Ohio Post-Mortem: Glitz, Gimmicks, Sleight-of-Hand, and Witnessing Fraud
I feel like I've been dumped. Monday my phone was ringing constantly, my mailbox was full, and everyone was talking about me, wanting to know what I thought and felt and what would please me. Wednesday, my phone is silent, my mailbox is empty, and I’ve got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. While to the rest of the world Ohio has returned to being an obscure flyover state, those of us who remain in the dreary November weather are left with a lot of questions about exactly what happened here on Tuesday.
Mitt Romney lost Ohio by 107,241 votes. That’s a smaller margin than John McCain lost the state by in 2008 (262,224), but surprisingly, 93,200 more Ohioans voted for John McCain than for Romney. One fascinating result (HT: Rob Walgate, American Policy Roundtable) is that Republican House races garnered 66,000 more votes across the state than Romney did. Republicans won 12/16 of these races, all of them by +50 margins -- even the heavily contested OH-16 between incumbents Jim Renacci (R) and Betty Sutton (D). There was clearly a Romney problem in the state for voters to consciously choose Jim Jordan and Bill Johnson and either not vote for a presidential candidate or switch parties. Matt Mayer, director of Opportunity Ohio, suggests the reason:
In 2012, Senator Santorum lost the primary but won 69 of Ohio’s 88 counties. The 69 counties he won are the most conservative in Ohio -- the voters there are the Republican base. That Santorum won so many of them indicated that Romney had an issue with the base. ... No matter how you look at it, it seems clear that the base in Ohio did not show up as it needed to do for Romney to win Ohio.
Conservative senate candidate Josh Mandel lost to liberal Sherrod Brown by 5.31% after a blistering campaign. Brown, the Democrats, the special interest groups, and the Ohio media spent the better part of a year smearing Mandel and convincing voters that he was a serial liar. That steady drip, along with an independent in the race who sucked up 4.5% of the vote, cleared the way for Brown to retain his seat in the Senate.
After my 16-hour day as a poll worker Tuesday, I watched the returns on TV with my husband and 18-year-old son, while monitoring the returns on the Ohio Secretary of State (SOS) website. When Fox News called Ohio for President Obama and declared that he would be our president for the next four years, I yelled at the TV. Not only did I not want to believe it was true, I also didn’t believe it was true. After what I witnessed at the polling place on Tuesday and what I have seen in Ohio the past few weeks, I am not convinced that Obama’s 100,000 vote margin represents the will of the Ohio electorate. Though he “won” enough votes to propel him to collect Ohio’s 18 electoral votes, it was a cheap victory, won through glitz, gimmicks, sleight of hand, and, possibly, through voter fraud.
Tuesday, my confidence in our Ohio voting system was undermined in a way that I never expected. I saw a voting machine change votes from Romney to Obama. When reports first surfaced last week of machines switching votes in Ohio, I was mildly concerned, but thought perhaps it was a fluke or even a conspiracy theory.
But then I personally witnessed a TSX voting machine changing votes from Romney (and other Republican candidates) to Obama (and other Democrats) right before my eyes. The first time it happened, the voter loudly announced it to everyone in the precinct. When there is a problem with a voting machine, two poll workers (from opposite parties) must investigate. We saw that his screen had recorded that he had voted for Obama.
Of course we could not prove that he had not pressed the screen to vote for Obama. We cancelled the ballot and he voted again without incident. I reported the problem immediately to the Wayne County Board of Elections (BOE). It was suggested that the voter’s sleeve may have been interfering with the touchscreen, causing him to inadvertently vote for candidates he wasn’t intending to vote for. I was told by the elections official that they “were running into that with a lot of male voters.”
Then a second voter reported a problem with a different machine. The voter said that the machine would not let her vote for Republican candidates. She had chosen Republican candidates on the screen and the machine changed them all to Democrats when she submitted them. I suggested she hit the “back” button to see what would happen if she tried it again. I watched as she again chose Republican candidates and the machine again changed the Republican candidates to Democrats.
I saw it, the voter saw it, and the Democratic poll worker saw it.
I was also on the phone with the BOE official at the time it happened, so she heard the play-by-play as it was happening. We shut both machines down immediately, and the BOE sent us two replacements.
I felt sick to see this happen, knowing it could be occurring in any number of machines across the state. How widespread was the problem? How many of the 40-plus ballots that had been cast on these machines had changed votes, unnoticed? Many people are uncomfortable with the touchscreens, especially senior citizens. They may not have noticed votes changing (or may have been embarrassed to ask for assistance).
Was there a conspiracy to steal votes? I have no idea. It may have just been that the machines are aging and they are not working correctly. Or it may have been a couple of buggy machines. Whatever the reason, I can’t say with confidence that the votes on the TSX machines were an accurate measure of the votes cast on Tuesday. I’m left confused and conflicted about how to process what I witnessed.
At minimum, there ought to be an investigation and an examination of each and every voting machine to determine how this could have happened and to assure that it is never repeated. Voters need to be confident that their vote is recorded accurately every time.
I also think that President Obama won a cheap victory in Ohio.
First, he won by convincing the youth demographic to vote against their best interests. They voted for Obama 60-37, after he plied them with free pizza, bus rides with Jack Black, and free concerts with Jay -Z and Bruce Springsteen. They were hauled from their college campuses to the polls to vote by the busload.
