2004 Ohio general election

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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.

Exit polls




Voter registration fraud


Polling place voter suppression


Provisional ballot miscounting


Ballot forensics


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[5], 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.

Electronic irregularities


SmarTech man-in-the-middle

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.[10] 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.[10]

Election reporting network architecture

Researchers at ePluribus Media first discovered SmarTech's takeover of the election returns in 2006.[11][12] 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.[10]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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[17] 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.[18]

Tabulator rigging

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.[6]

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.[6] 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.[19] The county's director of elections indicated that he was suspicious of the ES&S technician who came there.[6] 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.[3]

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:

Spoonamore revealing the SmarTech-Triad connection in a Facebook chat



Voting systems by county



See also


  2. 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
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Conyers report on the 2004 Ohio election
  4. James Q Jacobs on ballot rotation
  5. Columbus Free Press, "Ohio's 2004 presidential election records missing or destroyed" by Steven Rosenfeld, 2007/07/30
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Richard Hayes Phillips affidavit
  7. Dr. Phillips analyzes the post-11:14 counties
  8. 2000 Cuyahoga vote may have been used to fake 2004 vote
  9. Low Cuyahoga turnout may indicate vote deletion
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Ohio election reporting architecture
  11. ePluribus Media scoop 1
  12. ePluribus Media sccop 2
  13. Arnebeck about SmarTech
  14. Spoonamore Oct. affidavit
  15. Spoonamore Sept. affidavit
  16. Irregularities after 11:14 PM
  17. McClatchy DC, "Computer expert denies knowledge of '04 vote rigging in Ohio", 2008/11/03
  18. Mike Connell lawsuit and death
  19. Miami County tabulator audit logs deleted
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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."
  25. Voting systems by county

External links