Ohio2006 Blog

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Thursday, August 31

Atty Gen: Dann (D) Joins Call for Blackwell (R) to Retain '04 Ballots

The New York Times reports today that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati), "under pressure from critics, said yesterday that he would move to delay the destruction at least for several months." The ballots are scheduled for destruction next week, but "critics, including an independent candidate for governor and a team of statisticians and lawyers, say preliminary results from their ballot inspections show signs of more widespread irregularities than previously known." These critics also say "the secretary of state’s proposal to delay the destruction does not go far enough, and they intend to sue to preserve the ballots." An eight month study of 35,000 ballots from 75 rural and urban precincts have found "many with signs of tampering" and "in some precincts the number of voters differs significantly from the certified results." For example, in one Miami County precinct, "official tallies ... recorded about 550 votes," but "signature books indicated that 450 people voted."

Saying that the destruction of records related to the 2004 General Election in Ohio would fuel public skepticism about the electoral process, attorney general candidate State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) joined today joined in asking Blackwell to “take all available and necessary steps” to preserve the data. “The reports of irregularities in the 2004 election in our state are widespread and well-known,” Dann remarked. “The best way to bolster the public’s trust and confidence in the system is to ensure that those who have raised questions and made allegations about the balloting have access to the information they need to conclude their investigations. On the other hand, destroying the records will leave questions hanging in the air, even if there were no problems with the conduct of the election. I see no reason to create such doubts.”

Dann noted that his support for retaining the records is consistent with his belief that both the spirit and the letter of the state’s open records law have been ignored by Republican officeholders and department heads. “Governor Taft’s refusal to produce public records related to Coingate, revelations that Jim Conrad engineered a cover-up of the MDL losses at BWC, and the numerous other attempts to erode the public’s right to know are undermining Ohioan’s faith in their government—and with good reason,” Dann said. “That is why I am introducing legislation to strengthen and standardize record retention policies in every department of state government and why I will add the retention of elections records to the bill.”

Dann also said he believed the records should be preserved because the Ohio Attorney General for the first time has the authority to investigate and prosecute election law violations. “If the ongoing examinations of the 2004 election produce credible allegations that the law was violated, these records will serve as important evidence in any court action,” he said. “That alone provides more than ample reason to save them.”

He concluded by saying he will consider filing an amicus brief in the lawsuit referred to in the New York Times story. “I will study the case once it is filed and decide whether it is appropriate to file a brief, but frankly, it shouldn’t be necessary to file suit in the first place. These records should be preserved.”

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