Black man in a suit with glasses speaking with his head tilted back

While Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is getting most of the attention as the Co-Chair of Donald Trump’s “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” the appointment to that Commission of notorious election rigger Ken Blackwell, Ohio’s former Secretary of State, is the real threat to democracy.

Blackwell played a role in Ohio’s 2004 election parallel to that played by Florida’s Secretary of State Kathleen Harris in the 2000 election. He co-chaired George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in Ohio. Blackwell is a far-right Republican who administered Ohio’s 2004 election using an “all the above” barrage of tactics pioneered throughout the Third World by the CIA and other covert operatives since the beginning of the Cold War.

Prior to the election, Blackwell established a wide range of measures aimed at systematically disenfranchising potential Democratic voters, and for electronically shifting the vote count to guarantee a Bush-Cheney victory.

In the lead up to the vote, Blackwell eliminated numerous precincts from inner city Democrat-leaning areas. He consolidated them into larger precincts, causing procedures on Election Day to be more difficult. Suppression of the black vote became much easier.

As precincts were shifted, the Ohio Secretary of State’s website had out-of-date inaccurate information, frequently directing citizens to places where they would not be able vote, or where provisional ballots would be required.

Blackwell demanded Ohio’s 88 counties print all voter registration forms on 80 bond paper or they would be rejected, but the ones distributed from his own office were on 60 bond paper and would have been rejected under his decree.

Prior to the 2004 election, more than 300,000 voters were purged from the registration rolls, virtually all of them in heavily Democratic urban areas such as Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. (Bush’s official margin of victory was less than 118,775). They were purged without explanation in a presidential election year, when voter purges did not normally occur in Ohio.

For the first time in Ohio’s history, Blackwell imposed a wide range of very restrictive management policies, including a refusal to count ballots for president cast by a voter in a precinct other than the one in which s/he was registered. This included denying voting rights to citizens who came to the right building to vote, but mistakenly lined up at the wrong table in a crowded general voting area, even if the right table was adjacent to it, less than a three feet away.

But Blackwell’s greatest crime was completely privatizing the vote count in 2004. In the King Lincoln Bronzeville vs. Blackwell lawsuit that went on for five years, discovery revealed that Blackwell signed an election contract with a private IT company that allowed the 2004 Ohio electronic vote count to be stolen. The no-bid contract was with GovTech, an Akron-based IT firm owned by Michael Connell, a long-time Bush family operative. Connell had created the Bush-Cheney website for the 2000 presidential campaign.

As a chief IT consultant and operative for Karl Rove, Connell was a devout Catholic and the father of four children. In various statements Connell cited his belief that "abortion is murder" as a primary motivating factor in his work for the Republican Party and his strong desire to see candidates who supported legal abortion be defeated.

Connell’s company, New Media Communications worked closely with SmartTech in building Republican and right-wing websites that were hosted on SmartTech servers. Among Connell’s clients were the Republican National Committee, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and The SmartTech servers at one point housed Karl Rove’s emails. Some of Rove’s email files have since mysteriously disappeared despite repeated Congressional and court-sanctioned attempts to review them.

At 12:20am on the night of the 2004 presidential election, when election exit polls and initial vote counts showed John Kerry the clear winner, the Ohio computers went down and the state’s vote counting was moved to Tennessee. Blackwell had dismissed state IT workers for the night, leaving the vote count in this historically critical period under the supervision of Bush associate Michael Connell.

At 12:30am, CNN reported that John Kerry was carrying Ohio with a margin of 4.2 percent (more than 200,000 votes) and would almost certainly become the next President. The call echoed those made for Al Gore in 2000 before the vote flipping in Volusia County.

Around 2am the computers came back up and the Ohio vote count had shifted, giving Bush the presidency. Kerry’s 4.2 percent margin of victory shifted to a 2.5 percent margin of victory for Bush.

The Free Press obtained a graphic architectural map of the Secretary of State’s election night server layout system linked to Connell’s IT site in Tennessee. Cyber-security expert Stephen Spoonamore told the Free Press that the computer configuration was set up to allow a “man in the middle attack” to alter Ohio’s votes.

Ken Blackwell should be in prison for rigging Ohio’s 2004 vote count, not serving on Trump’s Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.

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