No skew found in election
The Department of Justice found no discrimination in vote machine distribution.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Justice says it found no evidence of discrimination in the distribution of voting machines in two Ohio counties in the close 2004 presidential election.
The department, which is part of the Bush administration, began investigating after voters complained of long voting lines and alleged discrimination in Franklin and Knox counties. Investigators wanted to determine if elections officials had intentionally skewed the placement of machines.
The Justice Department said the distribution in Franklin County narrowly favored black voters. Because turnout in predominantly black precincts was lower than in white ones, machines in those districts averaged fewer votes, according to a report released Wednesday.
An unanticipated 76 percent turnout -- with many first-time voters -- contributed to the long lines in the Kenyon College precinct in Knox County, according to a report released in June. Some voters waited until 4 a.m. to cast their ballots.
President Bush won re-election Nov. 2 with his win in Ohio over Democrat John Kerry.
A Democratic National Committee report released last week found more complaints statewide among black voters about voting than white voters.
Walter Mebane, a Cornell University professor who worked on the DNC report, said voters in mainly black precincts in Franklin County who showed up early to vote found fewer machines than those who voted later, which could explain some of the differences between the two reports.
Distribution of voting machines is determined by county boards of elections, made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and two nonvoting members.
Franklin County had 2,904 machines on hand for 535,575 people who showed up to vote. The county intends to have at least 5,000 machines operating in 2008, said Michael Damschroder, elections board director.
When final registration numbers were available for the Kenyon College precinct, the Knox County board already had decided on the distribution of voting machines. Between March and November of 2004, the number of registered voters at the precinct more than doubled to 1,607. Two machines were available.
The county hopes to buy one new machine for every 175 voters, which, based on current registration figures, would give the county about 200 new machines. The board will reserve six machines to dispatch on Election Day to crowded precincts, said Rita Yarman, board director.