Sunday, November 21, 2004

Recount efforts in Ohio by Kerry intensify

Recount efforts in Ohio by Kerry intensify
John Kerry

by Adam Stone
A top-ranking official with Democratic Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign told North County News last week that although unlikely, there is a recount effort being waged that could unseat Republican President George W. Bush.

"We have 17,000 lawyers working on this, and the grassroots accountability couldn't be any higher -no (irregularity) will go unchecked. Period," Kerry spokesman David Wade said.

A verbal firestorm erupted last week between an area supporter of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and Wade after the Kerry spokesman derided Nader for creating a "phony wedge issue between progressives."

Nader has been calling on Kerry and his vice presidential running mate, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, to, in his words, "follow through on their post-election promise to the American people to make sure every vote counts, starting in Ohio."

A Kerry victory in Ohio means he would have the necessary electoral votes to take the White House.

The local Nader supporter, Don DeBar, an Ossining resident, took umbrage with Wade's remarks.

"It seems to me the (wedge) was created when Kerry, after promising to ensure that every vote would count, conceded before they were counted," DeBar, who worked for the Nader campaign in San Antonio during the ballot access drive, wrote in an e-mail message to Wade.

The Kerry spokesman said, so far, "there hasn't been any indication" of swinging a state or the overall election.

"…But we'll make sure every single vote is counted," he added.

Nader press secretary Kevin Zeese said "I'm laughing," after being informed of Wade's remark about creating a wedge issue.

"They used those same 17,000 lawyers to keep us off the ballots," Zeese said during a telephone interview.

Wade said Nader "should be working with Democrats to guarantee the right to vote is protected."

During a flurry of e-mail exchanges with Wade, DeBar said, "What about the concession? If there are sufficient indicia of fraud and/or inaccurate counting, will Kerry 'unconcede'?"

Former Vice President Al Gore conceded in his 2000 battle with Bush for the White House before demanding recounts, which were ultimately halted by the United States Supreme Court.

Two third-party presidential candidates have raised enough money to file for an official recount of the vote in Ohio.

Green Party candidate David Cobb announced Monday the $113,600 needed to file for a recount had been raised.

"Thanks to the thousands of people who have contributed to this effort, we can say with certainty that there will be a recount in Ohio," Cobb said in a statement.

The Green Party has been working with the Libertarian Party - both parties were on the ballot in Ohio - in securing a recount. Both Cobb and Libertarian Michael Badnarik say they've demanded that Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who co-chaired this year's Bush campaign in Ohio, recuse himself from the recount process.

Cobb Media Director Blair Bobier said, "The Ohio presidential election was marred by numerous press and independent reports of mismarked and discarded ballots, problems with electronic voting machines and the targeted disenfranchisement of African-American voters."

The Ohio vote will be certified on Dec. 3 at the latest, Bobier said.

The Electoral College votes on December 13, so it is unclear whether or not a recount would be completed by then.

However, Jonathan Turley, a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, told that "those votes are not opened by Congress until Jan. 6. So there is still time to challenge the results in Ohio."

A demand for a recount in Ohio can only be filed by a presidential candidate who was either a certified write-in candidate or on the ballot in that state.

Bush won Ohio by a vote of 2,796,147 to John Kerry's 2,659,664. Despite reports of irregularities and outstanding provisional ballots, Kerry conceded Ohio and the election on November 3.

In the 11 Ohio counties that have finished checking provisional ballots cast in the presidential election, 81 percent have turned out to be valid. It is too early to know whether the ballots have benefited Bush or Kerry because counties first need to determine their validity before conducting the count.

Badnarik received 14,331 votes in Ohio and Cobb, as a write-in candidate, received 24 votes.

When asked about how the Kerry campaign has reacted to Nader's efforts, Zeese said, "You've got the closest thing to a response," referring to the comments made by Wade to North County News.

According to a November 5 article by the Associated Press, elections officials admitted that an error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in a Gahanna precinct. Franklin County reported Bush with 4,258 votes and John Kerry with 260, even though only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Election officials in that county now say a cartridge from a voting machine generated errors after the precinct closed, and only 365 people voted for Bush, Nader notes in a press release.

Additional machine errors in Ohio reported by, include:

• Mahoning County: The glass on top of one electronic screen was too far from the screen, making it difficult for people to use their fingers to cast ballots. A screen went blank on a Youngstown voter while he cast his ballot.

• Mahoning County: 20 to 30 machines needed to be recalibrated during the voting process because some votes for a candidate were being counted for that candidate's opponent.

• Mahoning County: About a dozen machines needed to be reset because they essentially froze.

• Cincinnati: Problems with punch card voting machines delayed the start of voting for up to an hour Tuesday morning at a suburban precinct. Voters were unable to slide their punch-card ballots all the way into any of the six voting machines that had all evidently been damaged in transit.

• Columbus: Overcharged batteries on Danaher Controls ELECTronic 1242 systems kept machines from booting up properly at the beginning of the day.

The resulting delays, combined with higher voter turnout, resulted in lines of several hours, in one case 22 hours, and led to some citizens' voting rights being taken away by administrative default, Nader contends.

The situation in Ohio and other states bears out, according to Nader, what he warned against before the election.

