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GOP Brownshirts Move to Crush Ohio Vote

Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots. They say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections. Ohio Democrats were struggling to match the Republicans' move, which had been rumored for weeks. Both parties had until 4 p.m. to register people they had recruited to monitor the election. Republicans said they had enlisted 3,600 by the deadline, many in heavily Democratic urban neighborhoods of Cleveland, Dayton and other cities. Each recruit was to be paid $100. The Democrats, who tend to benefit more than Republicans from large turnouts, said they had registered more than 2,000 recruits to try to protect legitimate voters rather than weed out ineligible ones. Republican officials said they had no intention of disrupting voting but James P. Trakas, a Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County, said the recruits would be equipped with lists of voters who the party suspects are not county residents or otherwise qualified to vote. Among other things, he said, the recruits will be trained how to challenge mentally disabled voters who are assisted by anyone other than their legal guardians. For the Democrats in Dayton, Ronald Magoteaux, 57, a mechanical engineer, said he agreed to be a poll watcher out of concern for new voters. "I think it's sick that these Republicans are up to dirty tricks at the polls," Mr. Magoteaux said. "I believe thousands of votes were lost in 2000, and I want to make sure that doesn't happen in Ohio." Among the main swing states, only Ohio, Florida and Missouri require the parties to register poll watchers before Election Day; elsewhere, party observers can register on the day itself.
Walden W. O'Dell, Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of Diebold, Inc.
Walden W. O'Dell, Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of Diebold, Inc.
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Big G.O.P. Bid to Challenge Voters at Polls in Key State

By Michael Moss
The New York Times

Saturday 23 October 2004

Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.

Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections.

Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, say they are bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places, reflecting months of disputes over voting procedures and the anticipation of an election as close as the one in 2000.

Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote.

Ohio Democrats were struggling to match the Republicans' move, which had been rumored for weeks. Both parties had until 4 p.m. to register people they had recruited to monitor the election. Republicans said they had enlisted 3,600 by the deadline, many in heavily Democratic urban neighborhoods of Cleveland, Dayton and other cities. Each recruit was to be paid $100.

The Democrats, who tend to benefit more than Republicans from large turnouts, said they had registered more than 2,000 recruits to try to protect legitimate voters rather than weed out ineligible ones.

Republican officials said they had no intention of disrupting voting but were concerned about the possibility of fraud involving thousands of newly registered Democrats.

"The organized left's efforts to, quote unquote, register voters - I call them ringers - have created these problems," said James P. Trakas, a Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County.

Both parties have waged huge campaigns in the battleground states to register millions of new voters, and the developments in Ohio provided an early glimpse of how those efforts may play out on Election Day.

Ohio election officials said that by state law, the parties' challengers would have to show "reasonable" justification for doubting the qualifications of a voter before asking a poll worker to question that person. And, the officials said, challenges could be made on four main grounds: whether the voter is a citizen, is at least 18, is a resident of the county and has lived in Ohio for the previous 30 days.

Elections officials in Ohio said they hoped the criteria would minimize the potential for disruption. But Democrats worry that the challenges will inevitably delay the process and frustrate the voters.

"Our concern is Republicans will be challenging in large numbers for the purpose of slowing down voting, because challenging takes a long time,'' said David Sullivan, the voter protection coordinator for the national Democratic Party in Ohio. "And creating long lines causes our people to leave without voting.''

The Republican challenges in Ohio have already begun. Yesterday, party officials submitted a list of about 35,000 registered voters whose mailing addresses, the Republicans said, were questionable. After registering, they said, each of the voters was mailed a notice, and in each case the notice was returned to election officials as undeliverable.

In Cuyahoga County alone, which includes the heavily Democratic neighborhoods of Cleveland, the Republican Party submitted more than 14,000 names of voters for county election officials to scrutinize for possible irregularities. The party said it had registered more than 1,400 people to challenge voters in that county.

Among the main swing states, only Ohio, Florida and Missouri require the parties to register poll watchers before Election Day; elsewhere, party observers can register on the day itself. In several states officials have alerted poll workers to expect a heightened interest by the parties in challenging voters. In some cases, poll workers, many of them elderly, have been given training to deal with any abusive challenging.

Mr. Trakas, the Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County, said the recruits would be equipped with lists of voters who the party suspects are not county residents or otherwise qualified to vote.

