OHIO | 2004 | President

Massive Coordinated Attack of Voter Suppression and Electronic Rigging by Corrupt Partisans

Key Points

  • Polling Discrepancies: Exit polls contradicted election results by staggering amounts, overwhelmingly to the advantage of George W. Bush over John Kerry.
  • Minorities Lose: Hundreds of thousands of predominantly minority voters were disenfranchised by a calculated strategy of voter suppression.
  • Purposeful Chaos: Republican Party operatives challenged and intimidated voters in Democratic strongholds.
  • No Civil Rights: Secretary of State Ken Blackwell failed to investigate violations of the Voting Rights Act.
  • Conflict of Interest: Secretary of State Ken Blackwell co-chaired the local Bush reelection committee. He was also a stockholder of the voting machine company Diebold.
  • Partisan Administration: Blackwell and other administrators disenfranchised voters by purging voter rolls, sabotaging the registration process, rejecting provisional ballots, and unequal allocation of voting machines.
  • Electronic Fraud: Election results were routed through the servers of a partisan technology company late on election night. Counties reporting after that time had anomalous results.
  • Ballot Tampering: An independent citizen audit revealed multiple techniques of shifting votes and stuffing ballot boxes in Republican strongholds.
  • No Accountability: The recount was subverted through improper procedures, insecure materials, and cheat sheets provided by a voting technology contractor. Evidence was destroyed.
  • Bad Voting Machines: Subsequent review of Ohio's election technology showed that touchscreen and optical-scan voting machines were vulnerable to insider manipulation and outsider hacking.

Irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
— The Conyers Report

The Big Picture

ELECTION FRAUD: A Multi-Prong Attack

Local and national Republicans used a multi-prong attack of voter suppression, partisan election administration, and rigged electronic systems to corrupt democracy in Ohio. Their tactics disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters, and likely flipped the outcome of the presidential election—with profound and long-standing effects on everything from U.S. foreign policy to the decisions of the Supreme Court.

The local nexus of corruption was the person in charge of the election: Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell abused the power of his office to deliver votes to the Republican Party. His illegal and capricious behavior was a calculated attempt to create Election Day chaos. Blackwell perpetrated, oversaw, or failed to investigate an incredible range of election violations, described in the sections below.

It was obvious on Election Day that something was amiss in Ohio when national media began reporting on long lines at poll sites. Voters were forced to wait for hours, sometimes in the rain. These long lines were not an accident. They were the endgame of Blackwell's voter suppression strategy:

  1. Purge voter rolls
  2. Complicate the voter registration process
  3. Restrict access to provisional ballots

Early proof that the Ohio contest was likely fraudulent emerged when exit polls diverged from the official vote totals by staggering amounts, and overwhelmingly to the advantage of George W. Bush.

In the weeks and months to follow, dedicated election defenders compiled extensive testimony and evidence. Congressman John Conyers led a thorough investigation of election rigging in Ohio and issued an official report. His findings were bolstered by a detailed independent citizen audit that was conducted across the state.

What stands out as possibly the most egregious violation of free and fair public elections was Kenneth Blackwell's decision to hire partisan technology firms to handle election results. Combined with fraud-prone voting machines deployed across the state, Ohio's barn door was left wide open to electronic rigging. In fact, these firms created a digital backdoor, giving themselves access to sensitive voting system data late on election night.

When seen together here, the patterns and evidence of a coordinated attack on democracy are incontrovertible. Please read below for the full story of the stolen election in Ohio 2004.

Democracy Denied

357,000 Voters Couldn't Vote or Didn't have their Votes Counted


Rolling Stone estimates that at least 357,000 Ohio voters, most of them Democratic, were stripped of their right to vote during the 2004 election:

  • Long Lines: 174,000
  • Registration Errors: 72,000
  • Faulty Voting Machines: 66,000
  • Voter Roll Purges: 30,000
  • Stood in Wrong Line at Polling Place: 10,000
  • Intimidated by GOP Challengers: 5,000

For full analysis of the corruption that perpetrated this election fraud, read "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.



Voter suppression was a key tactic for reducing turnout and violating voter rights in Ohio 2004. It was perpetrated primarily by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and other election officials acting in a partisan capacity, as well as members of the local and national GOP.

