Saturday, December 11, 2004

More Voting Machines Distributed to Columbus Inner-City Precincts Than Previously Reported?

Of course that isn't what you're going to be hearing from those screaming election fraud in Ohio.

The Columbus Dispatch has a story today which will clearly start making the rounds on the Internet voter conspiracy sites quickly. In an article headlined 39 voting machines unused: 17 never activated at inner-city precincts, it certainly screams of voter surpression on the surface.

If you look below the surface, you find that is not the case. The machines in question were some of the 99 machines that are kept in reserve for emergencies. It was originally reported that only 31 of these 99 machines were distributed to precincts that needed them. Further investigation concluding last week now shows that 77 machines were distributed, including 29 to inner-city precincts. The cause of the initial discrepency is not yet known.

The problem is that for some yet-to-be determined reason, 17 of these machines were not used by the precincts once they were delivered. Speculation is that the polls may have been closed by the time the machines were delivered, or that poll workers said they could get along with the machines they had. Conspiracy theorists will obviously speculate far more nefarious reasons.
Based on interviews with both Democratic and Republican election officials, the Dispatch put together the following summary:

Franklin County kept 99 voting machines in reserve when the other machines were delivered before the election, in case there was a serious accident or a problem with a truckload.

After all of the machines were safely delivered Nov. 1, Damschroder said he instructed staff members to send out all of the reserve machines.

Clearly that didn't happen and there are investigations to look into the cause of the confusion. Even so, 77 of the 99 machines were distributed.

A Democrat, the manager of election operations, makes the recommendations about where to place machines based on voter-registration totals, past voter turnout and sites where long lines are expected...

Workers then programmed counting cartridges for the 29 electronic machines to be sent to inner-city precincts. But 17 of those cartridges never were activated, meaning they were never used by voters, he said.
In other words, 12 more voting machines were used in the inner-city precincts than originally planned. It's not clear if these 12 additional machines were included in the initial voting machine numbers provided by Franklin County Elections Director Matthew Damschroder, or if they represent an increase over the numbers he originally reported for those inner-city precincts.

In any case, it's important to recognize that this story is not saying that any precinct was shorted their original allotment of machines. Some just didn't get or use the additional emergency ones that were available. It also clearly states that all votes on all machines were counted.

Clearly there were problems with the process used to distribute the emergency voting machines, but even Thomas Rosenberg, a lawyer for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Franklin County said it's too soon to jump to conclusions.
"We hope that it is nothing more than human beings made errors of judgment for which all we can do is take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again," he said.
I'd just like to add that in Ohio, every precinct has both a Republican and Democratic poll worker, and any suppression would require collaboration between the two of them.