OK, Robert Kennedy Jr.'s article on "Was The 2004 Election Stolen?" (hint: he thinks the answer is 'Yes') is up at Rolling Stone.
Commenter hypocracyrules lays it down as a trump card to prove that "repugs" are inherently bad, evil, etc etc.
I thought I'd take a few minutes after cleaning the wok to quickly Google Jr's claims and see what comes up.
What happened was that I found a pretty dispositive article - in the sense that independent investigation was done on several of the specific claims made by Jr. - in, of all places, Mother Jones (the noted neocon journal).
The article, in the November/December 2005 issue is by Mark Hertsgaard, an investigative reporter whose books include "On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency" goes through several of the same claims that Jr. highlights, and traces the intellectual history of some of Jr's claims.
Go read both articles, if you want to - but here are some highlights.Jr's claim:
In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.
Now to Warren County, where officials locked down the building used to count votes and told a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter that there'd been a terrorist threat. The skeptics are right that the FBI denied issuing any such warning. But it's not true that votes were counted in secret, say both Susan Johnson, the Republican Board of Elections director, and Sharon Fisher, the Democratic deputy director. Not only were Johnson and Fisher present, so were the four Board of Elections members (two Democrats, two Republicans) plus an observer from each party. The only person shut out, Johnson says, was the reporter, "but reporters have never been allowed into our counting room before."Jr's claim:
Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls...Hertsgaard:
Blackwell's two most potent acts of disenfranchisement, skeptics say, were the purging of 133,000 mostly Democratic voters from the rolls and the non-counting of 92,000 ballots rejected by voting machines as unreadable. "It's clear to me that somebody thought long and hard back in 2001 about how to win this thing," says Fitrakis. "Somebody had the foresight to check an obscure statute that allows you to cancel people's voter registrations if they haven't voted in two presidential elections." Fitrakis notes that newspapers reported the purging of 105,000 voters in Cincinnati and another 28,000 in Toledo. But because the purging was conducted gradually between 2001 and 2004, no one saw the big picture until the Free Press connected the dots.Jr's claim:
O'Grady, the Democrats' general counsel, agrees that Blackwell purged voter rolls, especially in large urban counties that figured to lean Democratic. But he points out that the purging was done legally, and he says it wasn't necessarily underhanded. The Democratic base, he says, is more transient, so a voter may accumulate three different addresses on state voting rolls—a perfectly sound reason for a purge. As for the larger argument that Ohio was stolen, O'Grady says, "That point of view relies on the assumption that the entire Republican Party is conspiratorial and the entire Democratic Party is as dumb as rocks. And I don't buy that."
The first indication that something was gravely amiss on November 2nd, 2004, was the inexplicable discrepancies between exit polls and actual vote counts. Polls in thirty states weren't just off the mark -- they deviated to an extent that cannot be accounted for by their margin of error. In all but four states, the discrepancy favored President Bush.(16)Hertsgaard:
The discrepancy between exit polls and the official results is a key part of the skeptics' argument: Kerry was projected to win nationwide by a close but comfortable 3 percent, and in Ohio by 6.5 percent. But the skeptics betray a poor grasp of exit polling, starting with their claim that exit polls are invariably accurate within tenths of a percentage point. In truth, the exit polls were wrong by much more than that in the 1988 and 1992 presidential elections.Look, I don't doubt that there were a host of irregularities in Ohio, which went narrowly for Bush. Just as there were in Minnesota, which went narrowly for Kerry.
Warren Mitofsky and Joe Lenski, the pollsters who oversaw the 2004 exit polls, concluded that one source of their incorrect forecast was an apparent tendency for some pro-Bush voters to shun exit pollsters' questions. "Preposterous," claims Mark Crispin Miller, who also sees trickery in the adjusting of exit polls after the election, though that is utterly routine. And is it really so strange to imagine that Bush supporters—who tend to distrust the supposedly liberal news media—might not answer questions from pollsters bearing the logos of CBS, CNN, and the other news organizations financing the polling operation?
Besides, how do skeptics explain New Hampshire? The state conducted a hand recount of precincts that critics found suspicious; the recount confirmed the official tally, as Ralph Nader's campaign, which paid for the exercise, admitted. Apparently one reason Bush did better than expected in those precincts was an influx of conservative Catholics who relocated from neighboring Massachusetts—the kind of anomaly that can confound even persuasive-sounding assumptions about voters.
To take my earlier metaphor of umpiring a step further - and as someone who has been Chief Umpire of a competitive Little League - the goal is to minimize the number of bad calls, try and make sure they don't favor one team over the other, and hope like hell they don't determine the outcome of the game.I'll leave the final word to Hertsgaard:
Meanwhile, the focus on vote rigging distracts from other explanations for the 2004 outcome and, more importantly, from what Democrats need to do differently in the future. Paul Hackett, the Iraq combat veteran whose congressional bid is covered elsewhere in this issue, suggests an answer. Hackett, who made no bones about his disdain for Bush and the war, nearly won a district that in 2004 chose Bush over Kerry 64 to 36 percent. Lesson: Democrats can do well, even in staunchly Republican areas, if they give people a reason to vote for them—an unapologetic alternative. Do that in 2008, and the election won't be close enough to steal.