Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Monday, November 22, 2004

What we talk about when we talk about Ohio

Much to catch up on. First of all, Ohio: where to begin?

First off, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has started tallying up the provisional ballots. You'll remember that we have provisional ballots due to the Help America Vote Act that Congress passed seeking to ensure that, should people have their registrations muddled or muddied, they can fill out a provisional ballot that will be accepted upon further confirmation after Election Day. You'll also remember that John Kerry conceded on November 3 when it became increasingly clear how unlikely it would be for him to both a) have the vast majority of provisional ballots break his way and b) have the vast majority of provisional ballots be accepted, for him to then win the state. (This was, of course, before all of the talk of aberrations, irregularities, glitches, recounts, and other phenomena which not even most Republicans can adequately explain.)

More than a few of Rotten Denmark's conservative readers have pointed me to these results of how the Ohio provisional ballots have been tallied up. It might seem surprising that Worst President Ever won the majority of the provisional ballot votes in Ohio -- 76,631 (55.92%) to 59,710 (43.57%) for John Kerry. That's a total of 137,036. Conservative blog PoliPundit hails the results so far.

One problem: over here, in the county by county totals, it's clear that only a few counties have submitted/finished tabulating their provisional ballot totals. So, my little conservative reader friends, maybe you shouldn't cheer the provisional ballot results when Cuyahoga (read: Cleveland) hasn't even finished counting their provisionals yet. Thank you for playing. (Polipundit seems to not even stick by his hailing the results, but predicting that Bush is going to be doing even better when the provisionals are tabulated. Probably that huge Conservative upswell from Cleveland again.)

But the counting of provisional ballots has not been without problems. Such that, a lawsuit was filed against Ken Blackwell -- our pal, the Ohio Secretary of State.

That lawsuit was joined by the Ohio Democratic Party, and it's over the fact that the state "lacks clear rules for evaluating provisional ballots." The lawsuit asked U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson to order Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to impose uniform standards for counting provisional votes on all 88 counties. Democrats want the judge to take action quickly -- before the results of the election are certified December 1.

A revolutionary concept: uniform guidelines for a statewide recount procedure. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote on Thursday, "the Ohio Democratic Party has launched a federal court fight over nearly 155,000 provisional ballots by contending a proper accounting of those votes might decide who really won."

And what about the recount? Well, because Blackwell and company have been dragging their feet -- and because the Ohio deadline for provisional ballot count certification is December 6, and that gives only 7 days before the Electoral College meets to conduct a recount -- third party Presidential candidates Cobb and Badnarik's campaigns have now filed a lawsuit to expedite the recount as quickly as possible. (Here's the word from the Cobb campaign.)

But remember. The recount doesn't just involve the provisionals. It involves hanging chads and punch card ballots. Yes, our old friends from Florida days, and that special old friend, the undercount. Here's Olbermann:

As Kerry himself calculated early on November 3rd, the Provisional Ballots alone obviously could not provide anything close to enough bona fide Democratic votes to overcome President Bush’s 135,000 vote plurality in the Ohio election night tally. But as Howard also pointed out - and my colleague David Shuster so thoroughly extrapolated in a previous post on Hardblogger - the Provisionals plus the “Undercount” could make things very close indeed. The punch-card ballots “where it looks like nobody marked anything” when read by an optical scanning machine, might produce thousands of legitimate votes if hand-counted and judged by Ohio’s strict laws defining how many corners of the proverbial chads have to be detached to make a vote valid.

Now: the big question. Where are Kerry Edwards in all of this?

Well, more involved than it might first seem.

The KE campaign is doing a little semantic trapeze act, saying that they will participate in any Ohio recount -- but are clear to point out that they are not themselves making the request for a recount. Howard Fineman told Keith Olbermann that Team KE "keep saying these little things designed to make clear, at least to their supporters and the whole blogosphere out there, that they take the possibility (of a Kerry victory) and the need for a recount seriously.” The lead Kerry lawyer on the ground in Ohio explained that "the Kerry/Edwards campaign will be putting witnesses in the Boards of Elections if a recount is asked for… We are not requesting a recount.”

However. Here's where it gets interesting.

The Kerry Edwards website now has a contribution form to the Kerry Edwards General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance Fund. "Contributing to the Kerry-Edwards 2004 General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance Fund (GELAC) provides important support for our campaign. The Federal Election Commission has just granted our request to raise funds now to cover recount expenses. Your contribution to Kerry-Edwards 2004 GELAC will provide the resources to make sure we are prepared to win the post election day battles."

Yep. They're raising funds for recounts.

You gotta say this: Olbermann is right, that "even the mainstream media is beginning to sit up and take notice that, whatever its merits, the investigation into the voting irregularities of November 2nd has moved from the Reynolds Wrap Hat stage into legal and governmental action." The Ohio Republicans seem to be left now to try to claim that the recount would cost a million dollars, and thus is a "frivolous" lawsuit.

Well, given the clear lack of confidence Americans are expressing in the integrity of the voting process, not having the recount might cost everyone -- including President Bush -- a hell of a lot more.