11/12/2004

t r u t h o u t - Steve Weissman | Who Counts in Ohio?

Is Team Bush stealing the presidential election in Ohio? And, if it is, can the rest of us do anything to save our embattled democracy?

For those watching American TV or reading the dailies, and nothing more, my questions probably sound loopy, straight from the conspiracy theorists I so often criticize. For those surfing the Internet or scanning this week's flood of round-robin emails, the questions point to one of history's great crimes. The truth, as far as I can see it, falls betwixt, between, and beyond.

Nearly three months ago, I predicted that the Bush campaigners would, in fact, try to steal the election. They would, I argued, do it the old-fashioned American way - with 'a massive effort to keep as many as three million pro-Democratic Afro-Americans, Native Americans, and non-Cuban Hispanics from voting.'

Nowhere did the GOP try harder to keep minorities from voting - or having their votes counted - than in Ohio, as I'll show in a moment. Just hold in mind that, barring unexpected defections, Ohio's 20 electoral votes will prove decisive on December 13 when the Electoral College meets in the various state capitols to cast their ballots. If the present tally holds, Kerry and Edwards will get 252 votes against 286 for Bush and Cheney. Were the Buckeye State to switch from red to blue, Kerry-Edwards would win 272 to 266. As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.

Could Ohio still change its vote?

Yes, it could, but don't bet on it. The Kerry-Edwards campaign, the White House, and the major media have already awarded victory to Bush and Cheney, taking the public spotlight off Ohio election officials. But, as with so much else in our Rube Goldberg version of democracy, wiggle room remains. Concession speeches, no matter how moving, can be retracted, which - to quote a colleague - would be the mother of all flip-flops. Nor, unless I missed something, do claims of victory from Karl Rove or Peter Jennings have the force of law."

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