The most unprincipled and opportunistic man in the history of Ohio, Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, stands poised to claim the Republican primary for governor. Blackwell and his far-right theocratic “rapture-ready” Christian dominionists will doom the Buckeye State to further despair.

It should come as no surprise that the Free Press is the only newspaper in Ohio willing to out Blackwell for appearing before white supremacists in the secretive Council on National Policy. Blackwell understands power; he understands that there’s plenty of money in putting a black face on the new politics of high-tech Jim Crow. Blackwell also understands that in order for his strategy to succeed, he must convince a significant number of black ministers to join him in his open bigotry against gays and lesbians.

This is simply the old apartheid politics of divide and conquer. Blackwell wants to rule the new Buckeye State Bantustan.

Blackwell’s recent trip to Cleveland to appear before members of the United Pastors Mission at the Antioch Baptist Church seemed to be scripted by Karl Rove. Blackwell – the notorious co-chair of the Bush-Cheney Re-election Committee, who was shameless and blatant in his partisan suppression of minority and poor voters while mugging for the camera and claiming he was just like “Gandhi and King” – told the big lie. He blamed the suppression on black voters in Columbus on the likeable but lame William Anthony, Chair of the Franklin County Democratic Party and the County Board of Elections.

So distressed was Anthony that the Franklin County Dems actually issued a stinging rebuke entitled, “Blackwell Breaks the Ten Commandments.” Anthony understated the obvious when he called Blackwell’s outrageous lie a “deceitful misdirection.”

“Franklin County and many other counties throughout the state did not have nearly enough voting machines because Ken Blackwell mismanaged the HAVA-implementation process from the start. The only HAVA funds spent in Franklin County during 2004 was Gene Pierce’s no-bid contract. No HAVA money was spent on voting machines,” the Franklin County Democratic Party charged.

In a separate letter, Anthony, who has been more reluctant to criticize Ken Blackwell than Franklin County Board of Elections Director, Republican Matt Damschroder, wrote: “I will be the first to concede that Franklin County had a woefully inadequate amount of voting machines for the type of voter turnout we experienced in 2004…Boards of Elections throughout Ohio were at your mercy while waiting for your office to create and implement a coherent strategy to approve HAVA-compliant vendors and then allocate funding to counties to purchase new voting machines.”

Anthony accused Blackwell of invoking the race card: “I find it particularly odious and offensive that you insist on singling me out because I am a black man. You have used my race to publicly attack me before (on a nationally broadcast program), but now I am demanding that you cease and desist.”

"I refuse to allow you to use me as a stalking horse to deflect criticism away from your actions as Secretary of State, especially as you attempt to court African American voters in your gubernatorial race,” Anthony wrote.

Republican Damschroder recently confirmed to the Free Press that it was Blackwell who directed that the votes of 356 people who were at the right precinct, but were wrongly given a provisional ballot by pollworkers, were not counted in the 2004 election. Two-thirds of these were in the inner city among poor and minority voters.

Hamilton County Board of Election documents obtained by the Free Press and analyzed by Dr. Richard Hayes Phillips, as part of an ongoing Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism (CICJ) investigation of the 2004 presidential election, indicate that 95.12% of the 3,342 rejected provisional ballots in that county came from the city of Cincinnati. Only 34% of Hamilton County voters, and virtually all African American voters, were from the city, where Kerry received 68% of the vote. The white suburbs constituting 66% of all the county voters, and where Bush received 64% of the vote, only had 5% of provisional ballots rejected. Blackwell’s directive for counting provisional ballots had a disparate impact on African American voters, when he ordered all Boards of Elections for the first time in Ohio history to only count votes that were in the right precinct, even if the voter was at the right polling site.

In Lucas County, newly obtained data indicates the massive racist nature of the voter challenges in the city of Toledo. There were 930 challenged voters in Lucas County, 810 of them were from Toledo. While only 62% of all the voters were from Toledo, where Kerry received 68% of the vote, 87% of the challenged voters came from the city. The greatest number of challenged voters in Toledo came from four predominantly African American wards, where Kerry received 86% of the vote. While these four wards constituted only 7.8% of all Toledo voters, fully 40% of all the challenges were in these wards. Blackwell’s record of presiding over one of the most racist elections in U.S. history has helped propel him into a reported 11 point lead in the Republican primary for governor in a recent Dispatch poll.

Even with that lead, Blackwell’s not taking any chances. In another frightening and blatantly partisan move, Blackwell, who personally negotiated the deal with Diebold for new machines in 47 of Ohio’s 88 counties, has ordered that all the access cards to the notoriously hackable e-voting machines be centralized in his office. With the May 2 primary looming, Blackwell issued a directive ordering all computer access cards to be sent to him before the primary “so the security codes can be changed,” according to the Columbus Dispatch. Even Republicans are critical of this undemocratic power grab. Linda S. Stutz, a Republican and Director of the Van Wert County Board of Elections, told the Dispatch, “I just feel very strongly there’s a problem here.”

Let’s see. A well-known criminal with no respect for democracy seizing all the access cards just prior to the primary? No wonder the Secretary of State is known as J. Kenneth Hackwell in the voting rights community.

Bob Fitrakis is the co-editor of Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election? with Harvey Wasserman ( and co-counsel with Cliff Arnebeck in the Alliance for Democracy suit against the Hocking County Board of Elections.