Thursday, October 23, 2008

Done Deal 2004

(This was written in 2005 and has been updated to put some of it in the past tense. I’m posting it so I can link to it in other posts on electoral ‘irregularities’ in the US in 2008)

Exit Poll discrepancies and other electoral ‘irregularities’ in the Ukrainian and American Presidential elections were covered very differently by most of the media.

Historically exit polls, unlike pre-election polls, are extremely accurate. Discrepancies between exit polls and announced results of up to 11% were reported in Ukraine’s 2004 elections. Most of the media concluded the Ukrainian election was rigged.The discrepancies in the US between exit polls and results varied by state but were up to 9.5%. Most of the media concluded the US exit polls had ‘got it wrong’.

Professor Steven F. Freeman of Pennsylvania University examined US Presidential election exit polls carried out by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky Polling on behalf of a media pool including the Associated Press. These show exit poll discrepancies in every key swing state in the US Presidential election, all favouring Bush, including 4.5% in Florida, 6.7% in Ohio and 9.5% in New Hampshire. He calculates the odds of these discrepancies being due to chance at 250 million to 1 (1, 2). Democratic party Congressman John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee requested that Mitofsky release the raw exit poll data on which Freeman’s study was based. Mitofsky refused to do so on grounds of commercial confidentiality. (3, 4)

While President Bush and other US republicans have called for an inquiry into the Ukrainian exit poll discrepancy the Chairman of the Republican National Committee has asked the media not to report exit polls in US elections in future (5).

The American exit polls were modified after they were taken. The ‘explanation’ that it was ‘standard practice’ to ‘weight’ the polls by the final results is more an admission that the exit polls were massaged after they were taken. Even its originator – Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal- now largely agrees with Freeman (6).

John Zogby, president of the US polling firm Zogby International, says there is ‘definitely something wrong’ with the discrepancy between the raw exit poll data and the announced results (7).Even conservative American pollster Dick Morris commented that exit polls are never that wrong – interpreting the discrepancy as an anti-Bush conspiracy by the ‘liberal media’(8).

The Chief Executives of the ‘liberal’ media conglomerates are chiefly pre-occupied with securing further de-regulation of media ownership to expand their own business empires – and tax cuts on their own incomes. Sumner Redstone, head of Viacom, of which CBS News is a subsidiary, told Time Magazine “I do believe that a Republican Administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one” (9). He had previously described ‘de-regulation’ as one benefit (10).

Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of NewsCorp International, of which Fox News is a subsidiary was more vocal on the fact that if Bush was re-elected “you'll get continuation of his tax reduction program which will help”. (11)

It would certainly help Murdoch, who was among the 400 richest American citizens who saw their personal fortunes grow by over 10% due to tax cuts in Bush’s first term (12).

Fox News was the first TV network to call Florida in 2000 and both Florida and Ohio in 2004 for Bush – with the rest of the media following before all the votes were counted and before any investigation of various electoral ‘irregularities’ could be carried out. Fox has the slogan ‘fair and balanced’ which is amusing considering that it’s lawyers won a Florida state court case in 2003 by admitting that Fox News had lied while claiming the First Amendment of the US Constitution – Freedom of Speech – gave them the right to (13).

So Fox and CBS don’t report US electoral ‘irregularities’.

In Warren County, Ohio, officials excluded the public and the media from the count on election night claiming a terrorist threat warning from the FBI – who deny any warning was issued (14,15,16). A bomb scare in Florida’s Election Division building the day before the election echoed a similar event which disrupted the Miami Herald’s attempt to recount votes in Palm Beach County in 2000 (17,18).

Concern over voting machines is also labelled ‘conspiracy theory’ by most of the media.

In 2004 Electronic Systems and Software had the contract to provide voting machines to election boards across America, including many Ohio counties (19). In 1996 ES&S’s Chief Executive Chuck Hagel stepped down and was elected as a Republican senator. Hagel still holds large numbers of shares in both ES&S and its parent company McCarthy Group Inc. The new CEO of McCarthy Group (which also employs Hagel’s son) was the treasurer for Hagel’s Senate campaigns. Senator Hagel was re-elected in 2002 – his campaign funds including donations from McCarthy Group – with 85% of the votes counted by ES&S machines (20). ES&S machines in Florida on the day of the Presidential elections began counting new votes as negative votes after the total reached 32,000 on one amendment on gambling laws – and produced over 70,000 ‘lost’ votes at the last minute which went 94% for de-regulation of gambling – just as they recorded a ‘late surge’ for Bush with the final results reversing exit poll results in many states. Republican Florida's election chief, Secretary of State Glenda Hood described this as ‘an isolated error’ (21). In fact ES&S have produced serious errors and ‘glitches’ in vote counting in elections from the US to Venezuela (22, 23, 24, 25).

