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Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, December 21
 
Developments in Ohio
The radio silence in the past few days is due to the end-of-the-semester crunch. I've now left the cold and snow for the holidays, which I'll be spending in Southern California. The situation in Ohio nevertheless remains interesting. Here are some observations -- from afar -- on a few items that have appeared in the past several days.

- The recount of the vote in Ohio's 88 counties is nearly complete, according to this AP story. Not surprisingly, the recount has thus far resulted in only a slight change in the vote totals. With the recount results reported for all but two counties, it's trimmed 242 votes off of Bush's approximately 119,000 vote margin of victory. Although some Democratic-leaning groups continue to argue that electronic voting -- used in seven of Ohio's 88 counties -- was used to steal votes, there's precious little evidence to support this claim. The AP's review of electronic voting found "few reports of widespread problems. "

- A contest of Ohio's presidential election result was re-filed on Friday, according to this AP report. The re-filed contest petition and other documents from the Moss v. Bush case can be found here. The original contest petition was rejected on procedural grounds, because it included both the presidential election and the election for Ohio's chief justice. Relying largely on the discrepancy between early exit polls and the reported results, the contest petition alleges that Bush was not legitimately elected.

- So what about the substance of the petition's claim that the exit poll results demonstrate a calculated plan by Bush, Cheney, Rove and company to steal the Ohio election? (And no, that's not an exaggeration of their claim -- see paragraphs 79 and 81 of the petition.) For more on the basis for petitioner's claims, see this discussion of "The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy" by Steve Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania. For a different view, see this response from MIT's Charles Stewart III. He finds no relationship between the voting equipment used and the discrepancy between exit poll and actual results. Also worth look is this analysis on Mark Blumenthal's "Mystery Pollster" blog. Stewart's and Blumenthal's analysis both cast doubt on the use of early exit polls to challenge election results.

- That doesn't mean there weren't serious problems with Ohio's election. The board of election chairs in both Franklin County (Columbus area) and Hamilton County (Cincinnati area) have publicly criticized actions of Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell in the days leading up to the election. Franklin County Chair William A. Anthony, Jr. comments:
A lot of the problems and allegations could have been avoided if the Secretary of State hadn't made the rulings he did in the last few days leading up to the election .... We in the local election boards tried to do the best we could [with these rulings].... All across this county, we didnt have enough voting machines. People are blaming us at the local level, but the real blame should be placed on Blackwell, HAVA and the Republican state legislature.
See here for more. Anthony also criticizes Blackwell's office for waiting until 37 days before the election to issue a directive regarding provisional voting.

- Blackwell scored a victory in federal court last week, when U.S. District Judge ruled that the state's use of punch cards does not violate either the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. (Disclosure: I'm co-counsel for the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.) The Akron Beacon-Journal has this report, which includes my assessment of the court's ruling.

- Meanwhile, the Toledo Blade reports here on Blackwell's plan to run for governor of Ohio in 2006. While criticism of Secretary of State Blackwell is coming from prominent Democrats, some Republicans say that his conduct of the 2004 election will actually enhance his chances of getting the GOP nomination. According to one poll -- paid for by Blackwell's campaign -- 77% of Republican voters say they approve of his handling of the election.

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