Ohio Election Officials Bristle Under Recount Requests

Reported by: A.P.
11/22/04 4:20:23 PM
Third-party candidates for president said they would sue in federal court Monday to force a recount of Ohio ballots before returns are certified next week -- prompting one election official to say he might mobilize fellow counties to resist a recount.

"Counties are very upset," said Keith Cunningham, director of the Allen County Board of Elections and incoming president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, who called the lawsuit "frivolous."

"Commissioners are beginning to understand -- and if they don't, will understand soon -- what kind of financial impact this is going to have on them, in a year when elections already cost a great deal more than expected," Cunningham said.

Libertarian Michael Badnarik and the Green Party's David Cobb said last week that they had raised more than $150,000 to cover the state's fee for a recount.

Ohio law requires payment of $10 per precinct, or $113,600 statewide, but election officials say the true expense would be far greater.

"It's going to crush county governments," Cunningham said.

Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, has estimated the actual cost at $1.5 million.

Even though the two third-party candidates received a combined 0.26 percent of the vote in unofficial results, they contend a recount is necessary to ensure accuracy and that an immediate recount should begin, even though the official canvass is not complete.

Counties have until Dec. 3 to report official vote counts, and LoParo has said results will be certified by December 6.

"There's no final count. There's no number from which to begin a recount," LoParo said Monday.

The third-party candidates contend that would not allow enough time for a recount of Ohio's 5.5 million votes before the state's presidential electors meet December 13.

"Nothing could be more important to our country than ensuring the results of the Ohio presidential election are accurate and complete," Cobb said. "Our faith and trust in the democratic process all hinge on a fair, unbiased and transparent counting of ballots in Ohio."

That assertion offends Cunningham.

"The inference is that Ohio election officials will not count every vote," Cunningham said. "That's just insulting; it's frivolous and simply harassment."

Cunningham said he was consulting with officials in several counties before deciding whether to pursue legal action to prevent a recount.

"I need to see if this is merely my opinion or reflects the opinion of the association," he said.

"If, indeed, we are all forced to do the recount, the negative economic impact far outweighs any positive good that could come from this recount. My intention would be to attempt to argue in court that it's time for the secretary of state to take a stand and attest that every vote is being counted by local boards."

LoParo had no comment about the intention by the third-party candidates to file the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Toledo.

But he said there is no provision for a recount before the secretary of state certifies the final tallies from all 88 counties.

He said the state already is operating under an accelerated timetable because of the December 13 meeting of presidential electors.


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