11/19/2004

Democrats take up fight over ballots

Democrats take up fight over ballots
Democrats take up fight over ballots

Cincinnati - Seeming to brush aside John Kerry's concession speech, the Ohio Democratic Party has launched a federal court fight over nearly 155,000 provisional ballots by contending a proper accounting of those votes might decide who really won.

In Ohio, Bush now holds a lead of about 136,000 votes over Kerry.

County officials across the state began tabulating provisional ballots Friday.

"Given the closeness of the presidential and other elections," Ohio's provisional ballots "may prove determinative of the outcome," Democrats argue in a legal filing made public Wednesday by the U.S. District Court.

The lawsuit asked U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson to order Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to impose uniform standards for counting provisional votes on all 88 counties. Democrats want the judge to take action quickly - before the results of the election are certified.

Watson, who was appointed by Bush, has not set a hearing.

Don McTigue, a Columbus lawyer who filed the lawsuit for the Ohio Democratic Party, said the Democrats have concerns that different standards are being applied from county to county.

"Our action is not tied to some hope of changing the outcome of the election. We're being consistent with the Kerry campaign, and the Democratic Party's interest in seeing all eligible ballots are counted," McTigue said.

Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Blackwell, defended Ohio's rules for handling provisional ballots as explicit. He said Blackwell, a Republican, is adamant that every valid vote will be counted.

In court papers, the Democrats cite Bush v. Gore - the Supreme Court ruling after Florida's contested election that awarded Bush the White House in 2000 - as a legal precedent for the Ohio lawsuit. That case was decided by a majority of five justices.

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