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PRESIDENTIAL RACE Voters drop Ohio election challenge



Published: Wed, January 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Congressional certification of the state's electoral votes rendered the lawsuit moot.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- A legal challenge to Ohio's election results was close to being declared over Tuesday when voters who sued to throw out President Bush's victory in the state conceded their lawsuit was moot.

In a court filing, the voters dropped their challenge of Ohio's presidential election results. Attorney Cliff Arnebeck said they couldn't expect to win given the congressional certification of the electoral votes last week and the inauguration next week.

Citing fraud, Arnebeck and other lawyers representing 37 voters who cast ballots Nov. 2 had asked the court to examine several problems with voting procedures.

The election turned on Ohio's 20 electoral college votes, and not until preliminary results were finally available early on the morning of Nov. 3 did Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry concede.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of the state Supreme Court must still rule on the motion to dismiss the case, although he is expected to go along with the request.

In a ruling last month on a request that he remove himself from the case, Moyer, a Republican, called voters' evidence "woefully inadequate."

Far from over

Without giving specifics, Arnebeck said challenges of the results would continue in state or federal courts. But he conceded that there was nothing available now to try to prevent Bush's inauguration.

"We are not quitting; we are going on to any other forum that's available, and we intend to pursue those avenues aggressively," Arnebeck said.

The fight is far from over, added Blair Bobier, a spokesman for Green Party candidate David Cobb.

Cobb and Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik paid for a recount of the Ohio vote. They've also asked a federal judge to order another recount, saying the first was flawed because elections officials didn't choose random precincts to examine.

"We are really seeing this as the beginning of a new voting rights movement," Bobier said Tuesday. "The fact that this one particular suit is being dismissed is really a procedural technicality more than anything."

GOP: No merit to claims

Bush supporters welcomed the announcement.

"This lawsuit was going be dismissed by the Supreme Court because it has no merit -- it looks like the people who filed it understood that," said Mark Weaver, an attorney representing the Ohio Republican Party.

Bush defeated Kerry by about 118,000 votes, according to a recount of the official results paid for by the independent party candidates.

In their lawsuit, voters pointed to long lines, a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority neighborhoods and problems with computer equipment.

The decision to drop the lawsuit saved the voters "from further discredit," said Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. "The document they filed with the Supreme Court was frivolous, not based in reality and laughable on its face."

Democratic supporters

Rev. Jesse Jackson backed the lawsuit, alleging what he called "high-tech vote stealing" and holding rallies in Ohio and Washington in support of the effort.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, released a report Jan. 5 claiming serious election irregularities and "significant disenfranchisement" of voters in Ohio.

U.S. Rep Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Cleveland Democrat, joined other House lawmakers and Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, in forcing a debate on the electoral vote for several hours Jan. 6.

The challenge to the vote count was only the second since the 19th century -- a protest that prompted strong language from both sides.




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