Long lines on election night were the glaring and frustrating symptom of a Republican voter suppression strategy that started long before November:

  • Reduction in the number of polling sites
  • Mass purging of the voter rolls
  • Tampering with the voter registration process
  • Inadequate and unfair distribution of voting machines
  • Challenging voter registration at the polls
  • Violating the right to a provisional ballot
  • Discarding provisional ballots for reasons unrelated to eligibility
  • Dirty tricks to intimidate minorities and ex-offenders

Urban, minority, Democratic, and student voters were the main targets of this voter suppression campaign. Many were unable to vote, or didn't have their votes counted. Nearly 300,000 Ohio citizens were prevented from participating in their democracy, far exceeding the presidential margin of victory in their state.

Irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
— The Conyers Report

Lines on Election Night

Long Waits at Polling Places Were Caused by Malicious Election Administration

GOP voter suppression resulted in chaos on Election Day in Ohio 2004, with thousands of voters standing in long lines, sometimes for hours, in the rain. The distribution of voting machines was inadequate and unfair. Students and inner-city minorities were the prime victims of this discrimination.

174,000 discouraged voters left without casting a ballot, in an election decided by 119,000 votes. African Americans waited an average of 52 minutes to vote, compared to only 18 minutes for whites. Voters in inner-city Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo often waited up to seven hours.

  • Columbus precincts that had supported Al Gore were allocated 17 fewer machines in 2004.
  • Strong GOP precincts in Columbus received eight additional machines.
  • Kenyon College received two machines for 1,300 mostly liberal student voters.
  • Nearby conservative Mount Vernon Nazarene University had one machine for 100 voters.
  • Kenyon students stood in line for 11 hours, with the last ballots cast after 3:00 a.m.
  • 90 percent of the districts with the best voter-to-machine ratios were in Republican areas.
  • 86 percent of the districts with the worst voter-to-machine ratios were in Democratic areas.

In Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, and on college campuses, election officials allocated far too few voting machines.
— Washington Post

Ohio GOP Created a Polling Place Crisis

Voter registration was in overdrive for the hotly contested 2004 election. Yet state Republican legislators authorized a reduction of precincts across Ohio. As a result, officials in 20 counties favoring Democrats cut precincts by at least 20 percent. The legislators claimed that electronic voting machines would accelerate voting, but in many cases the new machines never materialized.

The board of elections in Columbus recommended using 5,000 voting machines to handle a surge of 125,000 new voters, more than half of them black. Yet the chairman of the of the Franklin County Board of Elections, Matt Damschroder, a former head of the Republican Party in Columbus, decided he could ''make do'' with 2,741 machines.

Meanwhile, white Republican suburbanites, blessed with a surplus of machines, averaged wait times of around 20 minutes. In contrast, black urban Democrats averaged nearly an hour wait, with many delays stretching to three hours and beyond.

Precincts requested the right to distribute paper ballots to relieve pressure on the lines, but Republican Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell denied the emergency measure.

The secretary of state is supposed to administer elections—not throw them.
— Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Partisan Election Administration

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell Systematically Delivered Votes to the GOP

This clip from the documentary Free for All shows how Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell was not only instrumental in suppressing voter participation in the Ohio 2004 election but was a stockholder of the voting technology vendor Diebold.

Blocking the Ballot Box

Kenneth Blackwell illegally manipulated voter registration to disenfranchise thousands

Less than a month before the registration deadline, Blackwell decreed that officials would only accept registration forms printed on 80 lb. unwaxed white paper stock. This arbitrary rule was eventually revoked, but not before creating chaos in the registration process.

The Voting Rights Act stipulates that no one may be denied the right to vote because of a registration error that is immaterial to determining whether that person is qualified to vote. Blackwell was clearly in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Statewide some 72,000 voters were disenfranchised through avoidable registration errors—amounting to 1 percent of potential voters in an election decided by barely 2 percent. Thousands of voters were disenfranchised because of data-entry errors by election officials. Thousands more lost the right to vote due to inconsequential omissions on their registration cards.

The registration process in Toledo was particularly partisan. Faced with an onslaught of new registrations, officials arbitrarily decided to process mail from the Republican suburbs first. The corrupt officials in that jurisdiction were forced to resign, but the damage had been done. George W. Bush thanked them at a rally.

In other areas, officials illegally stamped entire boxes of registration cards instead of stamping the individual cards, making it impossible to determine which ones had arrived on time.

