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18 November 2004
This article is part of the series E-voting.
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Does Bush belong in the White House?
Elections US 2004: One big mess
By Daan de Wit
The Dutch in the original article has been translated into English by Donovan de Vries.

The American presidential elections are over, though not entirely. The Green Party wanted a recount in the crucial swing state of Ohio and got it. That is to say it cost them over $110,000, but the recount is going to take place. Presidential candidate Ralph Nader forced a recount for the state of New Hampshire and activist Bev Harris started fraud investigations in the swing states of Florida and New Mexico. The reasons for this are the polls that predicted Kerry would win, and the scores of irregularities during the elections in the U.S. Until now, over 34,000 complaints have been reported by the Election Incident Reporting System. Several groups of concerned citizens held a public hearing in Ohio on Monday to gather evidence of problems during voting and in higher regions several members of Congress even demanded a national investigation [PDF].

The failure of the exit polls to accurately predict the results has received a lot of attention by the press. A Newsweek article drags the National Election Pool through the mud, which is the organisation that conducted the polls. The writer of the article quotes political science Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia about his opinion that the televison networks should demand a refund from the NEP. According to the polls of the NEP John Kerry was ahead everywhere, including Ohio, Florida and New Mexico - the three crucial 'swing states'. By Tuesday afternoon, November the 2nd, it was clear for anyone that followed the polls closely: Kerry would become the new president of the United States. Bush's operatives informed him that he was three percent behind. Stock exchange watchers noticed how Wall Street was already reacting to the coming change of power. Steve Coll, managing editor of The Washington Post writes the day after the elections that the polls were clearly pointing to Kerry as the winner and that he (Coll) had to scramble when the official outcome was different.

Poll expert suspects foul play
Fox-tv commentator and poll expert Dick Morris carefully explains in an article how reliable polls are these days. Then he expresses his disbelief concerning the failure of predicting the correct election results of no less than six states. He writes: 'It invites speculation that more than honest error was at play here.' In his conclusion he writes: 'This was no mere mistake. Exit polls cannot be as wrong across the board as they were on election night. I suspect foul play'. The pollsters are under fire, but the question is whether this is appropriate. Possibly there is nothing wrong with the polls, but with the official outcome.

Professors observe irregularities independent of each other
Associate Professor of English Michael Keefer notices a 'mathematical impossibility' as he compares the results of the national exit polls and the number of respondents. This number had hardly increased, but at the last moment an extra 5% voted for Bush. Former Associate Professor of Mathematics David Anick of MIT has calculated 'the odds of Bush making an average gain of 4.15 percent among all 16 states included in the media’s 4 p.m. exit polling' at 1 in 50,000, or .002 percent. Steven Freeman, a specialist in research methods who received his Ph.D. at MIT, made an analysis [PDF] of the discrepancies between the exit polls and the official polls. In his summary he writes that it is not his goal to demonstrate election fraud. He does write that the observed discrepancies in the three 'swing states' cannot be explained by coincidence or mistakes. It's not yet clear to him how this can happen.
A fourth professor reports in the most recent news of Bloggerman Keith Olbermann: 'A UC Berkeley sociology professor, director of his school’s Survey Research Center, is scheduled to conduct a news conference at 1 p.m. ET today at which his “research team” will report that “irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000-260,000 or more excess votes” to President Bush in Florida.'

Ohio's shaky voting system
In the news reports on irregularities during the elections, the state of Ohio keeps coming up. An absolutely unique happening took place in Warren County, Ohio where anti-terrorism laws were invoked. On grounds of the controversial Homeland Security law, an administration building was locked down to keep out criminals and reporters. Voters did have access, but the tallies were completely inaccessible. The local press interpreted the act of invoking this legislation as an excuse to count the votes secretly. Bush won by way of a substantial majority in Warren County. See [mov] Keith Olbermann's show on MSNBC reporting on this. In his weblog Olbermann writes : '[...] remarkable results out of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In 29 precincts there, the County's website shows, we had the most unexpected results in years: more votes than voters. I'll repeat that: more votes than voters. 93,000 more votes than voters. Oops. Talk about successful get-out-the-vote campaigns! What a triumph for democracy in Fairview Park, twelve miles west of downtown Cleveland. Only 13,342 registered voters there, but they cast 18,472 votes. Vote early! Vote often!'. Also in Olbermanns show a conversation with Congressman Conyers who together with a number of other members of Congress is demanding an investigation into the irregularities during the elections.
In past history, without exception the state of Ohio turned out to be of crucial importance to the Republicans. Without Ohio, no presidency. That was also true for the latest elections on the second of November, when Bush won Ohio. He won the majority of the vote with a difference of more than 136,000, and because of this Kerry didn't think it was necessary to count the last 155,000 votes immediately. According to the Associated Press, Bush's majority vote is debatable, the difference in fact being only 3,893. In the area in and around the city of Gahanna, 638 people cast their vote, of which 365 votes went to Bush. However, voting machines counted 4258 Bush voters. Oops. An error in the dated voting machines of manufacturer Danaher Controls Inc. It's not a significant disparity, but it is not the only error that occurred in Ohio.

BBC Newsnight reporter: Kerry won
Greg Palast, an American reporter for BBC Newsnight, found so many errors he wrote an article entitled 'Kerry won. Here are the facts'. Palast sank his teeth into the voting irregularities of his country and has written and aired several unveiling reports about this subject. In the process, he found out that about three percent of all votes are not counted. The crucial question is - how is that three percent spread over the participating political parties. The answer that emerges from all of the official reports is that most of these votes are coming from precincts that have a relatively high percentage of minorities. They consist of folks that are known to be Democrat voters. In Florida in the year 2000, a black voter was nine times more likely than a white voter to get his vote lost. And this year in the state of New Mexico, a voter of Hispanic origin was five times more likely to get his vote lost than a white voter. Palast argues that if these votes were to be counted, swing states like New Mexico and Ohio would have gone to Kerry, meaning that he would be in the White House right now.

Republican dirty tricks
Democratic voters were under attack in several ways, according to Palast. The Democratic Party lost the battle for upholding the law to a team of Republican attorneys under contract with the chief elections official and Secretary of State of Ohio, Republican Ken Blackwell. As a result, any so-called provisional ballots that get cast in the incorrect district are not counted. Republicans also have tough luck sometimes. Judges in Ohio prevented the right to vote for individuals from being endangered by rejecting claims of so-called challengers. A challenge results in the person in question being sent off with a 'provisional ballot', which is described by Palast as a placebo ballot of which it is doubtful that it will ultimately be counted, because the identity of the voter has to be verified. The Republican plan, based on archaic laws, was turned down in Ohio, but was applied in other places.

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