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Judge orders saving 2004 election ballots



Published: Fri, September 8, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



One charge is that absentee ballots in Republican counties were counted twice.

COLUMBUS -- A judge ordered Ohio's county elections boards Thursday to preserve ballots from the 2004 presidential election in a lawsuit aimed at removing the state's chief elections officer from overseeing the Nov. 7 election.

The plaintiffs, who range from the Ohio Voter Rights Alliance for Democracy to the head of a Columbus neighborhood association, accuse Secretary of State Ken Blackwell of depriving large numbers of blacks of the right to vote in 2004 by distributing fewer voting machines per person in black neighborhoods. They also question how ballots were counted and whether punch-card ballots were altered.

Blackwell, who is black, is the GOP nominee for governor, running against U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee.

Federal law requires the counties to keep the ballots for 22 weeks after the election, which was this week.

Attorney Cliff Arnebeck, who represents the plaintiffs, asked Blackwell to order the state's 88 counties to secure the ballots. Blackwell said he lacked the authority to do so.

What was ordered

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley ordered the counties to preserve the ballots until further notice.

A message seeking comment was left Thursday evening with a spokesman for the secretary of state's office.

Blackwell has drawn criticism for his oversight of the 2004 election and his simultaneous honorary role on Bush's re-election committee. President Bush beat Democrat John Kerry in Ohio by 118,000 votes, gaining the electoral votes that kept him in the White House.

In January 2005, Arnebeck -- representing similar clients -- dropped a challenge to Ohio's 2004 election results after Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer called evidence in the case "woefully inadequate."

Activists' attacks of the 2004 election process in Ohio are being revived amid new snags that have been identified in the state's processing of votes.




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