Attack on election board whistleblower and leaked Blackwell threats re-fire Ohio 's election theft scandal
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
May 23, 2005
The potential firing of Ohio whistleblower Sherole Eaton, Deputy Director of the Hocking County Board of Elections, has re-fired bitter controversy over the stolen 2004 presidential election.
And newly released documents confirming a pre-election threat by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell against election board officials has added to the mix, as has the dismissal of Blackwell's highly publicized sanction attempt against attorneys who challenged the election outcome.
A paid Hocking County Election Board staff official, Eaton gained national notoriety when she blew the whistle on a Triad vote count technician. The technician reprogrammed at least one voting machine in her precinct before a statewide recount could be completed. According to a December 3, 2004 affidavit sworn by Eaton, the Triad technician "advised" the Hocking County Board of Elections' Republican Director Lisa Schwartz on how to "post a 'cheat sheet'" to make the recount match the officially reported election total. Advocates of the recount complain that the unexplained intrusion by the technician compromised the integrity of the vote count.
Eaton's whistleblower report resulted in heavy national publicity surrounding the technician's intrusion, including dramatic testimony at hearings conducted by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) that helped lead to the historic January 6 challenge of the seating of the Ohio Electoral College delegation in Congress. Revelations of the technician's intrusion led to angry charges that the vote count had been hopelessly tainted.
In an exclusive May 23 interview, Schwartz told Freepress.org that "Sherole is on vacation." When asked if Eaton had been fired, Schwartz commented that Eaton has until June 30 to resign or be fired, and "that decision came from the Board."
At the Ohio Democratic Party's annual dinner, Eaton told the Free Press that she is not at liberty to discuss the situation, but that she is "a federal whistleblower" who sees the Board's action against her as "retaliation" for her affidavit revealing Triad's critical intrusion.
Though comprised of both Republicans and Democrats, the Hocking County Board now pressuring Eaton continues to act under direct threat from Secretary of State Blackwell. Blackwell administered the 2004 election in Ohio while serving as the state's co-chair for the Bush-Cheney campaign. He has been widely criticized in Congress, in the media and throughout Ohio for heavy-handed partisan manipulations that resulted in Bush carrying Ohio and the presidency.
In a letter dated October 5, 2004 to Republican Chair of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Robert Bennett, Blackwell specifically threatened removal of any board member who refused to follow his direct orders. The threat undermines Republican arguments that the election was fair because both Democrats and Republicans serve on election boards. "Be advised that your actions are not in compliance with Ohio law and further failure to comply with my lawful directives will result in official action, which may include removal of the Board and its Director," Blackwell wrote Bennett.
Under Ohio law, all election board members serve at Secretary of State Blackwell's pleasure. Cuyahoga Election Board member James Vu mentioned the letter at a Congressional hearing staged at the Ohio statehouse by Republican Congressman Bob Ney. Ney brought the hearing to Columbus in part because Blackwell refused to testify in Washington . The hearing was highlighted by angry, bitter exchanges between Blackwell and US Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who co-introduced (with Senator Barbara Boxer of California ) the historic Congressional resolution challenging the seating of the Ohio Electoral College delegation for Bush.
In his October letter Blackwell made it clear that any Election Board official, Republican or Democrat, who challenged Blackwell's decrees would be summarily removed. Election Board positions are well paid, and Blackwell's threat erased widespread claims the presence of Democrats on Election Boards guaranteed that the election was administered in a neutral, bi-partisan manner.
In fact, with the club of a loss of substantial salaries, this leaked letter makes it clear Blackwell was running the election with an iron partisan hand, and that claims of true bi-partisanship were strictly for show.
Fair election proponents did get some good news with the dismissal of sanctions pressed by Blackwell against four attorneys who sued to question Ohio 's official 2004 vote count. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer threw out a sanctions attempt against attorneys Cliff Arnebeck, Bob Fitrakis, Susan Truitt and Peter Peckarsky.
Blackwell legally assaulted the election protection team after it sued in December to prevent a delegation from casting Ohio 's Electoral College votes for George W. Bush. The team alleged that exit polls and widespread evidence of fraud, intimidation and incompetence fatally compromised Ohio 's 2004 vote count, which they asserted should have gone for John Kerry. Blackwell's demand for sanctions evoked harsh national criticism, including an editorial from the New York Times.
Shortly after the sanctions were lifted, Columbus hosted the first on-site "scene of the crime" national radio broadcast with a May 20 public appearance by Air America 's Stephanie Miller. Before a hall overflowing with paid attendees, and a national radio audience, Miller blasted the theft of the Ohio vote in a special live three-hour broadcast, the first nationwide talk show to come to Ohio with the express purpose of highlighting the realities of the stolen presidential election.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of DID GEORGE W. BUSH STEAL THE 2004 ELECTION: ESSENTIAL DOCUMENTS, just published by www.freepress.org.