The recruits will be trained next week, said Mr. Trakas, who added that he had not decided whether to open the training sessions to the public or reporters. Among other things, he said, the recruits will be taught how to challenge mentally disabled voters who are assisted by anyone other than their legal guardians. In previous elections, he said, bus drivers who had taken group-home residents to polling places often helped them vote.

Reno Oradini, the Cuyahoga County election board attorney, said a challenge would in effect create impromptu courts at polling places as workers huddled to resolve a dispute and cause delays in voting. He said he was working with local election officials to find ways of preventing disruptions that could drive away impatient voters and reduce turnout.

State law varies widely on voter challenges. In Colorado, challenged voters can sign an oath that they are indeed qualified to vote; voters found to have lied could be prosecuted, but their votes would still be counted. In Wisconsin, it is the challenger who must sign an oath stating the grounds for a challenge.

"You need personal knowledge," said Kevin J. Kennedy, executive director of the Wisconsin State Elections Board. "You can't say they don't look American or don't speak English."

National election officials said yesterday that Election Day challenging had been done only sporadically by the parties over the years, mainly in highly contested races. In the bitterly contested 2000 presidential election, they said, challenges occurred mainly after Election Day.

The preparations for widespread challenging this year have alarmed some election officials.

"This creates chaos and confusion in the polling site," said R. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, an international association of election officials. But, he said, "most courts say it's permissible by state law and therefore can't be denied."

In Ohio, Republicans sought to play down any concern that their challenging would be disruptive.

"I suspect there will be challenges," said Robert T. Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. "But by and large, people will move through quickly. We want to make sure every eligible voter votes." He added, "99.9 percent will fly right by."

Challengers on both sides said they were uncertain about what to expect. Georgiana Nye, 56, a Dayton real estate broker who was registered by the Republicans as a challenger, said she wanted to help prevent fraud and would accept the $100 for the 13 hours of work and training.

For the Democrats in Dayton, Ronald Magoteaux, 57, a mechanical engineer, said he agreed to be a poll watcher out of concern for new voters. "I think it's sick that these Republicans are up to dirty tricks at the polls," Mr. Magoteaux said. "I believe thousands of votes were lost in 2000, and I want to make sure that doesn't happen in Ohio."

Democrats said they were racing to match the Republicans, precinct by precinct. In some cities, like Dayton, they registered more challengers than the Republicans, election officials said. But in Cuyahoga County, where the Republicans said they had registered 1,436 people to challenge voters, or one in every precinct, Democrats said they had signed up only about 300.

The parties are also preparing to battle over voter qualifications in Florida, where they had until last Tuesday to register challengers. In Fort Myers, Republicans named 100 watchers for the county's 171 precincts, up from 60 in 2000. But Democrats registered 300 watchers in the county, a sixfold increase.

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Nader Loses Ohio Ballot Bid

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 22 (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday rejected an effort by Ralph Nader to get his name on the ballot, most likely ending his chances in the state for the Nov. 2 election.

Mr. Nader wanted the court to force election boards to review their voter registration lists, a process he said could have led to the validation of petitions to place him on the ballot. The court ruled 6-1 against him.

James Dao contributed reporting from Ohio for this article, and Ford Fessenden and Anthony Smith from New York.

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SEE ALSO:

Diebold Voting Machine Controversy in Ohio

 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/08/270902.shtml

Walden O'Dell--chief executive of Diebold Inc. and active in the re-election effort of President Bush--sent an Aug. 14 letter to central Ohio Republicans asking them to raise $10,000 in donations in time for a Sept. 26 Ohio Republican Party event at his home, saying that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

O'Dell attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors - known as Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch earlier this month. The next week, he penned invitations to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser to benefit the Ohio Republican Party's federal campaign fund - partially benefiting Bush - at his mansion in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington.

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Stop Bush From Stealing the 2004 Election
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/09/271049.shtml

Democracy Now! on Electronic Voting Machines
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/09/271194.shtml

The Voting-Machine Industrial Complex
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/09/271736.shtml

homepage: homepage: http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/102404Z.shtml
address: address: The New York Times and The Associated Press via t r u t h o u t

Ohio GOP challenges 35,000 on voter rolls 23.Oct.2004 12:50

Cuyahoga board struggles to solve workload problem

Saturday, October 23, 2004
Scott Hiaasen
Plain Dealer Reporter

A bare-knuckled political season got even rougher Friday when the Ohio Republican Party formally challenged the validity of 35,000 voter registrations across the state.

