Serious new election tampering allegations have emerged from an Ohio county, where witnesses allege that stickers were placed on presidential election ballots, RAW STORY has learned.
Several volunteer workers in the Ohio recount in Clermont County, Ohio have prepared affidavits alleging serious tampering, violations of state and federal law and possible fraud. They name the Republican chief of Clermont's Board of Elections Daniel Bare and the head of the Clermont Democratic Party Priscilla O'Donnell as complicit in these acts.
These volunteers, observing the recount on behalf of the Greens, Libertarians and Democrats, assert that during the Dec. 14, 2004 hand recount they noticed stickers covering the Kerry/Edwards oval, whereas the Bush/Cheney oval seemed to be "colored in."
Some witnesses state that beneath the stickers, the Kerry/Edwards oval was selected. The opti-scan ballots were then fed into the machines after the hand recount.
Allegations of ballot tampering in Ohio -- which decided the outcome of the presidential election by some 100,000 votes -- find particular resonance in Clermont, one of three Ohio counties which saw the biggest increases in votes for Bush from 2000 to 2004. The other counties were Butler and Warren; Warren County had a lockdown after an alleged terror threat that the FBI later denied.
These counties "increased their support of Bush by only a few percentage points each," the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Monday. "But in the raw numbers of votes, they made the difference."
In a sworn affidavit, Clinton County Democrat Stephen Spraley, a retired plumber from Springboro, Ohio, saw the stickers on at least ten opti-scan ballots. Spraley brought this issue to the attention of Deputy Director for the Clermont Board of Elections, Kathy Jones, who is a Democrat. He says he was rebuffed by the Republican Director of the Board of Elections Daniel Bare.
"I had asked Kathy Jones -- where did these stickers come from and who put them on the ballots?" Spraley said. "She was interrupted by Dan Bare, and he told me that the board would have another meeting and that is where questions about ballots would be determined."
Spraley had one of the stickered ballot pulled as an example for the board meeting. Board members, including Bare, O'Donnell and Jones, as well as volunteer workers and county employees, discussed this particular ballot, he says.
"A Republican board member said the stickers were put on election night," Spraley added. He says Clermont's Democratic Party chief O'Donnell "said she knew nothing about the stickers.”
Another observer, University of Cincinnati math professor Bob Drake, corroborated Spraley’s allegations. "One person offered that [the stickers] must have been placed on the ballots by someone at the precinct on Election Day, and that no one could be responsible for that… Everyone, including the Executive Director Danny Bare, denied having ever seen them before or having any knowledge of them," Drake said.
Eric L. Gifford, a Green Party volunteer who was also present at both the recount and the board meeting said that "Mrs. O’Donnell proceeded to nominate this ballot for a vote, and none of the other members would second the vote. The ballot was then counted for Bush."
Jeanine Tater, a California resident who volunteered to observe in Ohio on behalf of the Democratic Party, stated in her affidavit "a Kerry witness named Steve [Spraley], discovered white oval shaped stickers on some of the ballots during the 3 percent hand count. I personally observed these stickers during the machine recount."
The same stickers were also placed on the machines, the witnesses said. "I saw more of these stickers on both the front and back of the ballots," Gifford asserted. He says he asked Republican election chief Bare "if he knew where they came from and he paused and said, 'I am not aware of them.'"
The volunteers asked if they could take pictures of the stickers, but Bare would not allow them. One witness, however, used a small camera to quickly take footage of the tabulation machines in an attempt to document the stickers. The footage, which is blurry, is now being examined by experts.
During the meeting, according to Gifford, Drake, Spraley and other witnesses, the stickered ballots were counted for Bush/Cheney, even though the Kerry/Edwards oval was clearly marked underneath.
Several Clermont Board of Election employees, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that there were stickers placed on both the tabulators and the ballots. The same employees said that the stickers did cover the oval next to Kerry/Edwards.
Bare was unwilling to discuss the sticker allegations. "We will end this conversation," he said. "All of that information has been fully discussed in a public meeting with witnesses present."
Bare refers to a Dec. 16, 2004 Clermont Board of Elections public certification, where the volunteers, represented by attorney Carolyn Betts (who prepared her own affidavit), presented the Board with a formal list of issues they wanted addressed.
