Election 2004 - Aftermath
December 02, 2004
Video and Transcript of Keith Olbermann's Interview With Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell

This is from the November 29, 2004 program of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."

It's available in one big 23 MB file and two smaller files.

Report On Ohio Election and Interview with Kenneth Blackwell


This is the first of a series of programs covering the Jesse Jackson vs. Kenneth Blackwell developments. Jesse's interview w/Olbermann the following just went up too.

This transcript is word for word and unabridged.

11-29-04 - Transcript

The Ohio recount now has cousins out west. The Green and Libertarian parties today filed for recounts in Nevada and New Mexico. The complaints are based largely on the absence of paper trails for electronic voting in each state.

Back at the ranch, the word "fraud" has been used on the record by a former democratic presidential candidate about the voting four weeks ago, tomorrow, in Ohio. In turn, the man who used the word was described by local republican leaders as a "professional publicity hound."

Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke this morning in Cincinatti. He had addressed a rally in Columbus yesterday, saying voting irregularities disenfranchised many of Ohio's citizens. He also told reporters "The playing field is uneven. The rules are not public. The goals are not clear."

Cut to live footage of Jesse Jackson:

"We want everybody to vote. And for their vote to count. We can live with winning and losing. We cannot live with fraud and stealing...

Most Americans must know the election in Ohio has not been certified. This is the 28th of November. Twenty-six days later, the election has not been certified because there are patterns of irregularities that are impeding the process."

Back to Olbermann:

While Jackson reiterated the Democratic party line that a different outcome is, at best, an unlikely result of a recount, Jackson had earlier told reporters that he spoke with Senator John Kerry on Friday, and that Kerry "supports the investigation. His lawyers are observing it closely." But the Baltimore Sun quoted Kerry's chief Ohio attorney, Daniel Hoffheimer, as saying "Our eyes are wide open and, to this date, we have found no evidence of confirmed fraud."

Asked why, if Ohio had problems meriting the recount, Senator Kerry had conceded on November 3rd, Jackson was quoted by the Cincinatti Enquirer as saying "Kerry was inclined to believe what he was told. And he was told the election was over. But now we are unearthing information that did not surface at first. I suppose the more information Kerry gets, the more you will hear from him."

Republicans today responded with a news release headlined "Democrats struggle to jusify unneccessary recount." Noting it will cost Ohio tax payers 1 1/2 million dollars and quoting state GOP chairman Bob Bennett as saying "Jackson has a stellar reputation for ignoring the facts and distorting the truth."

The focus of criticism for the Ohio count and legal actions about it, and a recount, is the state's top election official, its Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, who joins us now from Cincinatti.

Olbermann: Secretary Blackwell, thank you for your time tonight.

Blackwell: Thanks for having me Keith.

Olbermann: When the Green and Libertarian parties filed for the recount, I didn't hear anybody in Ohio's government jumping up and down and applauding, but I also didn't hear anybody accusing them of being profession publicity hounds or of ignoring facts. Why the harsh reaction towards the Reverend Jackson?

Blackwell: Keith, I think what happened is that Jesse Jackson ran around the block and tried to get out in front of a parade that was already on the march. We had indicated that Ohio law allows for a recount once the vote has been certified. So the recount is already a determination. You know, so, for him to get out and run around the block and get out in front of the parade probably gives credibility to the charge that, you know, he is a provocateur for hire.

Olbermann: One of his suggestions, and that of some of your critics, has been that there is an attempt to make the window for a recount in Ohio so narrow as to make a recount meaningless. How do respond to that criticism sir?

Blackwell: We are, in fact, abiding by the law, which basically says that once there's a certification, you have five days to ask for a recount. I would anticipate that they will ask for a recount, the two minor party candidates, and they will get it. The fact of the matter is that they are entitled to request a recount. We're entitled to give them a recount. Even though the cost to the taxpayers far exceeds the $120,000 dollars that it will cost the two candidates to ask for one to this count. These are two gentlemen that between them got less than..just a tad more than a quarter of one percent of the vote. They know, the courts know, the people know that they have no way of changing the results as it affects them. They have the standing, not Jesse Jackson, and because Senator Kerry has conceded and has not asked for a recount, he has no standing. I would anticipate that the Electoral College will be held on the 13th of December, and our 20 electorate votes will go to the certified winner.

Olbermann: Then again, as your law gives you the right to certify under the conditions that you mentioned, your laws also say how much a candidate is charged per precinct. It's not like these are the prices being set by candidates.

