December 03, 2004

Columbus Dispatch: Parties ask court to get Ohio going on recount

Parties ask court to get Ohio going on recount

Friday, December 03, 2004

Mark Niquette


Accusing Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell of "stalling," the Green and Libertarian parties asked a federal court yesterday to order that Ohio begin a statewide recount of presidential election results immediately.

The parties argue that the recount should start now so it can be finished by Dec. 13, when the Electoral College meets. Ohio’s electors are determined by the winner of the popular vote for president.

Blackwell plans to certify official state results Monday. Under Ohio law, a recount request may be filed within five days after that, and the counties must begin the recount within 10 days of being notified of the request.

Critics say that’s too late and that Blackwell is abusing his discretion by delaying.

Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo noted that 2000 results were certified on Dec. 11 of that year and 2002 results on Dec. 20, 2002.

"This is another in a string of absurd assertions," he said.

A hearing on the case is set for today.

The County Commissioners Association of Ohio declared its opposition to a recount yesterday, calling it a waste of time and money because the outcome won’t change.

In the last statewide recount, for the 1990 attorney general’s race, the official outcome changed by 146 votes out of more than 3.3 million cast.

Also yesterday, a coalition of citizen-action groups delayed filing a challenge to the election results with the Supreme Court until today or Monday.

Sen. John Kerry’s campaign has said it found no evidence of fraud in the election, but the coalition says election irregularities swayed the outcome.

Clifford Arnebeck, a Columbus attorney for the Alliance for Democracy, suggested that a county-by-county investigation will show that Sen. John Kerry actually won Ohio by about the same margin as Bush did based on unofficial results.

The coalition suspects there was a "migration" of votes from Kerry to Bush, based on the results of the Ohio Supreme Court race between Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer and Democrat C. Ellen Connally.

Arnebeck noted that Connally got more votes than Kerry in several counties — and even in some counties where she didn’t win, her margin of defeat was narrower than Kerry’s.

"It makes no sense," he said.

The coalition has suggested that fraud is the reason but offered no proof yesterday. Arnebeck said the challenge will allow the coalition to collect evidence to answer questions raised about the election.

Civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson, who spoke at a news conference in Columbus yesterday and is set to appear at a rally Saturday, also pointed to other concerns, including exit polls showing Kerry with a lead.

Ohio election officials said there is no evidence of fraud.

"Jackson owes every election official in Ohio an apology. His accusations are outrageous, preposterous and baseless," said Keith Cunningham, first vice president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.

In another development, the Associated Press reported that U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., DMich., sent a letter to Blackwell asking for his help in an investigation of "election irregularities" by the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee.

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