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Encyclopedia > 2004 United States election voting controversies

After the November 2, 2004 election in the United States, concerns were raised about various aspects of the voting process, including whether voting had been made accessible to all those entitled to vote (and no one else), and whether the votes cast had been correctly counted. More controversial was the charge that these issues might have affected the reported outcome of the presidential election, in which the incumbent, Republican President George W. Bush, defeated the Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry. There was generally less attention paid to the Senate and House elections and to various state races, but some of them were also questioned. November 2 is the 306th day of the year (307th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 59 days remaining. ... 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... An election is a decision making process whereby people vote for preferred political candidates or parties to act as representatives in government. ... Presidential election results map. ... The Republican Party, often called the GOP (for Grand Old Party, although one early citation described it as the Gallant Old Party) [1], is one of the two major political parties in the United States. ... The presidential seal was used by President Hayes in 1880 and last modified in 1959 by adding the 50th star for Hawaii. ... George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American businessman and politician, was elected in 2000 as the 43rd President of the United States of America, re-elected in 2004, and is currently serving his second term in that office. ... The Democratic Party is one of the two major political parties in the United States. ... Seal of the Senate The Senate of the United States of America is one of the two chambers of the Congress of the United States, the other being the House of Representatives. ... John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943) is the junior United States Senator from Massachusetts. ... Results -- light red represents Republican holds, dark red Republican pickups, light blue Democratic holds, dark blue Democratic pickups. ... Elections to the United States House of Representatives for the 109th Congress were held on November 2, 2004. ... A state of the United States (a U.S. state) is any one of the fifty states (four of which officially favor the term commonwealth) which, along with the District of Columbia, form the United States of America. ...

Kerry himself conceded the presidential election to Bush on November 3. Some of his supporters criticized him for doing so, arguing that Bush's apparent win in Ohio was so narrow that it might be reversed if improprieties were corrected and the still-uncounted provisional ballots were largely in Kerry's favor. A subsequent partial recount in Ohio did not significantly reduce Bush's victory margin there. (Some of the alleged improprieties in the election could not be addressed by a recount.) There is an ongoing debate about possible changes for future elections. November 3 is the 307th day of the year (308th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 58 days remaining. ... Official language(s) None Capital Columbus Largest city Columbus Largest metro area Cleveland Area  Ranked 34th  - Total 44,825 sq mi (116,096 km²)  - Width 220 miles (355 km)  - Length 220 miles (355 km)  - % water 8. ... In U.S. elections, when someone shows up at a polling place to cast a vote, but is not on the list of people who may vote there (is not registered in that precinct, or his registation is otherwise invalid or inaccurate), he may be allowed to cast a provisional...

Among the issues raised in 2004 were:


Voter registration is the requirement in some democracies for citizens to check in with some central registry before being allowed to vote in elections. ... Voter suppression refers to the devious use of governmental power, political campaign strategy, and resources aimed at suppressing (i. ... A voting machine is a device to record and register votes to be counted as per any voting system, with or without printing a ballot for the voter to verify. ... Look up hacking in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Electronic voting machine used in all Brazilian elections and plebiscites. ... In the United States, an absentee ballot is a ballot that the voter receives and (usually) sends through the mail, rather than travelling to a polling place and marking the ballot at a voting booth. ... In U.S. elections, when someone shows up at a polling place to cast a vote, but is not on the list of people who may vote there (is not registered in that precinct, or his registation is otherwise invalid or inaccurate), he may be allowed to cast a provisional...

Specific issues concerning the voting process

Voter registration

Facilitating voter registration was the main goal of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. States were required to make registration more widely available, notably through driver's license agencies (hence the nickname "Motor Voter Act"). In 2004, however, there were incidents in several states in which people who had submitted registration forms through a motor vehicle agency were not found on the voter rolls on Election Day. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly known as Motor Voter, was signed into effect by President Clinton on May 20, 1993. ... current EU driving licence, German version - front 1. ...

