12/14/04 4:45pm EST
Yesterday, I reported on a phone interview with Carlo LoParo, a spokesperson for Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. One of the items LoParo repeatedly stressed was that 'each county in Ohio has an election board consisting of two Republicans and two Democrats' and that each board 'unanimously voted to certify their election results on December 6th.'...he urged me to contact these Democratic party chairs if I 'had any doubt' as to the conduct of the elections in any of Ohio's 88 county's, including oft discussed Franklin and Hamilton counties. So, I contacted Hamilton County's Board of elections Chair (Franklin's board did not return calls), but his comments did not line up with those coming out of the Secretary of State's office.
'I feel mixed' said Hamilton County Board of Elections chair Tim Burke, when asked about LoParo's comments. Burke, who is also the chairperson for the Hamilton County Democratic Party went on to say that he felt 'we accurately counted the ballots we all agreed on, yes, BUT, Conflicting decisions by the Secretary of State in the days and weeks leading up to election day, and in some cases made the morning of election day caused confusion and disenfranchised thousands around the state.' Burke also suggested that there were many more ballots that were not counted even though he felt that they should have been. 'On just provisional ballots 1100 were not counted in Hamilton County because of confusing information that sent people to the wrong precinct. In past years it would not have mattered because their ballots would have been accepted, but the Secretary of State made a very restricted ruling regarding provisional ballots and as a result, this election is the first election that votes like these were not counted...an additional 451 voters were disenfranchised when they arrived at the correct polling place, but voted at the wrong table (some locations served more than one precinct by using seperate tables).
Burke acknowledged that not all of the confusion can be attributed to the Secretary of State. Some of the confusion came as a result of the various court battles and resultant rulings that required changes to voting procedures. But Burke stressed that most of the confusion came as a result of conflicting messages from the Secretary of State [regarding where voters were to cast their ballots and other issues] and pointed to the recount about to start in Ohio as an example that the confusing messages are continuing.
Initially, a week ago, according to Burke, the Secretary of State sent out an order requiring that party witnesses to the recount had to have a designation note signed by the candidate. Thus, for the Democratic Party's 88 witnesses (one for each Ohio County's recount) John Kerry had to personally sign their letter designating them as the party's official witness, and the Ohio State Democratic Party and Senator Kerry had spent a fair amount of time, effort and money working to get that accomplished. Today, Blackwell backed off on that requirement significantly, allowing the certification of party witnesses to be signed off by local or state party organizations.
Meanwhile, the otherwise quiet Kerry/Edwards campaign weighed in on the recount with this email I received from their Ohio State Counsel, Daniel J. Hoffheimer of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP:
'The Kerry-Edwards Campaign supports the right of the third-party candidates to obtain a thorough recount of the Presidential election in Ohio. We, too, have appointed witnesses in boards of elections across Ohio who are witnessing the recount to make sure it is thorough, fair, and complete. The third-party candidates and others are also contesting the election and seeking legal remedies in the Supreme Court of Ohio for claimed election improprieties and anomalies, as is their right under the law.
'In the course of the election in Ohio, including the administration of the election before and on Election Day, the counting of ballots, the official canvass and certification, litigation, the recount, and now the third-party candidates' lawsuit contesting the election in Ohio, many allegations have been made of improprieties and anomalies. These alleged problems brought forward by many citizens go well beyond the facts known to the Kerry-Edwards Campaign from our own voter protection work before, on, and even since Election Day. It is essential that every voting irregularity in Ohio and elsewhere be investigated, understood, and reported to the public--not because it will change the outcome of this Presidential election but because it is essential to assure all Americans that their votes are counted. The integrity of our democracy, in this and in future elections, depends upon a full and open disclosure and understanding of all of the problems that have occurred so that the American people and their representatives can fix them.'
Steven Leser, email@example.com
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