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My Election 2004 bad dream

By JOSH MITTELDORF   Opinion   Philadelphia Daily News  26 April 2005

ON A RECENT flight to Nashville, I sat next to a man who asked what I was writing. Preparing a talk, I told him, for a conference of people sharing evidence that the 2004 presidential election was stolen. Without missing a beat, he asked. "Isn't that next door to the convention on UFO sightings?"

I wasn't surprised. We've been painted as conspiracy theorists and worse by Democrats and Republicans alike, and even the liberal arm of the press has steered clear of this issue. But when I arrived at Jefferson Street Baptist Church in Nashville, my doubts about the election were reinforced by a group of sober professionals, none who seemed overtly loony.

I met David Griscom, a retired physics prof who spent months with colleague John Brakey poring over election tapes, signature rosters and "consecutive number registers" from Brakey's Tucson home precinct.

They audited and verified, one by one, the 895 votes in the precinct and found: 12 innocent and unsuspecting voters who had their names duplicated on the roster and their votes for Bush counted twice. Twenty-two "undervotes" where the machine had failed to register a preference for president, and these had been dutifully and meticulously converted to 22 votes for Bush.

The "Republican" and "Democratic" co-directors of the polling place were a local fundamentalist preacher and his wife. Thirty-nine of their parishioners from another precinct had cast provisional ballots, which were (illegally) converted to regular ballots and passed through, all 39 for Bush.

I met Richard Hayes Phillips, a geologist from New Hampshire who was invited to Ohio to study the integrity of the vote, and realized that a complete inventory of lost and miscounted votes was needed. To date, Phillips has analyzed 15 of Ohio's 88 counties, and by his most conservative estimate has found 101,000 uncounted Kerry votes - 136,000 is the margin by which Bush officially defeated Kerry.

I heard Clint Curtis talk about working in 2001 as a programmer for Yang Enterprises in Florida. He was assigned to a meeting with State Senate Speaker Tom Feeney, who asked to have a program written into the software that controls voting machines so that the totals could be manipulated without leaving a trace. Curtis, the whistleblower, is now unemployed. Feeney, the politician, is now the U.S. representative from Florida's 24th Congressional district.

I was inspired to hear the travails of Ohio lawyer Cliff Arnebeck. After the Green Party raised $200,000 and obtained authorization for a recount in Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell staged a charade in which every state rule about the conduct of the recount was thrown out, and two hand-picked precinct captains emerged from behind locked doors to report that yes, indeed the numbers were exactly right and all was hunky dory.

Arnebeck was lead attorney in a lawsuit to expose this sham, and get a real recount. The suit was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moyer, who ruled on the case despite the fact that his own re-election was part of the challenge. Arnebeck has continued to pursue the case while he fights for his legal life: State Attorney General Jim Petro has brought an action to discipline Arnebeck for bringing a frivolous suit that wastes the precious time of the Ohio court.

Now I'm safely returned from Planet Nashville, back home in the land of ABC-CBS-NBC-FOX-AP. I find it reassuring to remember that if any of this had really happened, the Democrats in Congress would be screaming about it. I'd read about it on the front page, and it would be all over the network news. Yes, I can be sure that Nashville was just a bad dream. The reality is that President Bush won the election, and it's time to move on. Time to move on. It was all just a dream. Yes, it's time to move on.

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