Post-Election Activity on Ohio See Links Below

Some citizens believed that Kerry had conceded Ohio too soon.  The state became a focal point for concerns about voter irregularities.  Provisional ballots remained an issue.  On November 15 the Ohio Democratic Party moved to intervene in Schering v. Blackwell, calling on U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson to order Blackwell to set "forth detailed standards, procedures, and rules for the evaluation and counting of provisional ballots to be implemented by each of the eighty-eight (88) Boards of Elections in Ohio."  On November 29 the People for the American Way Foundation filed a lawsuit seeking to force counting of more provisional ballots in Cuyahoga County.  The suit charged that the director of the county Board of Elections, in the absence of clear guidelines from the Secretary of State, had "repeatedly changed the criteria for determining whether a provisional ballot will be counted."  "Some requirements were announced only to be withdrawn and then later reasserted, all in a period of a few days," it stated.

On November 17 David Cobb and Michael Badnarik, the Green Party and Libertarian Party presidential candidates, signalled their intention of doing a recount in Ohio; the rationale was accuracy rather than any hope of overturning the result.  (The Kerry-Edwards campaign joined in several weeks later).  On December 2 Congressman John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, addressed a 14-page letter to Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell requesting that he respond to 34 questions (a follow-up letter on December 3 contained two more questions).  Conyers also hosted a couple of forums.  The first "Preserving Democracy - What Went Wrong in Ohio" was held on Capitol Hill on December 8 and a second followed December 13 in Columbus, Ohio.  The Democratic National Committee joined the fray, announcing on December 6 that it would conduct "a comprehensive investigative study of key election practices and issues surrounding the 2004 general election in Ohio."

On December 6 Secretary of State Blackwell certified the results. On December 13 Ohio's 20 electors met in Columbus and cast their votes for George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney.

Also on December 13 the recount pursued by Cobb and Badnarik finally started.  The National Voting Rights Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit based in Boston, acted as counsel for the two third-party candidates throughout the process.  Back on November 17 NVRI, for Cobb and Badnarik, had sent letters to the state's 88 election directors requesting that they begin making preparations for a recount.  In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo on November 22 the two third-party candidates sought to have the recount begin immediately, arguing that if they were required to wait until the returns were certified their would not be sufficient time to do a meaningful recount.  Judge James G. Carr, in a November 23 decision, declined to issue such an order.  A statewide recount in Ohio is actually 88 separate recounts, one in each county, consisting of manual recounts in randomly selected precincts accounting for 3 percent of the total vote in the county.  The party seeking the recount must pay $10 per precinct, or a statewide total of $113,620.  The actual cost was significantly higher -- a frequently cited estimate was $1.5 million -- and for that reason a number of election officials opposed a recount.  Indeed the Delaware County Board of Elections filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus seeking an order to block a recount; Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. rejected that effort on December 3.  After Secretary Blackwell issued an "Outline of Recount Procedures" on December 7, Cobb and Badnarik's team went to the U.S. District Court seeking an injunction to force him to require county board of elections "to use adequate and uniform standards" in the recount.  The  recount began on December 13 in eight smaller counties, more counties started on subsequent days, and it finished on December 28.  On December 30 attorneys for Cobb and Badnarik went back to the U.S. District Court seeking a second recount on the grounds that the first one had not been done in accordance with uniform standards.  In May 9, 2005 Judge Sargus transferred the case to the U.S. District Court in Toledo to be joined with Rios v. Blackwell.  Although the recount ended up being a symbolic exercise, it did serve to highlight structural problems with Ohio's recount process.  If the presidential race had been close enough to necessitate a recount, a Florida-like crisis might well have resulted.

