Monday, December 15, 2008

The Legacy of Ken Blackwell

A fact that most journalists don't write or talk about is that George W. Bush was elected president because of controversial elections in two states: Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. In both states, partisan Secretaries of State used their position to help Bush. In Florida it was Kathrine Harris and in Ohio it was Ken Blackwell.

Recently a reader sent us a link to an article that appeared on the website Truthout written by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman. Firtakis and Wasserman, who write for a blog called The Free Press, have been talking about what happened in Ohio in 2004 for the last four years.

The article talks about the recently announced victory of Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio's 15TH congressional district. This is a quote from the article:

Mary Jo Kilroy of Columbus will be the first Democrat to represent any part of Franklin County in Congress since 1982, and the first to represent her 15th Congressional District since the 1960s.

In 2006 Kilroy barely lost to incumbent Deb Pryce as thousands of contested provisional ballots went uncounted. Under then-Secretary Blackwell, voters in Democratic precincts were routinely challenged on minor details and forced to cast provisional ballots to allegedly be counted at a later time.

But thousands were merely pitched in the trash or otherwise negated. Some 16,000 provisionals and 93,000 machine-rejected ballots have never been counted from a 2004 election decided by an official margin of less than 119,000 votes. Independent observers believe a fair vote count would have given Kilroy her House seat in 2006. Also in that election, e-voting machines had statistically unlikely high rates of undervotes in central city polls.

So what happens when you get rid of Republican hacks like Harris and Blackwell and replace them with less partisan Secretaries of State? Well, not only do Democrats like Kilroy win congressional races, but both Florida and Ohio went for Barack Obama.

Now, obviously, just getting rid of Harris and Blackwell wasn't enough to tip those states to Obama. The horrible economic record of the Republicans as represented by George W. Bush's failed policies was probably the biggest factor in Obama's win. Still, having rabid partisans like Harris and Blackwell out of office certainly helped, especially in Ohio, since we had a relatively close presidential election.

What is also ironic is that when both Harris and Blackwell tried to run for statewide office, they were defeated, Harris for Senator and Blackwell for Governor.
What's also interesting is that after they were both defeated, the Bush Administration didn't find them a cushy government job. In fact, in Harris's case, neither Karl Rove or Jeb Bush would endorse her for the Senate.

The election of Jennifer Brunner was critical for Democrats in 2006 and it will be critical for Democrats in 2008. Brunner will be targeted by the Republicans who don't want to lose control of the State Reapportionment Board and who want to continue to disenfranchise minority and other Democratic leaning voters. All of us who value free and fair elections need to work for Brunner's election.

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