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Ohio Certifies Bush Victory, but Recount Push Continues

Third-party candidates, with the support of the Kerry campaign, plan to file their requests today. Republicans call the effort pointless.

December 07, 2004|From Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — This battleground state Monday certified President Bush's 119,000-vote victory over Sen. John F. Kerry, even as the Kerry campaign and third-party candidates prepared to demand a statewide recount.

The president won Ohio with 2.86 million votes, or 51%, to Kerry's 2.74 million votes, or 49%.

The 118,775-vote lead was closer than the unofficial election night margin of 136,000, but not enough to trigger a mandatory recount. Absentee ballots and provisional votes counted after election night made up most of the difference.

"This was an election where you have some glitches, but none of these glitches were of a conspiratorial nature and none of them would overturn or change the election results," said Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who, as the state's chief election official, certified the results.

The presidential election hung on Ohio, prized for its 20 electoral votes. Not until the morning after the election did Kerry concede -- realizing there were not enough provisional ballots to erase Bush's lead.

But critics have cited numerous election day problems, from long lines, a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority neighborhoods and suspicious vote totals for candidates in scattered precincts.

The Kerry campaign last week joined the presidential candidates for the Green and Libertarian parties, who are seeking a recount. The candidates, who received less than 0.5% of the Ohio vote, planned to file their requests today. The Kerry camp is not disputing the outcome of the race, but wants to ensure that every vote is counted.

A ruling by a federal judge in Columbus on Friday rejected one county's attempt to stop a recount, avoiding a legal precedent that could have stopped other recounts. Green and Libertarian party candidates have already raised the required $113,600 for the recounts.

Republicans said conducting a recount was pointless.

"If there's a recount, there's going to be two losers -- John Kerry and the Ohio taxpayer," said Mark Weaver, a lawyer representing the Ohio Republican Party. "It's going to cost more than $1.5 million to find out what we already know."

The amount the candidates have raised is based on state law calculating the cost of a recount to be $10 a precinct, but Blackwell's office has said a more realistic price tag is $1.5 million.

About 20 people protested outside Blackwell's office Monday, demanding Blackwell postpone the Dec. 13 electoral college vote in Ohio until the recount is finished. Blackwell said the vote would take place.

Keith Cunningham, vice president of the state election boards association, bristled at suggestions that the election was plagued by fraud or widespread error.

"To actually assert that elections officials in Ohio have intentionally done something is beyond insulting," he said. "I know election officials all over the state -- it's just fantasy run wild."

The Democratic Party also said Monday that it would examine reports of voting problems in Ohio.

Outgoing Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the party would spend "whatever it takes" to study complaints from Ohio voters.

McAuliffe said the study would be conducted by nonpartisan experts to be announced later, with a report issued in the spring that would recommend reforms to prevent such problems in the future.

When asked if the president supported an investigation into voting irregularities in Ohio, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the election "was viewed as very free and fair."

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