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DNC to Investigate Ohio Voting Irregularities

By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2004; Page A10

The leader of the Democratic National Committee announced yesterday that he will launch an investigation into voting irregularities in Ohio, where lines snaked outside some inner-city polling places on Election Day and provisional ballots were sometimes in short supply.

Terence R. McAuliffe, chairman of the DNC, said the aim of "this comprehensive study is not to contest the results of the 2004 election, but to help ensure that every eligible vote cast is truly counted."

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McAuliffe made his announcement on the same day that Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell certified the state's final presidential election results, declaring President Bush the winner over Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) by 119,000 votes, or about 51 percent to 49 percent.

The certified result narrowed the 130,000-vote margin credited to Bush shortly after Election Day but was not close enough to trigger an automatic recount. Still, largely Democratic activists and lawyers have raised numerous questions about the Ohio vote, particularly in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, where black voters reportedly faced long lines and voting machines that failed to work.

McAuliffe, along with DNC voting rights chair Donna Brazile, said a team of lawyers and voting rights experts will be formed in coming weeks. The study should be completed next spring, he said.

"We have no concern" about the Democrats' study, said Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Blackwell.

If McAuliffe wants to know what happened in Ohio, LoParo said, he should ask the 88 Democratic county chairmen who voted to certify the state's election results.

LoParo said Ohio's certification of provisional ballots was among the highest in the nation, and that there were long lines at polling places across the nation.

He said that at one polling station, at Kenyon College in Knox County, some voters had to wait six hours because Democratic and Republican campus groups registered thousands of students. They voted at a precinct "that normally handles a few hundred people," LoParo said.

A few hours before the DNC news conference, three activist groups -- People for the American Way, the NAACP and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law -- released a report detailing evidence of "voter disenfranchisement" nationwide.

Although DNC officials and members of the activist groups said their announcements were not coordinated, they made similar remarks about problems voters encountered.

The groups' report, "Shattering the Myth: An Initial Snapshot of Voter Disenfranchisement in the 2004 Elections," said thousands of election volunteers witnessed voter suppression by a poll judge who peeked into voting booths, electronic voting machines that assigned votes to Bush after voters pressed Kerry's name and three-hour waits in line.

"We have tens of thousands of individuals on record simultaneously," said Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way. "We've never had this before. It's an extraordinary document."

Neas, who was joined by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and civil rights lawyer Barbara Arnwine, said lawsuits are being prepared to challenge conservatives' electioneering tactics in some states.

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