According to some experts, Obama wouldn't have won Ohio and other swing states without this demographic:
"If you wipe out the youth vote [in those states], or if you allocate the vote for [Obama and Romney] 50-50, those states switch from blue to red," Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE, said in a call with reporters Wednesday. "It's enough to make Romney the next president."
Most of them don’t know and don’t care that college tuition rose 25% since he took office. Obama hangs out with the cool kids and promised to “make college more affordable.” They won’t get the hangover from this president until they have to start paying off their massive student loan debt and they realize they can't find jobs when they graduate.
My son is delaying college, working and saving money so he won’t have to rack up student loans. He makes $9.oo per hour at a shipping company and sees $100 taken out of his pay every week to pay for government programs.
He was frustrated when he saw the areas of the state that voted for Obama, knowing that he is subsidizing people who won’t work and who vote for Obama because he promised to continue their benefits, including their “Obamaphones.” It was a rude awakening for an 18 year old disappointed in many of his friends who voted for Obama; he likely became a lifelong conservative on Tuesday night.
Obama also benefited from the deception of the fabricated auto bailout recovery in Ohio. Exit polls show that 60% of Ohio voters favored the federal bailouts of GM and Chrysler. Obama told Ohioans that if Romney had been president, “we might not have an American auto industry today.”
Senator Sherrod Brown ran on the bailouts, saying in an ad that they had protected 848,000 auto-related jobs (at most, there are only 400,000 total auto-related jobs in Ohio, and the shares of GM and Chrysler only represent a third). He also claimed that the bailout is the reason Ohio’s unemployment rate has dropped. None of these statements are true. In fact, they are so untrue that they could rightly be called hyperbole, yet Romney never challenged them.
Ohio Governor John Kasich tried, attempting to defend his own conservative record of improving Ohio’s economy, but the Romney campaign stepped on his message at every turn, continuing to talk about how bad the economy was in Ohio. Misinformed Ohio voters saw the improving economy in the state and wrongly gave credit to the auto bailouts and Obama. Smoke and mirrors will win you a lot of votes if you can get away with it, and Obama did. Kasich will need to do some damage control if he wants to get credit for improving the state’s jobs numbers and win re-election.
I also lay some of the blame for Romney’s loss at the feet of Ohio Republicans, who failed to pass a photo ID law when they had the opportunity last year. They hold both houses in the legislature and every statewide office. They had drafted a reasonable bill in 2011 but balked at the last minute. In an election that was decided by two points in Ohio, it’s shocking that we have no idea if the people who show up to vote on Election Day are legal, registered voters.
How rampant was voter fraud in Ohio on Tuesday? We have no idea, and that’s a problem.
When someone shows up at my precinct with nothing more than a utility bill for identification, I have no idea who they are and whether they are committing voter fraud. All I can say with certainty is that they are in possession of a utility bill that shows the name of a registered voter -- and one only needs to show a utility bill to register. Hundreds or thousands of people could commit identity-theft voter fraud easily and without detection. The reason there are not hundreds or thousands of documented, prosecuted cases is because it is virtually impossible to catch a violator. There are no checks and balances in the system, so it is and will remain undetected until a photo ID law passes.
There is a reason the Democrats oppose photo ID laws at every turn: they benefit when people can show up to vote without having to prove who they are. If Democrats and their surrogate special interest groups spent half as much time and money obtaining IDs for the people they claim to represent as they do fighting reasonable ID laws, this would not be an issue.
Our state is bruised and bloodied. Last weekend at a local Republican Victory Center I met a woman who had traveled to Ohio from Texas to campaign. She was shocked by the division she saw in the state and the blistering rhetoric she witnessed. We’ve all seen which neighbors had the Obama signs and which had the Romney signs. We’ve all had “careful” conversations with friends and family members in the last weeks -- the simplest conversations have turned into minefields. My husband had a heated discussion about the election with a co-worker today.
The reality is that Ohio is still a very “red” state. We are governed by Republicans (60-39 in the Ohio House and 23-10 in the Senate) because most of the state is conservative. Obama’s win in the state was tipped by a few populous cities that don’t represent the tone, the direction, or (I believe) the will of the state. But they spoke on behalf of Ohio and our entire state will now wear that decision. For many of us, it feels like being a Browns fan forced to wear a Steelers jersey or an Ohio State fan wearing a Michigan shirt. My husband's friend posted on Facebook: "It hurts, but being a Browns fan prepared me for this loss."
Despite all of this, I remain hopeful -- Ohio is on the move. Governor Kasich and the Republicans here have dropped the unemployment rate to 7.2% despite (as Kasich likes to say) the “headwinds” coming out of Washington. They’ve added 100,000 jobs, closed the $8 billion budget deficit, eliminated the estate tax, and reformed Medicaid. Kasich has also added $250 million to the state’s rainy day fund and upgraded the state’s credit rating. The red states are going to continue to show the way to govern responsibly. It will be more difficult with the federal government on the verge of collapse, and I pity those of you in blue states who don’t have much more than nice weather to boast of right now.
I believe that there is a future for constitutional conservatism in this country. As the great philosopher Marty McFly said in Back to the Future: “Guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it!”