Monday, January 30, 2006


This vote counting system was replaced with a paperless DIEBOLD voting machine that counted 4,258 Bush votes in an Ohio precinct with only 638 voters

(This column will appear in the 2/2/06 THE ALBANY JOURNAL)

“In the past 9 years, neither my staff nor I can recall a single case or complaint of a voter impersonating another voter at the polls — the issue sought to be corrected by mandatory photo identification. And had this been occurring, some voter surely would have complained upon finding that someone else had voted under their name. It hasn't happened....

The bill attempts to solve a problem that does not exist while expanding the opportunity for fraud in the area that has long been the most vulnerable to this type of abuse — the mailed absentee ballot.”

Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, in 2005 letter to Georgia State Senate.

For the second year in a row, the Republican controlled legislature has passed a voter identification law which will prohibit elderly and poor voters without driver’s licenses from using their birth certificates or Social Security cards as identification. Although requiring proper identification at the polls seems like an innocuous requirement, the proponents of the law should have to answer some questions that the media has failed to press:

* If the integrity of elections is so important to the Republicans who now control the legislature, why didn’t they require a paper trail for computer cast ballots? Weren’t they aware that many jurisdictions around the country had problems with computer voting in 2004, including one precinct in Ohio’s Franklin County which recorded 4,258 votes for Bush where only 638 voters cast votes?

* If Republicans’ true concern is that imposters may use fake identification to vote if photos aren’t required, why not just let poll officials use digital cameras to snap pictures of voters who don’t have drivers’ licenses or other photo ID, then let them cast a provisional ballot? That way no legitimate voter will be excluded, and in the unlikely event an imposter shows up (it hasn’t happened once in the last 10 years), his vote can be challenged and he can be prosecuted using the photo as evidence.

* If eliminating voter fraud is so important to the Republican Party, then why did they relax the rules on absentee voting, where almost all of the recent instances of vote fraud have occurred in Georgia? Surely it couldn’t be because absentee voters usually vote Republican while those who lack drivers’ licenses usually vote Democratic?

* The committee which reported out this bill could not find a single instance of voter fraud resulting from use of a fake ID to justify the law. What is the real reason this legislation is such a high priority to Republicans that it has been the number one item on their agenda the first two years the Party took over the Georgia legislature?

The answers don’t come from Atlanta, but from Washington, Ohio, and Indiana.

The string pullers are in Washington

The real reason that the law has resurfaced relates to a Karl Rove- Jack Abramoff type initiative to maintain Republican control of Congress and state legislatures by suppressing likely Democratic voters. In Florida’s 2000 election thousands of legal voters were improperly denied their right to vote (the majority of whom were Democrats) when then Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who was also serving as the State Chair of Republicans for Bush, contracted a company to purge county voter lists- with zero oversight to correct all of the mistakes. In 2005 the Georgia photo ID bill was one of many introduced around the country in Republican controlled legislatures. Here’s an April 12, 2005 Associated Press story from Indiana which has eery parallels to Georgia’s recent headlines:

“INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would require most voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he would probably sign the measure, which would be one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the nation. The Republican-controlled Senate voted Tuesday 33-17 along party lines to approve slight changes to the bill made in the GOP-controlled House. Republicans said the measure will help prevent voter fraud and restore voter confidence without putting an undue burden on citizens. "I want everyone in this state to have the right to vote -- one time," said Republican Sen. Victor Heinold, the bill's sponsor. Democrats strongly opposed the bill, arguing it would deprive the poor, minorities, the disabled and the elderly of the right to vote, because they are less likely to drive.“

The year before Indiana Republicans passed a law to “solve” a non-existent problem which-- totally coincidentally (!)-- will reduce votes for Democratic candidates, its next door neighbor, Ohio, had computer voting machines manufactured and serviced by Diebold, Inc. that mysteriously recorded phantom votes for Bush during the 2004 election. Franklin County’s 4,258 Bush votes gleaned from 638 voters was only one of many such instances. Astoundingly, every reported instance of over votes turned out to be in Bush’s favor.

One question the media needs to ask the Republican leadership in Georgia, Indiana, and Washington is why they have fought so hard against laws that would require a paper trail to protect the integrity of ballots cast using Diebold voting machines while passing laws to keep the poor and elderly from casting legal votes. Perhaps the answer can be found in ill fated Ohio Congressman Bob Ney’s gift basket.

Two weeks ago Ney was stripped of his post as Chair of the House Administration Committee because of illegal gifts and other bribes received from convicted “$100,000 Ranger for Bush” Jack Abramoff. Abramoff, a member of the 2000 Bush transition team, was an initiator of the sleazy K-street project to purge lobbying firms of Democrats while funneling bribes to Republicans. His guilty plea to bribing so far unnamed Republican Congressmen (no Democrats received any money directly from Abramoff or from clients under Abramoff’s direction) has recently caused many Washington Republicans to lose sleep.

Diebold -- whose CEO Wally O'Dell is a Republican stalwart who pledged to deliver Ohio's votes to Bush in the 2004 campaign-- was reported to have paid a quarter of a million dollars to Abramoff's firm, Greenberg Traurig, for “lobbying” work. Ney's former chief of staff David DiStefano has been paid to lobby for Diebold, Inc. One of DiStefano's claims was that he had "an insider’s edge to hard-to-reach political officials. After receiving “contributions” from Abramoff and being “lobbied” by his former chief of staff, Ney successfully fought off every Democratic effort in Congress to require a paper trail for votes cast on Diebold voting machines.

Georgia Republicans have opened the doors wide to voter fraud by likely Republican voters while enacting legislation to suppress likely Democratic voters

“What is it with you son?” the old football coach asked the overweight tackle. “Is it ignorance or apathy?” “I don’t know and I don’t care,” the player responded.

Georgia’s top Republican legislators have apparently taken their cue from the football player in the apocryphal story, either being unaware or indifferent that their photo ID bill would severely impact legitimate voters, keeping them from the polls, while opening the gates wide to voter fraud in absentee balloting. In his ruling invalidating Georgia’s 2005 photo ID law, Federal Judge Harold Murphy noted that Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox wrote the Georgia State Senate, asking that the senators consider the "staggering opportunities for voter fraud" that HB 244 would create:

“By allowing any person, at any time within 45 days before an election, to vote an absentee ballot by mail — with no ID requirement and no requirement to state one of the current conditions for voting absentee— such as being out of town on election day, having a disability, being over 75 years old, etc.), you would be opening a gaping opportunity for fraud. At virtually every meeting of the State Elections Board during the past 10 years, we have dealt with cases involving fraud or election law violations in handling or voting absentee ballots. HB 244 removes all restrictions on voting by mail, and thus makes it quite simple for someone inclined to commit fraud to do so.

This completely contradicts the reasons stated for another measure contained in HB 244 — the Photo ID requirement. If the authors are indeed concerned about voter fraud, they would not likely authorize the easiest — and most prevalent form — of election law violations: unregulated voting by mail.”

In granting the lawsuit’s request for an injunction, Judge Murphy wrote: “In reaching this conclusion, the Court observes that it has great respect for the Georgia legislature. The Court, however, simply has more respect for the Constitution.” Would that Georgia’s Republican legislators felt the same.


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