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Why Did Long Voting Lines in Dem. Ohio Precincts Mean Low Voter Turnout? [View All]

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-22-05 05:38 PM
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Why Did Long Voting Lines in Dem. Ohio Precincts Mean Low Voter Turnout?
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On Election Day 2004, when I first heard numerous reports of huge voting lines across the country, especially in the heavily Democratic cities of Ohio, I thought that that was great news for the Kerry/Edwards ticket. Isnt it logical to think that long voting lines in Democratic areas would equate with high voter turnout in those areas? Even if thousands of voters get tired of waiting and leave, you still have the long lines as evidence of high voter turnout, right?

Not quite. For various known and unknown reasons, long voting lines in Ohio on Election Day 2004 not only failed to equate with high voter turnout it actually equated with very LOW voter turnout.

Reports of Long Voting Lines in Ohio, Election Day, 2004

The national Electronic Incidence Reporting System (EIRS) is a system for receiving and documenting election related complaints. There were four Ohio counties on Election Day that received the great majority of EIRS reports relating to long lines. These were Franklin (268 reports, 317 per million registered voters), Cuyahoga (150 reports, 149 per million registered voters), Summit (49 reports, 133 per million registered voters) and Mahoning (18 reports, 97 reports per million registered voters). For those reports where the county was specified, only 54 of these reports were received from the remainder of the state, a rate of only 10 per million registered voters. Furthermore, the vast majority of these reports from each of the four above specified counties came from the largest city in the county Columbus, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Akron, respectively.

Turnout and voting tendency in counties and cities with numerous reports of long lines

Voter turnout in the other 84 Ohio counties combined averaged 72.7%. This compares with a voter turnout average of 66.1% in the four counties where numerous long lines were reported and only 56.2% from the four cities where the vast majority of the reports came from. More specifically:

Columbus 53.9%
Cleveland 53.4%
Youngstown 52.3%
Akron 73.2%
Rest of Ohio 71.2%

The four cities with numerous reports of long lines went very heavily for Kerry. Overall, they averaged 71.4% for Kerry, 25.4% for Bush a vote margin of 46%. The rest of the state voted only 46.7% for Kerry.


Only in Franklin County has the reason for the apparent contradiction of low voter turnout in the face of long voting lines been well studied. In that county we know that the lines were as long as 11 hours and that thousands of voters left the polls without voting because of the long lines. Furthermore, we know that Columbus had far too few voting machines to handle the massive voter turnout there, and it has been shown statistically by Elizabeth Liddle that this probably cost Kerry 17,000 votes in Franklin County. And, we also know that voting machines were purposely withheld from heavily Democratic areas of Columbus.

The explanation for Mahoning County has not been well studied. Mahoning County, like Franklin County, was one of the few Ohio counties to using electronic voting machines in 2004. Furthermore, we know that in Mahoning County there were numerous complaints by voters who tried to vote for Kerry, but saw the machine register a vote for Bush, and who sometimes had to make several attempts before they successfully got the machine to register a vote for Kerry.

We dont know the explanation for Cleveland at all. Cleveland used punch card machines, and unlike the counties that used electronic machines, the punch card counties did not demonstrate an inverse relationship between number of voting machines and voter turnout. The long lines in Cleveland were generally considerably shorter than those reported in Columbus, so probably Cleveland didnt lose as many voters (per population) as Columbus to the long lines. Perhaps Cleveland votes were electronically deleted by the countys central tabulator. There has to be some explanation for why a city with so many long voting lines nevertheless demonstrated such a low official voter turnout.

Akron was the only one of the four cities with numerous long line reports where turnout was pretty good. Maybe whatever plagued the other three cities was absent in Akron. But even so, turnout in Akron was five points lower than in the rest of the county.

What were the consequences?

Is it reasonable to believe that voter turnout in the four places in the whole state that were characterized by numerous reports of long voting lines really experienced a voter turnout of 15 percentage points LESS than the rest of the state? Lets suppose that the real voter turnout (as opposed to the official voter turnout) in those four cities was comparable to the rest of the state of Ohio. With a Kerry vote margin of 46% in those cities, and 1,059,819 registered voters, that would mean 1,059,819 X 46% X 15% = 73,107 more net votes for John Kerry.


Huge voting lines in combination with low voter turnout just dont make sense, and they certainly do not suggest a legitimate election. When this occurs in four of the most heavily Democratic areas of the state, in an election run by a sleazy Republican Secretary of State, one has to be very suspicious. This needs to be investigated further, and we cant allow this to continue to happen.

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