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Notes from Ohio voter suppression hearing in Columbus 11/15 [View All]

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jmknapp Donating Member (381 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-16-04 09:20 AM
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Notes from Ohio voter suppression hearing in Columbus 11/15
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Edited on Tue Nov-16-04 09:28 AM by jmknapp
Ohio Voter Suppression Hearing
Franklin County Court House
373 S. High St.
meeting room A
11/15/04 6:00pm-10:00pm

notes by Joe Knapp [email protected]


Bob Fitrakis -- Columbus Free Press; Election Protection Coalition
Vicki Beasley -- legal director, People For The American Way, EPC
Jonathan Goldman -- Lawyers Commission, PFTAW
Lee Leighburger -- Common Cause Ohio
Greg Moore -- former director of NAACP National Voter fund
Susan Tourette
Leslie Hough
Bill Moss

Panel largely from non-partisan political action groups that avoided discussions of Bush vs. Kerry.

New county commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy was in attendance.

Fitrakis: asked that all testimony should be personal experiences and not hearsay.

Beasley: noted this was second hearing on the subject, the first held two days before at New Faith Baptist Church in Columbus. Many of the people giving testimony tonight were overflow from the prior well-attended meeting. She said thousands of people were disenfranchised in this election by being denied ballots and also by machine shortages and problems. Goal of her org is to count all the votes, not a recount.

Goldman: called for a continuing movement for lasting voter protection.

Moore: said 83,000 new voters were registered in Ohio but were unable to vote due to disenfranchisement, machine errors, etc. The polling place at Harvey Rice school in Cleveland was the worst.

All testifiers were sworn in en masse at the beginning. A court stenographer recorded all testimony.


Jason Perry

- was monitor at Columbus pct 12A
- lack of poll workers
- no greeter, no one working the end of the long lines telling people which line they needed to be in
- 3 voting machines compared to 4 last year
- Board of Elections did not account for the increased registrations in this pct
- number of machines effectively limited the vote at this pct to 600 voters
- only 50% of the reg voters in this pct could vote
- Beasley noted that there is no Ohio law concerning machine allocation

Jay Wamsley

- Athens attorney
- was election observer in Franklin County on Nov. 2
- assigned to monitor 7D, 7A, 7E, 12B, 7C, 7B
- extremely long lines all day
- 2.5 hour wait was norm in all these pcts
- each pct had 3 voting booths
- he did a sample of some Arlington and Worthington (GOP-dominated) pcts; they all had 4 and sometimes 5 machines
- 12B had been moved and not everyone got the info; many had to cast provisional ballots and this was tying up one machine
- many people left the line without voting

Karen Hanson

- worked for MoveOn PAC
- set up voter information stand at Douglas Elementary (55D?)
- observed 5-10% of the people leaving the line 7:00-10am
- 3 voting machines; in the past 5 or 6
- spoke to about 30 voters who felt they were harassed by enforcement of the 5-minute voting time limit
- poorly trained poll workers; were unable to direct people to their proper polling location if needed

Robin Smith

- resident of Upper Arlington 6A
- chairman, Ward 6, UA for Kerry
- there were 4 polling places in ward 6, 7 pcts
- provided umbrellas and water for people standing in line
- no lines existed at any of these polling places where Bush vote was 62%
- calculates there was 1 machine for every 164 voters
- called for an analysis precinct-by-precinct of machine allocations, correlated with Bush/Kerry support; thinks people need to go to jail over this

Sherry Suarez

- voter in Reynoldsburg D
- had big problems trying to vote
- she had briefly moved out of the county in 2002 and had gotten a drivers license at the new address. But in March 2004 she moved back to her old Reynoldsburg address (she has 3 properties) where she has been registered for years. At the polling location she was on a pre-determined list of people to challenge and was told she couldnt vote because her DL didnt match the voting book.
- was told she needed a utility bill with current address and she didnt have one
- had a tax bill faxed from the county auditors office to the school, but for some reason they wouldnt take it as proof of address
- had to vote a provisional ballot

Christie Tobin

- was a patient at Mt. Carmel St. Anns in Westerville on Nov. 2
- a representative from the Board of Elections was going through the hospital ward taking votes
- she told the rep she was at the Kerry/Springstein rally at OSU and suffered heart problems later. He said that if he had been to a Kerry rally, he would have heart problems too
- rep said that she should punch out hole 5 for Bush

