I was stationed at a precinct on a quiet street in a little town in eastern Ohio, and it was nonstop trouble for the full thirteen hours the polls were open. My assignment was to make sure that all registered and qualified voters who showed up at my precinct would get the chance to vote. Here is why I failed at that assignment:

1. The Republicans had well-trained lawyers assigned to each targeted polling place, armed with lists of newly registered Democrats and instructions on how to challenge their right to vote.

2. The Republican challenger at our polling site got to sit inside the polling station all day, while the Democrats (two other volunteers and me) were not allowed in the polling site all day, even to use the bathrooms.

3. The Republican lawyer stationed alongside the Board of Elections staff inside the polling site occasionally left her post to talk with voters waiting outside about Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Bush’s plan to “save” Social Security. She argued with voters that didn’t agree with her. Then she returned to her seat inside to decide which voters she would challenge.

4. The presiding elections judge was also a Republican and repeatedly threatened to call the police on us because we were “distracting her.” She did call the police a couple of times and, each time she called, the police stayed to monitor and question us for more than an hour. This made it impossible for us to respond to frustrated voters.

5. This presiding elections judge also ripped down all of our legally posted Kerry/Edwards signs and our non-partisan “Know Your Voting Rights” posters so that voters couldn’t identify us for assistance if they had questions.

6. Other Republican lawyers who were technically unauthorized to enter the polling site were allowed in and out of building all day by the presiding election judge, while we were not allowed to even step inside.

All of this leads up to the biggest problems:

7. Voters in this highly Democratic precinct (85 percent registered Democrat) were pressured to use provisional ballots, not the standard punch-card ballots. About 25 percent of the voters at this site were first-time voters, and many did not know that their provisional ballot might never count. And what happened? Bush won Ohio by 130,000 votes, but there are still 155,000 uncounted provisional ballots, most from the bluest of blue precincts.

8. Late in the day, the Republican challenger started asking voters for additional identification, which meant that some people would have to go back home to get more ID. But the later it got, the less likely people would have time to get back in line before the polls closed. Many qualified voters left and never came back to vote.

9. At each polling place, the elections officials were required to post the number of voters so far that day two times. The first time was at 11:00 a.m. and the second time was at 4:00 p.m. The vote count that the presiding election judge reported both times did not correspond to the number of people we tracked going in and out of the polls.

11. Thirty minutes before the polls closed, the Republicans called the police on us again. While the police were questioning us, we noticed a very official looking guy, preppy and well-dressed, enter the polling site. This individual conferred with the Republican lawyer and made a series of phone calls from inside the polling site. As he was leaving, we confronted him and asked him who he was. “I’m a lawyer from the Bush team.” Of course. He refused to tell us his name, so we followed him out to his big shiny SUV, took down his license plate number, and reported him. Voter suppression tactics, such as these, can’t win you votes, but they can significantly drive down the votes on your side in areas where your opponent is sure to sweep whole precincts, making him less competitive overall, and adding power to your red county votes. Voter suppression tactics weren’t used in Red precincts because Bush needed every Red vote to count, and Republicans didn’t use them in highly contested precincts because these precincts were being closely monitored. But in the bluest precincts, especially poor inner-city precincts, many voters didn’t stand a chance.

More news from around Ohio:

- The Akron Beacon Journal (November 6, 2004) reported an error with an electronic voting system giving President George W. Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus. Earlier, on October 28, the Akron paper caught four Republicans falsifying more than 900 of the forms required to challenge Democratic voters. The Bureau of Justice has been contacted, and felony charges against all four are possible.

- According to the election day issue of the Cincinnati Post, absentee ballots in Hamilton County were sent to voters without listing Kerry/Edwards as a choice for president. Instead, where “Kerry/Edwards” should have appeared, the ballots read “CANDIDATE REMOVED.” Hamilton County election officials claimed to have corrected this problem by late October, but many of residents used these faulty ballots and sent them back to the Board of Elections as their official vote.

- The Vindicator (November 6, 2004) in Mercer County, Ohio, reported that thousands of votes disappeared on more than a dozen touch screen voting machines, but there is no paper trail and no way to re-count. Elsewhere in Mercer County, computerized voting machines broke down early on election day so elections officials advised voters to go home and come back later, but the machines were never repaired. Mercer County is also a blue county.

- And across the state, registered Democrats were phoned the evening before the election and given false information regarding their polling site and poll hours (Athens Messenger, November 3, 2004, Mansfield News Journal, November 2, 2004, The New York Times, November 1, 2004).

-The Cleveland Free Times reported on November 3 that Republicans started challenging more than 23,000 registered Democratic voters weeks before the election. Of those, 80 percent were from low-income Cuyahoga County, which are overwhelmingly pro-Kerry. Challenging so many Democrats in one county was so time-consuming for local Republicans that they tapped local Republican mayors and councilmen to help push the challenges.

- The Dayton Daily News (November 6, 2004) reported that the voting machine for at least one precinct “wouldn’t allow any votes for John Kerry,” and this machine was never fixed. The Dayton paper also reported that the Republican challengers stationed at the polling sites created significant tension between voters and voting officials, especially when some Republican challengers attempted to challenge every single voter in violation of the court order.

-The Mansfield News Journal reported (October 27, 2004) that Republicans challenged new voters in more than 75 percent of the counties in Ohio, while Democrats did not challenging anyone. Local elections officials claimed they have never seen a party challenge voters like this.

-The Warren Tribune Chronicle (November 3, 2004) reported that two Republican challengers were kicked out of a polling site in a heavily democratic precinct for harassing voters.

- News 5 in Lake County Ohio broke the story of hundreds of Lake County Democrats receiving letters stating that voter registration conducted by the NAACP was fraudulent and that their voting privileges were being revoked.

-And in Defiance, Ohio, the Crescent News (November 2, 2004) reported that Republican Challengers stationed at polling stations refused to give their names, even to the Democratic voters whom they were challenging.

This is all just in Ohio. Does all this mean that Kerry would have won the election? I have no idea. Maybe not. But I am convinced that the Republicans kept tens of thousands of Ohioans and hundreds of thousands of other voters nationwide from voting for Kerry in this election. And by keeping Kerry’s votes down, Bush didn’t just win; he is now claiming a “mandate” for his second-term agenda. By Kim Harmon

"Contrary to the New York Times and CNN reports that voting went smoothly in the Buckeye state, I witnessed dozens of acts of voter suppression last week in Ohio.

When Republicans learned in mid-2003 that groups like America Coming Together, MoveOn and People for the American Way were going to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to grassroots Get Out the Vote campaigns, they organized a comprehensive legal attack with the goal of disenfranchising millions of Democratic voters. First, they propagated the idea that voters in poor and predominately Democratic neighborhoods would be harassed by lawyers or “Challengers” posted at the polls to check your identification and challenge your right to vote. In true Karl Rove style, this was meant to intimidate people who might be behind on a car payment, late on child support or who not want to voluntarily stand in line for racial profiling. This alone kept millions from the polls on election day. But if you chose to show up at the polls anyway, there were plans to keep you from voting as well.