This article follows on an earlier article published at Huffington Post on the eve of the 2008 election: "Is the Election About to Be Stolen in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Elsewhere?"
The consensus is that this presidential election may all come down to Ohio and a few other "swing" states, as it did in 2000 and 2004. If there are any voting irregularities to be found this time around, Ohio will be the place to look first. "The feeling from those of us who went through [the vote fraud of] 2004 is that we are about to repeat that election," says Cliff Arnebeck, attorney, former Republican operative, and self-appointed election watchdog.
The massive, secretly-financed advertising campaign on behalf of Romney's candidacy and targeted at Ohio and other swing states, on top of the Romney campaign's own avalanche of advertising, has so saturated Ohio airwaves in recent weeks that it has managed to create the (arguably erroneous) perception that Romney can win the state, despite consistent poll leads for Obama. Unless observers are alert to possible fraud, this would help camouflage tampering with vote counts.
And that is exactly what Arnebeck and other election-fraud watchdogs are concerned about. If Ohio is stolen, something they believe to be well within the experience and capacity of Karl Rove's organization, it will be done on the margins. Jill Simpson, a former Rove operative, has posted a map outlining Rove's alleged plan for manipulating the 2012 election on Election Protection Action, Inc. This possibility may not have escaped the US. Department of Justice, which issued a press release on Friday stating that its "Civil Rights Division plans to deploy more than 780 federal observers and department personnel to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states for the Nov. 6, 2012, general election... to defend federal voting rights laws." Four of the counties listed in the press release are in Ohio, including Hamilton County, one of the locations on which the entire election could very well turn, and which also happens to be a client of Hart InterCivic, an electronic voting machine company partially owned by HIG Capital, which is in turn has been heavily invested in by Solamere, a private equity firm owned by Tagg Romney.
There is also lingering concern about the integrity of the electronic voting machines throughout the state, focused on an experimental software application to be used potentially on ESS machines in 39 counties of Ohio, and according to Arnebeck, is reminiscent of the now-infamous 2002 Georgia Diebold patch which allowed for "vote-flipping," the switching of votes from one candidate to the other. Interestingly, in Georgia's Senate election in 2002, all the flipped votes went in one direction: from the Democrat Max Cleland to the Republican Saxby Chambliss (who won the election).
Adding further plausibility to these concerns, Richard Charnin, a mathematician and computer programmer who developed quantitative applications development for major domestic and foreign financial institutions, has uncovered what appears to be a systematic pattern in deviations between exit polls and election results in every election since 1988.
Madison Voices Blog examined Chanin's data and came to the following conclusion:
"The Roper archive lists 274 state exit polls for 1988-2008 (only 24 are listed for 1988). Republican recorded presidential vote shares exceeded the corresponding unadjusted exit poll shares in 226 (82.4%) of the 274 state elections for which there is exit poll data. One would normally expect approximately 137 (50%).
Democratic candidates only benefited 48 times -- a statistical impossibility unless some hidden factor is at work undermining Democratic vote totals. There is ZERO probability that this one-sided shift is due to chance -- powerful evidence beyond any doubt of pervasive systemic election fraud. The deviations between the exit polls and the vote counts were overwhelmingly in favor of the Republicans -- the 'red shift'.
The Republicans won the recorded vote in 55 states [during these years] in which the Democrats won the exit poll. Conversely, the GOP lost the recorded vote in just two states (Iowa and Minnesota in 2000) in which they won the exit poll. If the elections were fair, the number of vote flips should be nearly equal. The probability of this disparity is virtually ZERO."
Charnin and others who have viewed the unadjusted exit polls from the 2008 election assert that Barack Obama had a "landslide" victory in states which he won (scoring 58-61% of the vote) -- this was "adjusted" by the exit polling organization in order to reconcile exit poll results with recorded vote totals, which ultimately brought Obama's victory down by anywhere from 5-8% in each state.
Arnebeck argues that in a close, non-landslide, election, the ability to get away with vote-rigging grows exponentially. The "flipping" of just a handful of votes in the most contested precincts (such as in Hamilton County) can make the difference between a win or a loss, but will be difficult to recognize on the surface because of the inherent plausible deniability built into an expected close election. All current polling suggests that if there is an honest election in Ohio, Barack Obama should win the state by a nerve-wracking, but nonetheless solid 2-3% margin. But that is a big "if", given the factors above.
