Tuesday, August 16, 2005

So What About The 'F' Word

On Tuesday, August 2nd, at around 9:30 PM, Chris Bowers of the MyDD blog wrote an urgent post regarding the special election in Ohio's second district between Paul Hackett and Jean Schmidt called "Find out about Clermont County."

Initially - before Bowers added an update (which I'll get to later on) - the post was short and almost frantic:

"Clermont County might be the key to the Hackett--Schmidt election. Find out whatever you can about their voting machines. Do it here. Do it now."

And his readers went to work. They recognized the urgency. There were a lot of weird things that had been reported about the going-ons in Jean Schmidt's hometown county: machines jamming because of humidity forcing handcounts, the Clermont County Election Website was offline, and there was a caller to Air America who claimed that he had video of Jean Schmidt electioneering within 100 feet of the polling place, and then went inside the precinct after it was closed.

Within the comments section of that MyDD post, Bowers' readers left a number of links to weird things that had occured in Clermont County before, during and after Election Day 2004. One of the weirdest things was this Cincinnati Enquirer story about the FBI "conducting preliminary interviews" in February with members of the Clermont County Board of Elections about "white oval-shaped stickers, about the size of an M&M, placed on fewer than 100 ballots." The "preliminary interviews" stemmed from a letter written by Congressman John Conyers that requested an FBI investigation of "vote-tampering if not outright fraud."

A few days later Tim Tageris of Swing State Project, who spent election night in the Hackett Campaign "War Room" along with Bob Brigham (also from Swing State Project), provided more details on what led to Bowers' frantic post:

I put out the call to Chris and other bloggers to start looking into Clermont County. There were delays that no one had an explanation for at that point. To be sure, things were not looking good, but it was so close that we really wanted all of our bases covered. We found out the type of vote counting machines used in Clermont, and Bowers commented on MyDD that we needed all the information we could get about the county. It turned out that in the primary a number of votes were "found" for Jean Schmidt in Clermont, which happens to be her home town."

"The mood began to sour in the room, and there were tears. The county had already gone for Schmidt she would probably end up distancing herself even further by the time the last 91 precincts came in. People started calculating how many votes were probably left based on voting patterns and what we would need to win or get within the 1/2 of 1% margin to trigger the automatic recount."

"At the same time, bloggers were flooding my inbox with information on Clermont County. Atrios called and asked what was going on--he was very realistic, but pleased at what we had accomplished. I still held out hope."

"We started talking about the amount of money needed for a recount and compared it to what the campaign had left over in the bank. I don't know why it took anyone longer than 30 seconds to figure it out, but by the end of the discussion, they knew the blogosphere would be there for the campaign."

To be sure, the blogosphere was definitely committed for Paul Hackett. In the week leading up to the election, there was hardly a left-leaning blog that wasn't blogging about the anti-Bush and anti-Iraq invasion Marine running for Congress.

Hackett was running in as red a district as one can get, but since the polls on support for Bush and the war had nosedived in recent months and Schmidt was busy proving herself to be one of the worst candidates for political office since at least California gubernatorial long shot Gary Coleman (or Bernhard Goetz, the infamous subway vigilante who ran for NYC mayor in 2001, and is currently running for NYC Public Advocate), there were many, many bloggers who believed that Hackett could win. Ironically, many of the A-list bloggers who were closely connected to the campaign thought otherwise; they expected and anticipated a loss but were hoping that it would be close (more on that in a future post).

"As the research came in, people started bandying about the "f" word on the blogs--the stage was being set for something entirely too close to call. In a land far far away, another blogger was preparing a one page report based on the DNC's study of voting irregularities in Ohio's 2004 election--specifically in Clermont County. The stage was being set for us to own the first few hours."

To the partisan bloggers, FRAUD is a dirtier word than all the seven George Carlin dirty words put together. After November 2nd, 2004, countless Daily Kos diarists had been banned from the "community" for using that word or others like it (including me).

"The discussion among others in the room at the time centered around what the number was that we should demand a recount and if the candidate should make a statement; he was getting phone calls from the press at the time."

"It was from the television news we found out the problem. Ballots had "stuck together" because of the humidity, and the machines were having a hard time reading them. No one knew how much longer this would take."

But then the results came in, and that was that.

"One of the staffers in the room picked up his cell phone and got the final results from Clermont. It was over, Jean Schmidt had won by some 3000 votes. The phone call to Paul was made, who was waiting at home, informing him of the results--the candidate said he was making his way down to the celebration to concede."

"The war room cleared out pretty quickly, the only people left behind was Bob, the nameless blogger, and myself. We talked about everything the grassroots had accomplished in this race and began to pack up our things. At that time, Jean Schmidt appeared on television to accept victory, before she even received the call from Paul. We thought it fitting that we were the last three left in the war room, considering it was the grassroots that was the first to really step up and make this race everything it turned out to be. So we posed infront of the television screen with Schmidt on in the background--you know, one of those photos where the person in the front gets their arms out far ahead and takes the photo themself."

Not to take anything away from the blogosphere's efforts, but I'm kind of curious as to what polls are out there that attributed the close race to anything that happened online. Do Ohioans read blogs more than in other states? Because, to tell the truth, I don't know anyone in the flesh who reads blogs that doesn't have one herself (or, if you'd prefer, himself). I'm sure the blogs helped get the race a little attention in some sectors of the mass media, but I think it was the tough talking, telegenic Marine himself who made "this race everything it turned out to be."

But, to the A-list bloggers (and the powerbrokers such as Simon Rosenberg who have harnessed them), "everything it turned out to be" was exactly what they wanted. If Hackett won, the bloggers might not have gotten that much credit. But since Hackett lost, the bloggers and the New Democrat Network could instead use the race to blame the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (and, even, the DLC) for not doing enough to help their martyred candidate (more on this, too, in a future post).

