Port Townsend, Wash.

After your thought-provoking August 16/23 feature article by Ronnie Dugger, “How They Could Steal the Election This Time,” I’m shocked and horrified that you haven’t reported on the plethora of credible evidence that this election was indeed subjected to massive fraud (which included some of the methods Dugger outlined). There is only a small window of opportunity (until December 13, when the results of the election are “certified”) to demand major legal action be taken to preserve some semblance of democracy in America. I should think The Nation would be screaming bloody murder, not joining the mainstream media’s virtual lockout on this most critical story.


New York City

I’d just stepped out of my black helicopter to read that one of my favorite journalists, David Corn, had attacked my analysis of the vote in Ohio as the stuff of “grassy knoll conspiracy theorists” [“A Stolen Election?” November 29].

Oh, my! All because I wrote that the uncounted ballots in Ohio–more than a quarter-million designated “spoiled” or “provisional”–undoubtedly contain enough votes to overturn George Bush’s “victory” margin of 136,000. Corn says, “Palast wrongly assumes that an overwhelming majority of these ballots contain votes for Kerry.” Now why would I think such a thing? Maybe because the precinct-by-precinct analysis of “spoiled” votes (those that machines can’t count) by Professor Mark Salling of Cleveland State University, the unchallengeable expert on Ohio voting demographics, concludes that “spoiled” punch cards in Ohio cities come “overwhelmingly” from African-American neighborhoods. The Republican secretary of state of Ohio does not disagree, by the way; he intends to fix the Jim Crow vote-counting problem in Ohio–sometime after the next inaugural ball.

The second group of uncounted ballots, “provisionals,” were also generated substantially in African-American areas, the direct result of a Republican program to hunt down, challenge and suppress the votes cast in black-majority precincts.

What happened in Ohio is one-fiftieth of a nationwide phenomenon: the noncount of African-American votes, about a million of them marked as unreadable in a typical presidential race [see Greg Palast, “Vanishing Votes,” May 17].

I will admit, David, I can’t tell you exactly how each of those disenfranchised voters would have cast their ballots. Indeed, one Republican statistician claims these uncounted ballots are cast mostly by African-American supporters of George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, most of us conspiracy nuts on the grassy knoll hold to our wild belief that most black citizens whose ballots were spoiled or rejected tried to vote for the tall guy from Massachusetts.


Oakland, Calif.

David Corn, while at least writing about vote fraud, something most of his commercial-media colleagues seem reluctant to do, has not done his homework. Had he read some of the items he mentions, he would notice that they are not “relying more on supposition than evidence.” In regard to the exit polls, Dick Morris would not be a person I would look to for solid information. Instead, please look at the work of a University of Pennsylvania statistician as he explains the near-impossibility that the exit polls in three battleground states (and those only, not nationwide) could be so far off: www.truthout.org/unexplainedexitpoll.pdf.

Kathy Dopp’s figures, which Corn says are refuted by professors at Cornell, Harvard and Stanford as having been “mostly in the conservative Florida Panhandle” are for almost the entire state, including counties in the far south and far east of Florida. Go to the evidence: www.uscountvotes.org. And you can verify where these counties are by going to www.verifiedvoting.org/verifier, where you will be able to look at each state, including Florida, and each US county to see which voted with which kind of machine.

The statement from Robert Parry that Corn quotes regarding “sophisticated CIA-style computer hacking” illustrates how naïve most of us are when it comes to the technical side of this matter. In fact, it was demonstrated on live television in September just how easy it is to get into the C drive of any of the central tallying computers that individual voting machines transmit to and simply change the totals–or reverse the names at the tops of columns from Kerry to Bush. And few people are saying this happened all over the United States–it only needed to happen in a few counties in a few swing states, remember? Like Florida and Ohio?

The fact that there is no paper trail is not an accident–there were at least three bills in both houses of Congress, which called simply for that, a paper trail–and the Republican leaders refused to let any of them out of committee, even though the original House bill (introduced in May 2003) had at one point more than 180 sponsors from both parties. The Bush Administration also refused to do what it is mandated to do by law, verify the code of all machines used for voting. Their argument was that the code is proprietary. Tell that to the government programmers and analysts who work on weapons systems, who every day have access to Microsoft, Lotus, etc. codes for their work. The government simply agrees not to divulge code from one company to another.