Additionally on December 13, before the Electoral College met, a coalition called the "Ohio Honest Election Campaign" had filed a lawsuit, Moss v. Bush, in the Ohio Supreme Court challenging the certification of electors and the election of the Chief Justice.  (Note a reformulated version was filed on December 17 after the initial suit had been dismissed because it involved two election contests).  Attorneys for the Ohio Honest Election Campaign were Clifford O. Arnebeck Jr., a Columbus-based attorney who represents The Alliance for Democracy and is chair of the legal affairs committee for Common Cause-Ohio, Robert Fitrakis, PhD, executive director and editor of the Columbus Free Press, and a professor of political science at Columbus State Community College, and Susan Truitt, co-founder of the Citizen’s Alliance for Secure Elections-Ohio, later joined by Peter Peckarsky, a Washington, DC attorney.  Their suit on behalf of 37 Ohio citizens made numerous charges, for example accusing the Republican campaign of engineering a "pattern of vote fraud and discrimination" and Secretary of State Blackwell of engaging in "the commission of numerous instances of election fraud in violation of Ohio criminal law after November 2, 2004."  Later in December the contestors sought unsuccessfully to have Chief Justice Moyer recuse himself from the case.  On January 11, 2005, the electoral votes having been counted, they requested that their suit be dismissed.  It was, but that wasn't the end of the story.  On January 18 Blackwell and the 20 electors requested that sactions be applied against the attorneys because their lawsuit had been without merit, filed “only for partisan political purposes” and aimed at “generating headlines and harassing the rightful winners of the election.”  Moyer ruled against sanctions in May 19, 2005 decision >.

Democrats pushed concerns over voting in Ohio to the fore in Congress for a couple of days in early January 2005.  On January 5 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee issued their report "Preserving Democracy - What Went Wrong in Ohio."  On January 6 during the special Joint Session held to certify the Electoral College results, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH), supported by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), rose and announced a challenge to Ohio's electors.  Jones stated she took the action not with "the hope or even the hint of overturning the victory of the President" but in an effort to force Congress to conduct "a formal and legitimate debate about election irregularities."  In a field hearing held in Columbus on March 21 by the U.S. House Committee on House Administration, Blackwell charged Judiciary Committee Democrats' report contained "several misleading and intellectually dishonest assertions " and termed the challenge to Ohio's electors a "stunning and disgraceful display." At the same hearing Mark F. (Thor) Hearne, II, testifying for group called the American Center for Voting Rights, emphasized numerous reports of voter registration fraud.

House Judiciary Committee Democrats' status report "Preserving Democracy - What Went Wrong in Ohio."  Jan. 5, 2005. [PDF]
"We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these
irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards."
  Judiciary Committee Democrats' “2004 Election Forum” in Columbus, OH.  Dec. 13, 2004.
  Judiciary Committee Democrats' forum "Preserving Democracy - What Went Wrong in Ohio" in Washington, DC.  Dec. 8, 2004.
  Letter from Rep. Conyers to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell Requesting Responses to 34 Questions.  Dec. 2, 2004. [PDF]
  Letter from Rep. Conyers to federal and local authorities charging inappropriate and likely illegal election tampering in Hocking County.  Dec. 15, 2004.

Committee on House Administration field hearing on the Help America Vote Act in Columbus, OH.  March 21, 2005>>

American Center for Voting Rights report "Ohio Election Activities and Observations."  March 21, 2005.  [PDF]

Democratic National Committee report "DEMOCRACY AT RISK: The 2004 Election in Ohio."  June 22, 2005.  [PDF]
"Our review demonstrates that numerous irregularities characterized the Ohio election: we find evidence of voter confusion, voter suppression, and negligence and incompetence of election officials...  Our investigation and analysis reveal that more than one quarter of all voters in Ohio reported some kind of problem on Election Day, including long lines, problems with registration status and polling locations, absentee ballots and provisional ballots and unlawful identification requirements at the polls."
  DNC Chairman Gov. Howard Dean's prepared remarks  |  photos
  DNC Press Release Announcing Members of the Task Force.  (March 3, 2005).
  Democratic National Committee Press Release Announcing Investigation.  (Dec. 6, 2004).

National Voting Rights Institute Ohio Recount page
Cobb-LaMarche '04 recount page
Recount Ohio

Copyright © 2004, 2005  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.