Republicans said their goal was to expel fraudulent voters and protect the integrity of the Nov. 2 election. But Democrats accused their rivals of mounting a systematic campaign to block people especially potential Democratic voters from casting ballots.

About 14,000 of the challenged registrations are in Cuyahoga County. Local elections boards have until Oct. 31 to review every registration, hold hearings where the parties can present evidence and notify every voter who could be tossed from the rolls.

That could be a nightmare in Cuyahoga, where elections officials met into the night Friday to figure out how to handle all the work.

Voter-registration groups, many with Democratic ties, have helped to enlist more than 600,000 new voters in Ohio. Elections officials have found some bogus registration forms with forged signatures and fake names.

"We've just read and heard too much about potential fraud and disruption," said Jim Trakas, chairman of Cuyahoga County's Republican Party.

"We just want to make sure votes are not diluted," Trakas said.

Jimmy Dimora, head of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, countered: "Their whole goal is to try to lessen the voter rank and file."

The 35,000 registrations, spread among 65 counties, are for voters who are not receiving mail at the addresses on their voting records.

Local boards mailed the voters confirmation cards after they registered, but the cards came back as undeliverable. The boards cannot remove these voters from the rolls without proof that they no longer live in their respective counties, according to elections officials.

Though Trakas calls these voters "highly suspicious," Democrats and some elections officials say the voters may be legitimate.

"It could be a clerical error. It could be numerous reasons," said Tom McCabe, the deputy elections director in Mahoning County, where Republicans challenged about 100 voters.

Dimora said the Democrats will be prepared to fight to keep the voters on the books.

"If they [Republicans] try to knock out registrations we think are valid, we will challenge," he said.

The Republicans have also challenged about 3,000 voters in Montgomery County, 969 in Summit, 900 in Lucas and 150 in Lorain.

Also Friday, both parties filed lists of challengers across the state who will patrol the polls on Election Day. These party representatives may challenge individual voters, though officials from both parties have said their primary goal is to keep tabs on one another.

The representatives can challenge a voter if they suspect the voter is not a resident of that precinct, is not a citizen or is not at least 18 years old. The voter would be questioned by poll workers and asked to fill out a form swearing he or she is eligible.

In Cuyahoga and other counties, the parties may have representatives in every precinct. In other counties, the parties filed papers to appear in only selected areas.

In addition, local Democrats, including county Treasurer Jim Rokakis and U.S. Senate candidate Eric Fingerhut, filed their own list of Cuyahoga County challengers at the request of John Kerry's presidential campaign. That allows the party to have even more challengers on hand for Election Day.

In Montgomery County, the local party leaders had agreed earlier this week to trust one another and avoid putting challengers in polling places. But that unraveled on Friday when the county Republican chairman, John White, was overruled by Robert Bennett, the state GOP chairman.

The Republicans filed a challenger list in 191 precincts - many of them in largely black neighborhoods around Dayton. But Bennett angrily denied that his party was targeting a specific voting bloc.

"I'm not going to play this game of suppression and intimidation," Bennett said. "Voter fraud is voter fraud, no matter where it occurs."

In every county, the big issue for the challengers may be to keep an eye on how provisional ballots are used.

These ballots are intended to be a fail-safe for voters who believe they are registered but don't appear on the poll books. They are often given to voters who show up at the wrong polling place. Elections officials expect more provisional ballots this year because of the intense voter-registration drives.

How these ballots will be issued and counted remains undecided. A legal fight between Ohio Democrats and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Republican, is now before a federal appeals court.

Plain Dealer reporters Sandy Theis, Terry Oblander, Catherine Gabe, Dave Davis and Angela Chatman contributed to this story.


Ohio Newspapers: 'Coerced' To Endorse Bush? 24.Oct.2004 11:11

[from Editor & Publisher

SEE SECTION ON Cleveland Plain Dealer AT BOTTOM]

Published: October 23, 2004 updated continually

New York Senator John Kerry continued his raid on newspapers that backed President George W. Bush in 2000, grabbing 17 new "flip-flops," as well as The Washington Post. He has now won over at least 28 papers that went for Bush in 2000, while Bush has only earned two Gore papers.

