Friday, December 03, 2004

Jackson verses Blackwell
December 2, 2004

Jackson verses Blackwell
Keith Olbermann

SECAUCUS - The complaint about the voting irregularities story has been that it has been a little austere, a little impersonal. Part of its lack of appeal to the mainstream media has been its lack of “name players” — the aloofness of John Kerry, as an example. You wouldn’t think you’d have to sex up something as important as the integrity of the democratic process, but it turns out that in these early years of the 21st Century, you have to sex up everything — ask Monday Night Football.

But, not to worry, two players have taken to the stage, big-time. If Ohio actually gets the notice it deserves, the credit will go to Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.

You will recall that in his syndicated Op-Ed column (appearing principally in The Chicago Sun-Times) earlier this week, Jackson wrote the Ohio vote count was "marred by intolerable, often partisan, irregularities and discrepancies,” and added that "U.S. citizens have as much reason as those in Kiev to be concerned that the fix was in."

During the day Thursday, Secretary Blackwell's media secretary was firing back... calling the column blatantly inaccurate: "We expect someone writing an Op-Ed and a syndicate distributing that Op-Ed would fact-check information and have a responsibility to the facts."

Proving two can play at this game, Blackwell has written his own Op-Ed piece in response, and it was made available to newspapers today. Jesse in turn, actually turned up on CNN this evening on Paula Zahn's news hour, talking about the same stuff he talked about on Countdown on Tuesday, and that we've been talking about here since the week after the election. Somehow I'm thinking it was a good idea that Blackwell and Jackson appeared on consecutive nights on Countdown, and not the same one.

Blackwell, incidentally, got sued by the Greens and Libs again. The Badnarik and Cobb parties are already due back in court tomorrow to try to get a Federal Judge to vacate the temporary restraining order against the re-count inside Delaware County, Ohio. Today, they filed another federal action, naming Blackwell directly, accusing him of stalling the re-count and abusing his authority. The suit asks that the recount begin immediately... since the electoral college is scheduled to meet just eleven days from now — although its vote won’t be opened by congress until January 6.

Blackwell gets to wait until Monday to certify the state’s vote, even though all 88 counties in the Buckeye State have finished their own confirmations. Data is still sketchy, but it turns out election officials accepted about 77% of the provisional ballots — about 121,000 of them. No statewide count of the provisionals yet, though results reported by one county — Franklin (that's Columbus), indicated that Senator Kerry had gotten nearly 7,700 of the more-than 12,000 provisional votes counted.

But of all the developments out of Ohio, the most provocative, clearly, is still stalled under the weight of its own paperwork. The Alliance for Democracy is not quite ready with its challenge to the vote yet. Lawyer Cliff Arnebeck, with who else but Reverend Jackson by his side today on the steps of the Ohio Supreme Court, said that the group hopes to file its election challenge tomorrow — if not, Monday — but it’s not guaranteeing anything.

If and when it gets around to it, the Alliance will be asking one high court justice to set the election results aside, pending a full investigation and hearing. Arnebeck said today he believes that if all ballots were counted in what he calls a "traditional context,” the outcome would not just swing from President Bush’s 130,000 vote election night lead — it would swing all the way in the opposite direction, and give Kerry a 130,000 vote lead.

“Once we file the litigation.” Arnebeck added, “aggressive discovery will proceed, and we'll get to the truth. I want to reemphasize once again as we did at the previous press conference that the purpose here is not partisan, the purpose here is not destructive toward anyone and we invite all candidates, we invite the Bush campaign and the Kerry campaign to join and cooperate in a non-partisan effort to find the truth, gather the facts, and assure the public, and assure both candidates, that this is an honest election."

Arnebeck sounded a little like a protestor in Kiev: "Our presidential election affects not just this country but all the citizens of the world. And therefore it's absolutely essential that the person who assumes the mantle of that office has the full confidence of our public and the world community that it was an honest election.”