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Recount confirms Kerry's Cuyahoga win
Observers say process exposed election-day problems they want to see corrected
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Diane Suchetka
Cleveland Plain Dealer Reporter

John Kerry picked up 17 votes and George W. Bush lost six in Cuyahoga County's presidential recount.

That means the county still went for Kerry giving him 448,503 votes compared with 221,600 for Bush. 
 Cuyahoga was among 45 of Ohio's 88 counties that completed recounts by Friday, according to the Associated Press. Numbers for the two major candidates changed little, though.

Bush added 303 votes to his state total; Kerry gained 443. The higher numbers were due mainly to hanging chads falling from ballot cards, the Associated Press reported.

Two third-party presidential candidates, Libertarian Michael Badnarik and the Green Party's David Cobb, had requested the statewide recount.

And, as they expected, the outcome of America's presidential race isn't likely to change.

But those who watched the recount say they were concerned by a number of problems they would like to see fixed.

In some cases, Cuyahoga County witnesses said, ballot totals showed that more people voted in a precinct than had signed the poll book.

In other cases, ballot mix-ups led to votes meant for one presidential candidate going to another. And witnesses raised objections, again, to how the 3 percent of ballots to be counted by hand - as required by Ohio law - were ed.

"This is a question of civic duty, to make sure our elections are fair," said Candice Hoke, who teaches election law at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Hoke spent much of Thursday and Friday watching Cuyahoga's recount, serving as an unpaid legal adviser to the Green and Libertarian parties, which had asked for her help.

Witnessing the recount showed citizens where the election system can be manipulated, she said, so those holes can be plugged.

"That does not mean that the Board of Elections was doing anything wrong," she said, praising board workers and their cooperative spirit. "It means we need to rethink our system.

"This is an opportunity for us to engage as citizens in making a better electoral system."

Cuyahoga County elections director Michael Vu described many of the problems as innocent human errors.

Polls were crowded on Election Day, and poll workers may have not had voters sign in before they were given a ballot, he said. That's a problem that will be tracked next week when the county's voter history is conducted, Vu said.

The ballot mix-ups, reported earlier, were most likely a result of crowded polling places where voters inadvertently used machines from the wrong precinct. Precincts often share the same polling station.

"There was no malicious intent," Vu said.

"I felt we had as transparent a process as we could have. We were an open book.

"It's a constant battle making sure that voters and poll workers are educated and preventive measures are in place for the next election."

In other election news, a group of grass-roots plaintiffs refiled a lawsuit Friday asking the Ohio Supreme Court to declare John Kerry the winner of Ohio's 20 electoral votes because, they said, numerous irregularities at Ohio polling places favored Bush.

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