Dec. 3, 2004 – In a bid to support legal challenges of election results in Ohio, public advocate Reverend Jesse Jackson paid a visit to the state Supreme Court yesterday
Flown in by a coalition of local electoral advocates steered by lawyers Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis, Jackson intended to focus national attention toward the legal teamâ€™s federal challenges against several southern Ohio counties where they suspect voter fraud.
"[Mr. Jackson] believes federal elections should run according to federal law," Sybil Arnebeck, spokeswoman for the challengers, told The NewStandard. "He came to Ohio to support our work to get presidential votes counted."
At a rally over the weekend Jackson called on Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who previously served as chair of Bush-Cheneyâ€™s 2000 Ohio campaign, to recuse himself. "The owner of the team canâ€™t also be the referee," Jackson said. "We need federal supervision of federal elections. Right now we have 50 separate but unequal ways to vote. There can be no safe harbor for a flawed process that leaves people disenfranchised."
Jackson also took shots at the countryâ€™s reliance on electronic voting machines. "You canâ€™t have public elections on privately-owned machines, especially where one of the owners has vowed to deliver the state for George Bush," he said, referring to a fundraising promise from the CEO of Diebold, the Ohio-based voting machine manufacturer.
So far, the lawsuit hinges partly upon analysis of poll records from precincts where Kerry won fewer votes than a Democrat challenger to a conservative state Supreme Court justice.
In an interview yesterday with TNS, James Lee, a spokesperson for Secretary Blackwell, questioned Jacksonâ€™s motivations for speaking out against the results in Ohio.
"By and large, those who are organizing events, their biggest gripe is that, apparently, their candidate didnâ€™t win. They are taking offense to process, but in fact if they are genuine about their disdain for process they would be in all fifty states taking exception to the process. The fact that they are in Ohio indicates their partisan bent and the motivation behind their rancor," he said.
Arnebeck and Fitrakis began compiling evidence for a lawsuit against Ohio election officials following reports from voters that Election Day procedures had been mishandled and e-voting machines were malfunctioning. So far, the lawsuit hinges partly upon analysis of poll records from precincts where Kerry won fewer votes than a Democrat challenger to a conservative state Supreme Court justice.
"In one district in southern Ohio, Ellen Connely, an African-American lawyer from Cuyahoga County, won significantly more votes than Kerry. We believe that if those people would vote for an out-of-district challenger way down the ballot, they would be likely to vote for Kerry," Arnebeck said.
Arnebeck and Fitrakis plan to plead their case using county records accessible to them through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as well as sworn testimonies of voter suppression collected at public hearings held in Columbus on November 13 and 15 (see previous coverage).
"So far we have not experienced too much trouble getting poll books [and other documents of Election Day procedure] from the counties, but if state judges accept the challenge, then we will be able to look at more records, which we need," Arnebeck said.
Obtaining poll records has proven more difficult for voter rights advocates in Florida this week. Tuesday morning, BlackBoxVoting.org interrupted an awards ceremony for Director of the Board of Elections in Palm Beach Florida Theresa Lapore with a lawsuit charging her with failure to present the electoral-rights advocates with requested paper records of the countyâ€™s Election Day polling activity and directly violating Freedom of Information (FOIA) law.
"She ignored our request and didnâ€™t produce the records within a reasonable amount of time, as required by FOIA," said Andy Stephenson, Associate Director of Blackboxvoting.org, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group and outspoken critic of voting machine security.
Away from her office this week, Laporeâ€™s answering machine warned callers that she would not be taking calls until Monday.