Sen. John Kerry said he won’t be joining a small band of House Democrats today in trying to spoil President Bush’s formal election before Congress by objecting to what they say are voting irregularities in Ohio.
A group of House Democrats — led by the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan — will object to the counting of Ohio’s electoral ballots before a joint congressional session today, because of what they say are massive voting irregularities and voter disenfranchisement there.
But they need at least one senator to join them in order to temporarily stop the process and force the House and Senate to formally debate their complaint. Mr. Kerry said he won’t be that one senator.
“I will not be taking part in a formal protest of the Ohio electors,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “Despite widespread reports of irregularities, questionable practices by some election officials and instances of lawful voters being denied the right to vote, our legal teams on the ground have found no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.”
Supporters of the effort — including several grass-roots groups, activists and Ohio residents who plan to rally today outside the Capitol — have been pressuring senators to join Mr. Conyers, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat. Mrs. Boxer’s spokesman, David Sandretti, said she “is still considering it.”
The supporters hope to avoid a repeat of 2001, when a group of House Democrats formally objected before Congress to the electoral votes from Florida, citing voting irregularities. They were shut down because no senators joined them.
However, the activists were not dissuaded yesterday by Mr. Kerry’s refusal.
“Kerry can do what he wants. We’re here to protect our right to vote,” said Harvey Wasserman, a lead activist in the effort and editor of freepress.org, who cited “a broad range of tactics used to shift the vote from Kerry to Bush.”
Mr. Wasserman and a team of lawyers and statisticians spent months analyzing election data and found that exit polls did not match the reported vote in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and seven of eight other key battleground states.
In Ohio, for example, exit polling conducted by a top expert indicated Mr. Kerry got 52.1 percent, when the vote totals show he got 48.7 percent. The statisticians said that shows the vote count was dishonest. The group — which contends Mr. Kerry won the election — cited voter suppression and irregularities, including withholding voting machines from the predominantly Democratic Columbus area.
Mr. Bush won Ohio by about 119,000 votes, 2 percentage points ahead of Mr. Kerry, after a recount that activists claim was conducted improperly. Nearly 40 voters are challenging the victory in the Ohio Supreme Court, citing voting irregularities, but Chief Justice Thomas Moyer has yet to rule.
Ohio Republicans dismiss the activists’ efforts and Mr. Conyers’ promised objection.
“Americans turned out in record numbers, and their votes have been counted and recounted, and President Bush won with more votes than any other presidential candidate in the history of our republic,” said Rep. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican.
Even if a senator does sign on to Mr. Conyers’ effort today, the group likely would not be able to stop the counting of electoral votes, since Republicans control both chambers. But it would force the chambers to stop the ceremony and conduct a touchy debate on the topic.
David Lytel, founder of the Committee to ReDefeat the President, said today’s ceremony also could go beyond Ohio, and include objections from House Democrats to votes in other states as well, such as Florida or New Mexico.
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