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Some voters holding out hope for Kerry victory

Sam Howe Verhovek THE LOS ANGELES TIMES   13 December 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio Clifford Arnebeck won't let it go. He can't let it go. Not, he says, while America refuses to recognize that John F. Kerry was elected president Nov. 2.

Arnebeck, a Democratic lawyer here and co-chair of a self-styled national populist alliance, is petitioning the state's highest court to throw out official results that favor President Bush and instead hand Ohio's 20 electoral votes - and thus the White House to Kerry. Or, at least, order a revote.

The bid appears quixotic, to put it politely, as Bush has been officially declared the winner by 118,000 votes and Arnebeck is arguing before a Republican-dominated Supreme Court in Ohio. Nor is the Massachusetts senator helping him out, said Arnebeck.

"I can't for the life of me understand why Kerry isn't fighting harder for this," he said. "Maybe it's some secret Skull and Bones tradition, where you're not supposed to show up the other guy."

Most of the country may have moved on, and electoral college slates are due to meet in all 50 states Monday to cast formal votes that will give Bush a 286-252 winning edge and a second term.

Even many who are disturbed by aspects of the recent election such as unconscionably long lines at polling places, or electronic "touch-screen" voting with no back-up paper audits available say they want future improvements but nonetheless believe Bush won a fair battle.

But for Arnebeck and thousands of others, this contest is far from over.

They feed each other's post-election rage over the Internet, swapping reports about voter suppression and possible computer hacking or other electronic manipulation of the results.

From a "rally to change the tally" in San Francisco to black-armband protests in Denver and Boston this weekend against what organizers call the "media black-out of election fraud," the protests go on. But they are especially focused on Ohio, whose 20 electoral votes proved crucial.

"I would like to welcome you to Ukraine," said Susan Truitt, a speaker last weekend at a rally outside the Ohio statehouse, where 400 showed up to demand an inquiry into fraud allegations. She was referring to the nation about to hold a new presidential election, after protests that the first one was rigged.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also appeared at the rally, cited a recurring grievance of the groups who question the legitimacy of Bush's 2004 victory. Why is it, Jackson asked, that exit polls done for the media seemed to point toward a Kerry victory that day?

Rather than analyzing faults in the exit polls, Jackson and others say, why aren't the media and public officials digging more aggressively for chicanery in the official tabulations?

"We can live with winning and losing," Jackson told a Baptist congregation in Columbus recently. "We cannot live with fraud and stealing."

Officials here are not taking kindly to the charges.

"Jackson owes every election official in Ohio an apology," said Keith Cunningham, first vice president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. "His accusations are outrageous, preposterous and baseless."

Because every Ohio county election board has two Democrats and two Republicans, officials here argue, manipulation of voting would require a massive conspiracy.

But that is just what Jackson and various protest groups allege, and they point to what they say are several suspicious occurrences that demand further investigation:

In three suburban Cincinnati counties, a Democratic candidate for state chief justice received more votes than Kerry, even though she lost statewide by a wider margin than did Kerry, and the overall total of votes cast in her race was 4.4 million, well below the 5.6 million cast in the presidential race.

A "computer glitch," as local officials called it, recorded an extra 3,893 votes for Bush in suburban Columbus, in a precinct with only 638 votes cast. Officials say they caught the glitch and fixed it, showing that the system works; but protesters say they wonder where else such "glitches" may have gone undetected.

Long lines forced many Ohioans to wait hours to vote and may have deterred some from voting at all. They were especially long in urban Democratic areas and in some college towns, and protesters want to know why.

Under the certified results, Bush had 2.86 million votes, or about 51 percent, to Kerry's 2.74 million, or 49 percent. After all provisional votes were counted, the Bush margin represented a of about 18,000 votes from the totals announced just after Election Day.

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