Motivated by my eternal outrage at the systematic voter disenfranchisement that occurred in Ohio last year, I ventured to the Buckeye State this past weekend as a one man civil rights crusade determined to uncover the great untold story of the 2004 election. I followed in the giant footsteps of other self-appointed civil rights arbitrators who in no way represent established government agencies or any investigative body and have no training, no subpoena power, no authority, and no specific knowledge of voter fraud outside of tidbits floating around the left wing of the blogosphere. I’m talking of course about such patriots and freedom fighters as John Kerry, John Conyers, Barbara Boxer, and Jimmy Carter.
Well, okay, that’s not how it went at all. My wife’s friend from the Peace Corps got married in Columbus and I tagged along. But I decided to sniff around for an irregularity or two while I was there.
It ought to have been fertile ground. If you follow the conspiracy theories that posit George W. Bush no more won re-election in 2004 than he won the presidency in 2000, Columbus was the scene of the crime. Some 5,000 to 15,000 frustrated voters reportedly stepped out of serpentine lines at Columbus polling places and drove home without casting a ballot. It matters not that Bush won Ohio by more than 118,000 votes. Or even that John Kerry himself acknowledged the Democratic county officials responsible for this civil rights cataclysm could count and recount the ballots until the cows came home and it wouldn’t change the outcome of the election. I was met with a conspiracy of silence.
I asked a burley farmer — on the bride’s side — who sported arms like tree trunks and hands like catchers mitts whether he’d been turned away at the polls. His chuckle crinkled his bald head and made him appear even more menacing than usual. No. No one stopped him from voting. For George W. Bush, by the way. Same for his son, who made up for dad’s depilation with aigrettes of hippie hair. No luck with anyone else from the bride’s side of the family, not all of whom were Republicans.
Desperate for an irregularity, I approached the only African-American fellow at the wedding and asked if he’d run into trouble at the polls. From reading John Conyers full-throated assault on the 2004 election, I’d come to understand Karl Rove singled out African-Americans for systematic disenfranchisement.
“I didn’t vote,” the guy told me. Aha! I was onto something. Surely he’d been turned away when those Democrat county operatives in the secret employ of Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell noticed the pigment of his skin. But it wasn’t so.
“I don’t really follow politics,” he concluded.
I struck up a conversation with a naturalized Vietnamese woman pursuing her Ph.D. in cancer biology. Now we’re cooking with oil, I thought to myself. John Kerry’s brave defense of Communism in Vietnam must have encouraged this woman to take an equally brave stand against President Bush’s oppression here in America. Perhaps she was turned away at the polls in yet another sad chapter in America’s colonial experiment.
Peering over both shoulders she whispered to me, “Actually, I voted for Bush.” Turns out the Vietnamese in America aren’t that excited about the workers’ revolution and think pretty badly of Mr. Kerry.
I left Columbus without a single firsthand account of voter intimidation or disenfranchisement. My crusade went bust.
Turns out though, I was just looking for fraud in all the wrong places. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has it all over Columbus. The Philadelphia County Board of Elections last week placed voting booths in 112 locations that are either illogical, inaccessible, and, in some cases, even illegal. Voters in the Forty-Fifth Ward will get to enjoy a pint when they vote at Fibber McGee’s Pub. Voters in the Twenty-Ninth Ward will need to drop by a vacant funeral home, a location so morbid in its imagery even Lyndon Johnson — who benefited from high turnouts in quite a few graveyard wards — would have to cringe. And perhaps for convenience sake, voters in the First Ward need to visit the Democrat Party headquarters to cast a ballot.
My civil rights struggle continues.