Every Vote Counted?
Although Sen. John Kerry delivered his concession speech on November 3, some citizens thought he acted too quickly. Discussion of anomalies and irregularities permeated the blogosphere in the days following the election. Although Bush's victory was not seriously challenged, a number of groups began investigations. Some of the charges merited serious consideration while others proved baseless upon close examination.
The Social Science Research Council, an independent, non-profit organization based in New York, got an early start, announcing on Oct. 27, 2004 a National Research Commission on Elections and Voting comprising 18 scholars. In a November 4 article published on TomPaine.com, Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, pointed to spoiled punch card ballots and provisional ballots in Ohio and spoiled ballots and provisional ballots in New Mexico to argue that "Kerry Won." Black Box Voting, Inc. charged that "fraud took place in the 2004 election through electronic voting machines," and vowed "the most massive Freedom of Information action in history" to compile hard evidence of the alleged fraud. On November 5 Reps. John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler and Robert Wexler sent a letter to Government Accountability Office requesting an investigation of voting machines and technologies used in the 2004 election. Also on November 5 Ralph Nader, citing "reports of irregularities in the vote reported on the AccuVote Diebold Machines in comparison to exit polls and trends in voting in New Hampshire," requested the New Hampshire Secretary of State conduct a hand recount.
The mainstream press adopted a more skeptical note. In a November 10 article in the Boston Globe, Rick Klein stated that, "Much of the traffic is little more than Internet-fueled conspiracy theories...," and in a November 11 article Washington Post writers Manuel Roig-Franzia and Dan Keating asserted that "none of the most popular theories holds up to close scrutiny." For example, a fairly astounding working paper from the UC Berkeley Survey Research Center found that, "Irregularities associated with electronic voting machines may have awarded 130,000 excess votes or more to President George W. Bush in Florida." Professors B. D. McCullough at Drexel University and Florenz Plassmann at SUNY Binghamton considered the paper and concluded that "the study is entirely without merit and its 'results' are meaningless."
Ohio became a focal point. David Cobb and Michael Badnarik, the Green Party and Libertarian Party presidential candidates, started the ball rolling by moving to do a recount in Ohio; the Kerry-Edwards campaign joined in several weeks later. On December 2 Congressman John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, addressed a 14-page letter to Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell requesting that he respond to 34 questions (a follow-up letter on December 3 contained two more questions). Conyers also hosted a couple of forums. The first "Preserving Democracy - What Went Wrong in Ohio" was held on Capitol Hill on December 8 and a second followed December 13 in Columbus, Ohio. The Democratic National Committee joined the fray, announcing on December 6 that it would conduct "a comprehensive investigative study of key election practices and issues surrounding the 2004 general election in Ohio." The Ohio recount started on December 13, the very day that electors meet in Columbus.
While some of the concerns discussed above have
partisan overtones, clearly much work remains to be done to ensure the
United States' claim to be the world's greatest democracy.
Social Science Research Council's "National Research Commission on Elections and Voting" (launched Oct. 27, 2004, final report March 2005)
Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project: Election 2004 Information
Letter from Reps. Conyers, Nadler and Wexler to GAO Comptroller Walker Requesting Investigation of Voting Machines and Technologies Used in 2004 Election. Nov. 5, 2004.
People for the American Way, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "SHATTERING THE MYTH: An Initial Snapshot of Voter Disenfranchisement in the 2004 Elections." Dec. 2004.
Cause. "Report from the Voters: A First Look at 2004 Election Data
and Common Cause Agenda for Reform." Dec. 8, 2004. [On Dec. 7,
2004 Common Cause, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and The Century
Foundation held an all day forum “Voting in 2004: Report to the Nation
on America’s Election Process"on Capitol Hill].
Judiciary Committee Democrats' status report "Preserving Democracy - What Went Wrong in Ohio." Jan. 5, 2005. [PDF]
"We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these
irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards."
Judiciary Committee Democrats' “2004 Election Forum” in Columbus, OH. Dec. 13, 2004.
Judiciary Committee Democrats' forum "Preserving Democracy - What Went Wrong in Ohio" in Washington, DC. Dec. 8, 2004.
Letter from Rep. Conyers to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell Requesting Responses to 34 Questions. Dec. 2, 2004. [PDF]
Letter from Rep. Conyers to federal and local authorities charging inappropriate and likely illegal election tampering in Hocking County. Dec. 15, 2004.
National Committee report "DEMOCRACY AT RISK: The 2004 Election in Ohio."
June 22, 2005. [PDF]
"Our review demonstrates that numerous irregularities characterized the Ohio election: we find evidence of voter confusion, voter suppression, and negligence and incompetence of election officials... Our investigation and analysis reveal that more than one quarter of all voters in Ohio reported some kind of problem on Election Day, including long lines, problems with registration status and polling locations, absentee ballots and provisional ballots and unlawful identification requirements at the polls."
DNC Chairman Gov. Howard Dean's prepared remarks | photos
DNC Press Release Announcing Members of the Task Force. (March 3, 2005).
Democratic National Committee Press Release Announcing Investigation. (Dec. 6, 2004).
'04 recount page
Ida Briggs. "New Hampshire Data." Nov. 5, 2004.
Steven F. Freeman, PhD. "The
Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy." Nov. 10, 2004.
A useful rejoinder to the Freeman paper can be found in the Mystery Pollster website ("Demystifying the Science and Art of Political Polling - By Mark Blumenthal") entry of Nov. 17, 2004.
Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. "On the Discrepancy between Party Registration and Presidential Vote in Florida." Nov. 10, 2004.
Michael Hout, Laura Mangels, Jennifer Carlson, and Rachel Best. "Working Paper: The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections." UC Berkeley Survey Research Center. Nov. 2004.
B. D. McCullough [Drexel University] and Florenz Plassmann [SUNY Binghamton]. "A Partial Critique of Hout, Mangels, Carlson and Best’s 'The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections'” Dec. 2, 2004.
Jasjeet S. Sekhon [Harvard University]. "Working Paper: The 2004 Florida Optical Voting Machine Controversy: A Causal Analysis Using Matching." Nov. 14, 2004.
Jonathan Wand [Stanford University].
Paper: Evaluating the Impact of Voting Technology on the Tabulation of
Voter Preferences: The 2004 Presidential Election in Florida."
Nov. 15, 2004 (initial version Nov. 11, 2004).
Greg Palast. "Kerry Won." TomPaine.com. Nov. 4, 2004.
Rick Klein. "Internet buzz on vote fraud is dismissed." Boston Globe. Nov. 10, 2004.
Manuel Roig-Franzia and Dan Keating.
"Latest Conspiracy Theory -- Kerry Won -- Hits the Ether." Washington
Post. Nov. 11, 2004.
Election Incident Reporting System [Verified Voting Foundation and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility]
Copyright © 2004, 2005
Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.