The Ohio 2006 Governor Race

In the 2004 US presidential election, the critical state on which everything turned was Ohio. Bush beat Kerry in Ohio, thus winning the presidency. Bush was vastly aided in this quest by J.Kenneth Blackwell, the man in charge of Ohio elections who was simultaneously the Bush-Cheney Ohio campaign co-chair.

Bob Fitrakis, lawyer, professor of political science at Columbus State Community College, and journalist, is the Editor of The Columbus Free Press. He won ten major investigative journalism awards including "Best Coverage of Politics in Ohio" from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. Fitrakis grew disgusted with the rampant election-manipulation techniques orchestrated by Blackwell that the Free Press exposed during the Ohio 2004 Bush-Kerry race. Fitrakis became even more disgusted when the Libertarian and Green parties filed for a recount of that race – and then both claimed that the "recount" they got was wholy inadequate and illegal under Ohio law – a contention later supported by a special prosecutor and then the jury's convictions – and sued. Fitrakis undoubtably was even more disgusted when Kerry and the Democratic party, amazingly enough, did not ask for a recount, leaving that to the Greens and Libertarians, even though they obviously had the most to gain and even though the Rolling Stone analysis claimed Kerry quite probably should have won. (Why did Kerry opt out?)

So in 2006 Fitrakis announced his candidacy for governor of Ohio on the Green Party ticket, running on an election-reform platform.

Fitrakis was aided by the fact that sitting Ohio governor Bob Taft had become embroiled in corruption scandals. The Republican party then chose to run J.Kenneth Blackwell for Governor, allowing him to run his own election while remaining in office as the highest Ohio election official with hire-and-fire power over anybody in the system!

Meanwhile, the Democrats chose congressman (and former minister and assistant psychology professor) Ted Strickland.

Now considering the immense unpopularity of the Republicans at that point, it might have appeared that Strickland would have an easy landslide victory (June polls found him leading Blackwell 52 to 36 percent) – but perhaps not with Blackwell supervising his own election! Also, it seemed plausible that Strickland and Fitrakis might split the vote, causing both to lose even if a majority of the voters preferred both over Blackwell!

That "spoiler" pathology of course would not happen if we had range voting, but it was highly likely under plurality voting.

So then, just to make Fitrakis have a harder time, he was placed on the Ohio ballot not under the "Green Party" flag, but rather as "Other-party candidate"! This was due to Ohio election laws specially designed to discriminate against third parties.

So then the question became: how much would Blackwell abuse the power of his office to bias and manipulate his own election? This New York Times editorial reports.

Postscript (Feb 2007)

Strickland won with 60.5% of the vote. However, there is reason to believe the vote was manipulated against him: The Columbus Dispatch's poll, ending the Friday before the Tuesday election, predicted Strickland would get 67±1.2% (standard error bars). The chance of a deviation this large or larger was therefore below 1 in 3 million. The Dispatch noted: "The survey's 7-point [discrepancy] broke a string of five straight gubernatorial elections in which the poll exactly matched the victor's share of the vote." This gives you an idea of the magnitude of the manipulation.

In 2004, Bush beat Kerry in Ohio by a margin of 118,775 votes (figure officially certified by Blackwell after the "recount"; this figure ignores over 92,000 machine rejected ballots and 14,000 provisional ballots that were never counted and which probably would have heavily favored Kerry because provisional and rejected ballots occurred predominantly in Kerry-supporting areas. E.g. Kerry got 54.5% of the 147,400 provisional and absentee ballots that were counted after election night, all of which, incidentally, were counted by hand.) This margin represented 2.1% of the ≈5.7 million votes cast.

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