Nine Republican governors have the power to put Mitt Romney in the White House, even if Barack Obama wins the popular vote.
With their secretaries of state, they control the electronic vote count in nine key swing states: Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and Arizona.
In tandem with the GOP's massive nation-wide disenfranchisement campaign, they could---in the dead of election night---flip their states' electronic votes to Romney and give him a victory in the Electoral College.
Gratefully, resistance has arisen to the GOP disenfranchisement strategy designed to deny millions of suspected Democrats the right to vote. The intent to demand photo ID for voting could result in some ten million Americans being disenfranchised, according to the Brennan Center at New York University. Other methods are being used to strip voter rolls---as in Ohio, where at least a million citizens have been purged from registration lists since 2009. This alone could deny the ballot to a substantial percentage of the electorate in key swing states.
The move has been characterized as a “new Jim Crow”. It has evoked a strong reaction from voting rights activists, a number of lawsuits, major internet traffic and front page coverage in the New York Times.
But there has been no parallel campaign to guarantee those votes are properly counted once cast. Despite serious problems with electronic tabulations in the presidential elections of both 2000 and 2004, electronic voting machines have spread further throughout the country. In Ohio, former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell awarded a no-bid state contract to Diebold---a Republican-owned company which no longer exists---to spread electronic voting machines throughout the state. In other states, federal money from the Help America Vote Act has helped move electronic voting machines into key swing states in substantial numbers that are not easy to track.
The machines can quickly tabulate a winner. But their dark side is simple: there is no way to monitor or double-check the final tally. American courts have consistently ruled that the software installed in e-voting machines is proprietary. [BOB---PLEASE INSERT DECISIONS HERE] Even the election boards that buy them cannot access their tabulation codes. The bulk of the major e-voting machine companies are owned by Republicans or by corporations whose roots are difficult to trace. WHILE WE HAVE TIME by Sheila Parks of the Center for Hand Counted Ballots documents much of the problem.
A Parks warns, we enter the 2012 vote count with no reliable means of guaranteeing any vote count emerging through electronic means is accurate.
In fact, whether they intend to do it or not, the Republican governors of the nine key swing states above do have the power to flip the election. Except for exit polls, there is no established way to check how the official electronic vote count might square with the actual intent of the electorate. And there is no legal method by which an electronic vote count can be effectively challenged.
There is unfortunate precedent. In the heat of election night 2000, in Volusia County, Florida, 16,000 electronic votes for Al Gore mysteriously disappeared. They were later re-instated. But their temporary evaporation gave commentators at Fox---one of them George W. Bush’s first cousin---an opening to declare that the state was “in play” rather than in the Gore column, as had initially appeared certain.
In Ohio 2004, at 12:20 election night, the initial vote tabulation showed John Kerry handily defeating Bush by more than 4%. This 200,000-plus margin appeared to guarantee Kerry’s ascent to the presidency.
But mysteriously, the vote count suddenly stopped. When it resumed around 2am, Bush jumped ahead with a 2% lead, eventually winning with an official margin of more than 118,000 votes. Such a shift of more than 6%, involving more than 300,000 votes, is a virtual statistical impossibility.
That night, Ohio’s vote count was being compiled in the basement of a bank building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The building also housed the servers for the Republican National Committee and thus the e-mail of Bush advisor Karl Rove.
Secretary of State Blackwell was co-chair of the Ohio Committee to Re-Elect Bush and Cheney. He met earlier that day in Columbus with Bush and Rove. That night, he sent state workers home early. The official tabulation was executed by an IT specialist named Michael Connoll, whose company was long associated with the Bush family. In 2008 Connell died in a mysterious single-engine plane crash while under subpoena to testify in the federal King-Lincoln-Bronzeville voter rights lawsuit (by way of disclosure: Bob is an attorney and Harvey a plaintiff in this lawsuit).
FreePress.org covered the vote shift in depth; the reportage appears in WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION? (www.harveywasserman.com and www.freepress.org). The King-Lincoln suit eventually resulted in a federal injunction ordering Ohio’s 88 counties to preserve all election records so a fair recount of the 2004 Ohio tabulation---which gave Bush a second term---could be effected.
But 54 of Ohio’s 88 counties ignored the injunction and destroyed their election records. Thus no recount of Ohio 2004 has ever been done. More than 90,000 provisional ballots went entirely uncounted, and have since been destroyed.
No way was ever found to verify the 2004 electronic vote count. There are no definitive safeguards in place today.
In 2008, swarms of election protection volunteers filled the polling stations in Ohio and other swing states. They guaranteed the right to vote for many thousands of Americans who might otherwise have been denied it.
They had no means of guaranteeing the accuracy of the electronic vote count. But Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan all had Democratic governors at the time. Florida’s governor was the moderate Republican Charlie Crist, not likely to steal an election for a party he would soon leave.
This year Rick Scott is in Florida, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Jan Brewer is in Arizona. All are seen as hard-right Republicans unlikely to agonize over flipping a Barack Obama majority into a victory for Mitt Romney.
That doesn’t mean they would actually do such a thing. But the stark reality is that they if they choose to, they can, and there would be no iron-clad way to prove they did.
Another stark reality: hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to win this election by multi-billionaires Sheldon Adelson, Charles and David Koch, the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interests. For them, spending a few extra million to flip a key state's electoral votes would make perfect sense.
Would these swing state GOP governors do it? We would actually never know for sure.
While Obama seems to be moving up in the polls, the huge reservoir of dollars raised to elect Mitt Romney will soon flood this campaign. We might anticipate well-funded media reports of a “surge” for Romney in the last two weeks of the election. Polls could well show a "close race" in the early hours of election day.
And then those electronic voting machines could be just as easily flipped on election night 2012 as they were in 2004.
Would this batch of swing state Republicans do that for Romney.
We don’t know.
COULD they do it?
Would you be able to find definitive, legally admissable proof that they did it?
Would the courts overturn such a tainted victory?
What could ultimately be done about it?
In the short term: nothing.
In the long term: a bottom-to-top remaking of our electoral system.
Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored five books on election protection, including the newly published WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION? (www.harveywasserman.com and www.freepress.org)