Monday, June 05, 2006

Why is Ohio's Blackwell stonewalling the Green Party off the fall ballot?

Green Party candidates who submitted more than twice the legally required number of petition signatures to get on this fall's Ohio ballot are being stonewalled by the state's infamous Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who has expressed personal contempt for the Greens' gubernatorial candidate, Bob Fitrakis.

Blackwell served as co-chair of the Ohio 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. As chief administrator of the statewide ballot, he delivered Ohio's 20 electoral votes---and thus the presidency---to George W. Bush in a bitterly contested election riddled with charges of intimidation, fraud and theft, electronic and otherwise. Nearly two years later, the charges that the election was stolen continue to escalate.

Blackwell is now Ohio's Republican nominee for governor. His Democratic opponent in the fall, 2006, vote is U.S. Congressman Ted Strickland. A moderate Methodist minister from southern Ohio, Strickland currently holds a slight lead in the polls over the extreme right-wing fundamentalist Blackwell.

But on May 2, the Green Party gubernatorial campaign of Bob Fitrakis and Anita Rios submitted more than 11,000 petition signatures to get themselves on the fall ballot. The Green Party candidate for Secretary of State, Tim Kettler, also submitted more than 10,000 signatures. State law requires about 5,000 valid signatures for third party candidacies (but just 1,000 for Democrats or Republicans).

With a predicated acceptance rate of well over 50%, the Green Party place on the ballot would seem secure. But Blackwell is refusing to acknowledge or count the petitions.

On its face it would seem a Green Party candidacy would drain votes from the Democrat Strickland and aid Blackwell, giving him a vested interest in seeing Fitrakis-Rios on the ballot.

But Fitrakis (as this writer's frequent co-author) is one of the nation's best-known critics of how Blackwell handled the Ohio 2004 election. Fitrakis was also co-counsel for a legal filing demanding a recount, against which Blackwell retaliated with a demand for sanctions. Those sanctions were rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court. But in a first-person interview I conducted with Blackwell this winter while walking down a hallway, Blackwell referred to Fitrakis as "a complete idiot."

As a certified candidate with full legal standing, Fitrakis has pledged to escalate the Green campaign to unearth more of what really happened in Ohio 2004. As an attorney, Fitrakis's ability to drag the Secretary of State into court could be more than Blackwell wants to tolerate.

The prevailing common wisdom in Ohio is that "J. Kenneth Blackwell will never lose an election in which he is in charge of the vote count." Blackwell might believe it crucial to deprive Fitrakis of a certified candidate's legal ability to demand a recount after Blackwell "wins" another stolen election in 2006.

So Blackwell's office won't say when (or if) it will count the Green Party petitions. A ruling "may come in June or July." In the meantime, the Greens have been hamstrung in their attempts to mount a meaningful campaign or to fundraise.

Blackwell's tactics parallel his stall against a recount of the Ohio 2004 ballot, which he effectively delayed until after the state's Electoral College delegation had been certified for Bush. In fact, to this day no meaningful recount has ever been conducted of that election, and more than 106,000 ballots remain uncounted.

Fitrakis and the Greens are contemplating court action to force official certification. But for Blackwell, it would seem that once again, democracy denied is a GOP victory.

Harvey Wasserman is co-author, with Bob Fitrakis, of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at, and co-editor, with Fitrakis, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO?, forthcoming from The New Press.