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Voters refile challenge of presidential results


Associated Press   17 December 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Voters who said problems with voting machines Nov. 2 indicated fraud refiled a request with the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday to overturn the presidential results.

The 36 voters cite reports of machine errors, double-counting of some ballots and a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority precincts as reasons to throw out the election results.

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

The group filed the original request Monday, the day the Electoral College cast votes for Bush. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of the state Supreme Court threw out the complaint Thursday, saying the voters improperly included a second election challenge in the complaint.

Moyer, a suburban Columbus Republican, said state law does not allow two elections to be challenged at once.

Ohio and its 20 electoral votes determined the outcome of the election, tipping the race to Bush when Democrat John Kerry conceded the next morning. The state declared Bush the winner by 119,000 votes, and counties are in the middle of a recount, which two minor party candidates requested and the Kerry campaign supports.

With 65 of Ohio's 88 counties reporting final recounts to The Associated Press on Friday, including the large urban counties of Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Franklin, Bush has gained 395 votes and Kerry has gained 554 votes.

On Dec. 6, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell declared Bush the official winner by 119,000 votes.

"The purpose of the filing is to get to the truth and determine the correct result," Arnebeck said Friday. "The concept of an election contest is you shouldn't file it unless you have a reasonable basis to believe the actual result of the election is at issue, and we have that belief."

The complaint questions how the actual election 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.

The challengers allege that unlawful ballots were added to the number of properly cast votes and that legally cast ballots were altered to invalidate the 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.

Friday's filing includes a request that the court hold an emergency hearing and that it issue an order to prevent evidence being tampered with.

That request stems from allegations of vote tampering in southeast Ohio in Hocking County, where an elections official said in an affidavit that a software technician took apart the county's main computer tabulator to fix the battery, then put it back together and told her not to turn it off.

That story prompted Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, to ask authorities to impound the computer and investigate "likely illegal election tampering."

Sherole Eaton, the Hocking election board deputy director, said she was only providing information and has never suspected fraud.

The Bush-Cheney campaign dismissed the new complaint as sour grapes.

"This is more of the same frivolous litigation aimed at making a political point because they know George Bush won Ohio fair and square," said Mark Weaver, an attorney representing the Ohio Republican Party.

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