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Context of 'After 7:30pm, November 2, 2004: Ohio County Administration Building Locked Down'

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In Lebanon, Ohio, Warren County officials decide behind closed doors that they will close the county administration building to the public on election night (see After 7:30pm, November 2, 2004). [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] Email memos dated October 25 and October 26 indicate that detailed discussion about the proposed measure began earlier. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/16/2004] The decision follows a recommendation by Warren County Emergency Services Director Frank Young based on information allegedly received from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation during recent weeks. However officials from both those agencies later say they are unaware of any specific information relating to Warren County that would have caused the lockdown (see November 9, 2004). The public will not be informed of the decision to close the administration building until election night, after the polls close. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004]

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

In Lebanon, Ohio, Warren County officials close the county administration building to the public where the vote is being tallied. The lockdown—the only one to occur in the state—is a result of a decision that was made during a closed-door meeting the previous week (See October 28, 2004). Warren County Emergency Services Director Frank Young had recommended the increased security because of information received from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] An FBI agent reportedly said that Warren County ranked a “10” on a terrorism scale of 1 to 10. The threat was said to be of domestic origins. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/10/2004] But these claims are later challenged when officials from the FBI and DHS say that they were not aware of any such threats. Media organizations protest the lockdown, arguing that the officials are violating the law and the public’s rights. “The media should have been permitted into the area where there was counting,” Enquirer attorney Jack Greiner complains. “This is a process that should be done in complete transparency and it wasn’t.” In other Ohio counties, such as Butler County, people are permitted to observe ballot checkers through a window. In past elections, the Warren County commissioners’ room was open to the public so they could observe the process. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/3/2004; Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] The news director at WCPO-TV, Bob Morford, says he’s suspicious of the decision to close the building to the public. I’ve “never seen anything like it,” he says. “Frankly, we consider that a red herring…. That’s something that’s put up when you don’t know what else to put up to keep us out.” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] Additionally, election officials fail to set up an area with telephones for the media as they were supposed to. When reporters attempt to enter the building, they are refused, although they are later permitted into the building’s lobby located two floors below the elections office. The Associated Press, which has reporters at every Ohio board of elections site, says that Warren County is the only county to implement such tight restrictions. County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel claims that having reporters and photographers around could interfere with the vote count. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/5/2004] It is later explained that these restrictions were also due to homeland security concerns. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Jack Greiner, Rachel Hutzel, Bob Morford

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

FBI officials and homeland security officials at both the state and federal level say they are not aware of any specific election day threats against Ohio’s Warren County where local election officials had locked down the county administration building on election day citing security concerns. County officials had claimed that the move had been prompted by information they had received from the FBI and Homeland Security. But FBI officials, charged with overseeing anti-terrorism activities in southern Ohio, tell the Cincinnati Enquirer that they received no information about a terror threat in the county. “The FBI did not notify anyone in Warren County of any specific terrorist threat to Warren County before Election Day,” FBI spokesman Michael Brooks explains. And a spokeswoman for Ohio’s top homeland security official, Public Safety Director Ken Morckel, likewise contends that they knew of no heightened terror warning for the Greater Cincinnati area on election night. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Michael Brooks, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 2004 Elections

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