New evidence emerges of vote counting subterfuge in Ohio pot ballot initiative
A hacker at work (Shutterstock)

More evidence is emerging calling into question the officially reported results of Tuesday’s marijuana legalization vote in Ohio, where Issue 3 was defeated by a two-to-one margin.

On Friday, the Columbus Free Press published a series of screenshots of live televised election returns from Dayton’s WHIO-TV provided by Ohio’s Secretary of State. The sequence showed hundreds of thousands of votes flipped within minutes from the "yes" to "no" column of Issue 3. The controversial measure would have established a state-licensed cartel of 10 licensed growers operating regulated indoor grow sites of up to 300,000 square feet each. The pro-marijuana activist community was divided on the measure.

The screenshots, posted below, show hundreds of thousands of votes flipping from the "yes" to the "no" column in 11 minutes, even though the number of precincts reporting only increased by 6 percent. In the first screenshot, with 39 percent of precincts reporting, the pot measure is winning 65-to-35 percent.

In the second screenshot those percentages are reversed, even though the number of precincts reporting results has only increased by 6 percent. Look at the number of votes in each column and you will see that hundreds of thousands have been jumped from supporting to opposing the measure.

Late on Friday, Bob Fitrakis, Free Press editor and publisher, received another set of screenshots taken by an Oberlin College faculty member on her cell phone from another media outlet in another part of the state. (Disclosure: Fitrakis, his colleague Harvey Wasserman and I co-authored a 2006 book documenting how Ohio Republicans rigged the rules and vote count in the 2004 presidential election that returned George W. Bush to the White House.)

The first of these newly obtained screenshots shows Issue 3 passing statewide with 84 percent approval, based on 58 percent of precincts reporting. More than 700,000 voters are supporting legalization.

The next screenshot, taken seven minutes later, shows a dramatic reversal. Issue 3 now only has 35 percent voter approval, based on 67 percent of precincts reporting their tallies.

These screenshots raise substantial questions about the accuracy of the officially reported vote count. In the second screenshot, more than 1.3 million No votes have been added to the official results, yet the number of precincts reporting has only gone up by 8 percent. That does not make sense, because in Ohio, like the rest of the country, precincts are uniformly sized, even the largest ones. These results suggest there were more voters in the latest 8 percent of precincts reporting than the previous 58 percent.

Moreover, if the second screenshot is accurate, it would appear that almost all precincts that were first to report were filled with pro-pot voters, while almost all of the voters in this latest wave of precincts were anti-legalization voters. Such a swing of the electoral pendulum seems questionable.

Finally, it is odd that in both of these sets of screenshots the pro-pot vote settled at 35 percent.

While there may be a logical explanation for these anomalies, these sets of screenshots, taken at different times in different parts of the state, suggest something is not right with how the state’s top election administrator—Secretary of State Jon Husted—managed the vote count.

As the Free Press’ Fitrakis and Wasserman reported, Husted publicly opposed Issue 3 and one week before Tuesday’s vote accused Issue 3’s promoters of fraud and has vowed to prosecute.

The promoters of Issue 3 should demand a recount, although that is not likely to change the officially reported outcome. Ohio’s media should also demand an explanation, as they were posting the official results obtained from Husted’s office and as these screenshots show, the results show something wasn’t right or credibly reported to the public.

Looking toward 2016, Ohio is once again considered a swing state, meaning it will have an outsized role in electing the next president. These anomalies in Tuesday’s election should merit a thorough investigation of the state’s plans, especially when it comes to transparency and accountability of the 2016 vote count.