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Protesters want recount in Ohio

200 Oregonians gather at Capitol, express election woes

Salem Statesman Journal   December 13, 2004

Clad in orange and toting signs seeking free and fair elections, Oregonians dissatisfied with November's presidential vote urged a full recount in Ohio to ensure against voting irregularities in that state.

About 200 people from throughout Oregon gathered on the steps of the Capitol on Sunday. While most opposed President Bush's re-election, organizers said the intent of the rally and those held across the country at 49 other state capitols and in Washington, D.C. was to return the country to a time when people had more faith in election results.

They are asking that Ohio electors scheduled to cast their ballots today with all other members of the Electoral College delay their vote until after a recount.

"It might not seem like it directly affects us here in Oregon," said Annette Pritchard of Oregon City. "But it does. We can't wait another four years to fix election problems."

Pritchard, her husband, Mike, and sons Jonathan, 13, and David, 8, held signs comparing the U.S. elections to the fight for a recount in Ukraine. While several motorists honked their horns in support as they traveled along Court Street, others simply said, "Get over it."

"We're not going to 'get over it,'" Pritchard said. "We just want the counting to be over before the electors vote."

A recount of 92 Ohio counties paid for by a coalition of Green and Libertarian parties is due to begin this week but won't be completed until next week.

President Bush defeated Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry by 119,000 votes in Ohio according to the certified count issued by the Ohio secretary of state's office, a margin of 17,000 votes fewer than first estimated because of a computer glitch and other ballots being counted. The 20 electoral votes clinched the election for the president.

Although election officials, political leaders and even members of Kerry's campaign think that there is little chance the election result could be overturned, calls for improvements in the election process have been heard from members of all political parties.

Among the complaints by participants at Oregon's rally were questions about the reliability of electronic voting machines that lack a hard copy record, a lack of voting machines in strongly Democratic-leaning districts in Ohio, and discrepancies between exit polling and vote totals in swing states such as New Mexico, Florida and Ohio, all states that use electronic ballots in some precincts.

Sunday's participants at the Capitol wore orange armbands, hats and other apparel to signify their support for those seeking a recount of the presidential election in Ukraine after exit polling varied from the official tally.

Organizers Peter Hamer of Estacada was pleased with the turnout, since the rally was announced less than a week ago.

"People are interested and involved, and that is what this is about," he said. "It's about being able to come together as a nation."

Katie Eyemann of Salem, one of the speakers at the event, said voters no longer can sit by and expect things to get fixed on their own.

"Four years ago, we all thought the voting problems would get taken care of, but then we went to sleep," she said. "We're not whining, we just want a fair and accurate count."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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