Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ohio’s Electoral College delegates yesterday officially cast their votes for President Bush, despite an ongoing legal challenge to the outcome of the 2004 presidential race in their state.

Electoral College members across the nation met in their respective state capitols yesterday to cast their votes, which will be sent to the District. Official results will be announced by the U.S. Senate in early January.

Based on the Nov. 2 election, Mr. Bush received 286 electoral votes and Democratic Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry received 252. The official count is expected to reflect those numbers.

“That’s what is expected,” said Michael White, the point man for elections at the National Archives and Records Administration. “It is very rare that an elector strays from their pledge.”

But in the swing state of Ohio, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and lawyer Cliff Arnebeck, who co-chairs the Massachusetts-based Alliance for Democracy, accuse Mr. Bush’s campaign of “high-tech vote stealing.” Mr. Arnebeck is petitioning the state Supreme Court on behalf of a group of Ohio residents to review the outcome of the presidential race there.

Mr. Bush won Ohio with 119,000 more votes more than Mr. Kerry.

“The vast majority of people understand this election is over,” said Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican.

But the challengers question that 119,000-vote margin. Mr. Jackson said the challengers noticed Mr. Bush generally received more votes in counties where optical-scan voting machines were used, so they question whether the machines were rigged in his favor.

Also, the challengers say there were too few voting machines in Democrat-leaning precincts, orchestrated efforts to steer voters to the wrong polling places, disparities in vote totals for Democrats, and confusion about the counting of provisional ballots.

Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, said he expects the legal challenge to be “quickly dismissed.” He said that for the voting machines to be rigged, both Republican and Democratic election officials would have had to conspire.

“That’s absurd,” he said.

Despite the rumblings in Ohio, electoral votes were cast in most states without a challenge.

“We beat [Mr. Kerry] 60-40. How are you going to rumble about that?” said Mississippi elector Billy Mounger of Jackson, who cast his vote for Mr. Bush.

Mr. Mounger, a businessman and philanthropist, praised Mr. Bush and said there was no question about the outcome in his state, or his electoral vote.

Typically, the electoral votes are cast by the electors whose party’s candidate won their state’s vote. Although not all states require the electoral members to vote for the candidate their party chose, they traditionally do.

Only one Republican electoral member had threatened not to vote for Mr. Bush. Richie Robb, a Republican elector from West Virginia, said he thinks Mr. Bush invaded Iraq prematurely and disagrees with the Bush economic policy.

But yesterday, Mr. Robb joined the rest of his state’s Republican electors and cast his vote for Mr. Bush, noting that “his margin of victory in West Virginia was decisive to the extent that to do otherwise would have been slapping the voters in the face.”

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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