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Related Categories: U.S. | Government & Elections
Franklin County Elections Board Targeted Heavily Democratic Precincts
by Tim Lohrentz (plan-act [at] juno.com)
Tuesday Dec 7th, 2004 4:28 AM
The Franklin County, Ohio, Board of Elections practiced widespread voter suppression in the allocation of voting machines on November 2, 2004. In an analysis of official Franklin County data on voting machines per precinct, precincts where machines were added or subtracted from 2000 to 2004, and the party affiliations of the registered voters, Democratic precincts were nearly twice as likely as Republican precincts to have voting machines subtracted from 2000 to 2004. Please see the full text here:
franklinvotemachines.pdf_600_.jpg
The analysis shows that the distribution of voting machines to precincts was not random but rather was severely discriminating against Democratic precincts, and especially against precincts where more than 80 percent of party-affiliated voters registered Democrat. All the data used in this analysis was available several weeks before election day so the Board of Elections had time to correct or prevent the voter suppression. This analysis estimates that at least 22,000 Franklin County voters were disenfranchised due to the long lines and lack of voting machines, including over 15,000 voters from heavily Democratic (> 60%) precincts. Please also see http://www.copperas.com/machinery.html for related analysis.

Nearly one out of three (31%) Democratic precincts had less voting machines in 2004 than in 2000 compared to less than one out of six (16%) Republican precincts. Looking at it a different way, of the 217 precincts where voting machines were subtracted, 184 (85%) were Democratic.

Forty percent of the Democratic precincts where machines were subtracted ended up being extremely crowded (more than 260 voters per machine) compared to only 12 percent of Republican precincts. A Democratic precinct was six times more likely than a Republican precinct to have machines taken away in 2004 and end up being an extremely crowded precinct.

The highly concentrated Democratic precincts where machines were subtracted appear to have been targeted to leave them extremely crowded. Of precincts that were 60-80 percent Democratic, more than two out of five (41 percent) ended up extremely crowded and another 54 percent where somewhat crowded after voting machines were subtracted. Even more troubling, of the most heavily Democratic precincts (80 to 100%), nearly three out of four precincts (74 percent) ended up extremely crowded after voting machines were subtracted. Most of these latter precincts are majority African-American, if voting patterns were similar in Franklin County to the rest of the country. One can estimate that a majority African-American precinct was 12 times more likely than a Republican precinct to have voting machines taken away in 2004 and end up being extremely crowded. On the other hand, of the seven heavily Republican precincts where voting machines were subtracted, four were still not crowded (less than 205 voters per machine). Only four of the 77 precincts that were extremely crowded on election day due to voting machines being subtracted were Republican.

In precincts where there was no change in the number of machines, heavily Democratic precincts were again much more likely to be extremely crowded - 20 percent of very Democratic precincts (80 to 100% Democratic) and 16 percent of precincts that were 60 to 80% Democratic. This compares to only six percent of precincts that were moderately Republican (50 to 60%) and three percent of precincts that were heavily Republican (60 to 80%).

Overall, 19 percent of Franklin County precincts were extremely crowded on election day. But Democratic precincts were two and a half times more likely to be extremely crowded than Republican precincts. Of the 136 precincts that had at least 80 percent Democratic registration, only 16 percent were not crowded while 38 percent were extremely crowded. As mentioned before, these are likely majority African-American precincts. On the other hand, of the 45 heavily Republican precincts, 44 percent were not crowded and only 7 percent were extremely crowded. The likely African-American precincts were over five times more likely than the heavily Republican precincts to be extremely crowded on November 2.

The level of crowdedness did make a difference. Overall, voter turnout (percent voting of active voters) was 12.5 percentiles higher in precincts that were not crowded compared to precincts that were extremely crowded. Using these differences, the analysis calculated an estimate of the number of disenfranchised voters, assuming that each precinct had sufficient voting machines, i.e. was not crowded. All told, over 22,000 voters were likely kept from voting due to long lines at the polling stations. Of these, about 70 percent or over 15,000 were in heavily Democratic precincts. Because Democratic voters are more vulnerable to long lines than Republican voters, an even higher percentage of these 22,000 votes would likely have been cast for the Democratic candidate.

[Tim Lohrentz is a Mathematician and Urban Planner and Senior Program Specialist at National Economic Development & Law Center.
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