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December 15, 2004
In Ohio, The Whining Continues

Micheal Powell and Peter Slevin report on Election Day difficulties in Ohio, using spot reports to extrapolate a massive electoral collapse that their own numbers show didn't happen. As Ohio voted in record numbers, the notion that heavy turnout would bring long lines appears to have surprised Democrats, who interpret them as part of an evil plan to disenfranchise inner-city voters:

Tanya Thivener's is a tale of two voting precincts in Franklin County. In her city neighborhood, which is vastly Democratic and majority black, the 38-year-old mortgage broker found a line snaking out of the precinct door.

She stood in line for four hours -- one hour in the rain -- and watched dozens of potential voters mutter in disgust and walk away without casting a ballot. Afterward, Thivener hopped in her car and drove to her mother's house, in the vastly Republican and majority white suburb of Harrisburg. How long, she asked, did it take her to vote?

Fifteen minutes, her mother replied.

"It was . . . poor planning," Thivener said. "County officials knew they had this huge increase in registrations, and yet there weren't enough machines in the city. You really hope this wasn't intentional."

In Minnesota, in my predominantly white, middle-class suburb, the line snaked out the doors of the polling place (the local fire station) and out into rainy, 35-degree weather. In fact, that line did not significantly shorten most of the day. Why? Because we had a higher turnout than normal, which most of us agreed was a positive sign. We did have several polling booths, but that might be because we planned better than other counties for that contingency. Seeing as how the counties are run by Democrats in most of the areas that the Washington Post investigated for this article, I would chalk up Thivener's experience to incompetency on the part of Democrats and not a conspiracy by the GOP.

The entire report is filled with contradictory data. On one hand, Powell and Slevin give credence to these wild conspiracy theories by talking about long lines and the underinvestment in machines, and yet they also report this:

On Election Day, more than 5.7 million Ohioans voted, 900,000 more voters than in 2000.

That's an increase of 19% over the last Presidential election who successfully voted, and yet Powell and Slevin want to keep the meme of voter suppression alive. If increasing voter participation by almost twenty percent amounts to a conspiracy to suppress the vote, then the conspiracy failed by any rational analysis.

Nor do the other anecdotes provided by the Post make their argument more convincing. At one point, they scold Ohioans for using punch-card ballots:

Congress imposed only the minimal national standards and included too few dollars. Tens of thousands of machines -- including 70 percent of Ohio's machines -- still use punch-card ballots, which have a high error rate.

But then Powell and Slevin turn up their noses at the replacement touch-screen machines that advocates swore would be the solution for addled Florida voters who couldn't figure out the punch-card system:

Berkeley sociologist Michael Hout, who directed the study, said the problem in Florida probably lies with the technology. (Florida's touch-screen machines lack paper records.) "I've always viewed this as a software problem, not a corruption problem," he said. "We'd never tolerate this level of errors with an ATM. The problem is that we continue to do democracy on the cheap."

And then they complain when an indirect-recording system like the touch-screen machines get out of calibration:

In northeastern Ohio, in the fading industrial city of Youngstown, Jeanne White, a veteran voter and manager at the Buckeye Review, an African American newspaper, stepped into the booth, pushed the button for Kerry -- and watched her vote jump to the Bush column. "I saw what happened; I started screaming: 'They're cheating again and they're starting early!' "

It was not her imagination. Twenty-five machines in Youngstown experienced what election officials called "calibration problems." "It happens every election," said Thomas McCabe, deputy director of elections for Mahoning County, which includes Youngstown. "It's something we have to live with, and we can fix it."

The proof of the election, and Ohio's preparations for it, is in the final numbers. Ohio was able to successfully record 19% more votes in this election than four years ago. Did individuals have problems voting? Of course; that happens in every election. Did machines fail or need adjustment? Yes, and that also happens in every election. Did some county boards penny-pinch and spend too little money? Apparently so, but the fault of that lies with the counties -- and voters should hold them accountable in the next election.

Find the problems and fix them, but quit whining about voter suppression when the US just experienced its best turnout for an election in several cycles.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 15, 2004 6:22 AM

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