Just how serious is the GOP threat of suppressing Democratic voters, or even flat-out rigging the elections?
Consider the story of GOP “computer hacker” Mike L. Connell whose single-engine plane suspiciously fell out of the sky on December 19th, 2008. Connell, who perished in the crash, lived in the must-win swing state of Ohio. The 45-year-old father of four was a hardcore conservative, and during the Bush administration worked with high-ranking Republicans at the White House as an IT specialist. Connell was described as “a powerhouse in the field of Republican website development”, as the party used his expertise and his company, GovTech Solutions, to help run the Bush-Chaney campaigns of 2000 and 2004.
His immediate boss during those campaigns was GOP-icon Karl Rove, whose ruthless ways are well documented, such as when he turned veteran-on-veteran with his Swift Boat ads against Sen. John Kerry in 2004. And during that Presidential election, Connell’s GovTech Solutions had been contracted by the state of Ohio to run the website, the servers, and the computers, that would tabulate the Ohio vote in real time.
To put it succinctly, Ohio had outsourced their 2004 Presidential Election electronic vote-counting network to a die-hard Republican working for Karl Rove.
In the end, President Bush beat Sen. Kerry, but barely. Bush nearly lost the key state of Ohio, winning with 2,860,000 votes to 2,740,000 – roughly 120,000 votes short. Bush won the state’s 20 electoral votes, which pushed him ahead on the total electoral vote 286 to 251.
But was the Ohio vote flipped in the middle of night with the help of Mark L. Connell?
A number of independent journalists say ‘yes’, and if you doubt them, at least consider the evidence. Bob Fitrakis, an attorney, journalist and activist based in Columbus, Ohio, runs the FreePress.org website and for eight years has chased this story with journalist partner Harvey Wasserman.
Now with just days before the 2012 presidential election, Fitrakis and Wasserman are working overtime. In their newest book – Will the GOP Steal America’s 2012 Election? – they wrote about what happened in the middle of that fateful 2004 night:
In Ohio 2004, at 12:20 election night, the initial vote tabulation showed John Kerry handily defeating Bush by more than 4%. This 200,000-plus margin appeared to guarantee Kerry's ascent to the presidency. But mysteriously, the Ohio vote count (being tabulated by Mark L. Connell’s GovTech) suddenly shifted to SmarTech in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Lo and behold, in SmarTech’s basement were servers used by the Republican National Committee and the White House. Fitrakis and Wasserman added:
With private Republican-connected contractors processing the vote, Bush jumped ahead with a 2% lead, eventually winning with an official margin of more than 118,000 votes. Such a shift of more than 6%, involving more than 300,000 votes, is a virtual statistical impossibility.
The mainstream media has turned their back on the story, yet Rev. Jesse Jackson has called Fitrakis and Wasserman the “Woodward and Bernstein of the 2004 Election.” But slowly, the mainstream press may finally be taking notice.
“Six years later all of this stuff we were dismissed for is in the mainstream press,” said Fitrakis to Toward Freedom about Vanity Fair’s Craig Unger’s work on Connell and the 2004 election. “The (mainstream press) is saying, ‘Oh my God, they were right!’”
Fitrakis and Wasserman’s articles on the 2004 election inspired Ohio voters to file the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell civil suit, which alleged election fraud against then-Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who was holding down another job at the time; he sat on the Ohio Committee to Re-Elect Bush and Cheney. A filing from the suit also revealed the election production system configuration used in Ohio that night.
The suit’s lead attorney is Cliff Arnebeck of Columbus who deposed Mark L. Connell a day before the 2008 Presidential Election. Before Connell’s deposition, Arnebeck had warned then-US Attorney General Mark Mukasey in an email, “We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe credible that Karl Rove has threatened Mike L. Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King-Lincoln case is federal court in Columbus.”
Two months after his deposition, a week before Christmas, Connell was flying his Piper Saratoga in wintery conditions back from Washington, DC., to Ohio when he radioed the air traffic control tower at his home airport. He told the tower his instruments were malfunctioning. Two miles before the runway, his plane nosedived.
The National Transportation Safety Board eventually ruled “inappropriate control inputs” and “ice accumulation” as probable causes.
Not long after the crash Arnebeck received another anonymous correspondence, this time in a letter. Two years ago, Arnebeck told this reporter the letter called Connell’s death “a hit” and that he “was terminated for national security reasons.”
Fitrakis says Ohio’s electronic vote-count apparatus in 2012 looks a lot like the 2004 network. Take southwest Ohio’s Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located. The Today Show and Bloomberg have said whoever takes Hamilton County wins Ohio.
The FreePress.org has found that Hamilton County’s Board of Elections (BOE) will be utilizing electronic voting machines owned by a company whose directors are former Bain alumni. The company is Hart InterCivic, whose machines failed in Tarrant County (Fort Worth, TX) back in 2006, when they added nearly 100,000 votes to result totals during a primary.
Fitrakis says 11 men working for Hart InterCivic were formerly employed at Bain and Company, and two of those men, John P. Bolduc and Douglas Berman are Romney “bundlers.”
Rigging an election is not exclusively a GOP scheme, says Fitrakis. “The reality is, nobody wants to think that people would cheat at American politics, the most powerful nation on earth. … [U]nless you put procedures in place, of course both sides will cheat because so much power is at stake.”
John Lasker is a freelance journalist from Columbus, Ohio.