We keep hearing that the election may hinge on the results of one state -- Ohio. There are several close states, but for a number of reasons, Ohio stands out.
FiveThirtyEight, a blog project of The New York Times, has been running computer simulations of the many permutations of what might happen during the presidential election -- specifically within the Electoral College, which it covers as its primary focus. (There are 538 votes in the Electoral College.)
Earlier this week, they ran 40,000 different combinations of scenarios based on the latest poll results, and half the time, the results in Ohio picked the winner. Right on the other side of all the stagecraft and the debates, the billions spent on the campaigns, the 24-hour cable news analysis or outright fictionalizing, is an often overlooked fact.
Beyond the battle over reduced polling times, voter roll purges and other attempts to block participation in the election is the reality that the United States has a representative, or indirect, electoral system, in which the loser of the popular vote can win or 'win' the presidency. That's what happened in 2000 (when Bush lost the popular vote and took office), and what nearly happened in 1968 (when Nixon won the his first presidential election by just half a million votes, and the Electoral College was nearly abolished as a result).
In the Electoral College game, some states are more meaningful than others -- particularly the ones where the polls show the state could go either way (sometimes called a battleground state, a swing state or an undecided state). You're probably getting sick of hearing about Ohio as being one of these. There are scenarios wherein a candidate can lose Ohio and win the electoral vote, but Ohio does seem key (especially for modern Republicans, who always win Ohio when they win the presidency), and I want to start this week by offering three reasons to pay extra attention to what happens there.
First, there are two different voting machine scandals that come back to Ohio, one involving a company that the Romney family essentially owns (through a series of subsidiaries), and the other involving an Ohio-based company called Diebold.
Voting Machine Scandal One involves a Romney-held private equity fund called Solamere, which invests in H.I.G. Capital, which in turn invests in Hart Intercivic, the nation's third largest voting machine manufacturer. (This is the electoral equivalent of the expression, "Freedom of the press belongs to those whose subsidiaries have one.")
Numerous Solamere/H.I.G. staff are represented on the Romney campaign, including its two top finance people. Hart Intercivic machines are used in two Ohio counties -- one of which includes Cincinnati, home to two million voters.
Voting Machine Scandal Two involves good old Diebold. This company was big news in the 2004 election, when Wally O'Dell, then its CEO and a fundraiser for George W. Bush, famously wrote in a solicitation letter to mega-donors: ''I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." (Those electoral votes were in fact delivered. O'Dell was later forced out of his own company during the federal investigation of an insider trading scheme. Researching this article, we noticed that there is a disturbing pattern of execs of voting machine companies being involved in various fraud scandals.)
Diebold is now two companies, one called ES&S and the other called Dominion -- and between them, they control the rest of the voting machines in Ohio, particularly, those lovely touch-screen, tree-friendly machines that leave no paper trail and where no actual recount is possible. Basically, all of Ohio's voting machines are in Republican hands.
Next, by now you've probably heard that Ohio's Republican-held office of the secretary of state, which controls voting hours, has been attempting to curtail access to the polls in a way that's designed to block communities that predominantly vote Democratic. Jon Husted, the secretary of state, has tried to block early voting, including the "Souls to the Polls" program where black voters go from church to their voting places -- but the federal courts have repeatedly stopped him.
Along with this, there's a dirty tricks campaign going on that would have been a real knee-slapper for Nixon and his boys, if only they could have peered into the future. My favorite (so far) was putting the wrong election date on voter literature in a county where Obama won in 2008 by a close margin.
So far that's two reasons -- and we know that Ohio has had electoral problems in the past.
As I've written before, Mercury stations retrograde on the night of the election, an event typically associated with technical problems, reversals of various kinds, inaccurate reporting (news, data), miscommunication, delays and a general state of confusion. Between the Republican-possessed voting machines and attempts to cut back voting hours, the setup in Ohio is spooky enough even if nobody means any harm, and nauseating if someone has a plot brewing. The atmosphere of any Mercury retrograde -- though this one in particular -- is the perfect festering pool for fraud.
Part of why I say that the retrograde that begins on Election Day is especially murky is because this Mercury retrograde involves three squares to Neptune. The first is on Monday, Oct. 29, with Mercury in the first shadow phase. Then there's another one during the retrograde on Nov. 13, then the last one is Dec. 11, during the second shadow phase. Mercury square Neptune makes it extremely challenging to discern the truth. The series of three Mercury-Neptune squares means that as the facts and fact pattern emerge they will be in layers, blended with layers of deceit -- and anyone trying to navigate the territory must use extreme discernment.
The last reason to be concerned about Ohio is that bells are going off in the natal chart of that state -- and I mean warning bells. Mercury retrograde presents a kind of climatic condition that affects everyone, everywhere. But when you focus on the astrology of Ohio itself, the place looks like a crime scene -- or at least the scene of an attempted theft of the election.
The first thing to know about Ohio is that the state has Scorpio rising, and there is a planet exactly in the ascendant (the rising degree, aligned with the eastern horizon). That is Neptune, the planet of illusions, deception and denial. True, Neptune is also associated with beautiful music, dreamy fantasies and spectacular cinema, but it's drawing on the same basic properties in both its toxic and creative expressions.
When a person or an entity has a planet very close to the ascendant, it can take on the identity of that planet. People with Neptune rising tend to have fuzzy boundaries, right down to the locks on their doors not working correctly. They are easy to infiltrate. Events that take place with Neptune in the ascendant can have the property of "the truth is never known." This situation blends properties of both.
Neptune was retrograde at the time Ohio became a state, meaning (in this case) that its presence and effects are veiled (which can involve being perceived as 'this was an issue in the past, but not today').There is added potential for duplicity. This is astrology calling for some grease cutter, an audit team and a few alert investigative reporters on thescene. In fact, in Ohio and many other places, things are so bad that the ACLU and other civil rights organizations have called on U.N. inspectors to observe the election. We need them. Neptune has a way of camouflaging itself, and the best disguise is the denial of someone looking straight at something.
This placement -- retrograde Neptune in Scorpio, exactly rising -- gets some emphasis right in the wake of whatever happens on Election Day. There is about to be a total eclipse of the Sun conjunct Ohio's Neptune, just two degrees away from Neptune and the ascendant. Think of that as pointing to that Neptune, ramping up its power and creating a kind of vortex into which we could get vacuumed.
The total solar eclipse happens in Scorpio on Nov. 13, a week after the election. Regardless of the Ohio chart, if the results are not agreed to by that time, then the lack of certainty could persist for quite a while. Eclipses have a wide orb of influence, with effects long before and long after they actually occur, and this eclipse so close to the election adds gravitas to whatever happens. Eclipses have an Aries Point-like quality: they often come with an intersection of personal and collective events. What happens to Ohio happens to all of us.
Meanwhile, the coming Mercury retrograde directly involves the Ohio chart. There is an axis in the chart where Mercury gets hooked right in, and around which everything seems to turn -- the axis of the chart that involves governmental affairs, called the meridian (the 4th/10th house axis).
Envision Mercury flying along like a Frisbee and then the cool looking dude with the tan sticks his index finger up, and catches it, spinning at full speed, and does a little dance. It's a cool trick -- let's see how it works out for the rest of us.