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The Cincinnati Beacon
Facts v. The Enquirer:  What happened on election night?
Thursday, December 06, 2007

Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati

Photo courtesy of here.

The following timeline demonstrates how difficult it can be to get a perfectly clear answer to a simple question, which is unfortunate when the subject is the reliability of our local election system as well as our local mainstream media.  For several weeks, we have been following the story about what went wrong with The Enquirer’s reporting about election night delays.  Now, we have answers from several involved parties, but the responses still don’t add up.

Here are some chronologically presented facts:

Fact 1:  After the election, Howard Wilkinson wrote a story entitled “Slow vote count meant long night for Hamilton County.”  At some point in the story’s history, the following line appeared:  “When the chips were fed into the machines at the board of elections, they were giving false readings, Burke said.”

Fact 2:  John Williams, Director of Elections at the BOE, denied that there was a problem with the chips.  He told The Beacon:  “Mr. Burke has spoken with Mr. Wilkinson about this issue. Howard agreed that their discussion related to the procedures used on election night for proper press reporting not any defect in the memory cards.”

Fact 3:  The Beacon tried to ask Wilkinson about the reporting, and he did not respond to repeated inquiries.

Fact 4:  Tim Burke said the following: “No, I did not say that to Howard and if you ask him I believe he will confirm that.  I talked to him about this some time after the article ran and he confirmed to me that I didn’t say that and explained that an editor incorrectly edited his writing resulting in the inaccurate statement.”

Fact 5:  After not hearing from The Enquirer, we contacted Barbara Henry, who provides oversight to The Enquirer.  She said that either Margaret Buchanan or Tom Callinan would respond to my inquiry.

Fact 6:  After a few days, I sent Buchanan and Callinan an email (copied to Henry), outlining the quotes provided above.

Fact 7:  Tom Callinan provided this explanation:  “I’ve asked Executive Editor Hollis Towns about this and it appears the paragraph in question appeared only briefly on our web site during incremental update reporting for online. It was a paraphrase incorrectly understood by a rewrite person in the office. The error was quickly spotted and fixed in the online story. It never appeared in print.”

Fact 8:  After reading the phrase that the story “appeared briefly on our web site,” and that it was “quickly spotted and fixed in the online story,” I went online to see how the story appeared.  I took a screenshot (below) with my mouse pointed over the date so you could see that, as of yesterday, the story still appears online with the phrase in question—despite Callinan claiming the online article was changed weeks ago.

For a larger view, click here.

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  1. Amused Voter says:

    I think this has more to do with sloppiness at the Enquirer than at the Board of Elections.

    Good job. This is a good, concise, straightforward post.

  2. Freedom Fighters says:


    Typical politicians double speak.

    Fischer claimed things were not accurately reported in the Enquirer regarding FOP (#69) endorsement misrepresentation. Yet, he could not explain why the same misleading information was posted on his own website.

    Don’t expect anyone in the political arena to do anything, except C.Y.A..

    When the chosen folks are not being elected by the voters then the memory cards must be giving a false reading ? Right ?

    Not to worry, they can fix the error. It just takes some time ?


  3. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    please include a “tip-line” as a message thread like this one.  I would like to see what the Beacon readers would like to see the Beacon devote its attention to.
    Personally, I would like to see the the Beacon tackle school segregation.  Cincinnati Public is 71% black and St. Bernard is 79% white, Norwood is 85% white, Wyoming is 82% white.  Why can people just draw imaginary lines and segregate schools?

  4. funnelcake says:

    And editorial screw up seems reasonable.

    But it does bring up some follow questions to the BOE (or Burke).
    1. If the BOE were presented with a situation where chips fed into the machines gave false readings, would such an occurrence be documented in any way or form?
    2. If so, where would one be able to obtain such documentation?
    3. If not, how can the public be sure that election results are counted accurately if the system does not provide this level of transparency?

  5. Change2007 says:

    thank you. we need as much coverage as possible on election procedures and mishaps.  this is something the public should care about and would care about if properly communicated (with clarity and context).

  6. mallorjboecon says:

    The “false reading” actually appeared for about two minutes on election night.  At about 1030pm at boe Winburn and Harris supporters let out a loud cheer because the readings had Windburn at 3rd and Harris at 8th with 100% precincts reporting.  (It had been stuck at 33% reporting for a couple hours until the new reading came, and then went, within no more than 2 minutes.)

  7. jmallordigdeep says:

    “prgramming problem” statement and “false reading” statement seem to speak to the same matter. were they both misquotes and/or editorial errors?  no.  the enq. original report was accurate.

  8. Ohio’s voting machines include “critical secur says:

    Gongwer News Service
    Ohio Voting Machines Contain ‘Critical Security Failures,’ Brunner Report Says

    Special Update, Friday, December 14, 2007, 8:15 am

    Ohio Voting Machines Contain ‘Critical Security Failures,’ Brunner Report Says

    The state’s electronic voting systems contain significant problems that could undermine the integrity of Ohio elections, according to a report released Friday morning.

    The study, commissioned by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, found that some of Ohio’s voting machines include “critical security failures” that make them subject to tampering with tools as common as a magnet and personal digital assistant, her office said.

    “The results underscore the need for a fundamental change in the structure of Ohio’s election system to ensure ballot and voting system security, while still making voting convenient and accessible to all Ohio voters,” Ms. Brunner said in releasing the report.

    Based on the study, Ms. Brunner has asked Gov. Ted Strickland and legislative leaders to consider several recommendations, including:

    —Moving to central counting of ballots.

    —Eliminating direct recording electronic and precinct-based optical scan voting machines that count votes at polling locations.

    —Maintaining no-fault absentee voting and creating early and election day vote centers.

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