May 01, 2005

Theft of the 2004 Election

Theft of the 2004 Election
Published on Friday, April 1, 2005 by the Akron Beacon Journal / Ohio

Analysis Points to Election 'Corruption'
Group Says Chance of Exit Polls Being So Wrong in '04 Vote is One-in-959,000

by Stephen Dyer

There's a one-in-959,000 chance that exit polls could have been so wrong in predicting the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, according to a statistical analysis released Thursday.
Exit polls in the November election showed Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., winning by 3 percent, but President George W. Bush won the vote count by 2.5 percent.
The explanation for the discrepancy that was offered by the exit polling firm -- that Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polling -- is an ``implausible theory,'' according to the report issued Thursday by US Count Votes, a group that claims it's made up of about two dozen statisticians.
Twelve -- including a Case Western Reserve University mathematics instructor -- signed the report.
Instead, the data support the idea that ``corruption of the vote count occurred more freely in districts that were overwhelmingly Bush strongholds.''
The report dismisses chance and inaccurate exit polling as the reasons for their discrepancy with the results.
They found that the one hypothesis that can't be ruled out is inaccurate election results.
``The hypothesis that the voters' intent was not accurately recorded or counted... needs further investigation,'' it said.
The conclusion drew a yawn from Ohio election officials, who repeated that the discrepancy issue was settled when the polling firms Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International disavowed its polls because Kerry voters were more likely to answer exit polls -- the theory Thursday's report deemed ``implausible.''
Ohio has been at the center of a voter disenfranchisement debate since the election.
``What are you going to do except laugh at it?'' said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who's responsible for administering Ohio's elections and is a Republican candidate for governor. ``We're not particularly interested in (the report's findings). We wish them luck, but hope they find something more interesting to do.''
The statistical analysis, though, shows that the discrepancy between polls and results was especially high in precincts that voted for Bush -- as high as a 10 percent difference.
The report says if the official explanation -- that Bush voters were more shy about filling out exit polls in precincts with more Kerry voters -- is true, then the precincts with large Bush votes should be more accurate, not less accurate as the data indicate.
The report also called into question new voting machine technologies.
``All voting equipment technologies except paper ballots were associated with large unexplained exit poll discrepancies all favoring the same party, (which) certainly warrants further inquiry,'' the report concludes.
However, LoParo remained unimpressed.
``These (Bush) voters have been much maligned by outside political forces who didn't like the way they voted,'' he said. ``The weather's turning nice. There are more interesting things to do than beat a dead horse.''
© 2005 Beacon Journal and wire service sources


