Monday, December 19, 2005

Re Mother Jones article on 2004 Election

I sent the following to Mother Jones and thought I would share it here as well. And oops - forgot to add the link when I first posted this. This is in reference to this article in Mother Jones' Nov/Dec 2005 issue.

Dear Editors,

I find Mark Hertsgaard’s article on whether the Ohio election was stolen as flawed as the reports he criticizes.

He starts by setting up a straw man in the case of Sherole Eaton’s use of the term “cheat sheet.” It never mattered what actual words were used to describe the sheet. Clearly, a sheet was ordered prepared to ensure the counts matched. That’s simply wrong. The point of an audit is not to ensure a match, but to look for discrepancies. Computers can be programmed easily to report any count desired. There is no other way to view the purpose of the sheet as anything other than a “cheat sheet.” By focusing on the terminology and not the act, Hertsgaard dismisses irresponsibly one of the events most in need of explanation.

He sets up straw man number two by claiming that since four people were allowed to watch the counting of the votes in Miami County, the vote was not counted in “secret.“ This is linguistic slight of hand. To me, a vote that no one outside the incumbent political system can see is “secret” enough to warrant the label. The real issue is: why wasn’t the reporter allowed to watch? Shouldn’t our elections be transparent, especially to the press?

Amazingly, Hertsgaard doesn’t blink when he explains that votes were changed from Kerry votes to Bush votes because of a computer glitch. Not to worry, Hertsgaard assures us. The problem was caught, and fixed. How can Hertsgaard dare claim by implication that all problems were caught? How many weren’t noticed that might have affected the outcome? Herstgaard asserts confidence where confidence cannot possibly be warranted as demonstrated by the computer glitch in the first place. Here’s an analogy. We caught Bush in one lie. He admitted it. Hurray! Bush only told one lie and we caught it, therefore government is honest. That’s the same illogic Hertsgaard employed.

Hertsgaard really overreaches when he comes to the Exit Polls. He again sets up a straw man – taking his argument re exit polls to New Hampshire, where only a handful of people suspected fraud. He doesn’t mention New Mexico, for example, where straight Green Party votes were provably not apportioned to the party’s candidates. This was apparent when some precincts showed that votes had been cast for the Green Party slate, yet Green Party candidates on those same tickets received 0 votes. There was no way to know if votes for the Democratic slate met the same fate because the number of votes for Democratic candidates was higher than the number of slate votes.

In addition, Hertsgaard quotes only Mitofsky Edison (M/E) on their polls, and ignores their critics, like the statisticians at That’s a bit like asking Rove if he leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to reporters. Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t, but if he did, do we really think he’d just tell us? To believe the M/E explanation, we’d have to believe people lied about their votes for President, but told the truth about every other race on the ballot, because amazingly, the polls were incredibly accurate in all races except the one for President. In addition, people had to always lie in the same direction. How come Kerry voters didn’t lie and say they voted for Bush? Statistically and logically, when all the errors always fall in the same direction, there is no randomness. Randomness suggests error. Nonrandomness suggests corruption. And why was it that the people only lied about their vote in battleground states? The same M/E polling procedures and methods used in the battleground states were used in every state of the nation. But they were only off in battleground states.

The final argument Hertsgaard makes is the saddest, most illogical of all, but certainly not a unique one: “even if Kerry had won Ohio, the national vote went to Bush by three million votes.” The only reason we know about all the fraud in Ohio is because we have a Bob Fitrakis there, a John Conyers there, a Stephanie Tubbs-Jones there, who have fought tooth and nail to find out what happened in their state. If we had someone looking into the vote in the same depth in New Mexico, in Colorado, in Pennsylvania (which Kerry won, but by so much smaller a margin than expected as to raise the specter of attempted, but unsuccessful fraud, which would have added to Bush’s overall numbers) and of course, the mother of all fraudulent voting procedures, Florida. If the vote could be gamed, there’s no reason to believe the corruption would be limited to Ohio. It only takes changing a few votes in a few thousand counties to change 3 million votes and more.

I don’t know who won the election in 2004. I don’t think we should consider Bush the winner simply because we haven’t proven the opposite case. In a court of law, in a sentence, and in Boolean logic, the maxim is, false in part, false in whole. Since our election was provably false in part, the only logical, legal response should have been to consider the whole election invalid.

Bush won, alright. Not because he got the most votes, but because Kerry didn’t challenge the count. Had Kerry challenged, Bush may still have won. Or not. We have no way to know who got the most votes because we never counted all the votes on paper in the open. And I’m no longer willing to simply accept any assurances from public officials regarding our votes on faith. Nor from reporters, for that matter.


Lisa Pease


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