There were also complaints about the rejection of registrations by government agencies. College students encountered difficulties in registering where they attended school. [1] Some officials rejected voter registration forms on grounds that were contested, such as a failure to use paper of a particular weight (Ohio) or a failure to check a box on the form (Florida). Official language(s) English Capital Tallahassee Largest city Jacksonville Area  Ranked 22nd  - Total 65,794 sq mi (170,451 km²)  - Width 162 miles (260 km)  - Length 497 miles (800 km)  - % water 17. ...

Aside from such official actions, there were disputes about other voter registration activities. In Nevada and Oregon, a company hired by the Republican National Committee solicited voter registration forms, but was accused of filing only the Republicans’ forms and shredding those completed by Democrats. [2] A nonprofit organization, ACORN, was accused of submitting false voter registration forms and of carelessly or deliberately failing to submit some valid ones that it had received. [3] Official language(s) None Capital Carson City Largest city Las Vegas Area  Ranked 7th  - Total 110,567 sq mi (286,367 km²)  - Width 322 miles (519 km)  - Length 490 miles (788 km)  - % water 0. ... Official language(s) None Capital Salem Largest city Portland Area  Ranked 9th  - Total 98,466 sq mi (255,026 km²)  - Width 260 miles (420 km)  - Length 360 miles (580 km)  - % water 2. ... Bush/Cheney, 2004 Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman is the current Chairman of the RNC. The Republican National Committee (RNC) provides national leadership for the Republican Party of the United States. ... Acorns of Sessile Oak The acorn is the fruit of oaks (genera Quercus, Lithocarpus and Cyclobalanopsis, in the family Fagaceae). ...

Purges of voter lists

State efforts to purge voter rolls have led to disputes, notably in Florida. Before the 2000 election, Florida officials purged scores of thousands of registered voters on the grounds that they were convicted felons (and therefore ineligible under Florida law). Many of those whose names were purged were "false positives" (not actually felons). (See Florida Central Voter File.) A post-election lawsuit brought by the NAACP, the People for the American Way Foundation, and other organizations resulted in a settlement in 2002 in which the state agreed to restore eligible voters to the rolls and take other steps to improve election procedures. [4] [5] The Florida Central Voter File is a list of legally eligible voters for the state of Florida, in the United States. ... The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is one of the oldest and most influential hate organizations in the United States. ... People for the American Way Foundation is the charitable arm of People for the American Way, a progressive advocacy organization in the United States. ...

The issue returned to prominence in 2004 when Florida announced another planned purge, again based on a list of felons. The state government initially attempted to keep the list secret. When a court ordered its release, it was found to contain mostly Democrats, and a disproportionate number of racial minorities. [6] Faced with media documentation that the list included thousands of errors, the state abandoned the attempt to use it. [7] Some of the voters improperly purged in 2000 had not been restored as of May of 2004. [8]

Voter suppression

The term "voter suppression" is used to describe methods of discouraging or impeding people from voting. The government agency or private entity doing so believes that the would-be voters thus turned away would have been more likely to vote for an opponent. For example, Representative Dennis Kucinich described voter suppression in his state, Ohio: Seal of the House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is, along with the United States Senate, one of the two houses of the Congress of the United States. ... Dennis John Kucinich (Kučinić in Croatian) (born October 8, 1946) is an American politician of the Democratic party. ...

Dirty tricks occurred across the state, including phony letters from Boards of Elections telling people that their registration through some Democratic activist groups were invalid and that Kerry voters were to report on Wednesday because of massive voter turnout. Phone calls to voters giving them erroneous polling information were also common. [9]

Political parties generally pay lip service to the ideal of encouraging turnout. Occasionally, however, an incautious but revealing comment is publicized, as when a Republican state legislator in Michigan said, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election cycle." [10] Official language(s) None (English, de-facto) Capital Lansing Largest city Detroit Area  Ranked 11th  - Total 97,990 sq mi (253,793 km²)  - Width 239 miles (385 km)  - Length 491 miles (790 km)  - % water 41. ...

