Published on Wednesday, December 1, 2004 by the Guardian/UK
Voters to Challenge US Election
by Julian Borger
George Bush's victory in the US presidential election will be challenged in Ohio's supreme court today, when a group of Democratic voters will allege widespread fraud.
President Bush clinched re-election by winning the state of Ohio on November 2 by a margin of 136,000 votes over the Democratic candidate, John Kerry. Despite claims of fraud and technical glitches, Senator Kerry decided that they were not big enough to affect the result and conceded the election on November 3.
However, Cliff Arnebeck, a lawyer representing a group of voters challenging the Ohio result, claimed new analysis of various anomalies suggested it was rigged.
"We'll be calling for a reversal of the result based on evidence developed in the course of litigation," Mr Arnebeck told The Guardian yesterday. "Exit polling and substantial irregularities excluded votes that should have been counted. There is evidence that votes cast for one candidate were moved to the column of the other candidate."
Mr Arnebeck, a legal adviser to a liberal group, Alliance for Democracy, said the "contest of election" lawsuit will be presented to a judge from the Ohio supreme court today on behalf of at least 25 disgruntled voters. He said he expected other voters and organisations to join the case.
Ohio's secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, has until Monday to certify the result. His office did not return calls seeking comment yesterday but his spokesman, Carlo LoParo, told the Associated Press news agency: "There are no signs of widespread irregularities."
Mr Arnebeck said that hearings held in Ohio cities have brought to light new evidence of malpractice. He said one voter of a pro-Republican group caught destroying Democratic registration documents in Nevada before the election, had also been operating in Ohio.
Critics of the Ohio count have also pointed to the case of an electronic voting machine found to have credited President Bush with 3,893 extra votes in a suburb of Columbus where only 638 people voted. State officials have said those votes will not be included in the final certified totals.
There have also been complaints focused on punch card ballots, of the type which caused chaos in Florida in 2000. Voting involves making a hole in the ballot against the chosen candidate by punching out a small piece of card, a chad, with a stylus.
In the 68 Ohio counties where the ballots were used this year, according to some groups protesting at this year's election, vote counters were unable to determine a vote for the president, but did register votes for other offices.
The veteran civil rights leader, Reverend Jesse Jackson, is spearheading the call for an Ohio recount. "We can live with winning and losing. We cannot live with fraud and stealing," he said earlier this week.
The election challenge will be reviewed by a single judge out of the seven members of Ohio's supreme court, who may let the election stand, declare another winner, or throw out the result, forcing a recount or even a new vote. The ruling can be appealed to the full court.
Exit polls on election day suggested that the election could be heading towards a Kerry victory, deepening the despair in Democratic ranks at the Bush win. The anomaly was blamed on the exit polls, but Mr Arnebeck argued that it was evidence of malpractice.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004