Jonathan Meyers

- observed at Livingston Avenue Elementary
- pct judge was 1/2 hour late, and walked off the job at noon
- total disorganization
- line was 2.5 hours long
- Voter information and support line 866-OUR-VOTE was busy all day

Arthur Lievert

- observed at Marburn Academy, north side
- 6 voting machines, 2 not working
- there were two lines for pcts C and D, but there was no one to direct voters
- daughter voted in southern Delaware County (Republican area) and reported no line

Steve Brack

- from Riverside, Ohio, Montgomery County pct 5
- passed out voter information guides to voters; was told to stop
- poll workers at Harrison Township L tried to stop legal voter information activity

Jennifer Delaney
- OSU teaching associate
- voted at Prairie Township firehouse in Galloway (Republican area)
- about a 30 minute wait
- submitted a list of her students who conversely reported problems voting at OSU polling places

Janeane Smith-White

- pushed Kerry button on her ballot and the light went on for Bush
- poll worker said it had been happening all day

Steven Hayman

- voted in Pickerington; no problem with punchcard machines or waiting there
- was a volunteer in Columbus 51A on Moler Road
- voters were confused by two polling locations on Moler Rd, at 1201 and 1560
- lost at least 75 voters in the 12.5 hours
- there were about 150 people in line at nominal poll closing of 7:30; one machine
- Ohio has a new poll tax: if you cant afford to wait in line for four hours, you dont vote.

Tom Pinatello

- first experience voting in Columbus
- polling place was Livingston School
- observed that after he pushed the button for Kerry, went through the complicated ballot, and did a double check at the end before pressing the vote button, the vote for Kerry was gone (light blinking again)

Jimmy Sharpe

- waited in wrong line for one hour
- lines were snaking out of the building
- was told he needed to get an authority-to-vote slip; thats when he found out the proper line
- pct was handing out ATV slips to everyone in line, even though guideline say that only 5 or 6 should be out at any one time
- people were leaving line and going away with ATV slips still in hand
- these were lost votes; worse, people could theoretically sell the slips

Jen Miller

- worked at 29B and 1A, Southside Settlement House
- election protection volunteer
- low-income Appalachian area
- 4 hour line
- 2 pcts, 3 machines per precinct (there were 4 per pct in 2000)
- 1 machine was down
- lack of poll workers; no was was directing the precinct split in the line
- handicapped voters were not directed to accessible entrance or helped in any way
- handicapped voters given no preferential treatment in long lines
- observed numerous problems with people voting and cried for three hours when she got home

Jane Hubbard

- volunteer at Cleveland Rd/Bryden Rd. pct
- observed 2-3 hours wait
- saw people leaving line

Stacey Mitchell-King

- Columbus public school teacher, took day off for election protection
- delivered food to people in line at Eastland Lanes, Eastland Manor and Franklin Middle School
- observed very long lines at all
- observed people leaving line

John Mannity

- worked for German Village for Kerry
- voted at Schiller Park pct
- long lines
- 6 machines for two pcts E and F
- observed long lines at nearby precincts, east of Parsons Ave.
- bought ponchos for people standing in rain; fashioned garbage bag ponchos

Pat Johnston

- volunteered at Parsons Avenue Branch Library (poll observer)
- 800 people voted on 4 machines
- rate was 55 people/hour
- wait was at least 1.5 hour
- handicapped people were not brought to front

Kathy Varian

- poll worker, 49B, Cedar Woods
- 49B didnt open until 7:20 (nominal opening was 6:30)
- very chaotic
- precinct judge was overt Republican and officious toward voters
- an elderly black woman waited 2 hours in line only to be challenged and made to fill out a provisional ballot
- precinct judge also made sexually harassing comments toward her
- there were a lot of challenges
- she wasnt allowed to accompany judge to deliver ballots and tapes to the BOE; fears that he threw out provisionals

Mark Dunbar

- bus driver for Columbus Public Schools
- 3 hour line at his pct
- handicapped voters were not helped
- people left the line
- observed many precincts in minority areas on his bus route throughout the day; long lines at all

