gets it all wrong
by Bob Fitrakis

In Farhad Manjoo’s “Was the 2004 Election Stolen? No” he claims
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s article in Rolling Stone contains “numerous
errors of interpretation and his [Kennedy’s] deliberate omission of
key bits of data.” As an Election Protection legal observer in
Columbus and one of the four attorneys who challenged the Ohio
election results, I was struck by Manjoo’s own numerous errors of
fact and deliberate omissions of widely-known studies and data.

In his first claim that the Ellen Connally anomaly, where an
under-funded retired municipal judge from Cleveland ran ahead of
Kerry in rural southwestern counties fails to indicate vote-shifting
from Kerry to Bush, Manjoo deliberately omits several well-known
facts. The obvious fact on record is that Democratic nominee Al Gore
pulled his campaign out of the state six weeks prior to the 2000
election while Kerry and his 527 organization supporters spent the
largest amount of money in Ohio history. So to compare the non-Gore
campaign in 2000 to the massive Democratic effort in 2004 seems
disingenuous. Moreover, Manjoo conveniently ignores the fact that
sample ballots were everywhere in the state of Ohio and voters in
these rural counties were repeatedly mailed and handed both party’s
sample ballots. There were large and active campaigns in the key
counties in question – Butler, Clermont, and Warren – passing out
Republican and Democratic sample ballots. This is a major omission.
Also, Manjoo might actually want to do some research on the amount of
money Eric Fingerhut spent vs. John Kerry. Fingerhut’s major effort
was walking across the state of Ohio because he didn’t have any
funds. Hardly Kerry’s problem.

By the way, it is easy to shift votes on punchcard machines due to
the ballot rotation law in Ohio. For instance, the hole to punch for
Kerry would be “4” in one precinct and the hole to punch for Bush
would be “4” in the next precinct. Public records reveal that in key
southwest Ohio counties, ballots were counted at the county level,
not the precinct level, to save money on counting machines. Thus, all
one has to do is shift Kerry cards to a Bush tabulating machine to
get a shift. There was more than enough time to do this, when votes
came in during the wee hours of the morning. In fact, when we finally
got to look at the ballots from four precincts in Warren County, we
were surprised to discover that two the pink “header” cards used to
separate precinct ballots had holes punched for Bush.

It appears Manjoo knows very little about Ohio election law. As a
licensed attorney in the state and involved in the practice of
election law, I’m stunned by the obvious errors that Manjoo makes.
The purges in Ohio were, in fact, deliberate, and they occurred in Democratic
strongholds. Cuyahoga County records indicate 24.93% of all voters in
Cleveland were purged between the 2000 and 2004 election. Census data
indicates that most of the people who move in urban areas move within
the county, which would make them still eligible to vote under Ohio
law, and not be purged. What Manjoo leaves out is the standard
practice by counties, which would have moved these individuals to
“inactive” status before purging them. Additionally, numerous surveys
as well as reports by the Toledo Blade and other newspapers reveal
that many of these people had voted in local elections or had
contacted their county board of elections, which under voting
directives indicates activity. This activity would prevent them from
being purged.

Yes, there was the deliberate purging in the Democratic strongholds
indeed. The Toledo Blade reports 28,000 voters purged from the
Democratic stronghold of Toledo in late August 2004. Perhaps Manjoo
should make it a practice to do a Lexus Nexus search prior to
attacking people for omitting data. The key here is that it is
standard for counties to purge in odd-number years, 2001, 2003, etc.
Manjoo also ignores the fact that 95.12% of all the provisional
voters in Hamilton County came from the Democratic city of
Cincinnati, where only 32% of the county’s voters resided. Less than
5% of the provisional ballots were handed out in the lily-white
suburbs. Perhaps Manjoo has a hard time imagining a man of Karl
Rove’s high standards targeting black and poor voters.

Manjoo’s claim that the missing voting machines did not impact the
African American communities is bizarre and laughable. As an election
observer who witnessed lines at 9 inner-city African American
precincts, I counted an average of 80 voters leaving per hour without
voting in precinct after precinct. I have my logs from that day, if
Manjoo would care to see them. I find Manjoo’s comments both
preposterous and possibly racist. The reality is, Franklin County
needed 5000 machines. They went into the election with 2886, but they
only put out 2741 on Election Day. I have in my possession a document
that shows 125 machines that had been previously allocated, but were
blackout out and held back on Election Day – all 125 from the
Democratic stronghold of Columbus. Forty-two percent of the African
American wards had machines held back at the last second. This
constitutes 74% of all the majority African American wards in
Franklin County. Perhaps if Manjoo had actually called and asked for
the documents, he may have had a better perspective. Mark Crispin
Miller, Rolling Stone and Bobby Kennedy all verified their facts
before they wrote their pieces. Election Protection volunteers,
attorneys and eyewitnesses have yet to hear from Mr. Manjoo. Perhaps
this is a new style of investigative reporting. As an award-winning
investigative reporter, I’m also quite interested in how
fact checks their writers.

While Manjoo’s errors are legion and will clearly pass into infamy,
one of his most absurd is pretending that Bill Anthony, the Franklin
County Board of Elections Chair, had anything to do with the actual
allocation of the machines. The allocation of voting machines was
drawn up by Matt Damschroder, the Director of the Franklin County
Board of Elections. Manjoo actually, in a major error, refers to
Damschroder, as the Chair of the Election Board. Manjoo incorrectly
cites both Anthony and Damschroder as chairs of the Franklin County
Board of Elections. Under Ohio law, there’s only one Chair and
Damschroder has never been chair. I’m surprised that Manjoo would
make an error of this magnitude. Anthony is the Chair. The Board he
chairs deals with general policy matters. Damschroder is the Director
who deals with the nuts and bolts of Election Day activity. For
example, it was Damschroder who admitted going back to 1998 and
purging 3500 felons in Franklin County at Blackwell’s request. In a
given year, Damschroder told WVKO he only purges between 200-300
felons. In 2004, Damschroder admitted that he went back and purged
people indicted, but not convicted of a felony. By the way,
Damschroder is also the former Chair of the Franklin County
Republican Pary. It is Damschroder who admitted that when 356 people
showed up to vote at the right polling site, the vast majority from
the inner city, he refused to have their votes counted because his
election workers gave them a provisional ballot in error. This is
listed in his official voting log as “Voted on Paper, Should Have
Voted on Machine.”

In conclusion, it appears that Manjoo, in his zest to be the great
“de-bunker” of grassroots activists and progressive writers, simply

es his facts as needed. No surprise that he thinks Bush won.
After all, he seems to adopt the same intelligence-gathering methods
Bush used in Iraq which are favored by Fox News. His approach reminds
me of that famous quote from Ronald Reagan “Facts are stupid things”.


No Comments to “Bob Fitrakis stomps Manjoo”

  • Bob, Thanks for that response to Manjoo’s article.

  • Mark,

    Since you posted the Fitrakis piece, I hope you’ll point out on your blog that Kennedy makes the same error that Bob alleges I made in my piece. Fitrakis says: “Manjoo actually, in a major error, refers to Damschroder, as the Chair of the Election Board. Manjoo incorrectly cites both Anthony and Damschroder as chairs of the Franklin County Board of Elections. Under Ohio law, there’s only one Chair and Damschroder has never been chair. I’m surprised that Manjoo would make an error of this magnitude.”

    Kennedy, on page three of his article, says: On Election Day, the county experienced an unprecedented turnout that could only be compared to a 500-year flood,” says Matt Damschroder,(144) chairman of the Franklin County Board of Elections and the former head of the Republican Party in Columbus.


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