Blackwell: Oh absolutely. And that's what I said. They are entitled to it under the law. I think the legislature will probably have some work to do. This was a rule that was established in 1956, and the price of ten dollars per precinct was established, you know, back then. They are going to have to make a determination as to whether or not they want to keep at 1956 dollars, or if they really want to have the recount charge reflect the real cost of doing business in the 21st century.

Look Keith, here's the deal. I just heard Jesse Jackson complain about the unfairness and the unevenness of the field. Ohio has a delicately balanced, bi-partisan that counts votes at the local level. I have nothing to do with counting the votes. They're done by the 88 county Boards of Elections. And let me give you a point here to show the duplicity of Jesse Jackson's criticism.

In Franklin county, where Colombus is located, the head of the Board of Elections is an african-american Democrat. Not just any democrat, but the head of the Franklin County Democratic Party. He is overseeing. You know what he said last week? He told Jesse Jackson to stop it. He said "what makes Jesse Jackson think that he would sit quietly and watch the african-american vote be suppressed? Or watch democrat votes be suppressed?

You know, Jesse Jackson is just trying to stir up a hornet's nest. And what I've told people today is that Elvis is dead, and I'm not gonna fret over Jesse Jackson's misinformation and confusion.

Olbermann: As it plays into the recount though sir, are you saying that your office does not anticipate taking any steps to try to prevent a recount in Ohio?

Blackwell: No. We haven't! We've told the two officials..candidates that once we certify on December 6th, they have five days to certify. I mean, to ask for a recount. Once they ask for a recount, we will provide them with a recount. And that's what I've said from the very first indication that they were interested in a recount. Once it was established that they were statewide candidates with standing, our law says that they can ask for a recount. We will regard this as yet another audit of the voting process. The reason it takes us from November the second to December the sixth to certify is because we have a very tedious, very comprehensive process where we audit by precinct, across the state, every vote that was cast to make sure that every vote that was legally cast is counted.

Look, Keith. We have 45,000 square miles of geography in Ohio. 88 counties, and on election day dealing and leading 50,000 poll workers and election officials. They did a great job, and what we are planning to do, in February, in March, is to take a look at how we can improve our system. They reality is that we have 70% of our voters use a punch card system that I tried to change and that bipartisan resistance in the legislature stopped. And so we had the punch card system. We have a system that allows us to manage a free and fair election, free of fraud, free of intimidation, and that's what we delivered on election day, and we're very very proud of it. And we have the most scrutinized election system in the United States, and we have met every test. Every test we have made. And I'm very proud of the 50,000 poll workers and election officials who delivered a free and fair election.

Olbermann: As part of that scrutiny. one of the criticisms regarding the campaign and the election in Ohio that was directed at you personally, that as the state's top election official, it is a conflict of interest, or, minimally, it has the appearance of a conflict of interest for you to have also been the honorary co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. As Reverend Jackson put it, you may or may not agree with his presence there, but the phrase is certainly interesting: "Mr. Blackwell cannot be both the owner of the team and the umpire." Could those two jobs not be mixed?

Blackwell: Let me tell you. I just told you Keith. We have a bi-partisan system in Ohio where the Hallinan county chairman of the Board of Elections, Tim Berk (Berg?) is also the Democratic chairman of the Democratic Party in that county. The same for Dayton. The Democratic Chairman is the chairman for the Board of Elections in Montgomery county. So I've just given you three counties where Democrat chairmen who were pushing for John Kerry are the chairpersons of the Boards of Elections over our 88 counties. We have a checks and balances system that allows for a bipartisan review, a very transparent system, and Jesse Jackson, let me just tell you, he would like to be the co-Secretary of State for the state of Ohio, but Jesse Jackson has not had the courage or the credibility to run and get elected to "Dog Catcher."

Olbermann: Last question sir. Can you refute or confirm one of the Internet's favorite stories that no one seems to have gotten an answer, that you had a meeting with President Bush on the day of the election in Ohio?

Blackwell: That's just hogwash. Absolutely zero. Not true. And it's the sort of mythology that grows out of, you know, a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands and the imaginations of Jonathan Swift. But it goes with the territory. Like I said, we had 45,000 square miles of geography, 88 counties, board of elections, 50,000 folks that ran a great election on election day. We had a record turnout of voters in Ohio. We had record registration, and I think the facts speak for themselves. Thank you for having me and giving me the opportunity to speak to the truth of the matter.

Olbermann: Kenneth Blackwell. Secretary of State in Ohio. Our thanks for your time tonight sir.

Blackwell: Thank you sir.

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