And so, no doubt, shortly after another phone call from the Swing State Project bloggers to Chris Bowers, the following update was added to Bowers' frantic post:

"Thanks everyone, but its over now. The concession has been made. We'll get 'em in 2006."

Ask Al Gore if a concession is binding, he might argue with you. And even though John Kerry conceded the day after November 2nd, 2004, his team of lawyers continued to work with the third party candidates who pushed hard for a recount in Ohio and pursued lawsuits there and elsewhere.

But as I wrote a few days ago, there are 80 Million Reasons To Ignore Election Fraud.

Other bloggers, some of them as close to A-list as you can get, saw no reason to give up the fight.

Billmon got the most attention, but Corrente and the best site on the Internet for election irregularity blogging, Brad Blog, also wrote about the strange going-ons at Clermont County.

But then again those tin foil heads aren't aligned with Simon Rosenberg's "New Dems."

An hour or so after Hackett's concession, Armando of Daily Kos posted this infamous diary (which I am reprinting in full again since it bears repeating):

"Let me be the first asshole to tell you that bullshit fraud theories and bullshit conspiracy theories are not welcome."

"Markos has said it. He means it."

"I believe tonight was a great night and a sign that a Fighting Dem Party can and will take back the Congress in 2006."

"I don't want to hear baseless theories on fraud and other nonsense. I think, no, I know markos feels the same way."

"You want to waste your time, do it somewhere else."

"My tip jar will be the fraudster's chance to troll rate me. Cuz once you start diarying your cock and bull fraud theories, markos will show you the door. With my applause in the background."

One brave soul decided to "waste [his] time" at the right-leaning Red State blog, rather than take the chance of getting banned from Daily Kos.

On August 9th, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman wrote a must-read article about the Ohio special election which, of course, received no links from the A-list BlogPAC bloggers.

Excerpts from "Did the GOP steal another Ohio Election?":

"Overall, experts estimate more than 7,000 votes were stolen outright from John Kerry under the Noes' supervision in Lucas County in 2004."

"Whether similar theft defeated Paul Hackett remains to be seen. Hackett ran extremely well in a district thoroughly gerrymandered as a permanent Republican safe seat. Democrats are now crowing about how well Hackett did in "serving notice" that the GOP may be in trouble. But the bottom line is that the Republicans still won the election."

"As of 1 am election night/morning (Aug. 2–3), Hackett was within 3,600 votes—-about four percent—-of Schmidt."

"But election officials announced a mysterious "computer glitch" that delayed reports from Clermont County, which accounted for roughly a quarter of all the ballots cast in the district."


"Clermont's "technical malfunction" with optical scan readers was blamed on the humidity. Election officials said the southern Ohio summer had soaked into the ballots, making it hard to pass them through opti-scan machines."

"Once the problem was "solved," Schmidt picked up more than enough votes to guarantee victory. The percentages by which she won in the post-glitch vote count were far higher than those by which she had been winning prior to the glitch. Vote counts were also higher than expected in the strongest Schmidt precincts."


"But along with Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, Paul Hackett has become another Democratic candidate whose campaign went suddenly and mysteriously down to defeat late in the evening of a close election. Amidst the obligatory computer glitches, the GOP candidate was declared the winner before the vote count could be investigated."

"Did Clermont County do for Schmidt in 2005 what it did for Bush in 2004? Did that "glitch" in the evening vote count give GOP dirty tricksters time to once again hack the machines they needed to win?"

"Who in the Bush/Rove Justice Department or major media will even ask the question?"

But - as my readers know - it ain't just the "major media" that doesn't give a shit. It's the A-list bloggers, too. And I'm one of the few left-leaning bloggers with the balls to say that because I don't give a shit about being blacklisted.

I'm going to close out this post with a couple of lines from an incredible article from this month's Harpers Magazine entitled "None Dare Call It Stolen: Ohio, the election, and America's servile press" (the Harpers link is only an excerpt but if you Google the title you can easily find the full article).

The article was written by Mark Crispin Miller who has a full length book due to be published on October 18th called "Fooled Again" which hopefully will sell a lot of copies and help election reform get the attention it rightfully deserves.

Many non-BlogPAC bloggers have posted the following lines from Miller's article:

"The point of the Conyers report...is not to send Bush packing and put Kerry in his place. The Framers could no more conceive of electoral fraud on such a scale than they could picture Fox News Channel or the Pentagon; and so we have no constitutional recourse, should it be proven, finally, that the wrong guy 'won.' The point of our revisiting the last election, rather, is to see exactly what the damage was so that the people can demand appropriate reforms. Those who say we should move on from that suspicious race and work instead on 'bigger issues' -- like electoral reform -- are urging the impossible; for there has never been a great reform that was not driven by some major scandal."

Hell, if the A-list bloggers were ignoring the irregularities and working instead on election reform I wouldn't have a bone to pick with them. But they're not. They've all but ignored election reform and have chosen to work on 'bigger issues' such as social security which only a fool would believe was ever in jeopardy.

But there is a danger about blogging on election reform, and it has nothing to do with the dreaded "C" word: credibility. Significant election reform could lead to Democrats actually winning elections instead of coming close and that might disturb Simon Rosenberg's ten-year plan to replace the Democrat Party (only so much I can fit in a post...so, again, more on that in a future installment).

It's the last lines of Mark Crispin Miller's Harpers Magazine article that I'm hijacking to close out with, since they best explain why it is I feel the urgent need to blog against Simon Rosenberg and his merry band of BlogPAC bloggers:

"This democracy can survive a plot to hijack an election. What it cannot survive is our indifference to, or unawareness of, the evidence that such a plot has succeeded."


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