Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

Rolling Stone has just published a piece written by Robert F. Kennedy, asking “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?”.

It alleges the Republican election officials and party workers employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics, including purging tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, not distributing enough voting machines and turning people away at the polls, to fix the election.

In the piece, Kennedy writes:

“Like many Americans, I spent the evening of the 2004 election watching the returns on television and wondering how the exit polls, which predicted an overwhelming victory for John Kerry, had gotten it so wrong. By midnight, the official tallies showed a decisive lead for George Bush — and the next day, lacking enough legal evidence to contest the results, Kerry conceded.

“Republicans derided anyone who expressed doubts about Bush’s victory as nut cases in ‘tinfoil hats’, while the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as ‘conspiracy theories’, and The New York Times declared that ‘there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale’.”

It makes for depressing reading. The Republicans seem to have managed, via the control of voting machines, to discourage tens of thousands of poor democrats from voting. In the key battle ground state of Ohio white Republican waited only twenty odd minutes while black Democrats waited more than three hours.

“By midmorning, when it became clear that voters were dropping out of line rather than braving the wait, precincts appealed for the right to distribute paper ballots to speed the process. Blackwell [Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of President Bush’s re-election committee and Ohio’s secretary of state], denied the request, saying it was an invitation to fraud.”

An invitation to fraud? Genius. Paper + cross = vote. It’s a complex idea, I know.

The piece is published in the same issue as an article on Al Gore, which along with a piece in Time this week among other places, seems to suggest that he might be ready to have another crack at the Whitehouse.

Having watched on as Gore blew it in 2000 are the Democrats, with Hilary Clinton seen as a hard sell in parts of the US, ready to go with him again?

Gene adds: There’s plenty about the US electoral system that needs fixing, most prominently the archaic Electoral College, which makes it possible for the Presidential candidate with the most votes nationwide to lose. Whether shenanigans in Ohio and other states tipped the 2004 election to Bush I can’t say; but Bush clearly received the greater share of the popular vote and therefore deserved to win, just as Gore received more votes than Bush in 2000 and deserved to win.

I fear these “stolen election” stories can become a crutch for Democrats looking for reasons why they lose. It’s easier to blame fraud than to do the hard work of convincing people to vote for you. If Gore and Kerry had been better candidates, I doubt any amount of fraud could have kept them from winning.