The Ohio Republican Party challenged the eligibility of 35,000 newly registered voters yesterday, an action that party officials said was unprecedented but necessary to prevent election fraud in a state where polls show President Bush and John F. Kerry in a statistical tie.
Most of the 35,000 voters live in urban, Democratic areas, party spokesman Jason Mauk said. Local party officials, joined by Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie at a news conference, said the voters were mainly registered by "shadowy" Democratic-leaning groups and were chosen after the GOP sent them mail that was returned as undeliverable.
The party also announced plans to send election observers to nearly 8,000 precincts, drawing on an old, little-used law that allows at-the-poll eligibility challenges.
Democrats immediately denounced the move as a plot to keep voters from the polls. Returned mail or failure to vote in previous elections is not proof that a voter is not eligible, said David Sullivan, the party's voter protection coordinator in Ohio.
-- Jo Becker