One in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts.
— Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Purging Voters

Kenneth Blackwell Oversaw a mass purge of voter rolls

More than 300,000 voters who had failed to cast ballots in the previous two national elections were expunged from the record. This voter suppression policy was particularly effective in the blue-leaning urban areas of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo. In Cleveland, where voters favored John Kerry five-to-one, nearly 25 percent of voters were wiped from the rolls between 2000 and 2004.

If only one in ten of those 300,000 purged voters showed up on Election Day, it still meant 30,000 people deprived of the right to vote, or given provisional ballots which were often not counted.

Voter Access Denied

Provisional Ballots

Kenneth Blackwell illegally prevented thousands of voters from receiving provisional ballots

After creating immense problems with voter registration, Kenneth Blackwell was severely restrictive with provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are supposed to be the safeguard for when voters encounter registration problems at the polls.

  • Blackwell denied provisional ballots to voters who had not received their absentee ballot on a timely basis, even though it was the fault of his office.
  • Blackwell failed to articulate clear, consistent standards for the counting of provisional ballots. Narrow, arbitrary standards contributed to one-third of provisional ballots being discarded in Cuyahoga County.
  • Black voters in Ohio were 20 percent more likely than whites to be forced to cast a provisional ballot.
  • Almost 3 percent of voters in Ohio were forced to vote provisionally, and more than 35,000 of their ballots were ultimately rejected.



As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. reports in Rolling Stone, Blackwell decreed just six weeks prior to the election that poll workers should make "on-the-spot judgments as to whether or not a voter lived in the precinct," and provide provisional ballots accordingly.

This illegal maneuver was completely contrary to the purpose of provisional ballots—voters have a right to a provisional ballot as a last resort when a poll worker deems them ineligible to vote. When a federal judge challenged Blackwell on this issue and asked him to expand provisional balloting, Blackwell declared he would rather go to jail than follow federal law.

An appeals court upheld the ruling against Blackwell on October 23, but confusion over the issue nonetheless caused voters across the state to be illegally turned away at the polls without being offered provisional ballots.



Blackwell tossed out the ballots of voters who submitted their ballots in the wrong precinct. A judge overruled this order, but Blackwell won his appeal from a court stacked with Bush appointees.

Precinct boundaries had been redrawn just prior to the election, and even the secretary of state's website had the wrong data on Election Day. Many voters went to old polling locations that were no longer correct. Some were incorrectly told by poll workers that they could cast a provisional ballot there.

In other cases, multiple precincts were located at the same polling place, meaning that some voters ended up at the right location, but had their ballots discarded because they were standing in the wrong line. As election defender Robert Fitrakis writes, "In one such multi-precinct building in Hamilton County, more than 2,100 provisional ballots were turned in at the wrong table, causing those ballots to be rejected and not counted."

Due to Blackwell's partisan meddling, at least 10,000 provisional ballots were tossed out after Election Day because citizens had been in the wrong line. This deliberate confusion, which was a direct result of Blackwell subverting the voter registration process, had a disproportionate effect on minorities who voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

In Ohio, you had a secretary of state who was determined to guarantee a Republican outcome.
— Sen. Christopher Dodd

Dirty Tricks

Voter Intimidation

Republicans exploited confusion over felon enfranchisement to intimidate likely voters

Rehabilitated prisoners are entitled to vote in Ohio. But election officials in Cincinnati demanded that former convicts get a judge's approval before registering.

The Ohio Republican Party also paid for the hotel rooms of goons imported from out of state to intimidate former felons and other Democratic voters. These GOP volunteers were overheard by a hotel worker ''using pay phones to make intimidating calls to likely voters'' and threatening former convicts with jail time for trying to vote.

According to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., this “strike force” was an offshoot of the Republican National Committee, consisting of more than 1,500 volunteers deployed to battleground states. Its leader, Houston lawyer Pat Oxford, had managed George W. Bush's legal defense team in 2000 in Florida, where a similar squad of paid operatives disrupted the recount in Miami-Dade County by staging a fake riot.

Other voters were challenged directly at poll sites, with party operatives questioning the validity of their registration. These challenges caused delays, further adding to the problem of long lines.


Caging Voters

The Ohio Republican Party used an illegal mail trick to intimidate 35,000 minority voters

Caging works by sending registered mail to a voter. When someone refuses to sign, is unable to sign, or the mail is returned undeliverable, that evidence is used to challenge and purge their voter registration.