Practical impediments

In every election, some voters encounter practical impediments to voting, such as long lines at the polling place. In 2004, however, the issue received increased attention. In many places, some voters had to wait several hours to vote. Among the factors thought to be at work were: the general increase in voter turnout; a particular increase in first-time voters whose processing required more time; and confusion about the providing of provisional ballots, which many states had never used before.

In addition, some of the instances may have been caused, in whole or in part, by a form of voter suppression. Many previous elections have seen charges that a governing party allocated more voting machines or otherwise facilitated voting in areas where it was strong, while doing the opposite in the opposing party’s bastions. That issue arose again in 2004. There were also allegations of delays caused by such tactics as frequent challenges of voters, or even police roadblocks set up to impede access to certain polling places.

Electronic voting machines

Before 2004, the increasing use of electronic voting machines had raised several issues:

  • Software. An electronic voting machine could produce an incorrect report of the votes if its software contains a bug that causes such a malfunction or leaves the machine vulnerable to deliberate manipulation. Government agencies buying the machines were often denied access to the software by the manufacturer, whose internal memos often referred to unrectified faults or lack of security testing. Even when the software was available for review, there were concerns that the agencies lacked the technical expertise to find problems or to monitor changes to the software, and that unauthorized software changes and unidentified patches were used in some instances during the live election.
  • Voter verification. A voter using a paper ballot, a punch-card ballot, or an older lever-type voting machine has much greater ability to ensure that his or her vote has been recorded accurately.
  • Recounts. A recount of an electronic voting machine is not a recount in the traditional sense. The machine will simply re-report the same total.
  • Partisan ties. Democrats noted the Republican or conservative ties of several leading executives in the companies providing the machines.

The 2004 election brought new attention to these issues. In particular, many critics of electronic voting machines pointed to widespread discrepancies between exit polls conducted during Election Day and the officially reported results. They argued that the official results were more favorable to Bush than were the polls, and that these discrepancies were more likely to arise where electronic voting machines were in use, and/or in swing states. [11] They concluded that the exit polls showing a Kerry victory were probably correct and that the official totals from the machines were wrong. Expert opinion was divided concerning what implications should be drawn from the cited discrepancies. A computer bug is an error, flaw, mistake, failure, or fault in a computer program that prevents it from working as intended, or produces an incorrect result. ... A software release is to create a new version of the system or program and release it to the user community. ... An exit poll is an opinion poll taken after voters have exited the polling stations and is designed to give an early indication as to how an election has turned out as the actual result may take hours to count (such as in UK General Elections) and are usually done... In United States presidential politics, a swing state (also, battleground state) is a state in which no candidate has overwhelming support, meaning that any of the major candidates have a reasonable chance of winning the states electoral college votes. ...

In October of 2005, the General Accounting Office released a report that found security and design flaws that allowed for ballot tampering, systems and management flaws that allowed for after-the-fact vote tampering, and instances of vendors installing unsecured and untested software at the local level. [12]

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman of www.freepress.org argue that the GAO report confirms that the presidential election was stolen for Bush. The authors state that the sworn statements and affidavits of numerous voters support the fact that such vote switching did occur, and that the switches benefited George W. Bush, essentially giving him the election. Fitrakis and Wasserman claim that, along with dozens of examples of large-scale voter disenfranchisement and "statistical impossibilities," including the Ohio exit poll disparity, the GAO report demonstrates that election fraud did occur in 2004. [13]

In February 2006, BlackBoxVoting.org reported that there were over 100,000 data irregularities in the touch-screen voting machines used in Palm Beach County, including votes recorded in the system several days prior to actual voting. [14]

Other inaccuracies on Election Day

In the 2000 election, especially in the disputed recounts in Florida, there were issues concerning the ambiguities and uncertainties that arose from punch-card ballots, such as the hanging chads (incompletely punched holes). In 2004, the punch-card ballots were still widely used in some states. For example, more than 90,000 votes cast in Ohio were discounted, many because of hanging chads. [15] Presidential electoral votes by state. ... Official language(s) English Capital Tallahassee Largest city Jacksonville Area  Ranked 22nd  - Total 65,794 sq mi (170,451 km²)  - Width 162 miles (260 km)  - Length 497 miles (800 km)  - % water 17. ... Chads are paper particles created when holes are made in a computer punched tape or punch card. ...

