April 29, 2007
By Josh Mitteldorf
Ohio 2004 represented, in many ways, a worst case in scenarios ripe for election theft:
A highly partisan Secretary of State within the context of a generally corrupt State government.
A pivotal state that could swing the Electoral College in a hotly-contested Presidential election.
A state electorate that was ‘within striking distance’ for vote theft. Pre-election and election-day polls indicated a 4% margin in Kerry’s favor
The efforts by Secretary of State J Kenneth Blackwell to suppress registration and selectively disenfranchise Democrats have become well known. But exit polls indicate that on Election Night he still had a problem: Kerry’s actual margin may have been several hundred thousand votes.
Somehow, that gap was closed, and Bush came out on top in the official count. Until now, there were strong reasons to believe the vote count had been corrupted, but no direct evidence as to how a swing of this magnitude could have been engineered.
This week, in a series of articles by Bob Fitrakis, Steven Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman, a fact has come to light that suggests the answer: On the night of 2-3 November, 2004, the computer designated to count Ohio votes was cut out of the loop. Its web address was diverted to a private company in Chattanooga, TN, named SMARTech.
It’s easy to ‘impersonate’ someone else’s website. This is a common ruse used in conjunction with emails that ‘phish’ for your financial information. But such scams can be detected by inspecting the address bar at the top of most browsers. For example, the screen may look just like Washington Mutual’s login for bank customers, but the address is not http://WaMu.com, but instead points to a site (in India!) labeled only as http://126.96.36.199/.s/.wamusk/index.php.
The web redirection on Election Night of 2004 went a step beyond this: Not only did the official website of the Ohio Department of State look just right, but it had the right address: http://election.sos.state.oh.us. Any citizen or press service looking for real time election results from the state of Ohio would have been directed here. In every sense, this SMARTech site became the official vote tabulation for the state of Ohio.
If the name SMARTech sounds vaguely familiar, it is because the same web server, run by the same company, was in the news last month. It is the site that handled the email accounts for White House aides who did not want their communications to be subject to Congressional scrutiny. When Congress set out to subpoena the emails of Karl Rove, they had disappeared, along with 6 million other email messages. The entire staff had been communicating secretly, illegally, subverting the system that had been set up by Congress in the Presidential Records Act of 1978.
SMARTech leases computer servers to the Republican National Committee, and the 12-digit ISP address to which the Ohio Department of State was diverted for the 2004 vote count falls between two ranges known to be leased to the RNC. This raises the suspicion that it was an RNC computer, impersonating the state of Ohio computer, that performed the official vote tabulation in 2004. This diversion is so unusual (and brazen!) a ruse, that it is inconceivable that it happened without Blackwell’s explicit consent.
The Ohio web site was showing Kerry ahead before midnight. Then the server went down for 90 minutes, and when it came back up, Bush had a commanding lead.
Perhaps there is a Congressional committee that be would be interested to go back and check their arithmetic. For many of the disputed counties, paper ballots have been preserved, and can be recounted. In addition, there are over 100,000 ballots that were never counted the first time, and remain uncounted to this day. (Blackwell sought to have these ballots destroyed at the earliest legal opportunity, but a successful lawsuit prompted a court to intervene.)
The above story derives from two articles by Steven Rosenfeld, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, which were published this week on the web site of the Columbus Free Press.