Walden O’Dell is one of two directors of the Diebold voting machine firm who is a Bush ‘Pioneer’. He raised over $600,000 for the Bush campaign. In 2003 he sent out a letter to potential Bush donors stating that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.” (26) The Secretary of State for Ohio Kenneth Blackwell –– who was also co-chair of the Bush –Cheney campaign in Ohio - approved the sale of Diebold machines to dozens of Ohio counties. Diebold has made several donations to Republican political funds – including $25,000 to the Republican Governors Association in 2003 (27, 28). Diebold were sued by the state of California due to the unreliability of their machines – recently agreeing to pay a $2.6mn out of court settlement (29).

Another line is that any irregularities didn’t affect the outcome. The American Civil Liberties union estimate around 5 million Americans were illegally or wrongly removed from electoral registers as ‘ex-felons’ in 2000 and 2004 – disproportionately black and many having no criminal record , many by Republican Secretaries of State , as in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 (30,31,32,33,34) . Then 2 million votes were discarded as spoiled ballots - 1 million of them black votes. Black voters, who overwhelmingly vote Democrat, are 5 to 10 times more likely to have their ballot ‘spoiled’ (35,36). Those two practices alone denied or destroyed 7 million votes – double Bush’s 3.5 million vote ‘mandate’.

Bush’s announced majority in Ohio, which decided the election, was only 136,000 – and that was before over 100,000 provisional votes were counted (37).

Fewer voting machines were provided in districts with high numbers of low income, black or student (i.e Democrat) voters. In at least one Ohio precinct there were no working machines. Voters were told they’d be phoned to come back later. They weren’t. In some precincts they were offered provisional ballots – but under Ohio electoral law provisional ballots can’t be counted until 10 days after the election – long after the election had been ‘called’ for Bush (38,39,40,41).

The Ohio based Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections has shown that 4% of the vote was lost in the Democratic stronghold of Cleveland due to spoiled ballots, people being removed from the electoral register, or problems on polling day - double the 2% for the rest of the county. The lower the average income of a voting district the higher the percentage of discarded votes – reaching 13% in the poorest (42).

International observers report that they were prevented from monitoring polling in Ohio or Florida – and overall had less access to the polls than in Kazakhstan (43,44). The General Accounting Office of the Federal government is preparing an investigation into irregularities in the 2004 Presidential election at the request of 13 Democratic members of congress (45). A recount took place in New Hampshire funded by independent candidate Ralph Nader (46). Legal action was taken against the state of Ohio by the CASE voters’ rights group (47,48). Demands for a recount in the state made by the US Libertarian and Green parties were backed by Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich and the Kerry Campaign (49,50). Kerry campaign lawyers are preparing a list of 30 questions for election officials there (51). When a joint session of both houses of Congress was asked to ratify the results of the 2004 election state by state Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer and 33 Democratic members of Congress voted against ratifying the results for Ohio (52 ,53)

Why did we hear so little about all this and so much about Ukraine?

Perhaps its because the rigged results of the Ukrainian elections favoured Russian businesses at the expense of US and EU based ones – the US Presidential election results were those desired by the owners and chief executives of these companies – not least media conglomerates. The media is meant to provide viewers with the facts and let them decide – instead they present viewers and readers with a conclusion that’s good for business accompanied by as few facts as possible. So much for objectivity.

Many state and local newspapers, academics, magazines and voters’ rights groups have been honourable exceptions. There is still a chance for more of the media to redeem themselves and give the same support to demands for inquiries and recounts in the US which they have provided to the opposition in Ukraine.

Copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2005

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(1) = Professor Steven F. Freeman – CV - -

(2) = Professor Steven F. Freeman 10 Nov 2004 , ‘The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy’, and

(3) = House Committee on the Judiciary – Democratic Members – Correspondence - Text of Letter from Rep. Conyers to Warren Mitofsky of Mitofsky International Requesting the Release of Exit Poll "raw data" (12/3/04) , , and ,

(4) = House Committee on the Judiciary – Democratic Members – Correspondence - Mr. Mitofsky Response (12/7/04) , , and ,

(5) = Television Week 5 November 2004 , ‘GOP Wants News Organizations to Abandon Exit Polls’ ,

(6) = Mark Blumenthal – Mystery Pollster Blog – Exit Polls -

(7) = Inter Press Service (Stockholm) 18 Nov 2004 , ‘Democracy in Question’ ,

(8) = The Hill (Washington D.C) , ‘Those faulty exit polls were sabotage’,

(9) = Time Magazine 10 Oct 2004 , ‘10 Questions for Sumner Redstone’ ,

(10) = Asian Wall Street Journal 24 September 04 cited in Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) Action alert 28 September 2004 ,

(11) = The Age (Melbourne) 26 October 2004, ‘News Corp denies Fox News bias’,

(12) = The Independent 20 September 2003 , ‘America's rich get richer thanks to tax-cutting Bush’,

(13) = Organic Consumer Association News March 2003, ‘Florida Court: Broadcasters Have Right to Lie’,