In sum, Arnebeck is seriously concerned about what he regards as a probable attempt on behalf of Romney by Karl Rove's operation to both suppress the vote in swing states such as Ohio and, more insidiously, engage in vote tabulation fraud of somewhere from 2.5-3% of the vote in up to several dozen counties of Ohio. Given the closeness of the election in most of these counties, the overall number of votes that would be necessary to "flip" in any one location in order to shift the election from Obama to Romney is negligible, but when aggregated, would be enough to change the outcome.
That is why Arnebeck has requested that the FBI take a closer look at past evidence of fraud. When I asked him how he expects Tuesday's election to turn out, Arnebeck was hesitant to make a prediction, but he did have some blunt words for Karl Rove, "If he [Rove] knows that the FBI Cyber Security Unit is preparing to closely monitor the election for any irregularities, he would be prudent to call off the plan."
Back in 2008, a man named Michael Connell (a former associate of Karl Rove) was believed to have engaged in witness intimidation to prevent testimony about vote-flipping via the manipulation of electronic voting machines in Ohio in 2004. The larger concern at that point was that IT companies associated with the Republican Party had redeveloped the capacity to manipulate electronic voting results both within Ohio and outside. Because 2008 was such a landslide for Barack Obama, it was believed to have been impossible to use the digital vote-flipping capacity to alter the outcome, because the necessary large shifts to make that happen would have create noticeable anomalies in relation to expected or historical results. Connell died under mysterious circumstances when the plane he was piloting crashed upon landing in Akron, Ohio in December 2008. Earlier that year, Arnebeck (who was the attorney who had subponeaed Connell in an election suppression case) contacted the U.S. District Attorney's office requesting witness protection for Connell.
Concerned poll workers, campaign activists and local supporters of President Obama (or citizens simply interested in protecting the integrity of American elections) can do a number of practical things in order to identify and compile evidence of voting anomalies which may signal digital manipulation of election returns:
1. Local activists and lawyers in any state where the vote appears close should demand that county voting officials where electronic voting systems are used should -- if possible -- unplug their servers from the internet and phone in their results, and otherwise never permit external IT consultants to have unsupervised physical access to hard drives after vote-counting commences. They should also insist that county and state election officials pledge not to erase any digital records of voting, or re-set any digital vote-counting equipment after their use, for a period of at least two months after the election.
2. Screen captures of all television-reported exit poll numbers in the early hours on election night on all networks should be obtained for every state for which they are reported, to later compare them to actual vote tallies when they are reported -- and the networks should assign a staff person to perform such checks. Any significant deviations from statewide exit polls in counties that don't have demographic factors to account for such differences should be flagged for later investigation.
3. Vote totals for president and down-ballot candidates should be compared, precinct-by-precinct and county-by-county, to see if there are strange disparities. In 2004, a Democratic candidate for a judgeship in Ohio mysteriously received tens of thousands of more votes than John Kerry (even though many voters never bother to vote for down-ballot candidates). This was a statistical improbability of enormous magnitude (no disrespect meant to the judge).
4. Vote totals in safe Republican counties should be compared to the past two election cycles, to see whether any abnormally high turnout is unprecedented and therefore cause for suspicion. That is what happened in several Republican-dominated counties in Florida in '04. Election monitors should also watch the traffic at the polling places in Republican precincts, and maintain careful records, as a way to gauge the honesty of later claims about the turnout in such locations.
These steps will help facilitate the discovery of any circumstantial or direct evidence of possible manipulation of electronic-voting returns, which would be sufficient to enable immediate legal action to prevent certification of election results. In turn, that would permit time for a full IT and physical-site forensic investigation. Additionally, many citizens' groups are preparing calls to action should legal remedies to any attempted vote interference falter or be obstructed.
There is ample cause for general alarm and for the measures we've recommended, in what has emerged from the ongoing court action in Ohio. If evidence of electronic-voting manipulation follows the election Tuesday, it must be pursued regardless of who wins. And if the campaigns involved do not challenge the results where this evidence emerges, or if local and state authorities do not cooperate to resolve these questions, it is certain that a tidal wave of protest will develop. Nonviolent resistance was used successfully by African-Americans to win their civil rights in the 1960s, and earlier by American women to win the right to vote. Millions would not hesitate to use it again, if there is evidence of a stolen presidential election.
For more information on electronic voter interference, see: