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News From The U.S. Election Reform Movement

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Chaos in Ohio: Blackwell Says G.O.P. Chair Is in Diebold's "Hip Pocket"; Ohio AG Rules Blackwell Order Illegal; Blackwell Says AG's "Playing Politics"


What the hell is going on in Ohio?

To any objective observer, it would seem the state's electoral processes are in an advanced state of meltdown, with former political alliances most notably, between the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, and between the G.O.P. Chairman and the Secretary of State now strangely and suddenly dissolved.

They say rats try to flee a sinking ship: is Ohio's murky electoral administration about to implode under the weight of investigations into a recent, suspicious presidential election?

As The Advocate reported this week, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell recently issued an edict that all the state's counties have until today to choose voting systems for the fall of 2006 even though he's only given them two choices of vendors, one "choice" of system type, and 354 fewer days to evaluate their options than federal law (the 2002 Help America Vote Act) would otherwise have given them.

Now, at the urgent request of several county boards, that edict has been deemed illegal by the Ohio Attorney General, Jim Petro who, though a long-standing Blackwell ally as allegations surfaced that the 2004 general election in Ohio was mismanaged, says of Blackwell's latest order, according to a paraphrase in the Wednesday edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "[he] does not have the authority to dictate how independent boards conduct their elections."

Blackwell, through spokesman Carlo LoParo, immediately shot back, calling the Attorney General's advisory opinion "inexplicable."

Incredibly, LoParo didn't stop there revealing that Blackwell believes Petro has instituted a "sudden change" in state policy, and that according to Petro's new legal stance, prior decisions of the Secretary of State would have to be deemed illegal as well.

Don't these people have internal censors?

Blackwell, through LoParo, has thus essentially admitted that his pre-election administrative edicts violated Ohio law or, at the very least, that he believes Petro (to be consistent) would have to rule so if forced to make any further public comment.

According to LoParo, Petro found "similar [pre-election] directives" to be compliant with state law, and is now "playing politics."

And what "politics" would that be abandoning a man whose mismanagement of a federal election is about to be exposed before a Congressional oversight committee? Or abandoning a man who failed to appear before said committee to be questioned under oath about his activities, when his appearance had been specifically demanded by Congress?

Okay, we'll buy into abandoning the ship on that one.

We certainly would.

Meanwhile, erstwhile Blackwell supporter Bob Bennett State G.O.P. Chairman and member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections for the first time in his life (perhaps a sign of the changing winds) issued a statement generally in agreement with a stated position of The Advocate, alleging that Blackwell's decision-making processes with regard to HAVA compliance are akin to "operating a coal mine at midnight."

Bennett is prepared to enter the state's largest county into a binding contract with controversial voting equipment manufacturer Diebold to the tune of 6,000 new voting machines (yes, 6,000 an abiding sense of decency is not one of Bennett's chief personality traits).

Blackwell steadfastly burning his very last bridge in Ohio fired back immediately and, in a thinly-veiled reference to Diebold, charged that Bennett is "in the darkness of some vendor's hip pocket."


Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Abandon ship!

These Republicans and perhaps even the presidential election they oversaw in 2004 are going down, and fast.

Stay tuned to this space, and wherever else the truth is told.

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