Provisional and absentee ballots

Provisional ballots are for would-be voters who assert that they are registered but whose names cannot be found in the list available at the polling place. The voter completes a written ballot, which is placed in a sealed envelope. The ballot is opened and counted only if the voter is subsequently found to be registered.

In 2004, there was contention over the standards for determining whether to count provisional ballots. In several states, officials said that they would not count provisional ballots, even those from properly registered voters, that were submitted at the wrong precinct. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, although the original procedure had stated that the voter was not required to provide a date of birth, a new rule issued a week after the election called for rejecting any provisional ballot that lacked a date of birth. [16] Cuyahoga County is a county located in the state of Ohio. ...

Absentee ballots were also an issue. There were reports of absentee ballots being mailed out too late for most voters to complete and return them in time. (In some instances, officials argued that last-minute litigation over Ralph Nader’s ballot status or other issues had prevented them from finalizing the absentee ballots as early as they wanted to.) In Broward County, Florida, some 58,000 absentee ballots were delivered to the Postal Service to be mailed to voters, according to county election officials, but the Postal Service said it had never received them. [17] In one widely reported instance, 5 Princeton University students (Theo Ellis, Luke Goodwin, Kelsey Johnson, Alison Hess, and Katharine Brandes) drove 40 continuous hours from New Jersey to Florida and back in order to vote. Hess, who lived in Democratic-stronghold Boca Raton, had never received the absentee ballot she applied for months in advance. The students rallied behind their friend, leaving at 11PM the night before the Presidential election to take her to vote in person in Florida. Numerous student groups used the students as an example to encourage other youths to exercise their right to vote; one group, the Princeton Democrats, raised money to pay for the 5 students' gas expense.[18] Ralph Nader Ralph Nader (born February 27, 1934) is an American attorney and political activist. ... Broward County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. ... A previous USPS logo The United States Postal Service (USPS) is an independent establishment of the executive branch of the United States government (see ) responsible for providing postal service in the United States; it is generally referred to within the United States as the post office. ... Princeton University is a coeducational private university located on an extensive campus mostly in the Borough of Princeton and partly in the Princeton Township in New Jersey, United States. ...

Racial discrimination and other bias

Some of the issues described above have created problems for voters generally. Others, however, by accident or (it is charged) by design, have disproportionately affected racial minorities. For example, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights determined that, in Florida in 2000, 54 percent of the ballots discarded as "spoiled" were cast by African Americans, who were only 11 percent of the voters. [19] People for the American Way and the NAACP catalogued a number of voting problems with discriminatory impacts through early 2004 in this report, with a subsequent update. The Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) is an independent federal agency of the United States government. ... An African American (also Afro-American, Black American, or simply black), is a member of an ethnic group in the United States whose ancestors, usually in predominant part, were indigenous to Africa. ... People for the American Way (PFAW) is a prominent liberal advocacy organization in the United States, founded by television producer Norman Lear in 1980. ...

The 2004 election continued the well-established trend that African Americans were much more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. As a result, a disproportionate reduction in the African-American vote would tend to hurt the Democrats. Beyond that factor, many Democrats alleged that other election-related problems affected their supporters more heavily. Some argued that, if the election had been conducted without improprieties, Kerry would have won the presidency. [20]


Ralph Nader filed a request for a recount of the presidential votes in New Hampshire with that state's Secretary of State. Nader's request cited "irregularities in the vote reported on the AccuVote Diebold Machines in comparison to exit polls and trends in voting in New Hampshire" and added: "These irregularities favor President George W. Bush by 5 percent to 15 percent over what was expected." [21] As one of the candidates on the ballot, Nader had the right to demand a recount, but was required to pay for it (because he lost by more than 1 percent of the vote). Based on the payment submitted by the Nader campaign, the state agreed to begin a partial recount. Official language(s) English Capital Concord Largest city Manchester Area  Ranked 46th  - Total 9,359 sq. ...

