One might think, given all the election shenanigans that took place in Ohio last year and the political corruption scandals currently rocking the state, that the mainstream media would be all over a new bill that has already passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is likely to shortly pass the Republican-dominated Ohio Senate. Yet a search at Google News turns up a only single news article on HB3, that in today’s Columbus Free Press: “With new legislation, Ohio Republicans plan holiday burial for American Democracy.”

The draconian bill, HB3, would literally institutionalize election fraud, even imposing criminal penalties upon any one who tried to prevent it or investigate it.

More beneath the fold.
The scope of the HB3 legislation is staggering in its brazenness. It is hard to believe that any one reading its provisions could not come away without arriving at the realization that this bill is intended to institutionalize the theft of Ohio elections. The Columbus Free Press does an admirable job of detailing just how blatant this bill is, so I will simply offer highlights of that article. Go here to read the entire article:

With new legislation, Ohio Republicans plan holiday burial for American Democracy

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman

December 6, 2005

…HB3… opens voter registration activists to partisan prosecution, exempts electronic voting machines from public scrutiny, quintuples the cost of citizen-requested statewide recounts and makes it illegal to challenge a presidential vote count or, indeed, any federal election result in Ohio. When added to the recently passed HB1, which allows campaign financing to be dominated by the wealthy and by corporations, and along with a Rovian wish list of GOP attacks on the ballot box, democracy in Ohio could be all but over.

The proposed Ohio law will demand a valid photo ID or a utility bill, a bank statement, a paycheck or a government document with a current address. Thousands of Ohio citizens who are elderly, homeless, unemployed or who do not drive will be effectively disenfranchised. Many citizens, for example, rent apartments where the utilities are paid by landlords. In such cases, the number of people living in utilities-included apartment rentals could actually determine an election.

During the 2004 presidential election, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, also issued statewide threats against ex-felons and people whose names resembled those of ex-felons. Thousands of such threats were delivered to registered voters who were never convicted of anything, or who were eligible to vote after being released from prison. In 2004 a “Mighty Texas Strike Force” came to Columbus with a specific mandate to threaten ex-felons with arrest if they dared to vote.

It is legal for ex-felons in Ohio to vote, even if they are in half-way houses or on parole. But HB3’s identification requirement, combined with the confusion Blackwell has introduced into the process, will intimidate such Ohioans from voting in 2006 and beyond.

HB3 will also reduce voter rolls by ordering county boards of elections to send cards to registered voters every two years. If a card comes back as undelivered, the voter must rely on a provisional ballot. But tens of thousands of provisional ballots were arbitrarily discarded in 2004, and some 16,000 are known to remain uncounted to this day.

HB3 also imposes severe restrictions on voter registration drives. It allows the state attorney-general and local prosecutors wide powers to prosecute vaguely defined charges of fraud against those working to sign up voters. The restrictions are clearly meant to chill the kind of Democratic registration drives that brought hundreds of thousands of new voters to the polls in 2004 (even though many were turned away in Democratic wards due to a lack of voting machines).

Those electronic machines will also be exempted from recounts by random sampling, even in close, disputed elections like those of 2000 and 2004.

In 2004, scores of Ohio voters reported, under oath, that they had pressed John Kerry’s name on touchscreen machines, only to see George W. Bush’s name light up. A board of elections technician in Mahoning County (Youngstown) has admitted that at least 18 machines there suffered such problems. Sworn testimony in Columbus indicates that votes for Kerry faded off the screen on touchscreen machines there. Other charges of mis-programming, re-programming, recalibrating, mishandling and manipulation of electronic voting software, hardware and memory cards have since arisen throughout Ohio 2004.

For the 2005 election, some 41 additional Ohio counties (of 88) were switched to Diebold touchscreen machines…

…HB3 will make it virtually impossible for any challenge to be mounted involving any votes cast or counted on electronic machines or tabulators—meaning virtually every vote cast in Ohio.

Indeed, HB3 will raise the cost of mounting a recount from $10 per precinct to $50 per precinct… HB3 would make funding an attempt at another recount in 2006 or 2008 cost more than $500,000.

Such an effort might also result in official retaliation. In 2004, Blackwell and Ohio Attorney-General Jim Petro—both of whom are now Republican candidates for governor—tried to impose stiff financial sanctions against attorneys who filed a legal challenge to the seating of the Ohio electors who gave George W. Bush the presidency. The Ohio Supreme Court disallowed the sanctions after the challenge was withdrawn. But HB3 would make such a federal election challenge illegal altogether.

With the electoral process in Ohio all but disemboweled, those hoping for a change of party in upcoming state and national elections are probably kidding themselves.

The 2004 election in the Buckeye state was riddled with deception, fraud, intimidation, manipulation and outright theft, all of which were essential to the triumph of George W. Bush. In 2005, four electoral reform ballot initiatives were allegedly defeated despite huge poll margins showing the almost certain passage of two of them. The most credible explanation for their defeat lies in electronic manipulation of voting machines, tabulators and memory cards which the GAO confirms have no credible security safeguards.

With campaign finance, voter registration, electronic voting, public recounts, district gerrymandering and overall electoral administration now firmly in the pocket of the GOP, and with Democratic opposition that is virtually non-existent on the issue of vote fraud and election manipulation, there is little reason to believe the Republican grip on Ohio will be loosened at any point in the near future.

In traditional terms, the scandal-ridden Ohio GOP would appear to be more vulnerable than ever. Governor Robert Taft has become the only Ohio governor to be convicted of a crime while in office. With an astonishing 7% approval rating, he has been compared to Homer Simpson by the state’s leading Republican newspaper. Republican US Senator Mike DeWine appears highly vulnerable. The GOP has never won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.

But HB3 will solidify the GOP’s iron grip on the electronic voting process and all that surrounds it. Unless they break that grip, Democrats who believe they can carry any part of Ohio in 2006 or 2008 are kidding themselves…

Perhaps I am naive, but if the GOP can pass legislation like this in Ohio with nary a peep from the mainstream media, what is to prevent them from doing it in every state where they control the legislatures? We are fast becoming a banana republic, and the media and the Democrats are complicit by their silence.

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