Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Democrats vow to examine Ohio results


Democrats vow to examine Ohio results
Party to do 'whatever it takes' to answer questions
The Associated Press
Updated: 6:21 p.m. ET Dec. 6, 2004

WASHINGTON - The Democratic Party said Monday it will examine reports of voting problems in Ohio, where President George W. Bush’s victory clinched his re-election.

Outgoing Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the party will spend “whatever it takes” to study complaints from Ohio voters that included uncounted votes, long lines, shortages of ballots, understaffed polling stations and voting machine errors.

McAuliffe said the party is not seeking to overturn the result but to ensure that every vote from the Nov. 2 election is counted. He said the study will be conducted by nonpartisan experts to be announced later, with a report issued in the spring that recommends reforms to prevent such problems in the future.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said any investigation or reform should be handled by the state Legislature.

“If the Democrats want to pay for a study to help them sleep at night, that’s fine,” he said in a statement. “Just don’t expect anyone to believe it’s credible.”

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell certified Bush’s winning margin of nearly 119,000 votes on Monday, a margin closer than election night totals but not close enough to trigger an automatic recount.

Presidential candidates for the Green and Libertarian parties planned to file requests for recounts.

Blackwell, a Republican, oversaw the election process while serving as one of several statewide Republican leaders who co-chaired Bush’s campaign. The 2000 Florida recount was also administered by a Republican secretary of state, Katherine Harris, who is now a member of Congress.

In a conference call with reporters, McAuliffe said the panel needs to look at the practice of secretaries of state serving as campaign officials. He said he personally thinks it’s a laudable goal for election officials to be nonpartisan.

McAuliffe said it’s too early to tell if Republicans were behind any fraud that may have influenced the outcome in Ohio.

McAuliffe said he briefed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry about the study Sunday night and Kerry will be monitoring the results carefully. Kerry often promised voters, particularly black voters, that his campaign would examine any allegations of voter fraud.

Many blacks said irregularities in Florida in 2000 kept their votes from being counted. Democrats want to ensure that blacks do not give up on the voting process because they are such overwhelming supporters of Democratic candidates.

The U.S. presidential elections are decided under the Electoral College system, in which each state has an amount of electoral votes related to its population. Ohio, with a close race and 20 electoral votes, was seen as the deciding state in this year’s election, like Florida was in 2000.