In Ohio, the GOP sent registered letters to more than 200,000 new registrants, targeting minorities by zip code. With only 11 days before the election, Bob Bennett, the chair of the Cuyahoga County elections board, who was also the Ohio Republican Party chairman, sought to invalidate the registrations of more than 35,000 voters.

Legally each voter is supposed to receive a hearing when her registration is challenged in this manner, but Kenneth Blackwell set up kangaroo courts across the state to purge thousands of voters en masse. Voters were not given enough advance warning about those hearings.

Caging was halted by a U.S. district judge, but not before tens of thousands of new voters had received notices claiming they were improperly registered. Some jurisdictions ignored the ruling, stripping hundreds of voters from the rolls.

Just days before the election, a federal judge ruled that the GOP was in violation of a longstanding ban on caging. The judge also determined that the GOP had targeted precincts where minority voters predominate.


Challenging Voters at the Polls

Republicans Were Deployed to Challenge Voter Registration in Black and Urban Areas

GOP operatives added to the problem of poll-site delays by challenging voter registration in predominantly black and urban areas. As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., reports, "In Hamilton County, fourteen percent of new voters in white areas would be confronted at the polls, compared to ninety-seven percent of new voters in black areas."

An investigation of the Ohio 2004 debacle by the Democratic National Committee concluded that 3 percent of Ohio voters who showed up on Election Day left without casting a ballot—more than 174,000 voters in an election decided by 119,000 votes.


There are strong indications that election technology was used to rig the 2004 Ohio presidential race by a variety of means—from the unfair allocation of voting machines (leading to long lines and frustrated voters), all the way through a subverted recount.

  • Voters Disenfranchised: Purposefully unfair distribution of voting machines
  • Corruptible Machines: Vendors had installed fraud-prone voting systems in Ohio
  • Partisan Companies: Voting machine vendors had allegiance to the Republican Party
  • Biased Results: Voting machine "glitches" tended to favor the Republican candidate
  • Evidence: The tabulators in at least one county showed suspicious vote patterns
  • Fake Recount: Voting machine contractor subverted the recount by giving cheat sheets

One story stands out as the kingpin of electronic rigging in Ohio 2004. An out-of-state technology firm was hired to provide backup servers for Ohio. That firm also hosted an array of Republican Party websites. Evidence compiled by researchers shows that the firm was uniquely positioned to guide ballot box stuffing and may have had control over the vote tabulators.

  • Republican Secretary of State hired a deeply partisan technology firm: SmarTech
  • SmarTech intercepted vote totals late on Election Night
  • Counties reporting after the intercept all had anomalous election results
  • Network architecture shows SmarTech may have been able to electronically alter votes
  • SmarTech's other clients included officials in the White House and throughout the GOP

Private secrets have no place in public elections and, in fact, engender a system that is vulnerable to tampering, covert manipulation and fraud.
— Donna Brazile

Intercepting Results

Partisan Technology Firm SMARTECH Was Perfectly Placed to Alter Results on Election Night

The architecture map (CLICK GRAPHIC TO EXPAND) of the backup server used to reroute Ohio's election night results to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The partisan firm SmarTech potentially had access to rewrite the election results on the Ohio Secretary of State's website. SmarTech was hired by Kenneth Blackwell and also hosted a long list of Republican websites, including the character assassination site Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Karl Rove's email.

In 2004, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell hired Michael Connell to design a website that would display Ohio's election results to the public. Connell was a zealous anti-abortion activist whose companies built websites and email systems for the Republican National Committee, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and top GOP figures including Jeb Bush and Jack Abramoff. Connell was also the Bush campaign’s chief IT strategist.

Connell’s contract with the Ohio Secretary of State included plans for a “mirror site” that would kick in to display election results in case servers got overwhelmed on Election Day.

For development of the mirror site, Connell subcontracted SmarTech, a partisan IT company based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. SmarTech had deep connections like Connell—the company hosted dozens of high-profile Republican websites, as well as Karl Rove's email.

Election results were routed through SmarTech at 11:14 p.m. on the night of the election. As reported by Craig Unger, author of Boss Rove, and corroborated by election investigator Richard Hayes Phillips, counties reporting after that time had anomalous results favoring George W. Bush.

The votes of the people of Ohio were in the control of a fiercely partisan IT company.
— Stephen Spoonamore

With real-time access to the vote tallies, SmarTech was well situated to tamper with the election results. “The SmarTech people may have been guiding the manipulation of paper ballots in places like Warren County,” said Ohio attorney Cliff Arnebeck in an interview for Harper's Magazine.