(14) = The Cincinnati Enquirer 5 November 2004, ‘Warren's vote tally walled off’,

(15) =The Cincinnati Enquirer 10 November 2004, ‘Warren Co. cites terror for lockdown’ ,

(16) = The Cincinnati Enquirer 10 November 2004, ‘Warren Co. defends lockdown decision – FBI denies warning officials of any special threat’,

(17) = The Associated Press 1 Nov 2004, ‘Elections Headquarters Evacuated; Package Found to Be Harmless’,

(18) = Washington Post 6 May, 2001; Page A03 , ‘Florida Ballot Examination -
Media Groups' Attempts to Answer 'What Ifs' Take Longer Than Expected’,

(19) = EETimes September 10, 2003 , ‘Election Systems & Software Selected to Provide Voting’,

(20) = The Hill(Washington DC) 14 November 2004, ‘Hagel’s ethics filings pose disclosure issue’,

(21) = Miami Herald 05 Nov 2004, ‘AMENDMENT 4 Gambling vote glitch mars tally’,

(22) = AP/Honolulu Star Bulletin 7 Jun 2000, ‘Firm admits errors in counting votes for Hawaii,Venezuela’,

(23) = AP 22 Aug 2002 ballot problems alleged, ‘Clay, Barton county candidates seek review of races’,

(24) = Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections (Ohio) , ‘ES&S in the News – A Partial List of Events’ – includes full sources -

(25) = In These Times magazine (Chicago) 24 Aug 2004, ‘Sum of a Glitch -
Evidence shows that machines might be the real swing voters this November’,

(26) = The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio) 28 August 2003, ‘Voting Machine Controversy’,

(27) = The Mill 18 January 2004, ‘Ohio Counties to Adopt Diebold Voting Machines’,

(28) = Center for Public Integrity database search on Diebold ,

(29) = Associated Press 11.10.2004, 04:53 PM, ‘Diebold to Settle Calif. Suit for $2.6M’,

(30) = American Civil Liberties Union report 19 October 2004 , ‘Purged! – How a Patchwork of Flawed and Inconsistent voting systems could deprive millions of Americans of the right to vote’ ,

(31) = Free Press (Columbus, Ohio) 20 Sep 2004, ‘Presidential Election at Risk: Ohio's electoral system riddled with flaws’,

(32) = Des Moines Register (Iowa) 2 November 2004,‘Voters mistakenly identified as felons’,

(33) = The Observer 10 December 2000, ‘A blacklist burning for Bush’,,3858,4103063-102271,00.html

(34) = ABC News 21 April 2003, ‘"Like It Is" – Gil Noble interviews Greg Palast (transcript)’, ,

(35) = San Francisco Chronicle 20 Jun 2004, ‘1 million black votes didn't count in the 2000 presidential election’ ,

(36) = Tom 01 November 2004 , ‘An Election Spoiled Rotten’,
by Greg Palast ,

(37) = CNN Election results

(38) =Free Press (Columbus, Ohio) November 7, 2004, ‘None dare call it voter suppression and fraud’,

(39) = Free Press (Columbus, Ohio) November 20, 2004 ,
‘More Ohio voter suppression testimony prompts upcoming legal filing for statewide recount’,

(40) = Cleveland Plain Dealer November 14, 2004, ‘Ohio voters tell of Election Day troubles at hearing’ , and The Independent 14 January 2001, ‘Blacks sue Florida over racist voting law’

(41) = Verified Voting Foundation – Database of Election Incidents – Verified Voting

(42) = Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections - Ohio,‘Alarming Facts about Punch-card voting’,

(43) = BBC News Online 05 November 2004 , ‘US vote 'mostly free and fair'’,

(44) = International Herald Tribune 4 November 2004, ‘Foreign eyes on’,

(45) = Press Release 23rd November 2004 ,Representative Jerold Nadler, 8th Congressional District of New York , ‘Government Accountability Office to Conduct Investigation of 2004 Election Irregularities’,

(46) = Nader For President 2004 , Press Release 16 November 2004, ‘Nader-Camejo Hand Recount in New Hampshire Begins Thursday’,

(47) = Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio) 20 November 2004 ,‘Lawyers to challenge election in Ohio’,

(48) = The Free Press (Columbus, Ohio) 20 November 2004, ‘Ohio Presidential Results to be Challenged’ ,

(49) = Green Party of the United States Press Release 17 November 2004,
‘Kucinich Supports Green Party Demand for Ohio Recount’,

(50) = CNN 8 Dec 2004 , ‘Recount requested in Ohio’

(51) = Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio) 11 November 2004 , ‘Kerry campaign scrutinizes Ohio’ ,

(52) = Reuters 6 Jan 2005 , ‘Congress Certifies Bush’s Win after Challenge’ ,

(53) = The Ohio Free Press 8 Jan 2005 , ‘What the election challenge means’ ,

Copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2005

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