2012 Ohio general election
Fitting the odd trend in the 2012 election, Ohio did not experience the usual red shift for president. However, there is circumstantial evidence that an election rig was planned, in a similar manner to the 2004 Ohio election. It's likely that tabulators were rigged and a man-in-the-middle was once again set up. For some reason, the fix appears to have been nixed right before the election, to Karl Rove's surprise on election night.
The exit polls indicated that the presidential and Senate races weren't subject to election fraud. However, the Election Defense Alliance (EDA) found that House races in Ohio and other states were red-shifted relative to those top-ticket races. For some reason, the prizes at the top of the ticket (the presidency and Senate) weren't rigged but the downticket races (House and state legislature) were. EDA theorized that the top-ticket and downticket races were rigged with different methods: the former with a real-time rig that was averted, and the latter with a pre-set vote flip. Ohio would become integral to proving this.
Right before the election, ES&S and Secretary of State Jon Husted worked to get a last-minute patch onto central tabulators in 39 counties. Labeling it as an "experimental" patch, they were able to install it without certification or testing. Husted and ES&S's contract claimed that the patch only converted election results into a CSV format that Ohio's state tabulators could read. But with nobody analyzing the patch, this was impossible to verify.
Several aspects of the patch were questionable. It seemed strange that such an effort would be undertaken just before the election, when they had months to prepare it. And calling the patch "experimental" seem designed to exploit a loophole in Ohio law that avoids the need to verify it. In fact, the "experimental" loophole only allowed patches to a limited number of precincts per county, but installing on the central tabulator would affect the whole county. And there was also no legitimate need to patch every central tabulator if the only purpose was converting results to CSV. They could simply write a single converter on the state tabulator.
Bob Fitrakis, with Cliff Arnebeck as his attorney, filed suit to block these patches. He raised the concern that a backdoor to manipulate votes might have been installed. While ES&S claimed that the patch didn't alter votes, Fitrakis argued that this required taking ES&S on faith, something that certification (which was intentionally bypassed) is meant to avoid. Jim March also filed an affidavit explaining how the patch could be used to change votes, and that such a patch would be exactly the mechanism to do so.
The judge refused to halt the patches, but left the case open if there was evidence of election tampering.
Despite the failure to stop ES&S's last-minute patches, or perhaps because of it, there was much greater scrutiny applied to Ohio's election. Cliff Arnebeck kept the FBI updated about the matter, and on election day, there were Justice Department and FBI agents watching for signs of election fraud. The Secretary of State's office even had FBI observers on election night. This added spotlight on Ohio increased the risk of pulling off fraud.
Karl Rove's "meltdown"
After Fox News called Ohio for Obama, Karl Rove oddly insisted that the call was premature. Despite the confidence of Fox's decision desk, confirmed on-air, Rove continued to claim that the gap would close. Much of what he said wasn't supported by the numbers. Rove claimed that Romney was only down by 911 (or 991) votes in Ohio when the onscreen totals had Obama leading by 30,000. And he grasped at an implausible scenario to explain where Romney would pick up his extra votes. The Fox analysts refuted Rove's apparent wishful thinking, but he refused to give up until Obama had won 270 electoral votes without Ohio.
The video of this, featuring Karl Rove "melting down", became infamous. To many, it seemed like someone who lived in denial about Romney's chances finally confronting reality. But to others, it had the appearance of someone who expected a fix to be in and was shocked that it wasn't. Why would Karl Rove, a well-disciplined GOP strategist, embarrass himself so publicly by spouting obviously-incorrect numbers? And why did Romney himself not have a concession speech, as if he was assured by his strategists that victory was certain? GOP confidence might seem like misplaced groupthink, unless they had a planned rig in place.
Another MITM planned?
In the midst of raving about a Romney comeback, Rove also mentioned that the Ohio election reporting website had crashed. This was eerily reminiscent of 2004, when the site went down at 11:14 PM. After the 11:14 PM crash, the election results were rerouted through SmarTech, and Bush got an unexplained surge in votes. Curiously, Free Press election monitors noticed the site went down at 11:13 PM, just a minute earlier than in 2004.
The evidence surrounding Ohio's election makes it seem like a man-in-the-middle (MITM) similar to 2004 was planned. 2004 featured mysterious happenings with the election reporting website and tabulators being rigged, both signs of a MITM attempt to rig the vote. 2012 also had unauthorized patches being placed on central tabulators and similar server issues to 2004. In fact, EDA even learned that Ohio hired SmarTech again for the same purpose as in 2004.
Why the fix failed
If an MITM was set up like in 2004, why did it fail to rig the election? Unlike static pre-set rigs, which can be overcome by last-minute political shifts (like in 2006 and 2008), a MITM allows real-time tuning of the vote count to ensure a victory. The MITM would only fail if someone refused to activate it or it got subverted.
One theory is that the heightened scrutiny was a deterrent to election riggers. By leaving the court case on the last-minute patches open, the judge left the plaintiffs the option of an election challenge that might have audited and exposed the patches. And on election day, the FBI was on the ground and even in the SoS's office, watching for signs of electronic vote rigging. If an Ohio election insider tried to pull off fraud, they risked being caught by the FBI.
Another theory is that benevolent hackers disabled the vote rigging infrastructure. Before the election, Anonymous released a video, accusing Karl Rove of conspiring to rig the election and warning him against it. Afterwards, someone sent a letter to Velvet Revolution, alleging to be part of the Anonymous contingent that had stopped Rove's fix. They claimed to have identified Rove's election theft operation, done through Romeny's ORCA program, and set up a firewall to stop it from triggering.
What actually happened to the 2012 Ohio election may never be known. But it certainly seems like Karl Rove attempted a repeat of the fraud in 2004, only to be stopped by some outside force beyond his control.
- Brad Friedman, "Why Was Uncertified 'Experimental' Software Installed on ES&S Tabulation Systems in 39 OH Counties Just Days Before Presidential Election?", 2012/11/05 - last-minute ES&S patches
- Ernest A. Canning, "Motion to Block Use of OH Sec. of State's Last- Minute, 'Experimental' Software on 39 County Vote Tabulators to Be Heard Tuesday Morning", 2012/11/05 - ensuing court case over the patches
- Bob Fitrakis, "Why Rove failed to deliver Ohio on Election Day: What happened in Ohio – this time around", 2012/11/12: "This time, after Columbus Free Press articles appeared about voting machines tied to Romney and scurrilous software patches installed on Ohio tabulators, 60,000 people emailed the U.S. Department of Justice with a change.org petition requesting an investigation of Ohio. Justice Department personnel as well as FBI agents were on the ground on Election Day in Ohio looking not only for voter suppression but also for electronic election tampering."
- American Institute for Democracy and Election Integrity, "Protecting Our Elections" with Bob Fitrakis, Cliff Arnebeck, and Lori Grace, 2016/06 (excerpt originally here, now taken down) - has Cliff Arnebeck discuss election night FBI observation of SoS office
- Karl Rove's election night "meltdown"
- Anonymous claims they stopped Rove's fix