Two readers have brought this story to my attention: It seems that fifty-six counties in Ohio (out of 88) have lost or destroyed their 2004 Presidential election ballots. This despite an order from the secretary of state and a federal court.
The story is a bit complex, and rather than go through the gory details, I suggest you read it for yourself, here.
Regular readers will know that I am skeptical of conspiracy theories, although from what I have seen in the past, a reasonable person could believe that Bush's margin in Ohio (a little more than 120,000 votes) was manufactured through a combination of voter suppression in Democratic areas and outright fraud, theft or corruption in others. This is a matter of moment, because had Bush not won Ohio, John Kerry would be President.
(There would have been great irony if Kerry had won; for the second election in a row, the candidate with the largest number of popular votes would have been denied the Oval Office.)
Given the multiple instances of criminality, venality, incompetence and outright scurrility to which the Repubs have subjected America over the past seven years, it's tempting to dismiss this latest example with a "what did you expect?" shrug. But manipulating elections strikes at the heart of democracy.
The missing ballots probably means that there will never be a definitive answer to whether the 2004 election was stolen. But given the weakness of the excuses offered by some county officials--one reported, "Our staff unintentionally discarded boxes containing Ballot Pages...due to unclear and misinterpreted instructions"--there will be a powerful tendency to believe that something nefarious must have been going on. After all, we're talking about 56 counties, not one or two. A cover-up is likely to insure that history judges that a theft occurred--a crime that led to thousands of deaths and injuries, together with numerous other crimes and offenses.