Monday, December 13, 2004

Delay sought in Ohio electoral vote

Delay sought in Ohio electoral vote

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Dissident groups asked the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday to review the outcome of the state's presidential race, hours before the Ohio delegation to the Electoral College was to cast ballots for president and vice president.

The groups question whether President Bush won the key swing state by 119,000 votes, guaranteeing his victory over Democrat John Kerry.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and attorney Cliff Arnebeck of the Massachusetts-based Alliance for Democracy accused President Bush's campaign of "high-tech vote stealing."

Jackson said the challengers noticed Bush generally received more votes in counties that use optical-scan voting machines and questioned whether the machines were calibrated to record votes for Bush.

The dissidents claim there were disparities in vote totals for Democrats, too few voting machines in Democrat-leaning precincts, organized campaigns directing voters to the wrong polling place and confusion over the counting of provisional ballots by voters whose names did not appear in the records at polling places.

If the court decides to hear the challenge, it can declare a new winner or throw out the results. The challengers also planned to ask the court to stop the Electoral College delegation's vote until their case can be decided.

Protesters had been expected to demonstrate outside the Capitol as Electoral College delegates voted in the Ohio Senate chamber, but none were present as the vote began at midday.

Congressional Democrats sent a letter to Republican Gov. Bob Taft on Monday, asking him to delay the Electoral College vote or at least consider the results unofficial until the disputes are resolved.

Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said the governor would not postpone the vote or treat it as provisional.

"The vote is required to move forward by law, and it will more forward," Holubec said. "The vote has been certified by the secretary of state, and all of the valid provisionals have been counted."

Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, defended the election results. For the challengers' accusations to be true, he said, officials in both parties would have had to conspire to throw the election.

"That's simply a ridiculous assertion," he said.

Led by a coalition representing the Green and Libertarian parties, the dissidents are paying for recounts in each of Ohio's 88 counties that will begin this week. The recounts are not expected to be complete until next week.

Kerry issued a statement last week saying reported voting problems should be investigated to ensure there are no doubts in future elections. His campaign does not dispute that Bush won the election, but supports the recounts.