In Ohio, two minor-party candidates, Michael Badnarik (Libertarian) and David Cobb (Green, though not on the ballot in Ohio) cooperated in requesting a recount. Their joint press release cited "numerous press and independent reports of voter intimidation, mis-marked and discarded ballots, problems with electronic voting machines and disenfranchisement -- apparently by design -- of African-American voters." [22] A partial statewide recount occurred after the certification of election results in early December, but it did not significantly change the results. [23]. Legally binding recount begun December 13, 2004 Badnarik campaigning in July 2004. ... The Libertarian Party is a United States political party created in 1971. ... David Cobb appealing for votes at the annual Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo, Wisconsin, September 2004 David Keith Cobb (born December 24, 1962 in San Leon, Texas) is an American ex-lawyer and activist, and was the 2004 presidential candidate of the Green Party of the United States (GPUS). ... In United States politics, the Green Party has been active as a third party since the 1980s. ...

Around the country there were also recounts of races for state and local office. Most of them reflected simply the closeness of the official tally, but some also raised issues of election irregularities. These included the elections for:

  • Governor of Washington, between Dino Rossi and Christine Gregoire. Issues raised included the mailing of absentee ballots, the counting of provisional and absentee ballots, correction of improper marks on optically scanned ballots, and alleged tampering with electronic voting machines. The first tally and the first recount gave the election to Republican Dino Rossi. However, after two statewide recounts, Gregoire, the Democrat, had a narrow lead of 129 votes out of 2.8 million cast. A Republican lawsuit seeking to overturn the result and force a re-vote was rejected by the court, after which Rossi conceded the election. See Washington gubernatorial election, 2004.
  • North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, between Britt Cobb and Steve Troxler. The number of votes lost due to a voting machine malfunction in Carteret County (over 4,000) exceed the reported margin of about 2,000. A new election has been called by state election supervisors.
  • Governor of Puerto Rico, between Anibal Acevedo Vilá and Pedro Rosselló. Nearly 30,000 ballots are in dispute in this race, where the two candidates are separated by just under 4,000 votes.

This is a list of governors of the U.S. state of Washington. ... Dino Rossi Dino Rossi (born October 15, 1959 in Seattle, Washington, USA) is a former Washington State Senator and the Republican nominee for Governor of Washington in the historically close 2004 election. ... Christine Chris OGrady Gregoire (born March 24, 1947) is the Democratic governor of the U.S. state of Washington. ... The election for governor of the U.S. state of Washington in the year 2004 was dramatic, gaining national attention for its convoluted legal process and its extremely close finish. ... The Commissioner of Agriculture is the head of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as well as chairman of the state Board of Agriculture. ... W. Britt Cobb W. Britt Cobb, Jr was Commissioner of Agriculture for the state of North Carolina between June 2003 and February 2005. ... Steve Troxler is a tobacco farmer and the Republican Commissioner of Agriculture for the U.S. state of North Carolina, sworn in February 8, 2005 after an extended election dispute following the November 2004 statewide election. ... Carteret County is a county located in the state of North Carolina. ... Seal of the Governor of Puerto Rico The Governor of Puerto Rico is the Head of Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. ... Aníbal Acevedo Vilá (born February 13, 1962) is the eighth and current democratically elected Governor of Puerto Rico. ... Pedro Juan Rosselló González [pronounced “roh-say-YO”] (born April 5, 1944) is a Puerto Rican politican who was the sixth Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico from 1993 to 2001. ...

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