Posted on Fri, Apr. 01, 2005

Dade election chief Kaplan resigns
Faced with questions over voting deficiencies, Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan suddenly resigned Thursday.
Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan resigned Thursday amid increasing pressure from county officials who had grown frustrated with a succession of problems that included several hundred votes being lost in the most recent election.
County Manager George Burgess described the decision as mutual but acknowledged that he felt improvements could be made to the department. Kaplan, who could not be reached for comment, will be immediately replaced by her chief deputy, Lester Sola, pending County Commission approval.
This week Burgess launched an audit of the Elections Department and a review of six local elections after Kaplan reported that a faulty computer program did not count hundreds of votes in a March 8 referendum. Miami-Dade voters rejected the measure that would have allowed slot machines at local race tracks and jai-alai frontons. Broward County voters approved slots.
While Kaplan said the uncounted votes would not have changed the referendum's outcome in Miami-Dade, the parimutuel industry sent a letter to Burgess Thursday calling for a new election.
''We will pursue all remedies available under the law,'' said lobbyist Ron Book, who represents the parimutuels.
Burgess said the trouble with Kaplan wasn't confined to the March 8 election. That ''was part of a series of issues: differences on how we approach things,'' Burgess said. He said Kaplan had made some improvements to the department, pointing to the success of the high-stakes November presidential election.
Nonetheless, Kaplan's downfall was quick. A veteran Chicago elections official who had overseen voting in countries around the globe, Kaplan took the Miami-Dade job in June 2003 as the County Commission's choice to rescue the disaster-prone Miami-Dade elections process. Less than two years later, the one-time savior leaves with a tattered reputation.
County officials were desperate to shed the area's reputation for flubbing elections after the 1997 voter-fraud scandal and the 2000 presidential recount.
The county spent $24 million on new iVotronic voting machines, but in their first major test, the 2002 general election, poll workers fumbled with the machines, resulting in a countywide electoral meltdown.
Kaplan came in with 33 years on the Chicago board of elections, where she'd been the main elections troubleshooter. She also had successes and fond memories of consulting for elections in Kosovo, Zambia, Indonesia and China -- where she said she was mistaken for Madonna because she is blond.
Kaplan is still highly regarded in Chicago, said a former colleague who feared Miami politics contributed to his friend's swift fall from grace.
''They were fortunate to get someone of her talent,'' said Tom Leach, longtime spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, which does not answer to a county manager or other politicians.
Kaplan beat out 120 other applicants for the $150,000-a-year job in Miami-Dade. But less than a year into her tenure, a flaw was discovered in the iVotronic machine's auditing system. County elections officials thought they had the glitch remedied, but instead they temporarily lost most of the data files from the 2002 elections.
By August 2004, then-County Commission Chair Barbara Carey-Shuler sent a memo to Burgess calling the county's elections Department ``the laughing stock of the nation.''
This February, county Inspector General Chris Mazzella issued a scathing report, accusing the department of poor oversight of campaign financing in the November election. Kaplan disagreed, saying there were ''many misstatements'' in the report.
The situation reached a boiling point this week when Kaplan alerted Burgess that a review showed unexpectedly high numbers of undervotes -- where ballots are cast but no choice is made -- in the March 8 referendum. The Elections Department found 1,246 electronic undervotes in comparison to 61 on absentee ballots.
Kaplan explained that about one-third of the electronic undervotes were caused by an election worker's miscoding a computer program.
The error affected cases in which voters made a selection but didn't push the red flashing ''vote'' button at the top of the machine. In such cases, poll workers are supposed to insert a cartridge that tells the machine to count the vote. But the bad coding instructed machines to ignore the votes.
Regarding the remaining two-thirds of the undercount, Kaplan said only that her staff found that some residents were confused by the ballot question and left without completing their vote.
She swiftly reassigned two supervisors in charge of the coding. Kaplan also blamed the Election Systems & Software, the company that makes iVotronic.
The company responded in a statement: ``In this instance, the primary responsibility for this particular aspect of preparing for the election lies with the county.''
Burgess called her response ''inadequate'' and ''unacceptable.'' Mayor Carlos Alvarez agreed. ''To make excuses and assume a defensive posture doesn't solve anything,'' he said.
On Wednesday, Kaplan had a lengthy closed-door meeting in Burgess' office, followed by another on Thursday. The difference: At the second, she was followed in by the county's head of employee relations, there to finalize the details of Kaplan's departure.

