The 2004 presidential election was determined by the results of Ohio. The unofficial result, as reported on November 3, had George Bush with approximately 136,000 more votes than John Kerry. Senator Kerry conceded the election to President Bush. He also said every vote would be counted.
I have been vigilant in monitoring Ohio's election in 2004. Attorneys from my party closely monitored the election before and during election day. While there were some incidents of voter intimidation noted by the attorneys, most if not all cases were resolved at the scene because of quick action by challengers, witnesses, the Kerry campaign, and volunteers from other campaigns including my own.
The unofficial count gave Ohio to George Bush by approximately 136,000 votes. The official count by county Boards of Election will begin on Saturday, November 13, 2004. It is due at the Secretary of State's office by December 1. The Secretary of State must certify the election by December 3.
During this interim period, attorneys from both political parties, and those representing me, will be watching the procedures by county Boards of Elections carefully. Among the most important issues to note is the counting of the overvotes. Overvotes occur when more than one candidate is indicated on the punch card. Another issue relates to whether all properly cast provisional ballots will be counted.
My constituents have also brought other issues to my attention. In an effort to provide appropriate government oversight, I am reviewing every issue and bringing them to the attention of attorneys, congressional authorities, party officials, or Boards of Elections, as appropriate. I want to assure my constituents and others who have contacted me with their concerns, that I am paying c lose attention to this important period of time between the initial results and the official vote tabulation and will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action where supported by facts.
Serious problems surfaced in this election that must be addressed at the state and national level. Some were inefficiencies in handling the massive turn out. No citizen should have to wait for hours to vote, or worry whether their vote was actually counted.
Glitches in electronic voting in the Columbus area should move all legislatures to demand paper receipts for voting machines. Without such a paper trail, no true recount can ever be done. Note that no Diebold electronic voting machines were employed in Ohio.
Clear efforts at voter suppression and intimidation were well handled by the courts and election officials. Dirty tricks occurred across the state, including phony letters from Boards of Elections telling people that their registration through some Democratic activist groups were invalid and that Kerry voters were to report on Wednesday because of massive voter turnout. Phone calls to voters giving them erroneous polling information were also common. Attempts to subvert our right to fair elections must be investigated and prosecuted when possible.
With passion running so high in this country and specter of Florida 2000 still hanging over the presidential voting process, it is important to gather hard evidence prior to disputing the legitimacy of the election.
Meanwhile, it is obvious that the Help America Vote Act of 2002 needs to be refined. Arduous voter identification rules unfairly penalize the poor, lead to a violation of rights and defeat the intent of the act.
The official tabulation of votes for Ohio will begin on Saturday and will include four categories not reflected in the unofficial count: provisional ballots, late absentee ballots, overseas military and overseas civilian.
If the difference between George Bush and John Kerry is less than one quarter of one percent after the official tally is completed (about 16,000 votes) an automatic recount occurs under Ohio law.
If the margin is greater than one quarter of one percent, a candidate can request a recount at an expense to the candidate of $10 per precinct. Because there are approximately 12,000 precincts in Ohio, the recount would cost about $120,000, before legal fees. A recount would entail a visual inspection of every punch card ballot.
I believe we must pursue every lead which raises questions about the integrity of the electoral process. Our work may not change the outcome, but it will demonstrate that beyond our commitment to our candidates, we have a higher commitment to our democracy.
Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) is Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.