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Ohio Democrats Offer Support for Recount Effort

By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, November 24, 2004; Page A08

The Ohio Democratic Party announced this week that it is supporting a third-party-led effort to force the battleground state to recount its presidential vote.

The organization, whose decision is expected to give more legitimacy to the recount push, complained that Ohio voters faced long lines at the polls Nov. 2, that some voting machines malfunctioned and that some absentee ballots were never delivered.

"As Senator Kerry stated in his concession speech in Boston, we do not necessarily expect the results of the election to change; however, we believe it necessary to make sure everyone's vote is counted fairly and accurately," said the party chairman, Dennis L. White. The Democrats are not helping to pay for the recount but will keep close tabs on legal decisions that affect it and place observers in each of the state's 88 counties to monitor the tabulation.

The impending recount was initially spurred by a pair of third-party presidential candidates who said they were concerned that rumors of voter fraud in Ohio were not being addressed. President Bush won the critical state by 136,000 votes, according to unofficial returns. State law allows candidates to demand recounts if they agree to pay -- about $113,000 for a statewide recount. Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Michael Badnarik, who won few votes in the Buckeye State, raised the money within days of announcing their plans to do so earlier this month.

The Kerry campaign said it intends to monitor the proceedings for irregularities. "We didn't ask for it," said Dan Hoffheimer, the campaign's legal counsel. "But since it's apparently going to happen, we want to make sure it gets done right."

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Ohio yesterday rejected the bid by Cobb and Badnarik to force the state to expedite its ongoing initial vote count. The pair had complained that the current schedule would not allow enough time for the state to conduct a recount before Ohio's electors gather Dec. 13 to cast their electoral votes for president -- rendering any recount largely meaningless. Cobb spokesman Blair Bobier called the court's decision "disappointing" and said the campaign is considering an appeal.

A spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell dismissed the candidates' allegations. "We did not experience any significant irregularities," Carlo LoParo said. "Half of the world's media was in Ohio monitoring the election. I would think that if there were significant issues of election irregularities, you would have reported them the day after the election."

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