Others argue that SmarTech's access to the Ohio election system included the ability to modify vote totals. Cybersecurity expert (and lifelong Republican) Stephen Spoonamore studied the electronic “architecture map” used by Ohio during the 2004 election and concluded that the SmarTech mirror site was purposefully built as the kingpin in a man-in-the-middle fraud attack. As Spoonamore told Craig Unger:

The only purpose I can conceive for sending all county vote tabulations to a GOP-managed Man in the Middle site in Chattanooga BEFORE sending the results onward to the Sec. of State, would be to hack the vote.

Arnebeck subpoenaed Connell as a key witness in a case he was building against Karl Rove for manipulating the 2004 election. He took a sworn deposition from Connell and hoped to have him testify in court against Rove, but the prospective witness died when his private plane crashed en route from Maryland to Ohio. The circumstances of Michael Connell's death were viewed with suspicion by his family, but no criminal investigation was launched.



Distribution of voting machines greatly favored affluent white suburban Republican districts, and led to unprecedented long lines in urban minority neighborhoods. Thousands of citizens were discouraged and disenfranchised in this manner. The problem was particularly acute in Franklin County: At least 124 machines were undelivered, including a truckload intended for Columbus precincts that trend Democratic.



At least 20–30 touchscreen voting machines in Youngstown (Mahoning County) were programmed to default to George W. Bush. Other machines froze, or erased votes. In Franklin County, voters reported that votes for Kerry would literally “fade” from the screen. As many as 2,100 Kerry votes became "undervotes" in this manner.



A technician from the voting machine vendor ES&S reprogrammed all six tabulators in Butler County on Election Day. He had not been invited by the Board of Elections. Suspicious errors were revealed in a subsequent citizen audit:

  • In 9 of 13 precincts, the count of ballots did not match the tabulated results.
  • In 8 of 13 precincts, the ballots were in a nonrandom sequence.
  • In Monroe City 4CA, there were 212 consecutive ballots for Bush.



Voter turnout was improbably high in several Miami County precincts (98.55 percent in one case) and 19,000 extra votes were added after 100 percent of the precincts had reported their results.

Subsequent citizen hand counts revealed a 5 percent discrepancy in 8 percent of of the county's precincts, and voter registration books that did not match the vote counts.

When challenged on this issue, the outside contractor who had managed the vote counting replied that "the additional votes were inadvertently missing from the early returns."

Connecting the dots here, election defender Robert Fitrakis says this is the "first strong evidence suggesting the county's computer central vote tabulator was corrupted."

Bad Voting Machines

Researchers Declare Ohio's Election Technology Wide Open to Insider Manipulation and Hacking

Prompted by mounting evidence of problems with electronic voting machines across the country, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner released a report on Ohio’s electronic voting technology in December 2007.

Known as Project EVEREST, the security review aimed to identify problems that might occur under real-world election conditions. Three teams of researchers examined touchscreen and optical-scan electronic voting systems from Elections Systems and Software (ES&S), Hart InterCivic, and Premier Election Systems (formerly Diebold). The researchers had access to voting machines and software source code from the three vendors.

The study found exploitable security weaknesses in all three vendors’ systems, representing practical threats to the integrity of Ohio elections.

The structural flaws they identified were so profound that "reliably correcting them would require re-engineering and redesign of the equipment and software." Some of the specific vulnerabilities they found included:

  • Voters or poll workers able to place multiple votes.
  • Voters or poll workers able to infect the precinct with virus software.
  • Voters or poll workers able to corrupt previously cast votes.

The vendor systems lack basic technical protections necessary to guarantee a trustworthy election.

They also identified vulnerabilities at election headquarters that could "expose precinct or county-wide ballots and tallies to widespread manipulation." Election software running on Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP machines could be compromised by "viruses arriving from precincts, or by an attacker with seconds at the controller terminal."

Their findings posed an enormous challenge for election security. As the study authors conclude, the integrity of the election relies almost entirely on the physical procedures used to carry out the election:

Unmonitored poll-workers and election officials could exploit security failures to circumvent protections or misuse software features to manipulate voting equipment, vote counts, and audit information.

Failures were present in almost every device and software module they investigated. They called it a "pervasive lack of quality" in the coding and manufacturing.

The systems exhibited a near universal lack of effective protections against insiders.

