Ohio Hearings Show Massive GOP Vote
Columbus, Ohio -- Hour after hour the testimonies are the same: angry Ohioans telling of vicious Republican manipulation and de facto intimidation that disenfranchised tens of thousands and probably cost the Democrats the election.
At an African-American church on Saturday and then at the Franklin County Courthouse Monday night, more than 700 people came to testify and witness to tales of the atrocity that was the November 2 election.
Organized by local ad hoc groups, the hearings had a court reporter and a team of lawyers along with other appointed witnesses. At freepress.org we will be making the testimonies available as they're transcribed and organized, and we will present a fuller accounting of the hearings, along with a book that includes the transcripts.
But one thing was instantly and abundantly clear: the Republican Party turned Ohio 2004 into an updated version of the Jim Crow South.
The principle overt method of vote suppression was to short-change inner city precincts of sufficient voting machines to allow a timely balloting. In precinct after precinct, virtually all of them predominantly black, poor, young and Democratic, the lines stretched for two, five, eight, even eleven hours. The elderly and infirm were forced to stand in the rain while city officials threatened to tow their cars. No chairs or shelter were provided. Crucial signage was mysteriously missing. Thousands came to vote, saw the long lines and left.
How many thousands? Enough to turn the election? Almost definitely.
None of this was accidental. This was a well-planned GOP attack on the right to vote, and on Democratic candidacies. Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell was also co-chair of the Ohio campaign for Bush. A right-wing Republican was in charge of the Franklin County Board of Elections.
They all said the election went "smoothly." By their standards they were right. At least 68 voting machines sat in a warehouse while precinct managers called desperately for help. Republican precinct judges and challengers harassed would-be voters. The names of long-time activists mysteriously disappeared from registration lists. The arsenal of dirty tricks was virtually endless.
With it the Bush/Rove team deprived countless Ohioans of their right to vote just as surely as if they'd levied a poll tax or invoked the grandfather clause.
In the coming days we'll issue a more complete accounting of these devastating hearings. No one who cares about democracy and fears the consequences of its destruction could come away from them without being both infuriated and terrified.
But one thing also stood out---the complete lack of Democratic support for these hearings or for the larger vote count movement. Nationally, it all stands in the shadow of the complete disappearance of John Kerry, on whose nominal behalf this was done.
A successful grassroots effort involving the Green and Libertarian Parties, among others, has raised---in just four days---some $150,000 to force a recount of the Ohio vote. (Ralph Nader has forced a similar recount in New Hampshire). But where were the countless millions raised by the Democratic Party and Kerry campaign by trusting American citizens who expected them to fight for democracy?
Right up to election day Kerry repeated his solemn vow to, in light of what happened in Florida 2000, guarantee everyone's right to vote. But now that another highly dubious election has occurred, where the hell is he?
Rumors are circulating that he is biding his time, waiting for the right time to jump in. Or that the Democrats themselves have something to hide. Or that there's a magic bullet just waiting to be fired.
Similar rumors spread about Al Gore four years ago. We're still waiting for that fateful shot.
This election was not about apathy. Tens of thousands of smart, eager, fiercely dedicated volunteers came out this year, desperate to rid this nation of the curse of George W. Bush.
An escalating avalanche of evidence indicates a true vote count would have thrown Bush out of the White House.
But once again, the Democrats have dissed the grassroots. Once again, a candidate who promised democracy has disappeared with barely a whimper in the face of those who would destroy it. His silence has allowed an orgy of media bloviation in homage to a bigoted, war-crazed America that, if it won at all, took this election not by national consensus, but by the Rovian staples of dirty tricks and voter suppression.
The upcoming Ohio recount is fraught with danger. The Republicans battled successfully to prevent the state's voting machines from including paper trails that can be reasonably recounted. These "black boxes" will require extreme sophistication to be properly evaluated. Unless intensely supervised down to the last detail, the Republicans who control these machines will turn this recount into a "proof" that the election "went smoothly."
So a true recount will require serious additional financial resources and a very aggressive, well-organized team. So far we hear not a peep from the mainstream Democrats. So far, they seem utterly deaf to the cries of fury and despair from those who were so wrongly deprived of their right to vote.
Democracy itself was lynched in Ohio on November 2, by both high and low tech means. Our freedoms may be the ultimate victim. But where is the Democratic Party?
Harvey Wasserman is co-editor of The Free Press, where this article first appeared. His most recent book is, George W. Bush Vs. the Superpower of Peace (Free Press, 2003). His History of the US is available at www.harveywasserman.com/.
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