rigging in Ohio", 2008/11/03
- Mike Connell lawsuit and death
- Miami County tabulator audit logs deleted
- Brad Friedman, "TWO OHIO ELECTION OFFICIALS CONVICTED FOR RIGGING 2004 PRESIDENTIAL RECOUNT!", 2007/01/24 - two Cuyahoga County elections officials convicted of rigging recount, questioned by special prosecutor to see if higher-ups involved
- Brad Friedman, "Ohio Election Workers Sentenced to 18 Months for Rigging 2004 Presidential Recount", 2007/03/13 - judge who sentenced the Cuyahoga officials believed conspiracy went further
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "Do new Ohio recount prosecutions indicate unraveling of 2004 election theft cover-up?", 2007/01/19 - first convictions for rigging Cuyahoga recount, other evidence of fraud
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "First criminal convictions from Ohio's stolen 2004 election confirm recount was rigged", 2007/01/27 - evidence of recount manipulation in Cuyahoga and elsewhere
- Cleveland 19, "Michael Vu Resigns", 2007/02/06 - resigned as elections director of Cuyahoga County OH in 2007; has his bizarre remarks about the employees who rigged the recount: "Vu defended those workers and their decision to pick ahead of time the ballots they would count in what was supposed to be a random sample. He said the workers followed longtime procedures and did nothing wrong."
- Voting systems by county
- Overviews of the fraud
- Bob Fitrakis, "None dare call it voter suppression and fraud", 2004/11/07
- Professor Michael Keefer, "The Strange Death of American Democracy: Endgame in Ohio", 2005/01/24
- Harpers, "None Dare Call it Stolen", 2005/08 (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
- Ohio 2004 election case study by Columbus Free Press
- DU thread in which a user claims that Kerry was shown to be winning by some election night TV reports
- The Evening Leader, "Board awaits state followup", 2004/11/06: "WAPAKONETA -- Auglaize County Board of Election members say they have not heard any more from the state regarding a possible investigation after receiving notice of being placed on administrative oversight last week.
"Absolutely nothing," board member Diana Hausfeld said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon when asked if the board had received any information about the investigation.
Election Board Director Jean Burklo, in her office Wednesday morning, said she has not received any information from Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office since notice of the board being placed on administrative oversight arrived late on Oct. 30.
James Lee, spokesperson for the secretary of state's office, said last week the specific conditions of the administrative oversight and reasons for the oversight were available after Tuesday's election. Lee said Wednesday afternoon the Secretary of State's office was focusing its efforts on assisting county elections boards with processing and counting provision ballots.
"These other issues will be addressed in the coming weeks," Lee said.
In a letter dated Oct. 21, Ken Nuss, former deputy director of the Auglaize County Board of Elections, claimed that Joe McGinnis, a former employee of Election Systems and Software (ES&S;), the company that provides the voting system in Auglaize County, was on the main computer that is used to create the ballot and compile election results, which would go against election protocol. Nuss claimed in the letter that McGinnis was allowed to use the computer the weekend of Oct. 16.
Nuss, who resigned from his job Oct. 21 after being suspended for a day, was responsible for overseeing the computerized programming of election software, according to his job description. His resignation is effective Nov. 11.
The letter also included allegations that Burklo released a sheet from a petition packet filed by Auglaize County Common Pleas Judge Frederick Pepple last December."
- DU discussion about the involvement of Triad GSI in the Ohio recount (cites Daily Kos blogger duke 1983, "Machine Tampering President Speaks - First Hand Account!!!!!", 2004/12/14)
- Truthout, "Proof of Ohio Election Fraud Exposed" by William Rivers Pitt, 2004/12/15 - includes Sherole Eaton affidavit
- Washington Post, "Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio", 2004/12/15 (pages 1, 2, 3) - also notes the UC Berkeley study on Florida votes
- Bob Fitrakis, "How Blackwell and Petro Saved Bush’s Brain: And the rise of the right wing juggernaut in Ohio", 2005/04/27 - discusses Blackwell giving Diebold an unbid contract for Ohio's voting machines; according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, John Kerry's wife discussed how easy it would be to hack into central tabulators; cites an inside source over Warren County's false terror alert; suggests that George H.W. Bush recruited people such as Karl Rove due to their prowess in CIA styled black-ops; discusses the phony American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) group; a witness places Ken Blackwell worrying over Bush's performance on election day rather than addressing voting problems
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "Attack on election board whistleblower and leaked Blackwell threats re-fire Ohio's election theft scandal", 2005/05/23 - cites Blackwell's 2004/10/05 letter to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections threatening to remove board members who refused to follow his orders, which is allowed under Ohio state law: "Be advised that your actions are not in compliance with Ohio law and further failure to comply with my lawful directives will result in official action, which may include removal of the Board and its Director"
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "Dramatic new charges deepen link between Ohio's "Coingate," Voinovich mob connections, and the theft of the 2004 election", 2005/07/29 - CIA and mob ties
- Cuyahoga County recount corruption
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "Do new Ohio recount prosecutions indicate unraveling of 2004 election theft cover-up?", 2007/01/19
- Brad Friedman, "TWO OHIO ELECTION OFFICIALS CONVICTED FOR RIGGING 2004 PRESIDENTIAL RECOUNT!", 2007/01/24
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "First criminal convictions from Ohio's stolen 2004 election confirm recount was rigged", 2007/01/27
- Brad Friedman, "Ohio Election Workers Sentenced to 18 Months for Rigging 2004 Presidential Recount", 2007/03/13
- Bev Harris, "Audits or Fraudits?", 2016/11/18
- Dale Tavris, "Election Fraud in the US 2004 to Present -- Part V: Disallowed and Corrupted Vote Recounts in Presidential Elections", 2018/07/15
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "Shocking Diebold conflict of interest revelations from Secretary of State further taint Ohio's electoral credibility", 2006/04/06: "On Election Day 2004, Franklin County voting officials told the Free Press that Blackwell and Damschroder were meeting with George W. Bush in Columbus. AP accounts place both Bush and Karl Rove unexpectedly in Columbus on Election Day. Damschroder has denied that he met personally with Bush, but refuses to clarify whether or not he was at GOP meetings with Bush in attendance on Election Day. An eyewitness ally of Blackwell told a small gathering of Bush supporters, with a Free Press reporter present, that Blackwell was in a frenzy on Election Day, writing percentages and vote totals on maps of rural Republican counties, attempting to figure out how many votes, real or manufactured, Bush would need to overcome the exit poll results in Cleveland and Columbus."