© 2005 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Chairman of Voting Reform Panel Resigns
By Erica Werner
The Associated Press
Friday 22 April 2005
The first chairman of a federal voting agency created after the 2000 election dispute is resigning, saying the government has not shown enough commitment to reform.
DeForest Soaries said in an interview Friday that his resignation would take effect next week.
Though Soaries, 53, said he wanted to spend more time with his family in New Jersey, he added that his decision was prompted in part by what he called a lack of support.
"All four of us had to work without staff, without offices, without resources. I don't think our sense of personal obligation has been matched by a corresponding sense of commitment to real reform from the federal government," he said.
Soaries, a Republican former New Jersey secretary of state, was the White House's pick to join the Election Assistance Commission, created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to help states enact voting reforms.
A Baptist minister, Soaries was confirmed by the Senate in December 2003 and elected the independent agency's first chairman by his three fellow commissioners. His term as chairman ended in January 2005 and since then he has stayed on as a commission member.
Soaries and the other commissioners complained from the beginning that the group was underfunded and neglected by the lawmakers who created it.
"It's bad enough to be working under extremely adverse circumstances, but what throws your thinking into an abyss, as it were, is why you would be doing that when, for instance, you have to beg Congress for money as if the commission was your idea," Soaries said.
White House spokesman Allen Abney said only, "We appreciate his service and we are working to fill the vacancy promptly."
Envisioned as a clearinghouse for election information that would make recommendations about technology and other issues and distribute $2.3 billion to states for voting improvements, the commission initially couldn't afford its own office space. The commissioners were appointed nine months later than envisioned by the Help America Vote Act, and of a $10 million budget authorized for 2004, the panel received just $1.2 million.
Soaries said the commission could claim some credit for last November's relatively smooth election, including recommending "best practices" to voting administrators and getting the election reform money to states faster than it otherwise would have gone. The commission has sent about $1.8 billion to states so far.
But the commission has failed to preside over the kinds of sweeping reforms some hoped for, with many counties still relying in November on the same punch-card and lever machines derided after the 2000 election. Soaries said the commission is making progress with improvements, including technical guidelines and centralized voter registration lists, that are supposed to be in place for the 2006 election.
"There is so much more work to do to bring federal elections to the standard I think that the citizens expect, and there doesn't seem to be a corresponding sense of urgency among the policy-makers in Washington," Soaries said. "Nor does there seem to be a national consensus among leaders of the states about what success looks like."
Soaries said election reform was on the front burner after the 2000 presidential recount, but it moved to the back burner - and stayed there - after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat and a lead sponsor of the Help America Vote Act, said Soaries' resignation underscored a need to give the commission adequate resources.
"I hope this administration and Congress seriously consider Mr. Soaries' observations as we develop the fiscal year 2006 budget," Hoyer said.
The commission also has run into opposition from state officials accustomed to running their own elections and wary of federal involvement. Earlier this year, the National Association of Secretaries of State approved a resolution asking Congress to dissolve the Election Assistance Commission after 2006.
But Soaries said that despite his frustration and Congress' lack of engagement, he saw a lasting role for the Election Assistance Commission.
"Someone's got to wake up every morning with the mission of improving federal elections in a way that assures the voting public that they can have confidence in voting," he said.
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Article published April 29, 2005

FBI raids Noe's condo, seizes 'some property'
Investigators seek evidence of campaign-fund activity

FBI agents made a sweep of Tom Noe’s River Road condo in Maumee.


The federal probe into whether local Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe was illegally funneling money to the Bush campaign had been ongoing for months. It reached a turning point Wednesday night.

FBI agents swept into Mr. Noe’s Maumee condo about 7:30 p.m., spending three hours scouring the home of one of the most prominent Republicans in northwest Ohio. They were looking for evidence of violations of federal campaign contribution laws.

The federal probe is studying Mr. Noe’s campaign contributions to the President, and specifically contributions made by others who may have received money from Mr. Noe, possibly allowing him to exceed the $2,000 spending cap.

Jon Richardson, Mr. Noe’s attorney, said the search was “very civilized” and that Mr. Noe’s wife, Bernadette, cooperated with agents who removed “some property” from the condo. Mr. Noe was not home at the time of the search.

The search warrant was signed by U.S. Magistrate Vernelis Armstrong. The affadavit that outlines why federal authorities are seeking the warrant has been sealed by the court.
On Wednesday, Gregory A. White, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, confirmed his office is looking into Mr. Noe, who was chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in northwest Ohio.

Mr. Richardson said he has advised Mr. Noe not to make any statement to authorities at this time.

Mr. Noe, 50, is a coin dealer and former chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party. He manages two rare-coin funds that have received $50 million from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

That investment arrangement is currently under a separate investigation being conducted by the Ohio inspector general.

Mr. Noe also is chairman of the Ohio Turnpike Commission and a member of the Ohio Board of Regents.

He also is chairman of the U.S. Mint’s Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

Yesterday, state Sen. Marc Dann, a Democrat from suburban Youngstown, asked federal, state, and county authorities to investigate whether there were any violations involving state and local campaign contributions.

“It’s becoming clear that Tom Noe has given large contributions to Republicans, while also obtaining state contracts in which he made millions of dollars investing in risky rare coins,” Mr. Dann said.

“Tom Noe has given thousands and thousands of dollars to Republican candidates. Now he’s at the center of a federal probe.

We deserve to know if Noe laundered state party, candidate, and caucus campaign monies to statewide Republicans.”

