Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Kerry Team Seeks to Join Recount Fight

From the Washington Post's Wednesday edition:

Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign asked an Ohio judge yesterday to allow it to join a legal fight there over whether election officials in one county may sit out the state's impending recount.

A pair of third-party presidential candidates, who said that reports of problems at the polls on Election Day are not being addressed, are forcing the Buckeye State to recount its entire presidential vote.

But David A. Yost, a lawyer for Delaware County, just outside Columbus, won a temporary restraining order last week blocking any recount there. He told the Columbus Dispatch that a second count would be a poor use of county resources. President Bush won the mostly Republican area handily, unofficial results show.

Lawyers for the Kerry campaign asked to join Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb, Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik and the National Voting Rights Institute in the fight to force the county to participate in the recount. "If there's going to be a recount in Ohio, we don't want it to exclude Delaware County or any other county that might decide to follow Delaware County's lead," Kerry lawyer Dan Hoffheimer said. "It should be a full, fair and accurate recount."


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Although I've stayed on top of the ongoing Ohio recount efforts, I'm squarely in the camp that Kerry lost the election. But one important question that may be answered by a recount is whether the electronic voting machines worked.

If you start from that point -- that the recount is purely for the sake of making sure democracy works, and not to overturn the election -- then the question is, why won't Delaware County do the right thing and follow the law?

For that matter, why is Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell dragging his feet on the recount?

Consider this story, from today's Seattle Times, which shows how far some Democrats will go to fight the Ohio GOP:

Cliff Arnebeck, an attorney for Boston-based political advocacy group Alliance for Democracy, plans to file a "contest of election" tomorrow. The request requires a single Supreme Court justice to either let the election stand, declare another winner or throw the whole thing out. The loser can appeal to the full seven-member court, dominated 5-2 by Republicans.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who along with other statewide GOP leaders was a co-chairman of Bush's re-election campaign in Ohio, has until Dec. 6 to certify the vote.

***

Should Blackwell take until Dec. 6, the recount would not begin until Dec. 11. Under that scenario, there wouldn't possibly be enough time to complete the recount before Dec. 13, the date that Electoral College electors must meet to cast their votes.

Strategically speaking, it would appear that Blackwell is waiting until the last possible moment to either a) force the various parties to call off their demands for a recount, which seems unlikely or b) make sure that the recount is an afterthought, as the Bush victory team marches toward inauguration day.

But again, if this is academic -- if there is truly no chance that the election will be overturned -- why the delays and legal moves to block or slowdown the recount? All that does is give life to the stereotype that Republicans are more interested in winning than living up to the ideals of a functioning democracy.

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