The formal list, acquired by RAW STORY, is signed by Drake and two other volunteers, Tina Harald the county recount coordinator and Cindy Asrir, the Green Party Regional Coordinator. During that meeting, Bare said "with a Republican and Democrat both present, they labeled the damaged ballot "original" and created a new ballot with the same markings, labeling it "duplicate" and then had the Republican and Democrat sign each ballot." According to Betts and confirmed by other volunteers present. The stickers were there to allegedly mark "spoiled" ballots.
Bare, when asked by this reporter about about the disparities between his alleged Dec. 14 statement and his public Dec. 16 statement, promptly hung up.
Possible violations of Ohio law
All of the witnesses also allege that the hand recount was not random as required by law. The decision, they said, was made by Bare, who explained it in the presence of Democrat O’Donnell. Tater stated the "smallest thirteen precincts were chosen, and one of the larger precincts was added to reach the three percent for the hand count."
The volunteers objected to the apparent non-randomness of the recount, but Bare reportedly insisted on the procedure.
"We were told that the Executive Director, with the blessing of the Board of Elections, had decided to use the 'thirteen smallest precincts, and add one of the larger precincts to bring the percentage to three percent,'" Drake said. He says they protested, saying the "process was not random, and our requests to choose the precincts in a random manner or even to select an additional precinct, were denied."
Board of Elections employees also said that the procedures adopted by Bare for the three percent hand recount were outlined during a Board of Elections meeting the night before. The sources were unable to name all of the individuals present at the meeting, but did say that Bare was present.
However, the volunteers and inside sources all stated that O'Donnell was present during the Dec. 14 discussion of what the recount method would be. O'Donnell could not be reached for comment.
The witnesses also stated that the opti-scan machines broke down repeatedly on the Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 recount, especially machine number two, and that the a technician with the board of elections seemed very concerned about the machines.
During the Dec.16 public meeting, they say, Bare stated that he would provide all of the necessary documentation requested, including poll books, uncounted provisional ballots, uncounted absentee ballots, and service records for the machines--all of which have yet to be provided. According to the volunteers, repeated attempts to get these documents were rebuffed and have to this day not been submitted.
Hints of intimidation
Witnesses asserted that Bare was "overbearing" and they felt very "intimidated by him." They also observed that election workers under Bare "seemed frightened" of him.
The volunteers pointed to both Kathy Jones, the Deputy Director of the Clermont Board of Elections, a Democrat, as well as a technician with the Clermont Board of Elections Maureen McCarthy.
According to Drake, McCarthy approached him on Dec. 15, 2004 with some serious concerns about Bare.
"Maureen asked me to 'help carry some boxes' to the third floor," Drake said in his affidavit. "Her request was obviously a pretext to talk alone, away from other employees. After we carried the boxes away from the first floor, Maureen talked to me about many of the issues we had observed."
McCarthy, communicating through recount organizer Tina Herald, intimated that she would be willing to speak to this reporter. McCarthy sent an email to this reporter asking for a call.
This reporter spoke with McCarthy on Jan. 11. She would not discuss any of the allegations on the record, but did, however, confirm seeing the stickers. She also stated that “I have done nothing wrong…neither has anyone else in my [tech] department."
McCarthy agreed to speak to this reporter later in the day and provide additional information. Six hours after the initial conversation, Tina Herald and this reporter called McCarthy to follow up, announcing that both were on the phone. McCarthy's sister who answered the phone said, "Don't ever call my sister again. She has told him [Bare] everything and she has pressed charges against you.”
RAW STORY contacted Kathy Jones, who would not discuss the allegations. She too, however, confirmed seeing the stickers.
Addtional allegations -- by Spraley, Drake, Gifford and Tater -- include violation of voter intent as specified under Help America Vote Act of 2002, (Public Law 107-252, 116 Stat. 1666). Spraley points to a specific ballot he, and the others, believed to show clear voter intention:
"…The ballot where the John Kerry[/John Edwards] oval was filled in and Kerry’s name was written in on the write-in line right below it …The Democratic board member made a motion to accept the ballot as a vote for Kerry, but there was no second so there was no vote. Dan Bare said both in the meeting and before and after the meeting that the ballot should be treated as an overvote so that the hand count would be consistent with the way the machine would count it."
Witnesses felt that overvote counts were generally counted against the Kerry/Edwards ballots, as Drake states in his affidavit, "My observation during the Clermont County recount was that this happened only if it helped Bush, and the procedures used were done in a discriminatory manner."
RAW STORY Editor John Byrne contributed research and reporting for this article.
Originally published on Wednesday January 26, 2005.