Mr. Dann made his request to Mr. White.

The federal government would have jurisdiction if “the mail was used to commit fraud and if big checks were drawn on federally-chartered banks,’’ Mr. Dann said.

Mr. Dann also sent his request to state Inspector General Tom Charles, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien.

Of particular interest to investigators is an Oct. 30, 2003, fund-raiser in Columbus where the Bush campaign raised $1.4 million.

Mr. Noe, who was one of several dozen Ohioans who helped to raise at least $100,000 each for the Bush campaign in the 2004 election, sponsored a table at the event, and invited a number of people to attend.

Among those whose donations have caught the attention of investigators are:

City Councilman Betty Shultz; former state representative Sally Perz, her husband, Joe, and her daughter, Allison; former county elections director Joe Kidd; county Auditor Larry Kaczala and his wife, Gina; County Commissioner Maggie Thurber and her husband, Sam; and two of Mr. Noe’s co-workers at Vintage Coins and Collectibles, partner Tim Lapointe and executive assistant Susan Metzger. Mr. Lapointe’s wife, Linda, also donated.

All of the above gave the campaign $2,000 except the Thurbers; each of them gave $1,950 to the campaign. The $23,900 in donations were made between Oct. 30 and Nov. 5, 2003.
Path of donations
At issue is whether Mr. Noe gave people money in order for them to give to the Bush campaign, allowing Mr. Noe to exceed federal spending limits, law-enforcement sources said.

By law, Mr. Noe would have been unable to contribute at the fund-raiser because he had already made a $2,000 donation in August, 2003.

An individual can give only $2,000 to a presidential candidate in the primary and another $2,000 in the general election, according to federal law.

Mr. Kidd’s attorney, Jerry Phillips, said Wednesday his client already has interviewed with the FBI about the matter.

Mr. Kidd declined additional comment.

In a faxed statement to The Blade, Mrs. Shultz said she was “unable to comment specifically on any ongoing investigation.” She said she has been a friend of Ms. Noe for 20 years, when both were Democrats.

Mrs. Shultz became a Republican in May, 2003, about seven months before announcing plans to run for county treasurer.

Contacted yesterday, Ms. Thurber said she knew of no details of the investigation.

“I don’t need Tom and Bernie to give me money to give to Bush,” she said.

She said the Noes are like “family” to her and Sam and she declined further comment.

Neither the Lapointes nor Ms. Metzger could be reached for comment yesterday.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has jurisdiction over criminal investigations of Federal Election Campaign Act violations. Knowing and willful violations of certain provisions in the Federal Election Campaign Act can lead to imprisonment.

The contributions to the Bush campaign became the subject of a criminal investigation after Bernadette Noe and Sam Thurber, two former GOP members of the county elections board, talked to the county prosecutor’s office about what they claimed was wrongdoing by Joe Kidd, the former director of the county elections office and a fellow Republican.

Investigators found nothing to validate their claims against Mr. Kidd, but the investigation quickly changed direction to focus on new allegations that Mr. Noe had routed campaign cash to the Bush campaign through other local Republicans.

Because the investigation involved federal election laws, Prosecutor Bates forwarded the information her investigators uncovered to federal authorities.
The governor’s reaction
Reached for comment yesterday after a Statehouse event, Gov. Bob Taft, who has strongly defended Mr. Noe in the past, said he was “certainly surprised” on Wednesday to learn of the federal investigation.

Mr. Taft said he did not plan to ask for Mr. Noe’s resignation from the Ohio Board of Regents or the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

“I think we need to let that investigation run its course, to see what happens before we make any decisions on a matter like that,” he said.

When asked if he still supports the state’s rare-coin investment with Mr. Noe, the governor replied:

“Well, I think that’s the purpose of the inspector general’s investigation. It obviously has achieved a return for the state of Ohio. It’s been part of the overall successful investment policy of the bureau.

“But if there are serious questions or concerns with regard to the appropriateness of the bureau investing in that particular investment, that is what the inspector general will be focusing on,” Mr. Taft said.
Staff writer Dale Emch contributed to this report.

Contact Mike Wilkinson or419-724-6104.

Posted by richard at May 1, 2005 11:23 AM