No Accountability

A Corrupt Election Technology Contractor Subverted the Recount BY Providing Cheat Sheets

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution by failing to conduct a valid recount. Several major breaches of election administration stand out among the misdeeds overseen by his office:

  • Counties did not select precinct samples randomly.
  • A full hand count was not conducted when the partial counts did not match.
  • Counties failed to secure and store ballots and machinery.
  • Counties prevented witnesses from observing various aspects of the recount.

Blackwell's office was abetted in this subversion of democracy by voting computer company Triad Governmental Systems, Inc. Triad had provided vote-counting software to 41 counties in Ohio 2004. It also provided the election results to Pike and Madison counties.

During the recount, Triad provided “cheat sheets” informing election officials how many votes they should find for each candidate, and how many over- and under-votes they needed to match the machine count. They also reprogrammed the machines to recount only the presidential race. These violations made a true and legitimate recount impossible.


Evidence of fraud in the 2004 Ohio presidential race can be seen pretty much everywhere one looks. It came in physical as well as statistical forms. Exit polls diverging from election results were an early indication. A subsequent county-by-county audit conducted by independent citizens revealed more and more numbers that didn't add up, and signs of a stolen election.

Statistical Fingerprints

Election Results Diverged from Exit Polls by Huge amounts defying normal probability

John Kerry's percentage of the official vote count in Ohio was roughly 5 percent lower than predicted by the normally reliable exit poll data. The likelihood of a gap that large occuring randomly is infinitesimally small and demands explanation. In some jurisdictions the discrepancy was as high as 10 percent. IMAGE: Steven F. Freeman and Joel Bleifuss, from their book Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?

Astounding deviations in the exit poll data compared to official election results are a strong indication of fraud in the 2004 Ohio and national presidential race.

  • Polls in 30 states deviated from their margins of error.
  • 87 percent of those deviations favored George W. Bush.
  • Across the country exit poll disparities were as high as 9.5 percent.
  • The exit poll disparity in Ohio was 6.7 percent.
  • Exit polls are usually accurate and have been used to uncover fraud in foreign elections.
  • Exit poll results were “adjusted” to better match the official vote counts.
  • Pollsters manufactured a false explanation to explain the gap.

Exit polls predicted John Kerry would win in battleground states. Yet as election night progressed, official vote counts told a different story. In ten battleground states, the tallies varied from the predictions, favoring Bush in every case.

According to Steven F. Freeman, author of Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count, the chance of all those shifts going in one direction was one in 660,000.

To cover up what seemed to be glaring errors in their surveys, pollsters invented a fake theory that Bush voters had been more reluctant to respond. Subsequent analysis by Freeman and others proved them wrong. Voters in Republican areas actually responded to exit polls at a slightly higher rate than voters in Democratic territory.

Freeman also discovered something very suspicious: The greatest disparities between exit polls and official vote counts occurred in Republican strongholds. As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. writes in Rolling Stone, citing Freeman's research:

In precincts where Bush received at least eighty percent of the vote, the exit polls were off by an average of ten percent. By contrast, in precincts where Kerry dominated by eighty percent or more, the exit polls were accurate to within three tenths of one percent

This pattern suggests that ballot boxes were stuffed—or electronically rigged—where it would be easiest and least noticeable.

In Ohio, the exit poll discrepancy presents strong evidence of vote tampering. In nearly half of the precincts surveyed there was divergence from the official vote count. In 91 percent of those cases the disparity benefited Bush.

In one extreme example, Kerry should have received roughly 67 percent of the vote, yet in the official tally he got only 38 percent. The odds of a gap that large are almost 3 billion to one.

The media completely fell down on the job and failed to investigate. Instead of treating the exit poll discrepancies as a puzzle worth solving, they buried their initial results and instead used "adjusted" figures that were recalculated to better fit the official vote counts.

According to Freeman, the discrepancies were:

  • Higher in battleground states;
  • Higher where there were Republican governors;
  • Higher in states with greater proportions of African-American communities; and
  • Higher in states where there were the most Election Day complaints.

The patterns, trends, and sheer magnitude of the exit poll discrepancies are a strong indication of election fraud.

It is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote count in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error.
— Steven F. Freeman, University of Pennsylvania

Other Signs of a Rigged Election


Several third-party candidates performed beyond their wildest expectations. In Cuyahoga County these candidates received 20 times more votes than similar candidates had ever received in that area.