Among them:

Computers are inherently subject to programming error, equipment malfunction and malicious tampering.

Paperless electronic voting machines make it impossible to safeguard the integrity of the vote.

"However, the Democratic National Committee has remained silent on the issue since Election Day," Nader's press release states. "Neither the DNC web site nor the Ohio Democratic Party site offered any response or any advice to voters on where to turn."

"With the extensive pre-election effort to prevent election fraud, including international observers, activist poll watchers and attempts to enforce paper trail backups, the Democratic Party's silence on Ohio is puzzling," Nader stated.

Regardless of whether it changes the outcome, the release continues, the Democrats should follow through on their promise to make sure every vote counts in Ohio and other states discovering similar problems with electronic voting machines and other irregularities.

Other trouble spots exist in Ohio, including rules that allow officials to reject some of the 155,000 provisional ballots being cast in that state, Nader states.

Before Election Day, Blackwell, the Republican who co-chaired Bush's statewide campaign, was challenged by voters-rights organizations for denying citizens their voting rights on the basis of a rule, later rescinded, requiring voter registration forms be printed on 80-pound paper stock.

Voter registration forms were submitted on newsprint in Cuyahoga County after being printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Blackwell is also accused of trying to suppress the registration of poor and minority voters who most often vote Democrat.

"Our offices are being flooded with faxes and e-mails asking for assistance in resolving these irregularities - a lot of them are citizens who voted for you," Nader says in a direct challenge to Kerry and Edwards.

"In the spirit of good government, I urge you to make this effort now," Nader concluded.

Kerry, in Zeese's mind, should be more direct.

"Kerry should say: 'I was serious about counting every vote," Zeese said. "'The reports of problems on Election Day raise serious questions that need to be fully reviewed. I am instructing my lawyers to provide support to those urging review of the vote count and my campaign is available to work in any way to make sure the vote count is accurate.'"

Nader drew roughly one percent of the vote nationally. He held a press conference last Wednesday and said he was speaking out for the "thousands" of American voters asking for recounts and not on his own behalf.

"Over 2,000 citizens including voting rights advocates are urging in writing the Nader Camejo campaign to help make sure every vote is counted and counted accurately," Nader remarked. "The Nader Camejo campaign does not view the election to be over merely because concession speeches, which have no legal effect, have been given. Rather they are over when every vote is counted and legally certified."

"Striking inconsistencies exist between the vote as reported on the AccuVote Diebold Machines and exit polls and voting trends in New Hampshire," he added. "These irregularities in the reported vote count favor president George W. Bush by five to 15 percent over what was expected."

"Problems in these electronic voting machines and optical scanners are being reported in machines in a variety of states," Nader said.

New Hampshire is about to become a test case for the accuracy of optical scan vote-counting machines because Nader has asked for a recount.

The request covers 11 of the state's 126 precincts that use Diebold Inc.'s Accuvote optical scanning machines to count paper ballots. Depending on the results, his campaign could ask for recounts in other states, Zeese said Monday.

Nader doesn't expect to change the outcome: In New Hampshire, Kerry defeated Bush, 50 percent to 49 percent, while Nader got less than 1 percent from the state's 301 precincts.

Lawyers with John Kerry's presidential campaign are gathering information from Ohio election boards about uncounted ballots and other unresolved issues from last week's election, according to a Plain Dealer article published last Thursday.

Although Wade suggested a recount has no real chance of turning the election in Kerry's favor, bloggers and liberal talk radio show hosts have speculated the senator was allowing grassroots candidates and campaigns to take up the fight so Kerry can appear statesmanlike and above the fray.

Conservative radio commentators, conversely, are dismissing the recount efforts.

"What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, are spam e-mail campaigns spreading conspiracy theories and rumors generating hard news investigations on the old media networks," Rush Limbaugh said during his radio program on November 12.

Others, however, have complained that the mainstream media have failed to cover the story adequately.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has covered the story aggressively on his Countdown program, as have liberal radio talk show hosts on Air America.

"There has been a justifiable uproar about the major differences between the exit

polls in Ohio and Florida and the actual results," writes Sheldon Drobny, a CPA and venture capitalist and co-founder of Air America Radio.

"Democrats and Republicans, who both saw the same exit polls that showed an electoral landslide in favor of Kerry, have confirmed this," he continued. "It is important that people know how accurate random sampling of historical events can be in order for them to understand how unlikely it is that the exit polls were wrong."

"We have a Watergate story here that could give the media a post-election explosive news story that could make the 2000 Florida vote debacle look like small potatoes," Drobny concluded.

DeBar stressed a concession was not legally binding. He also believes a "Constitutional crisis" is about to erupt.

"What he should do is call a national press conference, recite each and every case of apparent fraud and or error that could bear on the outcome," DeBar said. "(Kerry) should remind voters strongly of the 2000 theft of Florida…he should redefine the results, and then redefine himself as someone worthy of challenging them. And he should go to the mat, both legally and politically."

"Call a million-voter rally in D.C, or, better, simultaneously in (New York), D.C, (Boston), L.A., (San Francisco), Cleveland, (Chicago), etc…Hey, maybe there really were only 51 (million) that voted for Kerry and 53 (million) that vote for Bush. Let's see our 51 million in the streets. Better, let Bush and Cheney see 'em.".