- Ron Baiman, "Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?: The History, The Crime, The Cover-Up, and Conclusions", 2006/05
- "Mitofsky, Liddle, and Lindeman, in communications with NEDA claim that all along they were talking about “average and not constant rBr bias”. Moreover, the detailed precinct-level data that they were working with, as opposed to the aggregate average tabulations which were all that NEDA had to work with, showed that Liddle’s bias index was consistent with exit poll response bias that does not differ in a statistically significant way by precinct partisanship."
- "In a revised NEDA report, Baiman, Dopp, and Dodge, point out that this “non explanation” [of swing vs. red shift that purports to debunk fraud] makes little sense as Bush won less than 1% more vote share in 2004 relative to 2000 and numerous factors including: demographic changes, precinct geography changes, third party participation, and voter registration, could easily have changed Bush’s share by a small margin over four years regardless of vote fraud. Moreover, by looking at the number of voters represented by the precincts rather than numbers of precincts, it can be shown that increases in Bush’s 2004 share do correlate with Kerry exit poll discrepancies in ESI’s analysis."
- "Even if we assume a very sloppy exit poll operation with pollsters: a) “missing” numerous voters exiting the polls b) polling “clumps” of related voters c) having some preference for young, college educated, black, voters who would tend to be Kerry supporters d) And with Bush voters shunning exit pollsters None of these kinds of “exit poll errors”, no matter how egregious, can explain the Ohio exit poll discrepancy pattern, because: The pattern on the right of the graph is one of unbiased random discrepancies consistent with random exit poll error derived from a) and b) above. Whereas the pattern on the left is one of overwhelming non-random Kerry discrepancies. It is statistically “virtually impossible” that in every precinct on the left of the graph pollsters managed to come up with a large Kerry discrepancy, or a very small Bush discrepancy. Average discrepancy does not diminish to near zero at the left end of the graph as rBr would suggest."
- Ron Baiman, "Direct Material Proof of Massive Election Fraud in Ohio in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election", 2006/09/30
- King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell court documents
- NOTICE by Plaintiffs of Voluntary dismissal of defendant Sam Hogsett, 2006/10/29
- Intervenor-Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration, 2009/03/24 - shows unhappiness of the plaintiffs with their attorneys Arnebeck and Fitrakis
- Exhibits ..., D - says that Arnebeck and Fitrakis struck from the record evidence that election officials violated a court order to preserve the ballots
- Reply in Support of Proposed Intervenor Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration, 2009/05/08
- Motion for Leave to File Surreply filed by Plaintiffs, 2009/05/22
- Motion Granted, 2009/05/27
- Plaintiffs' Surreply, 2009/05/27
- Exhibit 5 - declaration of Brett Kimberlin
- Supplemental Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Quash Subpoenas, 2010/11/13
- Plaintiff's Brief on Jurisdiction, Discovery, and Evidence Issues Identified by the Court, 2011/07/15 - has the Mike Connell deposition
- Richard Hayes Phillips investigation
- Alternet, "Network Hosting Attorney Scandal E-Mails Also Hosted Ohio's 2004 Election Results" by Bob Fitrakis and Steven Rosenfeld, 2007/04/23: "Beginning with a timeline on Election Night after a national media consortium exit poll predicted Democrat John Kerry would win Ohio, the first Ohio returns were from the state's Democratic urban strongholds, showing Kerry in the lead. This was the case until shortly after midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 3, when for roughly 90 minutes the Ohio election results reported on the Secretary of State's website were frozen. Shortly before 2am EST election returns came in from a handful of the state's rural Republican enclaves, bumping Bush's numbers over the top."
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "Are Rove's missing e-mails the smoking guns of the stolen 2004 election?", 2007/04/25: "Earlier that day, Rove and Bush flew into Columbus. Local election officials say they met with Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell in Columbus. Also apparently in attendance was Matt Damschroder, executive director of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections. These four men, along with Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett, were at the core of a multi-pronged strategy that gave Bush Ohio's twenty Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency. Bennett and Damschroder held key positions on election boards in the state's two most populous counties, with the biggest inner city concentrations of Democratic voters."
- 2008 press conference with Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis about lifting the stay in their case
- Stephen Spoonamore explains the MITM vote rig
- Paddy Shaffer, "Democracy Deadlocked", 2008/12/31
- Paddy Shaffer, "Resolve It or Relive It: Ohio Election Fraud 2004", 2009/06/14 (pages 1, 2, 3)
- On 2018/03/28, Sherole Eaton posted a comment affirming her belief that she was a whistleblower: "Hi Mark Crispin Miller, I'm the whistle blower who lives in Logan, Ohio, Hocking County & was fired from my appointed position at the Hocking County Board of Elections for speaking out regarding the unlawful acts going on in our office. I was glad to get away from that sorry bunch of employees and the board. The R's & D's voted to fire me. Strickland took good care of me when he became Governor. Gilligan appointed me to a great position when he was Governor of Ohio in the 70's."