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Ohio High Court Throws Out Presidential Election Challenge

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 16, 2004; 6:41 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Ohio Supreme Court's chief justice on Thursday threw out a challenge to the state's presidential election results.

A lawyer for the voters bringing the case said he would refile the challenge as early as Friday.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer ruled that the request improperly challenged two separate election results. Ohio law only allows one race to be challenged in a single complaint, he said.

The challenge was backed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Cliff Arnebeck, a Columbus attorney for the Massachusetts-based Alliance for Democracy, who accused Bush's campaign of "high-tech vote stealing."

Claiming fraud, the voters cited reports of voting-machine errors, double-counting of ballots and a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority precincts as reasons to throw out the results.

Ohio and its 20 electoral votes determined the outcome of the election, tipping the race to President Bush. The state declared Bush the winner by 119,000 votes, but counties are in the middle of a recount requested by two minor party candidates and supported by John Kerry's campaign.

The complaint questioned how the actual results could show Bush winning when exit-poll interview findings on election night indicated that Kerry would win 52 percent of Ohio's presidential vote.

Without listing specific evidence, the complaint alleges that 130,656 votes for Kerry and John Edwards in 36 counties were somehow switched to count for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

The allegations are based on an analysis comparing the presidential race to Moyer's Supreme Court race against a Cleveland municipal judge.

But nothing in state law or any previous court decision allows challenges to be combined, Moyer said.

"Were this court to sanction consolidation here it would establish a precedent whereby twenty-five voters could challenge, in a single case, the election results of every statewide race and issue on the ballot in any given election," Moyer wrote.

Arnebeck said that while he believes he is permitted to contest two elections with a common set of facts, "we're going to go with the flow." Filing the challenge again on Friday would depend on gathering the voters' signatures again, he said.

A message seeking comment on the court decision was left for Jackson.

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