The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

As Ohio Certifies Vote Count, Protests Continue, Recounts Requested

by Ariella Cohen

Ohio's devoutly Republican secretary of state has finally certified the vote in favor of President Bush, but activists are seeking a statewide recount and demanding he explain voting irregularities to Congress.

Dec. 7, 2004 – At around 3 p.m. Monday, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell certified a two-percentage point Election Day win in that state for President George Bush over challenger John Kerry. Blackwell’s certification sealed Ohio’s popular vote one day before the deadline for final determinations on who will cast the state’s 20 electoral college votes and finally allowed third party candidates to file recount requests.

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Hours before making the certification public, Blackwell’s Columbus office buzzed with demonstrators, police and press.

"We came to the Borden building today to ask the Secretary of State not to choose electors until after the recount is complete, and [to] appear on Wednesday before the [US] House [of Representatives] Judiciary Committee," said Warren Linney, spokesperson for electoral activists CASE Ohio. "We have a letter and we are asking him to answer questions about the irregularities across the state."

Speaking by phone over a mélange of directives from police, security guards and the building’s property manager, Linney told The NewStandard that a truly fair count would only be possible if Blackwell stepped out of the process and opened polling records, machines and e-voting software to federal investigation. Many democracy activists have called for Blackwell to recuse himself from the vote counting process because of his previous involvement with the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign.

With seven days left before the Electoral College meets, supporters of the recount worry that it will not be complete in time for votes cast by the Electoral College to reflect its findings.

Monday’s protest was the latest in a series of demonstrations called by activists seeking to spark an investigation into allegations of vote tampering, suppression and other irregularities.

Last Saturday, several hundred* people demonstrated in front of the Ohio Statehouse, demanding a recount of the presidential election results that they allege were determined by procedural decisions that deterred voting in predominantly lower-income and African-American precincts. At public hearings on November 13 and 15, voters recounted numerous stories of disenfranchisement ranging from polling place lines that dragged on for hours in underserved communities to malfunctioning machines and misinformed poll workers who discouraged eligible voters from casting ballots.

The sworn testimonies gathered at the hearings will be heard again Wednesday, when Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee convene on Capitol Hill to examine unusual voting patterns and discrepancies, machine shortages and other procedural malfunctions in at least seven Ohio counties.

Initiated by Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, along with advocates from Progressive Democrats of America, the briefing will pull together members of the House minority Judiciary Committee and electoral advocates for investigation into alleged voter suppression in Ohio.

According to a press release, Democratic Representatives Melvin Watt and Robert Scott, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, People for the American Way President Ralph Neas, Director of the Voting Rights Project Jon Greenbaum and Ellie Smeal, Executive Director of The Feminist Majority are expected to attend the House meeting.

When asked by The NewStandard if Blackwell planned to accept the invitation sent by the 108th Congress to attend the House Judiciary Committee briefing, his spokesperson, James Lee, said that he did not know the secretary’s schedule for Wednesday.

As of Monday, Blackwell did not plan to delay electoral proceedings. "The secretary of state will certify the vote and then it is up to challengers," Lee said. Over the past week, Blackwell has accused electoral advocates of spreading blatant inaccuracies and waging a partisan-motivated campaign against his electoral policies.

Though Linney and his group were threatened with arrest and escorted off the premises of the office of the Secretary of State before passing off any letters to him, third party presidential candidates David Cobb of the Green Party and Michael Badnarik, a Libertarian, did manage to file official requests for recounts in all 88 Ohio counties before the day was out.

The two candidates -- who together won less than 0.26 percent of Ohio’s vote --raised the $113,600 required to apply for a statewide recount. With seven days left before the Electoral College meets, supporters of the recount worry that it will not be complete in time for votes cast by the electors to reflect a new outcome.

Federal law sets Tuesday as the deadline for states to select who will sit in on the Electoral College. How exactly these representatives are chosen and what defines their relationship to the popular electorate remains up to each state to decide. In every state but Maine and Nebraska, all Electoral College representatives must vote for the certified winner of the popular vote in their state.

Following this winner-takes-all model, today’s certification dictates that all twenty Ohio electorates vote for George W. Bush, regardless of his margin of victory. Voted into federal law in 1845, the Electoral College has taken heat from contemporary critics who say it acts as a barrier to direct elections, silencing huge swaths of voters and representing multifaceted states as monolithic blocks.

Recount challenges have arisen out of irregularities in electoral procedure before in Ohio. In 1990, a Republican candidate for Ohio attorney general -- Paul Pfeifer, who now serves on the state Supreme Court -- unsuccessfully challenged his opponent's victory because of discrepancies found between the number of ballots and the number of signatures in poll books, a problem seen in counties in southern Ohio this election.

* Correction: In the original version of this story, the 6th paragraph read: "Last Saturday, 400 people demonstrated in front of the Ohio Statehouse" but now reads "several hundred." The 400 figure was from an Associated Press story, but we failed to attribute the source. Organizers claimed there were 1,200 people present at the protests. Normally we either thoroughly evaluate sources' estimates, offer a range, or use vague descriptions like "several hundred," which could mean 400 or 1,200. This error was an oversight on the editors' part.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Ariella Cohen is a contributing journalist.

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