Congressman asks Democrats to challenge Ohio results

WASHINGTON – The senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee protested President Bush’s re-election Wednesday with a new report claiming serious election irregularities and "significant disenfranchisement" of voters in Ohio.

The report by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan says Congress should challenge the Electoral College vote when it is tallied Thursday in the House of Representatives and investigate all claims of voter problems in Ohio.

"We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election," the report said. "There are ample grounds for challenging the electors from the state of Ohio."

Ohio’s 20 electoral votes were critical for Bush’s defeat of Democratic Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. A recount showed Bush winning Ohio by 118,599 votes, the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office announced Wednesday.

The 102-page report titled "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio?" lists such problems as unusually long lines, a shortage of voting machines in Democratic-leaning areas, confusion over provisional ballot rules and computer problems.

The report also contends there were widespread instances of intimidation and misinformation, improper purging of voter registration lists, a lack of inspection for about 93,000 ballots where no vote was cast for president, and vote totals not matching registration numbers or exit poll data.

"In many cases these irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio," the report said.

Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Ohio’s Blackwell, called the report "ludicrous" and a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. He said every ballot was inspected during the recount and many of the complaints have been investigated and found to be inaccurate.

"There are absolutely no grounds for challenging Ohio’s electors," LoParo said.

Meanwhile, several House Democrats were looking for a senator to co-sponsor their challenge of Ohio’s 20 electoral votes.

The report was sent with a letter signed by 24 House Democrats to Senate leaders, claiming that the "massive and unprecedented extent of irregularities in Ohio raise grave doubts" about the state’s Electoral College votes.

A single senator supporting the effort would by law require the two chambers to meet separately for up to two hours and consider the objection. Democratic aides said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., might support such a move.

That scenario would still ensure Bush’s re-election because both Republican-controlled bodies would have to uphold the challenge for it to succeed. Supporters of the challenge are hoping to call attention to the Ohio voting problems.

Conyers and a few other Democrats have likened the Ohio results to the contested but much closer vote in Florida four years ago when Bush defeated Vice President Al Gore for the White House.

A small number of House Democrats challenged Florida’s electoral votes in January 2001 but could not persuade a senator to join them.

In a letter sent to supporters Wednesday, Kerry said he would not take part in a formal protest of the Ohio Electors because, despite widespread reports of voting irregularities, his legal team had "found no evidence that would change the outcome of the election."

Kerry said he planned to introduce election reform legislation and push for congressional hearings on the voting irregularities.