December 22, 2004

Licking County officials refuse to permit recount observer to look at voting machines

Libertarian observer questions recount policy
Request to inspect machines denied


Advocate Reporter

NEWARK -- The presidential election recount began Wednesday at the Licking County Board of Elections, but it didn't begin the way one candidate's representative had hoped.

Mary Lewin, the recount observer for Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik, wanted to inspect the voting machines as part of the recount, but her request was denied.

"They threatened to have me thrown out of the recount because I raised certain questions," Lewin said. "We felt we had a right to look at the machines. You can't look at the ballot in isolation of the ballot assembly."

Mary Jo Long, director of the Licking County Board of Elections, said the voting machines must be sealed for 60 days after the election, when the machines could then be inspected if a contest of election lawsuit is filed.

An election contest was filed Wednesday in the 5th District Court of Appeals, but the lawsuit came instead from Domestic Relations judge candidate Paul Harmon, of Granville, who was also denied a request to inspect the machines before his recount. Harmon lost to Craig Baldwin of Newark in that race.

Lewin said the machines must be inspected to check the rotation of candidates' names on the ballot from one precinct to another. If the rotation on the ballot pages differs from the program for the computer tabulation, then a punched hole next to one candidate's name could be counted for another candidate.

"The punch card is only half the ballot," Lewin said. "We feel we have a legal right to view the machines, and we're not getting a fair and accurate recount without viewing the ballot machines."

Lewin said other Ohio counties are being more cooperative.

Chris Abbruzzese, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, said he did not not know if any counties have allowed inspection of the machines.

"We're not aware of any, but it's subject to their interpretations," Abbruzzese said. "It's up to their discretion."

The recount of Licking County's 80,000 ballots will probably last into next week, Long said. The ballots are first inspected by representatives from the Board of Elections and each candidate, followed by a hand-count of 3 percent run through the ballot counter.

Observers were present representing Badnarik, Green Party candidate David Cobb, Democrat John Kerry and Republican President George W. Bush.

Reporter Kent Mallett can be reached at 328-8545 or

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