If you bet on a race horse, and later heard about serious allegations that the winning horse may have been illegally doped to gain an advantage, would you demand an investigation?
You know the answer. It would depend on whether or not you bet on the winning horse.
That's what has made much of America so hesitant to demand accountability regarding a growing ledger of allegations that the November 2004 election was so badly tainted that one could fairly question the outcome of the biggest race of all -- the one for the Oval Office. Anyone who questions the reliability of the election is assumed to be a sour-grapes bad sport who has fallen into the thrall of aluminum-foil helmeted conspiracy theorists. And the media, ever tremulous about affirming their critics' allegations of liberal bias, would sooner remove a hot radiator cap than make a mission of investigating the anomalies.
But the anomalies were real. Many have been documented. They kept thousands in swing states from voting, and prevented thousands of ballots from being counted.
Not incidentally, most of the 2004 anomalies benefited one party.
What stands out in the analysis of 2004 voting practices in the critical state of Ohio, says Columbus State Community College professor Bob Fitrakis, ``is the asymmetrical nature of the anomalies. Virtually every single anomaly tends to favor Bush, just overwhelmingly.''
Fitrakis, a lawyer who holds a Ph.D in political science, has done considerable research into the critical Ohio election, which Bush officially won by 118,599 votes to recapture the presidency. Fitrakis will present his evidence in a book, What happened in Ohio: A documentary record of theft and fraud in the 2004 election, coauthored by Harvey Wasserman and Steve Rosenfeld, to be released in September.
Among their findings:
Four percent of the 5.6 million votes cast in Ohio -- some 224,000 ballots -- were not counted for various reasons. Nearly two-thirds of those disallowed votes came from urban, heavily Democratic districts.
In certain heavily Republican counties, John Kerry received fewer votes than obscure Democrats running in statewide elections. In Butler County, for example, a retired black judge from Cleveland in a long-shot race for state Supreme Court got 61,000 votes. Kerry got 54,000.
''The drop-off [in votes] was at the top of the ticket, which is abnormal,'' Fitrakis said.
Voter turnout in two precincts exceeded 100 percent of the voters registered. In one precinct, 679 out of 689 voters reportedly cast ballots -- yet, ''In a couple of hours, we were able to find 25 people who said they didn't vote or were out of town,'' Fitrakis said.
(See a 2004 article Fitrakis wrote for The Columbus Free Press at http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2004/983.)
Electoral problems are hardly limited to Ohio. Brad Friedman, the proprietor of the Brad Blog website (www.BradBlog.com), has documented mounting suspicion of the veracity and reliability of electronic voting machines used across the nation.
Friedman told me he blames the reticence of the mainstream media to tackle the issue for the public's lack of fervor about what he sees as a threat to the nation's electoral integrity.
''The people who hear about the information, get it,'' he said. "But they're just not hearing it enough, and that's because of the media.''
He cites an October 2005 report by the nonpartisan General Accountability Office which concluded that the nation's electronic voting system is rife with flaws, weak security controls and inconsistent voter-system standards.
Had you heard of this report? I hadn't, until Friedman referred me to it. And yet California just recertified a Diebold Co. voting machine even though it contains computer language rejected by federal guidelines because it makes the machines vulnerable to hacking.
Until the public demands changes, we'll continue to be plagued by partisan supervisors of election who -- as in Ohio in 2004 and Florida in 2000 -- simultaneously hold high positions in a top candidate's campaign. By electronic vote-counting machines lacking proper security controls or any way to recheck the vote afterward. By voter-purging tactics and preventable Election Day obstacles that mysteriously hurt one party more than another.
There's good reason for Bush supporters and rock-ribbed Republicans to demand corrective action to prevent the anomalies that surely compromised the 2004 election: The risk that failure to curb the abuses will encourage the competition to resort to similar tactics. The last thing anyone wants is a cheater's arms race. Either you stop the cheating, or you encourage more of it.
Email to: rsteinback@MiamiHerald.com.
© 2006 Miami Herald