Ohio to delay destruction of paper ballots from 2004 presidential election

Published: Tuesday August 29, 2006

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On Thursday, the New York Times reports that Ohio secretary of state J. Kenneth Blackwell will be ordering local election officials to delay the destruction of paper ballots from the 2004 presidential election, after objections from voter rights groups.

"With paper ballots from the 2004 presidential election in Ohio scheduled to be destroyed next week, the secretary of state in Columbus, under pressure from critics, said yesterday that he would move to delay the destruction at least for several month," Ian Urbina writes.

"Since the election, questions have been raised about how votes were tallied in Ohio, a battleground state that helped deliver the election to President Bush over Senator John Kerry," writes Urbina.

"The 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," the article continues.

In related news, an email written by 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee Senator John Kerry was sent out to 100,000 Democratic donors on Tuesday urging them to support Congressman Ted Strickland in his race for governor of Ohio against GOP Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who oversaw the deciding vote two years ago, the Associated Press reported.

"He used the power of his state office to try to intimidate Ohioans and suppress the Democratic vote," wrote Kerry in the email.

Although the A.P. is reporting that Kerry is only "alleging election improprieties" as he mulls running for president again, the senator has spoken out a number of times since November of 2004, as noted in a Democratic Underground thread.

"Thousands of people were suppressed in their efforts to vote," said Kerry at a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial breakfast in Boston in January of 2005 as reported in the Boston Globe last year. "Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways."

In August, the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism, a 501(c)3 organization that has examined election irregularities in Ohio, started a website called Save the Ballots!

"The ballots are the smoking gun to explain what happened in Ohio in 2004," according to the website.

"They were not made public until earlier this year, and after September 2, 2006, election officials across Ohio are legally allowed to destroy them," the site continues. "We have been told by election officials in the most problem-plagued counties they can't wait until Sept. 3rd, because then people asking questions will go home."

Excerpts from Times article:


The critics say the ballots should be saved pending an investigation. They also say the secretary of states proposal to delay the destruction does not go far enough, and they intend to sue to preserve the ballots.

In Florida in 2003, historians and lawyers persuaded state officials not to destroy the ballots in the 2000 presidential election, and those ballots are stored at the state archive.

Lawyers for J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Ohio secretary of state, said although he did not have the authority to preserve the ballots, Mr. Blackwell would issue an order in a day or two that delays the destruction and that reminds local elections officials that they have to consult the public records commissions in each county.