Rolling Stone revisits the 2004 election

In one of the most complete and well referenced accounts I’ve seen so far, Rolling Stone asks Was the 2004 Election Stolen? (It’s kind of depressing that I’m starting to regard Rolling Stone as a source of quality investigative journalism… it either says something really good about Rolling Stone or something really bad about the rest of the newsmedia).

There’s two key points that stick out to me in answering that question:

Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America’s voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. ”We didn’t have one election for president in 2004,” says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. ”We didn’t have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities.”

But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I’ve become convinced that the president’s party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) — more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See Ohio’s Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn?t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes — enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)

Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science. Indeed, among pollsters and statisticians, such surveys are thought to be the most reliable. Unlike pre-election polls, in which voters are asked to predict their own behavior at some point in the future, exit polls ask voters leaving the voting booth to report an action they just executed. The results are exquisitely accurate: Exit polls in Germany, for example, have never missed the mark by more than three-tenths of one percent.(17) ”Exit polls are almost never wrong,” Dick Morris, a political consultant who has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, noted after the 2004 vote. Such surveys are ”so reliable,” he added, ”that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries.”(18) In 2003, vote tampering revealed by exit polling in the Republic of Georgia forced Eduard Shevardnadze to step down.(19) And in November 2004, exit polling in the Ukraine — paid for by the Bush administration — exposed election fraud that denied Viktor Yushchenko the presidency.(20)

The 2004 election, at this point, is sort of a dead horse. All of these points have been raised umpteen times before. But the integrity of our elections is important enough that I feel it’s worth talking about again, and I’m glad to see that the issue hasn’t died.

The key point for me is the point highlighted in red. In something as complex as an election, a certain level of anomalies are to be expected. But when all the anomolies go towards one side, that should be enough to give anyone pause; particularly with such a large and unexplained discrepancy between the reported results and the exit polls.

Imagine flipping a coing a hundred times and having it come up heads 99 of those times. Sure, it’s within the realm of possibility, but the odds against such an occurrence are astronomical – so high, in fact, that it’s likelier that there’s something decidedly non-random going on.

Maybe it’s nothing, maybe there’s a an explanation for it (though, I can’t imagine one that doesn’t involve election rigging), but it’s disturbing that to this day we haven’t had a substantive investigation into it. The “winners” of the election wished that we’d just ignore the blaring red flags seen on that day, and at all practical levels, they got their way. Their contempt for democracy was never more clear than in the days and weeks following that election.

One other thought regarding that election.

I went to my bank’s ATM this afternoon, as I often do when I need cash for the weekend. I stuck my ATM card into the machine and entered my PIN, verifying me and my account. A moment later, I was walking away with cash in hand, along with a date and time stamped receipt which showed the balance remaining in my account as well as the exact amount I had just taken out.

At the top of the ATM machine, in big block letters, was the word DIEBOLD. I’ve looked at that receipt a great many times in the last two years and pondered that.

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One Response to “Rolling Stone revisits the 2004 election”

  1. Musings of the Great Eric » Blog Archive » 2004 was stolen, so what? Says:

    […] Dave Pollard of Salon has what I think is the most compelling response to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s recent Rolling Stone piece on the 2004 election: […]

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