However, Bush got a real prize in Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch.

Kerry now leads Bush 113-71 in endorsements in E&P's exclusive tally, and by about 14.4 million to 8.6 million in the circulation of backing papers.

And more setbacks for Bush: The Detroit News, which has never endorsed a Democrat, and backed Bush in 2000, announced that it would sit out the 2004 election, not happy with either candidate. The New Orleans Times-Picayune, another Bush fan from 2000, said the same thing today in an editorial titled "No One to Champion." A third Bush backer in 2000, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, also declared neutrality today.

In gaining the Orlando Sentinel (one of the switches from Bush), Kerry completed a sweep of major papers in top swing state, Florida.

. . .

Bush was endorsed by the Bowling Green (OH) Daily News.

Meanwhile, E&P has learned from several sources at the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the paper's nine-person editorial board decided earlier this week that it wanted to endorse Kerry but Publisher Alex Machaskee, who has final say, has decided on Bush. The paper backed Bush in 2000.

This has caused consternation in some quarters at the Plain Dealer, with sources telling E&P that the endorsement editorial, which was expected to run Sunday, was put off. One editor told E&P that some at the paper at pushing for, at least, a dissenting pro-Kerry column.


more Ohio stats - latest polls 24.Oct.2004 11:19

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg)

In Ohio, which Bush won in the last election, Kerry was backed by 50 percent of likely voters and Bush was supported by 46 percent in a poll conducted by Ohio University's Scripps Survey Research Center for the Cincinnati Post. The result is within the poll's 5.3 percentage point margin of error.

The survey of 358 adults identified as likely to vote was conducted Oct. 17-21.

No Republican has won the presidency without also winning Ohio.


Ohio Voters Report Fake Calls: "change polling place" 24.Oct.2004 11:45

columbus dispatch

 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/10/300564.shtml

Voters report fake calls

Instructions to change polling place don't come from board of elections

Friday, October 22, 2004
Suzanne Hoholik
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

The caller interrupting a North Side couple's dinner earlier this week said he was from the Franklin County Board of Elections.

He told the elderly woman that her voting site had changed and that on Nov. 2 she and her husband should cast their ballots at a South Side precinct. The caller even left the phone number of the board.

Her husband, who didn't want their names published out of fear of retribution, called the board, sat through a long menu of automated options and finally spoke with an employee.

"They said there was no way in the world they would make such a call," he said. "I think it's hankypanky and somebody in the election is trying to kill some votes."

At no time, Elections Director Matthew Damschroder said, does the board call voters.

"The only communication from the board of elections is printed on official board of elections paper with the logo," he said.

"If they're saying they're the board of elections, that's a violation of the law. My recommendation to them would be to cease and desist."

His office has received about a dozen calls since last week from voters checking on similar calls.

Damschroder said there are two scams: The caller tells voters their precincts have changed or the caller offers to pick up an absentee-ballot application, deliver the ballot to the voter and return the completed ballot to the elections office.


South Dakota GOP Operatives Who Resigned Move to Ohio 24.Oct.2004 12:51

10/15/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 10/17/04

GOP operatives who resigned over vote fraud scandal in South Dakota recruited by GOP to run operations in Ohio

Via Buzzflash, here is a report from the Argus Leader:

South Dakota campaign official who resigned after questions arose over absentee-ballot applications will work in Ohio for the Bush-Cheney campaign, an internal Republican Party memo indicates.

Larry Russell, who was chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party's get-out-the-vote operation, resigned this week after questions were raised about the validity of some of the 1,400 absentee-ballot applications gathered, largely on college campuses, by the program Russell led.

Students on campuses in Brookings, Vermillion, Yankton and Spearfish have questioned the absentee-ballot application process, saying young men obtained their applications, but the notarization of the documents carried the signature of a woman.

The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation has been interviewing several people about the matter.

No charges have been filed as a result of the probe, which Attorney General Larry Long on Thursday would only say "is continuing."

When South Dakota Republican Party Chairman Randy Frederick announced the resignations of Russell and five others Monday evening, he said the state party has a "zero-tolerance policy."

But an internal Republican Party memo obtained by the Argus Leader said Russell would be going to Cleveland "to lead the ground operations" for President Bush and Vice President Cheney there.

