William A. Anthony Jr. is an unlikely candidate to help steal an election for President Bush. But that is what he's essentially being accused of by a band of left-wing conspiracy theorists who can't accept the idea that John Kerry lost the state of Ohio -- and the election -- fair and square.
The conspiracy theorists focus on Franklin County, home of the heavily Democratic city of Columbus. They allege, among other things, that long lines there on Election Day were a cagey tactic to keep blacks from voting. It just happens that Anthony is chairman of the Franklin County Board of Elections and also chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party. "I am a black man," he told The Columbus Dispatch. "Why would I sit there and disenfranchise voters in my own community?" Good question.
Jesse Jackson has now joined the "Ohio was stolen" team with a rally in Columbus, while civil-rights and left-wing groups are filing lawsuits. They all demand a recount! Get ready for Ohio 2004 to take an honored place in fevered left-wing lore. Speculation about Bush stealing Ohio was fueled by a voting machine in the small city of Gahanna in Franklin County that mistakenly recorded 3,800 votes for the president. It was a software error that was caught and corrected as the normal process of certifying the vote was proceeding. But it was enough to convince Kerry die-hards that somewhere, somehow there must be a way to overcome Bush's 136,000-vote margin in the state.
Jackson and others complain that not enough of the roughly 155,000 provisional ballots -- ballots cast by voters who might or might not be legitimate registered voters -- are being counted. So far, an ample 76 percent of the provisional ballots have been ruled valid, roughly the same rate as in 2000. A provisional ballot isn't counted when the person casting it wasn't really registered to vote, voted in the wrong precinct or -- more rarely -- voted twice. Ohio's standards for counting provisional ballots are entirely reasonable. Indeed, they are the same as in such liberal strongholds as New York, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts.
The die-hards also focus on punch-card ballots, which featured prominently in the Florida 2000 controversy and aren't counted if there's an over-vote (i.e., both Bush and Kerry are punched) or an under-vote (i.e., neither is clearly punched). In any election, there is a small percentage of both. Here, Ohio's performance has improved over 2000. Four years ago, out of 4.9 million votes cast, 98,000 were invalid because of over-votes or under-votes. This year, there were more total votes, 5.5 million, but only 93,000 over-votes or under-votes.
The fact is that the Ohio vote-counting process is a model of bipartisanship and openness. Before the election result is formally certified, the county Board of Elections does an extensive canvass. It carefully examines the provisional ballots, overseas ballots and ballots cast on Election Day, and runs them through the vote tabulators again. Then the board -- always made up of two Democrats and two Republicans -- holds a public vote to certify the result.
Given this process, it would actually require the connivance of Democrats like William Anthony for Bush to steal Ohio. To complaints about long lines in Franklin County, Anthony replies that they were simply a product of high turnout. The county considered supplementing its electronic voting machines with punch-card machines on Election Day, but decided against it because it thought having two types of machines would be confusing. In other urban areas where blacks would have been "disenfranchised" -- such as Dayton and Cincinnati -- the local Democratic Party chairmen were also on the county Boards of Elections.
Thanks to a formal request from the Green and Libertarian parties, there will be an official recount in Ohio. Since the post-election canvass that has been ongoing is much more extensive than a recount, it won't pick up any major discrepancies. It will just be an opportunity for Republicans to savor their crucial victory in Ohio -- again.