I'm a South Carolinian by birth, a Texan by upbringing, and an Ohioan by residence.
Ohio was the swing state that swung the election for George W. Bush. It was a very, very close race. The "red state/blue state" stuff is misleading, because even in Texas, a reported 40% of the populace voted against their former governor.
Winning by 53% or even 60% is not an overwhelming vote of confidence -- hey, if any of us scored 60% on a test, we wouldn't be bragging about it to the folks back home. It is not a mandate, nor is it a glorious sign of having been chosen as the One True Voice of the People.
But that's how our system works. Binary parties, binary votes. Yes/no. Flip the switch, one way or the other. Two men enter, one man leaves; both don't get to lead.
So if Dubya won fair and square, I'd be disheartened and frustrated but I'd get over it and get on with what I laughingly refer to as my life.
The problem is, I remain unconvinced that our boyishly charming POTUS did win fair and square this time.
I don't know what happened in South Carolina or Texas, but I do have some firsthand knowledge of what happened here in Ohio, The State That Turned The Tides Red.
Leading up to the election, I saw a lot of support for Kerry around town. Kerry signs and stickers outnumbered Bush signs and stickers about 4 to 1. The Bush rally brought 30,000 people, but the Kerry rally brought 50,000.
But signs and rallies don't matter ... ultimately it's the vote that matters. Or at least it's supposed to matter.
I've voted in every presidential election since I turned 18; I voted here in 2000, and in comparison, this year's turnout was tremendous. I and Braunbeck waited in line for close to two hours, and watched several people wait for an hour or so and then bail because they had jobs or kids or just plain had to use the restroom.
In some places in the state, people waited in line for 10 hours or more. Everyone I talked to -- and my coworkers live in all corners of the city -- had hour-plus waits.
What can cause huge, long lines at the polls?
- More people turning out than expected.
- Not enough voting machines being deployed.
Both these things seem pretty intuitive. Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell oversees the elections process and appoints the members of boards of elections in each of Ohio's 88 counties. He oversees what kinds of voting machines are used, and how many are distributed to each polling location.
Blackwell is a diehard Republican. Some voters -- voters in historically Democrat-voting districts -- have complained that not nearly enough machines were distributed to their locations, thus ensuring slow lines that many voters would not be able to endure.
Was the shortage intentional? Being forced to not vote because you gave up your place in line to go to work or pick up your child from daycare is not legal grounds for challenging an election's outcome. But given the small winning margin, it might be an effective tactic indeed.
There weren't enough machines. Most people stuck it out, anyhow.
But that's just the start of the story.
Two days after all those stories of crowded polls, Blackwell's office released the voting statistics. According to them, fewer people turned out to vote in Columbus this Tuesday than in 2000.
And suddenly all the local news stations who had been showing broadcasts of historical, unprecedented turnout in the city were wringing their hands and wondering "why registered voters failed to turn out."
Even if polls got 50% fewer voting machines than in 2000, that's still not enough to explain how 5-minute waits turned into 1- and 2-hour waits.
But wait ... there's more!
Walden O'Dell, who runs Diebold, the company that makes most of Ohio's voting machines, is a neoconservative. According to an August 28, 2003 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, he told attendees at a Republican fundraiser that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
And just today, (you can read the story at http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20041105/ap_on_el_pr/voting_problems) an "error" with the electronic voting machines in Gahanna (a Columbus suburb) was found to give Bush 3,893 extra votes. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.
In short, Bush got 600% of the possible vote, just in one precinct.
So. Gee. How many of these "errors" have occurred in the state? How many occurred across the country?
I suppose that if a big chunk of votes just "disappeared" into electronic aether or midnight landfills, one would end up with a bafflingly low voter turnout statistic, wouldn't one?
This whole thing just smells.
It should smell no matter what party you belong to, because it smells like a democractic process that's been poisoned, gutted, stuffed, mounted, and put up in the corner with a smile on its rotting face.
This ain't a football game. This ain't about being a sore loser. This is about our future, and next time you might not much like the guy who's been set up to win.
But Kerry conceded, the whole world thinks Ohio is a red state, and we're all pretty blue.
And I've stopped believing our binary system works.
Where do we go from here?