Ohio 2004: The Howard Dean Interview

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Rolling Stone: How confident are you Ohio in 2004 was fairly decided?

Howard Dean: I'm not confident that the election in Ohio was fairly decided. We did our own Democratic party study in Ohio with a panel of experts. We absolutely know that there was a systematic voter suppression. We couldn't say one way or another if the election was stolen. We couldn't rule it out, but we couldn't prove that it was. We know that there was substantial voter suppression, and the machines were not reliable. That's clear.

RS: Were you caught off guard by the scale of the vote suppression campaign?

HD: We all know about the Republican culture of corruption. It should not be a surprise that the Republicans are willing to do things that are unethical to manipulate elections. That's what we suspect has happened, and we'd like to safeguard our elections so that democracy can still be counted on to work.

The Republicans, we believe, have a different motive. They believe the less votes the better. Republicans like to suppress votes because they believe they do better in small turnouts. Characteristically, Democrats would rather lose an election with a huge turnout than win one with a small turnout because we think that the values of democracy have to be placed above the interests of the party. The reason that Republicans are such failures at governing is because they place the interests of their party ahead of the interests of the country.

RS: What is the Democratic game plan to avoid these problems in 2006?

HD: What are we going to do about it? It's frustrating because we don't control the levers of power. This is going to be a very critical election in 2006. We're very aware that there's huge potential for additional mischief in 2006. We have no doubt that some of the folks who were active in vote suppression will be active again. It's very, very difficult to deal with it. We just have to keep pushing forward doing the best we can. The real question is why the mainstream media won't write about this.

RS: You've been sounding the alarm on touch-screen voting machines, particularly Diebold machines. Why?

HD: Touch-screen voting machines absolutely cannot be relied upon. Our recommendation was optiscan ballots —where you actually have custody of the actual ballots after the ballots have been passed through the computer. That's the most reliable system to use. And people should not use the electronic voting machines. Even electronic voting machines with paper trails can be manipulated.

I've personally made phone calls to some Democrats who seem to think that these machines are not so bad. I've made calls to Pennsylvania and New York to Democratic officials who are thinking of using these machines, warning them that they're not reliable and that they'll throw the results of an election into doubt. There are some Democrats who've OK'd these machines in their state. I've told them ahead of time I think that's a mistake.

Diebold's are not the only machines that don't work, but certainly they are associated with the most suspicious —the machines that are the least reliable.

RS: What do you mean''suspicious''?

HD: We mean that the majority of the reports that we've received, where you push the screen for one candidate and the other name comes up repeatedly —most of those reports are on Diebold machines. In the governor's race last year, we had reports from a southwestern district in Virginia that people were in fact pushing Democrat Tim Kaine's name and Republican Jerry Kilgore's came up.

The problem is that the federal government has essentially put huge incentives to states and counties to use the machines. Billions of dollars from the Republican Congress that will pay for these machines but not other machines.