At around 11:25 pm EST on election night, Karl Rove knew something had gone terribly wrong.
Minutes earlier, Fox News called the key battleground state of Ohio for President Obama, sealing his re-election. But as the network took live shots of jubilant Obama supporters celebrating their victory camped outside the Obama re-election headquarters in Chicago, Karl Rove began building a case against the call his employer network had just made.
Rove explained that when Fox called Ohio, only 74% of the vote was in showing President Obama with a lead of roughly 30,000 votes. But, as Rove contended, with 77% reporting according to the Ohio Secretary of State office, the President’s lead had been slashed to just 991 votes.
“We gotta be careful about calling the thing,” Rove said, “I’d be very cautious about intruding in on this process.”
Rove was supremely confident that the numbers coming in from Ohio throughout the night that favored President Obama weren’t indicative of who would win Ohio when all the votes were ultimately tabulated by the state's computers. With a quarter of the vote still out there, Rove was anticipating a shift to the Right just after 11 pm, which, coincidentally, is exactly what happened in 2004.
That year, John Kerry and the entire nation were watching Ohio just after the 11pm hour. Florida had just been called for George W. Bush and according to the Electoral College math whoever won Ohio would win the election. And considering that exit polls from the state showed John Kerry with a substantial lead, there were a lot of tense moments for Karl Rove and the Republicans that night.
Then the clock struck 11:14pm, and the servers counting the votes in Ohio crashed. Election officials had planned for this sort of thing to happen and already contracted with a company in Chattanooga, Tennessee called SMARTech to be the failsafe should the servers in Ohio go down.
As journalist Craig Unger lays bare in his book, Boss Rove, SMARTech was drenched in Republican politics. One of the early founders of the company was Mercer Reynolds who used to the finance chairman of the Republican Party. SMARTech’s top client was none other than the Bush-Cheney campaign itself and SMARTech also did work for Jeb Bush and the Republican National Committee. And it was Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, who ensured that SMARTech received the contract to count votes on election night should the servers go down, which they did at exactly 11:14pm.
Sixty long seconds later the servers came back up in Ohio, but now with vote rerouted through SMARTech in Chattanooga. And, coincidentally, Bush’s prospects for re-election were suddenly a lot brighter. The vote totals that poured into the system from SmartTECH's computer in Chattanooga were flipping the exit polls on their head. The lead Kerry had in the exit polls had magically reversed by more than 6%, something unheard of in any other nation in the developed world, giving Bush the win in Ohio and the presidency for another four years.
Unger further explains in his book that the only independent analysis of what happened in Ohio was done by Richard Hayes Phillips and published in the book, Witness to a Crime. Phillips and his team analyzed more than 120,000 ballots, 127 polls books, and 141 signature books from Ohio’s 2004 election.
Phillips found zero irregularities in vote totals from all the counties that reported results before the servers crashed at 11:14pm. But of the fourteen counties that came in after the crash connected Ohio's election computers to SmartTECH's computers in Chattanooga, every single one of them showed voter irregularities - that all favored George W. Bush.
For example, consider Cleveland’s Fourth Ward. In 2000, Al Gore won 95% of that ward's vote. But in 2004, the county reported its results after the 11:14 pm crash, and it showed that Kerry had only won 59% of the vote – a 35% drop without any explanation. There were several other abnormalities across Ohio’s post-server crash that delivered the state to Bush.
John Kerry never protested the election and to this day, these 2004 voter abnormalities have never been addressed.
So the question is: on election night this year, when Karl Rove was protesting the call his network had just made in Ohio, was Rove anticipating a wave of unpredicted vote totals to swing the election back to Mitt Romney after a statewide server crash, just as had happened in 2004?
Perhaps. He did make the point that the race was about to drastically narrow according to the Secretary of State’s office. And as The Free Press reports, a number of odd similarities with 2004 began occurring in Ohio this year just after the 11pm hour once again:
“Curiously, the Ohio Secretary of State’s vote tabulation website went down at 11:13pm, as reported by Free Press election protection website monitors, and mentioned by Rove on the news. This was one minute earlier than the time on election night 2004 -- when Ohio votes were outsourced to Chattanooga, Tennessee -- and then the vote flipped for Bush…This time, the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) vote tabulation site went down as on election night as well. In his rant on Fox, Rove argued that Fox News should not confirm Ohio for Obama until votes came in from the southwest Ohio GOP strongholds of Delaware, Butler and Warren counties and suburban Cincinnati. It was after the crash of the secretary of state’s site in 2004 that improbable vote totals came in from Republican counties in southwest Ohio – particularly Butler, Clermont, and Warren counties. These three counties provided more than Bush’s entire Ohio victory margin of 119,000.”
