Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who headed up hearings by the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee into the vote in Ohio, will be presenting his report on the fraud, abuse and misconduct of that crucial state's election this Thursday (Jan. 6), and will be calling on his colleagues in the House and Senate to challenge the 20 Republican Ohio electors allegedly chosen in that presidential vote.
Conyers' meticulous report lays out clear evidence that Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who infamously doubled as chair of Bush's Ohio re-election committee, and who in a fund-raising letter written before the votes were counted boasted of "delivering" the state to Bush, actively adopted measures that disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of mostly minority voters. Conyers goes on to say that Republican operatives, who deliberately engaged in a campaign of voter intimidation targeting black voters, probably also scared away, or kept from voting by creating massive delays, tens of thousands more voters.
The report breaks the misconduct and illegalities into three categories:
* Efforts before Election Day to reduce Democratic registration--most notably by refusing to accept registration forms on paper that was too thin and by mailing out absentee ballots too late and then refusing to provide provisional ballots to those who claimed they had asked for absentee ballots but never received them (a requirement under federal voting law).
* Efforts to discourage turnout on Election Day, and to slow the voting interminably in mostly minority districts, for example by providing one voting machine where similar districts in wealthier Republican areas would have 6-10 machines--a tactic that led in some places to waits of as much as 6-10 hours and that led tens of thousands of people to give up and go home. A second method, adopted by the Republican Party, was to assign thousands of challengers to polling stations in minority districts to challenge legal voters, thus tying up the voting lines.
* Finally efforts to muck up the counting and recounting of votes. Some 93,000 “spoiled” ballots--meaning ballots that the machines couldn't read, but that experience has shown are generally easy to discern by hand count--have still not been examined. Also, because Blackwell, in contravention of the law, did not provide uniform standards for the recount, many counties in Ohio "cherry picked" sample districts to test hand counts on. If they counted 3 percent of votes and found a significant discrepancy from the machine count, such counties were supposed to count all votes by hand, but by not using random samples, many such full recounts were avoided. As well, some counties that did find discrepancies in their samples never did do the required full recount. A leading machine company that made many of the state's optical scanning voting machines admitted to having given county election officials "cheat sheets" telling them how to make their sample counts conform to the machines' initial totals.
Taken altogether, Conyers' report says that the mismanagement of the elections process, together with fraud and errors, resulted in the disenfranchisement and non-counting of "hundreds of thousands" of votes in primarily minority and Democratic-leaning districts--far more than the 109,000 votes that the official recount claims Bush won the state by over Democrat John Kerry.
Conyers and other Democratic House members plan to call at Thursday's session (as they tried to do unsuccessfully after the 200 election) for the full Congress to reject certification of Ohio's electors, and for a Congressional investigation, ideally by a bi-partisan select committee, of Ohio's election.
If just one member of the Senate agrees to join in that call (in 2001, none would), Congress, under the Constitution will be required to delay certification of the president's election, since without Ohio's 20 electoral votes, Bush does not have the required 271 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
An overturning of the Ohio results seems unlikely, despite the convincing evidence presented by Conyers' committee, given the solid Republican majorities in both House and Senate, but even a cursory and politically hobbled investigation into his findings by a joint committee would undermine President Bush's claim of a second-term "mandate," and leave his ultimate victory tainted at a time that he is facing increasing public doubts regarding his leadership on both domestic issues and on his war in Iraq.
For the rest of this column, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .
To see the full Conyers’ report, go to Truth Out.