Ohio is a swing state considered vital to a successful presidential victory.

Attempts to contact Bush-Cheney campaign officials in Cleveland were unsuccessful.

The memo was e-mailed to Republican staffers and officials Sunday evening by the state

party's Executive Director Jason Glodt. Three other GOP workers who resigned over the application fracas also will be involved in the Ohio campaign, according to the memo.

"Todd Schleckeway, Nathan Mertz and Eric Fahrendorf have also been recruited to Ohio to work with Larry on the President's campaign," the e-mail stated.

UPDATE 10/17/04:

Via annac1aire at Dailykos, here's an update on this from the Argus Leader:

Three of the six state Republican Party workers who resigned late last week are now working as field coordinators for the Republican Party in Ohio, not for the Bush-Cheney campaign, according to Ohio officials.
...
Six people involved with the Victory operation lost their jobs late last week because of the questions about irregularities, including Hoff and Larry Russell, Victory's executive director.

Russell and two of the others who resigned - Nathan Mertz and Todd Schlekeway - are now working for the state Republican Party in Ohio, said Jason Mauk, Ohio Republican Party spokesman.

"They are not with Bush-Cheney. They are working for the party," Mauk said Friday. "Larry and the others are field coordinators for our voter turnout in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland). They work the phone banks, recruit and organize volunteer activities, but they are not working in a supervisory capacity."

Brendon Cull, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party campaign, said he was surprised that the former campaign workers were coming to Ohio.

"Clearly, these guys are bad enough actors that the GOP in South Dakota didn't want them, and I don't really think they belong in Ohio," Cull said. "Certainly, we hope they aren't up to anything nefarious."


Cleveland 'Plain Dealer' Decides to Not Decide 27.Oct.2004 07:27

By Shawn Moynihan

Published: October 26, 2004 9:45 AM EDT

NEW YORK Discussions at the Cleveland Plain Dealer to resolve an impasse between the paper's editorial board and its publisher about who to endorse for president have ended with a Tuesday morning editorial announcing the paper would back neither Bush nor Kerry.

"We believe our readers are perfectly capable of making an informed, rational decision by their own lights," the editorial concludes, "and we strongly urge them to do so."

The paper's editorial board, as E&P first revealed, decided last week that it wanted to endorse Sen. John Kerry, but Publisher Alex Machaskee, who has final say, prefers President George W. Bush. The paper backed Bush in 2000.

Indeed, this morning's editorial confirms, "A majority of the editorial board favored Kerry, but after long and difficult deliberations, it was decided that the better path would be to sit this one out." It does not mention Machaskee's role in this.

"We believe our readers are perfectly capable of judging" Bush's conduct as president, the editorial declared, "and deciding whether Bush's flaws bother them more than Kerry's ambiguities."

Shirley Steinman, the Plain Dealer's director of community affairs, insisted Monday that the paper had not yet chosen a candidate for endorsement and that a decision would be made "later this week," but the editorial ran a few hours later.

Since Sunday, the Plain Dealer had been deluged with e-mails, according to three sources. The e-mails, noted Brent Larkin, the Plain Dealer's editorial page editor, came not just from readers, but from all over the country.

When asked whether public opinion had any bearing on the paper's decision process in choosing a candidate, Larkin responded, "Not even a little bit."

In this unusually divisive election, many other newspaper boards have been split down the middle. Some have chosen not to endorse at all, while in other cases the publisher stepped in and cast the only vote that counted.

Tuesday editorial opened with: "In a year of deep political divisions, this newspaper's opinion section is experiencing deep divisions of its own." However, according to several sources, the editorial board clearly favored Kerry.

When asked Monday afternoon how negotiations were going between the editorial board and Machaskee, Larkin said, "'Negotiations' is not the right word. We're all in this together."

Regardless of the paper's choice, "It's exciting no matter what," said Plain Dealer Metro Columnist Regina Brett, who noted that the Cleveland community is buzzing about the paper's impending endorsement. "People in Cleveland are really solid readers of the paper," she noted.

If Machaskee deflected the Plain Dealer editorial board's choice, it reportedly won't be the first time: In the 2002 gubernatorial race, according to Plain Dealer insiders, Machaskee decided the newspaper would endorse Bob Taft despite the editorial board's preference for his opponent, Tim Hagen.