Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Forty voters want Ohio vote tossed out -- Complaint asks Ohio high court to declare Kerry election winner

By JOHN NOLAN, Associated Press Writer

CINCINNATI — A complaint that asks the Ohio Supreme Court to set aside the results of the Nov. 2 election and declare Democrat John Kerry the winner of the state’s 20 electoral votes could face an uphill battle, political analysts said Tuesday.

The complaint filed Monday by 40 Ohio voters cited reports of voting machine errors, double-counting of some ballots and a shortage of voting machines in some majority-black voting precincts as reasons to throw out the election results that showed President Bush winning Ohio, a state crucial to his re-election. The voters said they believe those were indications of election fraud.

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

The Ohio Supreme Court had not ruled on the complaint Tuesday.

Election and voting procedures remain under scrutiny in Ohio, a state where Bush and Kerry frequently campaigned this year.

County election boards across Ohio are doing ballot recounts this week at the request of third-party presidential candidates.

On Tuesday in Akron, U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. upheld punch-card voting in the nation’s first trial challenging that method of voting.

The American Civil Liberties Union had argued that punch-card machines are not uniform, are outdated in several counties and don’t allow voters to correct mistakes. The ACLU also claimed that Ohio violated the voting rights of blacks, who live predominantly in punch-card counties.

“All voters in a county, regardless of race, use the same voting system to cast a ballot, and no one is denied the opportunity to cast a valid vote because of their race,” Dowd said in a 32-page ruling.

While voting systems might be imperfect, Dowd said, outlawing certain types of voting machines might delay development of improved voting equipment.

A message seeking comment was left at ACLU offices in Cleveland.

Punch-card ballots are used in 69 of 88 Ohio counties, representing nearly 73 percent of registered voters.

Basing the claim before the Ohio Supreme Court on what exit polls indicated is tenuous because the exit-polling predictions turned out to be wrong, political analysts said.

“The exit polls were wrong. They were terribly wrong,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. “These were the same exit polls which had Bush losing Virginia — which he won by a large margin.”

Herb Asher, an Ohio State University political scientist, said election results don’t necessarily reflect exit polls.

“We all know that exit polls can be wrong. Exit polls are basically a sample,” he said.

Asher said Ohio would be better served to review the problems that occurred during the election and find solutions to ensure a smoother election the next time.

Exit poll data was delivered to the National Election Pool — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and The Associated Press — by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, which the pool hired to do the exit polling.

“Exit polling should not be confused in any way with the actual vote counts,” Edie Emery, a spokeswoman for the National Election Pool, said Tuesday.

Cliff Arnebeck, a Columbus lawyer for the voters who filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, said it is valid to cite exit polls as a basis for the complaint.

“Exit polling is conducted under the sponsorship of responsible news organizations whose only commitment is to the truth under the highest standards of journalism,” Arnebeck said Tuesday.

“Exit polls by their very nature are not 100 percent accurate,” said Mark Weaver, an attorney for the Ohio Republican Party. “Whenever we talk to a small handful of people and try to extrapolate their views into everybody’s views, there are potential errors.”

The voters named as plaintiffs in the complaint Arnebeck filed said they are registered voters and that they cast ballots in the Nov. 2 presidential election. The complaint doesn’t indicate which candidate they supported.

“It’s not relevant,” Arnebeck said. “Our purpose is not partisan. Our purpose is to get at the truth.”


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