Only this time, when the servers came back up, the votes never flipped. President Obama’s lead held and he went on to win, while Karl Rove - and Mitt Romney - watched in slack-jawed amazement.
We know there was a parade of Conservative talking heads in the days before the election predicting a landslide victory for Mitt Romney. Is it because they lived in a bubble, lacking pollster Nate Silver’s facts and arithmetic that actually showed the President winning in a landslide? Could it be that Rove’s election night freak-out was just a result of this same Election Day ignorance held by all Republicans? Or was Rove genuinely shocked by what he was seeing because he knew the fix was in, just like in 2004, and there was no way President Obama was going to win re-election?
And if that’s the case, why did the plan to steal the election not work?
Here’s where the story gets really interesting.
Just a few weeks before Election Day, the hacktivist group Anonymous issued a video statement against Karl Rove. Anonymous is notorious for numerous cyber actions against the Justice Department, the Pentagon, the Recording Industry of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, and even the Church of Scientology.
In the video released prior to Election Day, Anonymous warns Karl Rove that he’s being watched. “We know that you will attempt to attempt to rig the election of Mitt Romney to your favor,” a black-robed figure in a Guy Fawkes mask says in the video. “We will watch as your merry band of conspirators try to achieve this overthrow of the United States government.”
The figure then warns Rove that Anonymous is “watching and monitoring all your servers,” and goes on to say, “We want you to know that we are watching you, waiting for you to make this mistake of thinking you can rig this election to your favor…If we catch you we will turn over all of this data to the appropriate officials in the hopes that you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Then, just two days after Election Day, as the Republican Party was in full-blown despair and Karl Rove was trying to figure out what went wrong, Anonymous released a press statement claiming it did indeed prevent an attempt by Rove to steal the election for Mitt Romney.
The statement reads, “We began following the digital traffic of one Karl Rove…After a rather short time, we identified the digital structure of Karl’s operation and even that of his ORCA. This was an easy task in that barn doors were left open and the wind swept us inside.”The “ORCA” that Anonymous is referring to in the press release is a massive, high-tech get-out-the-vote system created by the Romney campaign this year that will keep tabs on potential voters and coordinate with operatives to target who has and hasn’t voted yet on Election Day.
Romney’s Communications Director Gail Gitcho bragged about how sophisticated ORCA is saying, “At 5 o’clock when the exit polls come out, we won’t pay attention to that. We will have had much more scientific information based on the political operation we have set up.” In other words, ORCA will know who won Ohio better than any exit polls.
But, according to Anonymous, ORCA had nothing to do with getting out the vote and everything to do with rigging the vote.
“We coded and created, what we call The Great Oz. A targeted password protected firewall that we tested and refined over the past weeks. We placed this code on more than one of the digital tunnels and their destination that Karl's not so smart worker bees planned to use on election night.”
Anonymous alleges these “digital tunnels” were leading to servers in three different states. The release goes on to detail what happened on election night as Rove’s operatives attempted to access these tunnels. “We watched as Karl's weak corrupters repeatedly tried to penetrate The Great Oz. These children of his were at a loss-how many times and how many passwords did they try-exactly 105.”
“Karl’s speared ORCA whale was breached, rotting with a strong stench across his playground, unable to be resuscitated,” claims Anonymous.
So might this have really been the reason for Karl Rove’s shock on election night? Under the guise of sophisticated get out the vote operation, had Rove and the Republican Party actually built up a massive system to steal the Ohio election, just like in 2004, only to have it thwarted at the last minute by a group of computer hackers?
If this is true, then the implications are enormous and could take down the entire Republican Party and finally wake Americans up to the fact that our privatized vote system is shockingly flawed and insecure.
In their press release, Anonymous concludes, “We have a warning for Karl – sail again at your own peril. We may just put all the evidence into a tidy little package and give it to a painfully bored nemesis hanging out in a certain embassy in London.”
In an era of internet lulz and digital false flags, we must demand proof for these sort of claims made by Anonymous. But given Karl Rove’s history with elections in Ohio and the known vulnerabilities with our corporate owned electronic voting machines, there may be both smoke and fire with these election night allegations.
That’s why it’s vitally important for Anonymous to release any information or evidence it has about this plot to not just Julian Assange, but to law enforcement authorities as well. Otherwise, the alleged democracy-saving actions of the hacktivist group will instead be regarded as useless internet antics, relegated to the dustbins of history.