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Recounts pending as Ohio certifies Bush victory

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.
/ Source: The Associated Press

While Ohio has certified a 2 percentage-point election victory for President Bush, scrutiny of the vote was expected to continue for several more days.

Independent candidates were prepared to demand recounts in all 88 counties Tuesday, action that election boards say they’re ready for but don’t believe is necessary.

“Our experience with recounts based on our system in Allen County show either no change in our count, or one or two votes possibly,” said Keith Cunningham, the county’s election board director and incoming president of the Ohio Association of Election Board Directors.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell certified Bush as the winner Monday based on official results from county election boards, with the final tally of 2.86 million votes for the Republican, or about 51 percent of the vote, and 2.74 million or 49 percent for Democrat John Kerry.

The 118,775-vote lead was closer than unofficial election night results but not enough to trigger a mandatory recount. Absentee ballots and provisional votes counted after election night made most of the difference.

“Elections are human endeavors and as such they are never pefect,” said Blackwell, a Republican. “But I can say with the fullest of confidence that this election in Ohio was perfectly inspiring.”

Prized battleground state
The election hung on Ohio, a battleground state prized for its 20 electoral votes. Not until the morning after the election did Kerry, presented with the state’s results, finally concede.

Presidential candidates for the Green and Libertarian parties raised the $113,600 needed to pay for the recount under Ohio law, and will write individual checks to all 88 counties.

Counties have 10 days to start those recounts, allowed under state law, following Blackwell’s certification.

The recount’s goal is “to ensure that every citizen’s vote is properly counted,” said John Bonifaz, general counsel for the Boston-based National Voting Rights Institute, which represents the independent candidates.

The candidates, David Cobb of the Green Party and Michael Bednarik of the Libertarian Party, together received less than 0.5 percent of the Ohio vote.

Recount advocates have cited numerous Election Day problems, from long lines, a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority neighborhoods and suspicious vote totals for candidates in scattered precincts.

Republicans cite waste of money
Republicans said the recount won’t change anything.

“If there’s a recount, there’s going to be two losers — John Kerry and the Ohio taxpayer,” said Mark Weaver, a lawyer representing the Ohio Republican Party. “It’s going to cost more than $1.5 million to find out what we already know.”

The amount the independent candidates have raised is based on state law calculating the cost of a recount to be $10 a precinct, but Blackwell’s office has said a more realistic price tag is $1.5 million.

A Friday ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus, striking down Delaware County’s attempt to stop a recount, ensured the process will go forward.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Monday the Ohio Supreme Court should investigate Bush’s win in Ohio because of “massive problems” with the voting.

The required filing with the Supreme Court, planned for Monday, was put off until at least Tuesday because of its complexity, said Cliff Arnebeck, a Columbus attorney representing the voters.

About 20 people protested outside Blackwell’s office Monday, demanding Blackwell postpone the Dec. 13 electoral college vote in Ohio until the recount is finished. Blackwell said the vote will take place.

And in San Francisco, about 150 people rallied outside the office of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, to protest voting irregularities, particularly those in Ohio.