Anti-Bush Internet site angles for election probe

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A liberal tax-exempt organization that raised millions of dollars to try to defeat President Bush has begun a petition and fund-raising campaign questioning the legitimacy of his Nov. 2 victory.

MoveOn.org, which says it has 2.3 million members, is asking for signatures and cash to challenge through an “Investigate the Vote” campaign whether voters “were wrongly prevented from voting” and whether legitimate votes were “miscounted or not counted at all.”

The organization, which received significant financial help from billionaire currency trader George Soros, who spent millions to defeat Mr. Bush, is looking to present petitions to members of Congress to demand an investigation into “the integrity of the voting process” during the November elections.

“Questions are swirling around whether the election was conducted honestly or not. We need to know — was it or wasn’t it?” the organization asked in a recent Internet posting, which also appeals for a donation.

“We need to show Congress that hundreds of thousands of Americans are serious about protecting the integrity of the vote,” the note said.

The MoveOn.org campaign coincides with a bid by six Democratic members of Congress who asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a letter last week to investigate reports of voting irregularities in California, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

The congressional request has been endorsed by Common Cause and People for the American Way, and MoveOn.org gives it a favorable mention on its site.

The six Democrats — Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York, John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, Robert C. Scott of Virginia, Melvin Watt of North Carolina, Rush D. Holt of New Jersey and Robert Wexler of Florida — want a GAO probe and eventual congressional hearings.

They asked U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker for an immediate investigation “into the efficacy of voting machines and new technologies used in the 2004 election.”

John Doty, spokesman for Mr. Nadler, said he expects a GAO response to the request this week. He noted that more than 1,000 people had responded to a posting on the congressman’s Web site on concerns about voting rights issues that should be investigated.

Officials at Washington-based Fenton Communications, which represents MoveOn.org, did not return calls for comment on the campaign.

In a letter to Internet users, MoveOn.org listed what it called “two cases of serious problems” in voting irregularities: in Broward County, Fla., where the group said electronic voting machines counted backwards, and in Columbus, Ohio, where MoveOn.org said election officials at one polling precinct acknowledged that voting machines credited Mr. Bush with 4,258 votes even though only 638 persons had voted.

“These are just cases where we know something went wrong. There were also lots of reports of people being denied ballots on Election Day,” the letter said. “So far, these reports remain anecdotal, but they must be compiled and examined. And the Internet is abuzz with theories about why the official counts were so different from the exit polls.

“Do you have a story? Were you prevented from voting? Tell us, at MoveOn.org,” it said.

MoveOn.org was begun in 1998 by Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who organized an Internet-based advocacy group to protest the “waste of tax dollars” in the impeachment of President Clinton, calling for the country to “move on to more pressing issues facing the nation.”

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