- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Congress’ investigative agency, responding to complaints from across the country, has begun to look into the Nov. 2 vote count.

The presidential results won’t change, but the studies could lead to changes.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) usually begins investigations in response to specific requests from Congress, but the agency’s chief, Comptroller General David Walker, said the GAO acted on its own because of the many comments it received about ballot counting.

GAO officials said the probe was not triggered by a request from several House Democrats, who wrote the agency this month seeking the investigation. The effort, led by senior Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, was not joined by any Republicans.

Mr. Walker said some of the work is under way. The probe will cover voter registration, voting-machine problems and the handling of provisional ballots.

He cautioned that the GAO cannot enforce the law if voting irregularities are found, noting that state officials regulate elections and the Justice Department prosecutes voting-rights violations and election fraud.

Mr. Conyers said yesterday that several House Democrats “want the widest, most impartial investigation that can be had.”

“Whether they [GAO investigators] want to go as far as we want to go, we’re not certain,” he said. “We’re at first base. Where do we go from here?”

The congressman said he plans to meet with Mr. Walker and key Republicans to see whether Congress should take action to improve election systems.

Mr. Conyers said he would like the investigation to include allegations that insufficient numbers of voting machines were sent to some Democratic areas.

The study also should cover how election officials responded to problems they encountered, he said.

Thousands of complaints have poured in to Congress and appeared on Internet sites about problems with the elections, Democratic House members said.

Some examples of problems claimed by Mr. Conyers and other House Democrats:

• In Columbus, Ohio, an electronic voting system gave President Bush nearly 4,000 extra votes.

• An electronic count of a South Florida gambling ballot initiative failed to record thousands of votes.

• In Guilford County, N.C., vote totals were so large that the tabulation computer didn’t count some votes, and a recount awarded an additional 22,000 votes to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee.

• In San Francisco, a glitch in voting-machine software left votes uncounted.

• In Youngstown, Ohio, voters who tried to cast ballots for Mr. Kerry on electronic machines saw their votes recorded for Mr. Bush instead.

• In Sarpy County, Neb., a computer problem added thousands of votes to the county total. It was not clear which presidential candidate benefited from the error.

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