View Full Version : Prosecutor Says Presidential Recount Rigged In Ohio County

01-18-2007, 09:59 PM
Prosecutor says presidential recount rigged in Ohio county


Associated Press

CLEVELAND - Three elections workers in the state's most populous county conspired to avoid a more thorough recount of ballots in the 2004 presidential election, a prosecutor told jurors during opening statements Thursday.

"The evidence will show that this recount was rigged, maybe not for political reasons, but rigged nonetheless," Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said. "They did this so they could spend a day rather than weeks or months" on the recount, he said.

Defense attorneys said in their opening statements that the workers in Cuyahoga County didn't do anything out of the ordinary.

"Nothing was hidden from the public," said Robert Rotatori, who represents Jacqueline Maiden, the county elections board coordinator.

Maiden, who was the elections board's third-highest ranking employee, faces six counts of misconduct over how the ballots were reviewed. Rosie Grier, manager of the board's ballot department, and Kathleen Dreamer, an assistant manager, face the same charges.

Prosecutors do not allege vote fraud or that the mishandling of the recount affected the outcome of the presidential election.

Ohio gave President Bush the electoral votes he needed to defeat Democratic Sen. John Kerry and hold on to the White House in 2004. The recount was requested by the third-party candidates and showed Bush won by about 118,000 votes out of 5.5 million cast.

In Cuyahoga, a Democratic stronghold where about 600,000 ballots were cast, the recount did not have much effect on the results. Kerry gained 17 votes and Bush lost six.

It's unlikely another recount would be ordered because of the court case, which voting rights advocates have used as an example of flaws with the state's recount laws. There were allegations in several counties of similar presorting of ballots for the recounts that state law says are to be random.

Baxter said testimony will show that the three workers secretly chose sample precincts for the December 2004 recount that did not have questionable results to ensure the tally from the sample matched a previous vote count. Sample precincts were to be selected randomly before witnesses.

When the results matched, the workers were allowed to recount the rest of the county's ballots by machine, avoiding a full hand recount that would have been more lengthy and expensive, he said.

"This was a very hush operation," Baxter said.

Defense attorney Roger Synenberg, representing Dreamer, said in his opening statement that the recount was not secretive and that board employees were simply following procedures.

"They just were doing it the way they were always doing it," Synenberg said.

Patricia Wolfe, election administrator in the Ohio Secretary of State's office, testified that election boards are expected to follow the law and can choose the way precincts are selected randomly for recounts. She hadn't heard about any problem in Cuyahoga County's preparation for its recount, she said.

The three Cuyahoga employees have been on paid leave from the board, which has defended the workers, saying the employees did not knowingly break any laws.

Elections have fallen under greater scrutiny since the 2000 presidential election when recounts of paper ballots in Florida dragged on for weeks and the U.S. Supreme Court had to get involved. Voting watchdogs now analyze everything from poll workers' actions to election machine software.

Ohio law states that during a recount each county is supposed to randomly count 3 percent of its ballots by hand and by machine. If there are not discrepancies in those counts, the rest of the votes can be recounted by machine.

If there is a difference, the county must randomly recount 3 percent of the ballots a second time. If there is no discrepancy the second time, all the ballots may be counted by machine. If there is a discrepancy the second time, 100 percent of the ballots must be recounted by hand.

The candidates from the Green and Libertarian parties suspected the workers did not follow the rules and filed a complaint, which led to the charges.

The most serious charges against the women carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

They are charged with failure to perform duties imposed upon them by law; misconduct of board of election employees; knowingly disobeying elections law; unlawfully obtaining possession of ballots/ballot boxes or pollbooks; and unlawfully opening or permitting the opening of a sealed package containing ballots.

01-19-2007, 01:50 PM
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