Joe Cuspan

- runner for Bexley 1A, 1B, 1C
- only a half-hour line to vote in his line
- minimal or no lines at any of these pcts all day
- these are some of the wealthiest pcts in Columbus (includes Governors mansion)

--didnt hear name--

- voted at Upper Arlington 6C, Windermere Elementary
- obviously plenty of machines
- observer 16 different UA pcts , 158 voters per machine
- on machine tapes, noted many votes for Nader even though his name had been covered with a sticker; evidently one could still push the button and record a Nader vote
- took digital pictures of the machine tapes

Monica Justice

- observed in 6 wards in the Clintonville corridor
- 300 people in line at 8:00pm at Linden Library
- observed a very aggressive and volatile environment there
- McDonalds and Pizza Hut delivered food to people in line
- last voter went through around 11:00pm

Tim Byer

- pct leader, 47D, east of Bexley, north of Livingston
- poll workers gave inaccurate info to voters
- 40 voters per hour processed by 3 machines
- complicated ballot; he took all of the allotted 5 minutes even though he votes a straight ticket

Michael Gremen

- voter in Westerville 3B
- has voted there every time during the last 5 years
- this time his name was not on the voter list, even though his wifes was on the list
- had to vote provisionally
- wonders if his role as a member of Citizens For Democracy and Ending Corporate Rule might have something to do with it

Tom Kessel

- watched Republican poll challengers in action in Bexley wards 4A and 4C
- on three different occasions saw the poll challengers talking and interacting with poll workers (they are not supposed to)
- they would desist when he said they werent supposed to be bugging the poll workers, but when hed leave the area briefly theyd go right back at it
- one time they were going over their challenge list with the precinct judge
- one machine had severe intermittent problems in the morning, but somebody kicked the side of it or something and it seemed to work the rest of the day
- at the end of the day he noted that the Bush percentage on that machine was much higher than on the other two machines in the polling place, and had the fewest number of votes

Susan Truitt

- Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections
- says its clear theres a pattern of discrimination in machine allocations

Bill Moss then spoke:

- this is about the integrity of the electoral process
- a vote is a scared right
- as citizens its our duty to uphold that right
- he and his family had similar problems voting (long lines at Eastside Middle School, had to return later, still long lines, many people leaving, took him 3.5 hours to vote)
- result was predictable due to machinations of precinct officials at the behest and leadership of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell
- Blackwell has conflict of interest as co-chair of Bush re-elect Ohio
- never in 40 years has he personally taken more than 20 minutes in line to vote
- chaos was deliberately contrived
- and why not since Americans rolled over so easily in 2000
- all Ohio statewide elected offices held by one party Republicans; no checks and balances
- same applies at national level
- power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely
- Blackwells conduct approaches corruption
- the only check is the people; questions will remain until we investigate the vote
- held up a t-shirt: Jail Blackwell the Vote Thief!

--didnt catch name-- from Cobb campaign:

- Cobb (Green Party) and Badnarik (Libertarian) formally requested a recount
- they have raised the full filing fee
- after result is certified by the SOS, the recount itself will begin
- contact to volunteer to be a recount observer

Cliff Arnebeck

- lawyer; Common Cause
- notes that the Green Party raised the vast majority of the funds
- says it was an act of statesmanship by Cobb and Badnarik

Vicki Beasley (People For The American Way) started her summation about where to go next and at this point the meeting got a bit rambunctious as several people in the audience took issue with her non-partisan how do we make it better next time approach. They want something done about THIS election. Beasley said, overthrowing the government is not what we are about. Goldman said the chances of reversing the election are vanishingly small. Response from audience was who cares we have to try. The milquetoast approach had definitely worn thin at this point.

Bill Moss took the cue for another rousing speech:

- we should deal with WHAT HAPPENED ON THE 2ND OF NOVEMBER!
- the 200 election was illegitimate
- we must not give in to tyranny or the seeds of despotism
- if we give in we are not worthy of the democracy that had been handed us

Harvey Wasserman spoke:

- George W. Bush has not been legitimately elected president of the US
- in a few more years nothing will be left of democracy
- this election was stolentangibly, consciously
- Blackwell played the Katherine Harris role, with the governors seat as the plum
- Blackwell repelled voters with the machine shortages
- tens or hundreds of thousands were driven from the polls
- a racial strategy was used; Ohio 2004 = Mississippi 1954

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