Scripps Howard News Service
January 07, 2005
In a scene reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election, Democrats led by Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio charged that Election Day problems denied hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in Ohio the right to cast a ballot.
But unlike four years ago, when House Democrats could not get a single senator to join their protest, this time they found an ally in Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. She said that objecting to Ohio's electors was the only immediate way to bring attention to the state's electoral problems.
Kerry, who was visting with troops in the Middle East, did not take part in and did not support the protest. Other Democrats insisted that their goal was not to overturn the election, but merely to draw attention to the need for electoral reform.
"It's not about conspiracy," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "It's about the Constitution of the United States."
Republicans countered that Democrats upset with the election outcome were using the anomalies in Ohio to cast doubt on Bush's victory.
"It's called sour grapes," said Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Arizona.
Even before the first vote was cast in Ohio, Democrats and their allies began raising questions about the state's elections procedures. A recount of votes cast there showed that Bush defeated Kerry by about 118,000 votes. The victory gave Bush the state's 20 electoral votes and the electoral margin that he needed to win a second term.
But Democrats continue to cite what they say was a long list of Election Day problems in the state, including a shortage of voting machines, confusion over provisional ballots and unusually long lines, with some voters waiting up to 10 hours to cast a ballot.
A 102-page report released this week by the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee concluded that there were massive and unprecedented voter irregularities in Ohio and that many were caused by "intentional misconduct and illegal behavior" of Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.
Blackwell served as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio.
In an ironic case of role reversal, Republicans praised Kerry for "admirably" conceding the election and chastised "extreme elements" of the Democratic Party for failing to do the same.
Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, said the charges of irregularities are "wild, incoherent and completely unsubstantiated." Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the country needs to put to rest "an undisputed election."
"Ohioans know how to count," he said.
The protest began shortly after 1 p.m. EST, when the House and Senate gathered in a joint session to count electoral votes. The proceedings, with Vice President Dick Cheney presiding, began with a roll call of states. As each state was called alphabetically, the state's electoral votes were read out loud and entered into the official record.
When it came time to count the votes from Ohio, Tubbs Jones and Boxer lodged a formal challenge of the state's electors. Members then went back to their respective chambers to debate the irregularities in Ohio.
The debate in the Senate lasted about an hour and ended when senators voted 74-1 to accept Ohio's votes. Boxer cast the only no vote.
The House debate ran two hours and ended with a 267-31 vote to uphold Ohio's electors.
The two chambers then returned to a joint session and certified Bush's re-election. Bush got 286 electoral votes, while Kerry got 251. The candidate needed 270 to win.