Voter turnout was improbably high (98.5 percent) in Miami County, and 19,000 extra votes were recorded after 100 percent of the precincts had reported their results. Various precincts in Perry County showed: more votes than voters; fewer ballots than voters; voters casting more than one ballot.



93,000 spoiled ballots where no vote was cast for president were insufficiently investigated. Precincts in Montgomery County had 25 percent of ballots with no vote for president. An anomaly of that magnitude demands explanation. Why would people stand in line, sometimes for hours, and then not vote?



Warren County officials concealed the vote count from the public. They moved their tabulation site to a closed facility, claiming the FBI had issued a terrorism warning. The FBI denied issuing any such warning. It was later revealed that the fake terror alert had been planned in advance.

Behind closed doors, ballots were shifted from precinct to precinct to alter the vote count. A down-ballot candidate for state supreme court ended up with more votes than Kerry, an unusual amount of Bush voters also voted in support of gay marriage, and “wild card” ballots were found with no precinct printed.



Attempts by election defenders to investigate and litigate election fraud were stymied by destruction of ballots and other evidence. Boards of Elections in 56 of 88 Ohio counties destroyed some or all of the records from the 2004 presidential election, in violation of Ohio law and a federal court order, sometimes both.

Researchers calculate, based on records obtained from Blackwell's successor as Secretary of State, that more than 1.58 million ballots were destroyed. At least 566,000 were voted ballots; the rest unused or spoiled.

Citizen Audit

Independent Researcher Documented Where the Votes Were Stolen and How

The only in-depth audit of the Ohio 2004 presidential race was conducted by an independent citizen, Richard Hayes Phillips (with the help of many volunteers). Phillips set out to investigate what went wrong in Ohio when he saw major anomalies in the official election results.

Phillips discovered a dizzying array of electoral misconduct. His book Witness to a Crime documents the many fraudulent means by which enough votes were stolen or shifted to change the outcome of the election.

Some of the suspicious results he found include:

  • Impossible turnout numbers
  • Uncounted ballots
  • Ballot tampering
  • Counties with more ballots than registered voters
  • Third-party candidates with unusually high totals
  • Suspicious under-votes and over-votes
  • Evidence of vote flipping

Phillips meticulously compiled forensic data showing where and how the election theft occurred. What follows are some examples and evidence he uncovered during his investigation.

I know more about what happened in Ohio than anyone else on the planet, except, perhaps, Karl Rove.
— Richard Hayes Phillips

Down-Ballot Anomaly

Ohio Supreme Court Candidate Received More Votes than John Kerry in Suspicious counties

A down-ballot Democratic candidate for Ohio state supreme court received significantly more votes than John Kerry in a dozen jurisdictions, something that typically never happens in a major presidential race.

In most elections, around 15 percent of voters tend to vote for the important race at the top of the card and then drop off at some point down the ballot, failing to vote for lesser offices.

This drop-off effect is stronger among Democratic voters, meaning a down-ballot anomaly in their column is more significant. When a down-ballot candidate gets more votes than the candidate for the top office it can be an indicator of election fraud.

In Ohio 2004, suspicious results of this sort were brought to light by looking at election results for Ellen Connally, a Democratic candidate for state supreme court, relative to results for John Kerry.

Richard Hayes Phillips analyzed 12 counties, all won by Bush, where John Kerry's votes were unusually low, and Bush's votes suspiciously high. He compared the results with the other 60 counties won by Bush. His research suggests that 60,000 votes were shifted from Kerry to Bush, affecting the margin of victory by 120,000 votes.

Connally received roughly the same percentage in the 12 counties as she did in the other 60, but in those 12 suspicious counties, Ellen Connally received more votes than John Kerry. In those 12 counties, John Kerry received only 31 percent of the vote, compared to 42 percent in the other 60 counties.

Further confirmation can be seen in Bush's performance relative to the Republican candidate for state supreme court. Bush's percentages were inflated in those 12 counties compared to the other areas where he won, while the Republican judge had consistent percentages across the two sets of counties.

12 Counties Rigged for Bush Exceed His Performance Elsewhere

In 12 counties where election fraud favoring George W. Bush is suspected, Bush performed significantly better than he did in the other 60 counties where he won. John Kerry performed significantly worse in those same 12 counties, indicating that votes may have been shifted from one candidate to the other. The Democratic and Republican candidates for state supreme court both had consistent performance across those two sets of counties where Bush won. John Kerry not only lost votes in those rigged counties, he also received fewer votes than Ellen Connally, the Democratic candidate for state supreme court. A down-ballot discrepancy of that nature and magnitude is a classic sign of election rigging.

