1. What's the latest on the recount?
2. Why are you calling for a recount?
The Ohio presidential election was marred by numerous press and independent reports of mis-marked and discarded ballots, problems with electronic voting machines and the targeted disenfranchisement of African American voters. Over 90,000 votes were not counted, by some estimates, and in some cases electronic voting machines produced more votes than registered voters.
A number of citizens' groups and voting rights organizations held two hearings in Columbus, Ohio, soon after the election. Testimony from voters, poll watchers and election experts provided ample evidence of problems with the Ohio vote that will be more formally documented in the recount process.
3. Who has called for the recount?
The formal request for the recount has come from David Cobb, presidential candidate of the Green Party of the United States, and Michael Badnarik, presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party. In many ways, however, these candidates from different parts of the political spectrum are speaking for all voters in Ohio who were concerned that the process was not effectively counting the votes of all Ohioans.
4. Who is paying for the recount?
The recount is supported by many citizen groups and individuals from Ohio and across the nation. Thousands of donors raised $150,000 in four days to pay for the costs of filing for the recount. This is truly a grassroots movement, because almost all of the donations were from people giving $100 or less.
5. Are you just trying to defeat President Bush?
No. The purpose of the recount is not to help any one candidate in 2004, but to strengthen democracy in 2005 and beyond. This non-partisan effort is led by two third party candidates with very different political philosophies but with a common interest in preserving and strengthening democracy. The Democratic candidate chose not to call for a recount, but now that the filing fees have been raised, the recount demand has been filed, and the process is underway, his spokespersons have indicated that Democrats will participate as vote-counting observers in the 88 Ohio counties.
6. What will happen during the recount?
Ohio election law (Chapter 3515 of the Ohio Revised Code) contains detailed instructions about certain aspects of the recount, other aspects are determined by the Ohio Secretary of State, and others are not clearly defined, especially in the case of recounts requested by third party candidates. What is clear is that recount proceedings will take place in at least one location in each of the 88 Ohio counties, with election officials handling the ballots and representatives of the candidates watching as official observers.
Punch card ballots, which were a source of problems in Florida in 2000, were used by 70 percent of Ohio voters in 2004, so some of the scenes we all remember from Palm Beach County of electors holding up ballots to search for chads may be repeated. Ohio legislators did provide some guidance as to how to interpret contested ballots, so the recount should go more smoothly than the process in Florida in 2000, but the process still will take some time.
7. Why are you going to court to expedite the recount process?
As specified by an Act of Congress (3 U.S.C., Section 7), the Electoral College meets in each state this year on December 13. Congress also has stated that all controversies regarding the appointment of electors should be resolved six days before the Electoral College meets in order for the vote of the state's electors to be binding on Congress when Congress meets on January 6, 2005 to review the Electoral College votes and formally declare the winner of the 2004 presidential election. The date by which controversies should be resolved, known as the "safe harbor" deadline, falls on December 7 this year.
According to media reports, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell plans to announce a certified presidential vote total between Friday (December 3) and Monday (December 6), after first receiving certified results from each of Ohio's 88 counties by December 1. Even if Blackwell were to announce the official tally on Friday, there would be insufficient time to conduct a recount by the "safe harbor" deadline of Tuesday, December 7.
An additional factor is that Secretary Blackwell served as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in Ohio in 2004, so some voters have expressed concern that he might have an incentive to delay the process and then cut off the recount on December 13, forever preventing a recount of the votes. To avoid even the appearance of impropriety, the Cobb-Badnarik attorneys have formally requested that Secretary Blackwell recuse himself from the recount process.
Attorneys for Cobb and Badnarik have gone to court to try to expedite the process of recounting the vote so that the recount will be meaningful. A federal judge denied the initial request to expedite the recount, and attorneys for Cobb and Badnarik are studying their options. At minimum the recount will begin in early December. Hopefully it can be started before then.
8. How will the recount affect the Electoral College process?
The Electoral College process is governed by federal law, so it will go forward in each of the fifty states no matter what happens in the Ohio recount. To make the Ohio vote count meaningful, however, especially when over 76,000 punch card ballots failed to record a vote for president and electronic voting machine malfunctions were reported in several locations, the recount should be allowed to proceed as quickly as possible.
Of concern to candidates Cobb and Badnarik, as well as many voters across Ohio, is the very real possibility that Secretary of State Blackwell will ask that the recount be stopped once the Ohio Electoral College electors have cast their ballots on December 13. If that happens, the actual vote count for Ohio may never be known, and thousands of voters will have voted in vain.
9. What's the next step after the recount?
No matter what happens during the recount process in Ohio, candidates Cobb and Badnarik, as well as millions of other Americans coast-to-coast will continue their efforts to make America's voting processes fairer and more transparent. Citizens and candidates in other states are considering recounts, and formal commissions should be convened in every state to gather sworn testimony about voting irregularities during Campaign 2004 that can be used in future election law reforms or criminal indictments.