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And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32

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November 12, 2004


Franklin County Vote Counting Massacre 2004
Dang, they accidentally counted our votes this time.

This was my first reaction to the original vote count the day after the election. All the Libertarian candidates on the ballot in Franklin County drew 6-8%.

Frankly, I tend to be pretty skeptical of vote counting. This stems in significant part from my first experience as a 21 year old candidate back in 1984. Briefly, in my campaign for state legislature that year I knocked on over 3,000 doors (besides everything else) to be credited with less than 200 votes.

Indeed, I was following precinct maps in Connersville, and there were four whole precincts where I personally knocked on every door that came back credited with ZERO votes. Perhaps I'm not the most totally convincing candidate, but that could not have been right. What, I couldn't convince even ONE person out of a thousand voters in those precincts to vote for me? That put me off politics for years. Why run if they're not going to count your votes?

Still, in truth some of these original numbers for the Libertarians in Franklin County this year seemed high. I don't know if 707 people in Franklin County had even heard of our presidential candidate Michael Badnarik. My total of 821 Franklin County votes for US Senate seemed pretty reasonable, though. I got 13% two years ago running for tax assessor, so something like 9% in this vote might be about reasonable.

Still, there was definitely something absolutely out of whack. At the emergency Election Board meeting last week, I got this funky official Statement of Votes Cast document from the clerk breaking down straight ticket votes throughout the county, with columns for "Democratic (LIB)" and "Libertarian (DEM)." Right away, you can see that there's something wrong. Also, this document seemed to indicate 1,022 straight ticket LIB votes, and but 60 DEM. Hmm.

The suggestion was that one little data entry error simply flipped the counts for straight ticket votes between the Libertarians and the Democrats. However, that can't possibly be right either. Even in the election night count, no Libertarian in the county got as many as 1,022 votes. Who knows what happened? I know I've never seen any plausible theory to explain.

So we had this whipstitch all night re-count trying to meet a Secretary of State deadline of noon on Friday the 12th. It was thrown together in a few hours by the same Fidlar company that screwed it up when they had plenty of time to do it normally before the election.

I'm agnostic about these newly revised numbers. For one thing, I was not allowed within 10 feet of the actual re-counting Thursday night. They were putting big piles of what looked like ballots through these machines, but I certainly wasn't able to look at them. As county chair and a ballot candidate myself, I should have been pretty much looking over their shoulders.

Also, I have trouble believing my own vote total here. They wiped out over three quarters of my original votes, leaving me with but 171 votes in all of Franklin County. I was credited with approximately 1.2% of the vote statewide, which was fairly consistent within a half percent in about every county. That 171 votes would be saying that I got no more votes at home than anywhere else. Again, maybe nobody likes me, but I would expect at least a couple of hundred extra votes from family and friends.

But then, maybe that's all the more votes I really got. I haven't seen any evidence of anyone acting in bad faith. Knowing her, I find it highly unlikely that our clerk, Marlene Flashpohler, would be involved in any monkey business with the votes. If votes were screwed with, it would have had to been when she wasn't looking.

Still, I don't have any confidence in the new vote totals. I've never been offered a viable explanation for what happened, and I wasn't allowed to get close enough to the re-counting to really see what they were doing. I'd rather ascribe the problems to incompetence rather than fraud, but it's still messed up.

Also, it appears that there will be no opportunity to ask for a recount of these new numbers, as the deadline to request one was Friday noon. It was only Friday AM that these new numbers were conjured up, so there you go. There's no apparent legal opportunity for review.

Ah well. All I can do as a candidate is to say my piece to the voters as best I can, and however many votes I get, and how many get counted, is largely beyond my control. I do what I can.

posted by Al at 11/12/2004 08:10:00 PM

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