Mechanism of Theft


What caused the Connally-Kerry discrepancy? By what mechanism was a vote shift accomplished? Glaring examples of ballot box stuffing and tampering in several counties support the accusations of election rigging in rural southwestern Ohio.

Warren County

  • Officials declared a fake terrorism alert in order to count the ballots out of public view. The terror alert had been planned in advance. Kerry finished 2,426 votes lower than Ellen Connally.

Darke, Mercer, Shelby, and Van Wert counties

  • Wide disparities between regular and absentee ballots
  • Non-random sequences of ballots; and
  • Many more ballots than the number of voters in the official results or in the signature books

Clermont County

  • Marks on ballots were covered with stickers, altering the choices of voters
  • More ballots were cast in the official results than the number issued to voters
  • The “recount” was rigged by selecting the precincts in advance
  • Unused ballots were destroyed, and stub numbers were absent from the voter signature books, making a full audit impossible

Miami County

  • Too many provisional ballots counted in 53 of 82 precincts
  • Too few absentee ballots counted in 74 of 82 precincts
  • Ballots sorted by candidate prior to the “recount”
  • Ballot box stuffing in Troy 4-F, Tipp City F, and Concord South West

The turnout was impossibly high in at least a dozen Miami County precincts, especially when compared to the previous presidential election. Bush got nearly all of the new voters. A review of the voter histories in the database for Miami County revealed that the official turnout data are wrong in every single precinct. In 35 of 82 precincts, the official results are impossible.

In one Miami County precinct, supposedly all but 10 eligible voters went to the polls, but at least 25 people swore they didn't vote.

In Miami County, after 100 percent of precincts had reported official results, an additional 18,615 votes were added to the final tally. This post-election alteration awarded 12,000 votes to Bush, boosting his margin of victory in the county by nearly 6,000.

If there is motive, means, and opportunity, and no penalty for cheating, this is never going to stop.
— RIchard Hayes Phillips

Strange Bedfellows


The gay marriage proposition on the 2004 Ohio ballot likely motivated participation on both sides of the issue. But how many people would have voted in favor of gay marriage and for George W. Bush? Very few in the conservative counties of rural, religious Ohio.

Yet precinct analysis in Butler, Clermont, Delaware, and Warren counties shows that 10,000 people must have voted for gay marriage and for Bush, or else the election results are fake.

Provisional Ballots


One key voter suppression tactic of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell was his decree that provisional ballots would be not counted when cast in the wrong precinct. Yet in red-leaning Miami County, 165 provisional ballots counted were cast by voters registered in another county. In blue-leaning Franklin County, 623 provisional ballots were rejected when cast by in-county voters in the right precinct.

Further Evidence


Phillips identified 15 multiple-precinct polling places where Kerry votes were shifted to Bush and various third-party candidates, due to voters casting ballots on the wrong machines, intended for another precinct.

Ballot rotation is meant to reduce the small advantage a candidate gets when listed first on the ballot. But in order to be counted properly, rotated ballots must be scanned on machines that have been programmed for the proper ballot type, otherwise the votes go to the wrong candidates.

If several precincts are in the same polling site, the opportunity for error and fraud is huge. Simply by steering voters to a voting machine intended for another district, a corrupt poll worker can flip dozens of votes. This could be based on racial profiling.

It is ultimately the task of the governed to guard their democracy from their leaders.
— Richard Hayes Phillips


"Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Rolling Stone, June 2006.

What Went Wrong in Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election, edited by Anita Miller (Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 2005).

"How to Steal an Election GOP Style," a handbook derived from the Conyers Report, DailyKos.

Ohio Election Threats, SourceWatch.

Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count, Steven F. Freeman and Joel Bleifuss (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006).

"The Mysterious Death of Bush's Cyber-Guru," Simon Worrall, Maxim.

Analysis of the 2004 Presidential Election Exit Poll Discrepancies,” US Count Votes' National Election Data Archive Project, April 2005.

Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform, Mark Crispin Miller (New York: Basic Books, 2005).

Boss Rove, Craig Unger (New York: Scribner, 2012).

What Happened in Ohio? A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election, Robert J. Fitrakis, Steven Rosenfeld, and Harvey Wasserman

Witness to a Crime, Richard Hayes Phillips (Rome, NY: Canterbury Press, 2008).