Finally, this statement from the associate dean at Yale Law School: “The mainstream press must immediately realize that this issue rises above partisanship and demands attention.” www.law.yale.edu/outside/html/public_affairs/537/yls_article.htm.



Washington, DC

David Michael claims there is a “plethora of credible evidence” of fraud. But he does not cite specifics. In my articles, I have assessed the “evidence” that has zapped around the Internet and found some of it curious and some of it open to question or dismissal. The statistical proofs that have been popular among stolen-election proponents may raise eyebrows, but they do not make a solid case.

This is my argument with Greg Palast: In the article in question, for tompaine.com, Palast proclaims, “Kerry won” in Ohio, where the announced results had John Kerry down by 136,000 votes. Palast writes that if you count the 155,000 provisional ballots and “add in the [93,000] spoiled punch cards (easy to tally with the human eye in a recount)…the totals begin to match the exit polls; and, golly, you’ve got yourself a new president.” He is wrong in his math and assumptions. Of the provisional ballots, Democrats in Ohio estimated that 80 to 90 percent would be valid. While these ballots could well break for Kerry, they would not yield enough of a net gain to erase Bush’s lead. If Kerry won this group by a whopping 70-to-30 percent margin–a big if–he would net about 56,000 votes (assuming 90 percent of these ballots were deemed valid).

On to the spoiled punch cards–of which I know something. After the Florida fiasco of 2000, I examined 3,409 “spoiled” punch-card ballots in Miami-Dade County (which had not been included in the official count) and found that 59 percent had no marks for President and that only 233–with hanging, dangling and other sorts of chads–could definitely be read as votes. Of this small group, Al Gore gained a measly five-vote advantage. More than 90 percent of the “spoiled” Miami ballots were not countable. The Ohio “spoiled” ballots would not be as easily tallied as Palast indicates. Using my Florida experience as a guide, one could estimate that the “spoiled” ballots in Ohio would yield 6,000 to 8,000 readable votes. Even if every one were a Kerry vote, Kerry would still fall far short.

I agree with Palast that the voting system has many deficiencies–which I have noted in my recent articles for this magazine–and that certain problems seem to hit low-income and minority areas disproportionately. But Palast should not inform his readers that counting the provisional ballots and hand-counting the “spoiled” ballots in Ohio would produce different results. If only the remedy were so easy.

Judith Faust points to a paper produced by Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, which claimed that discrepancies between the media consortium exit polls and the vote count in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania were a “250 million to one” shot. But, as I have noted, pollster John Zogby says his exit polls had Bush leading in Ohio and Florida. And when I recently was on a radio show with Avi Rubin, a renowned computer scientist and a leading critic of Diebold and electronic voting, I heard Rubin express skepticism about Freeman’s statistical analysis.

Regarding the Dopp chart, I did note that Walter Mebane and other political scientists had debunked it. The Dopp study maintains that optical scanning machines were rigged in Florida. But then a study written by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that anomalies in the Florida vote count–which cost Kerry 130,000 to 260,000 votes–were due to irregularities with electronic touchscreen machines. Yet then a report released by researchers at the California Institute of Technology and MIT maintained there was “no evidence, based on exit polls, that electronic voting machines were used to steal the election” in Florida. So what we have, to date, is a battle of statistics. And no statistics-based claim of fraud, as of this writing, has been so compelling as to win endorsement from a significant number of prominent statisticians.

And here’s an interesting development: Ralph Nader forced a recount in New Hampshire, pointing to the gap between exit polls and the actual vote count. Nader argued that it appeared that Bush had received inflated totals in communities that had used optical scanning voting machines. But the initial stage of the recount produced a tally that differed by only fifteen votes from among the 12,000 cast. The exit poll-actual vote gap in this instance was seemingly no indication of fraud.

As for Faust’s point about the susceptibility of electronic voting machines to tampering, she is right. That is reason to demand a better, more transparent system, open to easy review and auditing and not dominated by secretive private companies with links to the Republican Party. But it is not evidence that fraud occurred in Florida, Ohio or elsewhere. (For such fraud to succeed it probably would have to have happened in more than merely a “few” counties.) She is also correct to note that attempts to address this matter have been thwarted by Republicans in Congress.

Perhaps solid evidence of fraud will emerge. But even if it does not, there remains the need to reform the voting system and insure it is fair, safe and not vulnerable to covert shenanigans.