As expected, the premiere for new electronic voting machines made Tuesday's primary more confusing than trying to introduce Xbox to an old-folks home.
There were problems printing the ballots, memory cards were lost, and some polling places were offline for hours as workers struggled to get the Diebold machines up and running.
So 61-year-old Marc Fenster discovered a unique and productive way to relieve his frustration. He stormed into a polling station on Jennings Road in Cleveland and started whaling on one machine like a guy from Detroit celebrating a Pistons championship.
Patrick Wallenhorst, who was trying to vote at the time, says Fenster was "just smashing away at it with both arms."
But while Diebold's machines suck at actually collecting votes, they're apparently manufactured to take quite a beating. Fenster's repeated blows hardly dented the machine. So he picked it up and smashed it on the ground. "That's when it just went into pieces," says Wallenhorst, who grabbed Fenster and escorted him outside as volunteer workers called the cops.
Yet Fenster would not be deterred. He pushed his way back in and picked up another machine, trashing it on the ground.
Wallenhorst says that Fenster, who was eventually arrested, described the assault as his "civic duty."
In that case, carry on, good sir.
More woe for Joe
Save for prosecutors, almost nobody seems to believe that Joe D'Ambrosio slit the throat of acquaintance Tony Klann back in 1988. Nonetheless, he's spent the past 17 years in the executioner's line, waiting for his ticket to be punched ["Unluckiest Man on Death Row," November 22, 2001].
D'Ambrosio's fortunes took an upturn in March, when a U.S. District judge ruled that prosecutors had withheld 10 pieces of evidence -- including a main witness' motive for killing Klann and discrepancies in the murder weapon -- that opened up ample room for reasonable doubt. The judge ruled that D'Ambrosio be retried or released by fall.
That's when Jim Petro -- who is to law what Vin Diesel is to high cinema -- leaped into action. In a rare break from getting his posterior whupped, the attorney general appealed the judge's decision, effectively stalling D'Ambrosio's case for years to come. (Petro's office did not return Punch's calls seeking comment.)
"He knows he's going to have another two or three years to go," says Neil Kookoothe, a priest and lawyer who's been a longtime supporter of D'Ambrosio. "He's not happy about it, but what are you going to do?"
While Kent State students gathered in the courtyard to remember the students who died in the 1970 National Guard shooting, another memorial was taking place -- for expelled students Malik Griffin and Tyrone Wright.
This year, Wright was placed on probation after a fight with two girls who supposedly called him "nigger." More recently, he was kicked off campus after he was heard yelling "Fuck security!" to police near a dorm.
Griffin, meanwhile, is accused of running down "an intoxicated Caucasian student" -- read: hammered white boy -- with his car. Jason Galt, the white boy in question, says he was walking home when he approached Griffin and friends and asked them to turn down their music. He says Griffin thought it would be way funner to run him over, so he did.
Yet Griffin claims Galt didn't say a word. He merely approached the car and sat on the hood. Not knowing what to do, Griffin decided to drive off, leaving Galt to tumble to the street.
To a hard-bitten newsman like Punch -- cue laugh track here -- it doesn't sound like we're getting the whole story. But to the Kent State NAACP and Black United Students [BUS], the expulsions were an outrage, etc., etc.
BUS President Sasha Parker claims the school "ignored the racial component" leading to Wright's fight. Moreover, "Fuck security!" is considered a term of endearment in many cultures, particularly in the Baltic states.
She adds that the school's expulsion hearing for Griffin "was rigged . . . There was no concrete evidence. If it had been a real court, a lawyer would have eaten them alive."
So last week, students held a rally calling for the reinstatement of Wright and Griffin. Shanelle Smith, president of the NAACP said at the protest: "Kent State doesn't care about black people."
Ken Blackwell won the Republican nomination for governor last week by painting himself as a soldier of God, a defender of truth and all things just. His campaign literature promised voters "an unwavering commitment to family values. His words are backed by his strong convictions and his principled action."
But just days after winning, it became apparent that Uncle Tom has a unique interpretation of "strong convictions."
After campaigning as the anti-Bob Taft and hammering opponent Jim Petro as "Taft light," Blackwell quickly accepted the endorsement of the wildly unpopular governor.
Then, as news broke of widespread polling problems across the state, the Secretary of State -- the guy responsible for making sure elections run smoothly -- swiftly shifted the blame. He announced plans to investigate what went wrong in Cuyahoga County, the one place capable of rivaling Blackwell's own incompetence.
Stay tuned for next week's episode, when Uncle Tom is caught in a romantic embrace with an 11-year-old boy named Scooter, then blames God for giving him a libido.
For government employees, there is nothing more joyous than writing your boss a check so you can keep your job. But state Senator Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) is trying to ruin all the fun.
Hagan recently introduced a bill that would bar city and county employees from making campaign contributions to superiors running for office. Hagan seems to believe that said workers feel "pressure" to kick money to the boss. "It's really ridiculous," he says.
His is a rather caustic take. Many government workers view election season as a second Christmas, a time to show their appreciation -- with cash -- in order to keep their jobs. Luckily, other legislators do not wish to steal away this moment of joy.
The bill doesn't stand a chance, Hagan admits. "Legislators are reluctant to curtail the flow of money into these campaigns."