The 2004 Recount in Ohio: County Reports

The Voters Have a Right to Know

Click the map or the menu at right to access the recount report for that county. The blue menus at right list which counties currently have reports available and for which counties reports are still pending. We are adding new reports daily as we receive them from our volunteer recount observers in the field. Also, be sure to write your own comments on our Ohio Recount Blog!

[NOTE: These reports are not yet "official," as hundreds more reports are still coming in, each noting a different aspect of the recount in the 88 counties. These reports represent the opinions of the writers, and are presented here in an effort to share information as quickly and transparently as possible with the people of Ohio and the nation.]

Allen Ashland Auglaize Brown Butler Champaign Clermont Clinton Columbiana Coshocton Cuyahoga Defiance Delaware Fairfield Fayette Fulton Gallia Greene Guernsey Hamilton Hancock Hardin Henry Hocking Holmes Huron Jefferson Knox Lake Licking Lorain Lucas Mahoning Marion Medina Meigs Mercer Miami Monroe Montgomery Morgan Morrow Noble Ottawa Paulding Portage Putnam Sandusky Summit Tuscarawas Union Van Wert Vinton Warren Washington Williams Wood Wyandot

 

Initial Findings Reveal Serious Problems

The Ohio recount is uncovering serious problems in our electoral processes that must be addressed immediately, both in Ohio and other states. For example:

  • Hamilton County: Approximately 400 provisional ballots allegedly were rejected because they were cast in the wrong precinct, despite the fact that they were cast at the right polling station (i.e., at a polling station with more than one precinct).  more
  • Fairfield County:: When the hand recount of the 3% test sample did not match the official vote totals, a full recount should have been ordered for all county ballots. Instead, the recount was "suspended" by county officials who said that Secretary Blackwell recommended that the recount should begin again "from scratch." The Green recount observers then were told that it was 4:00 PM, the building was closed, and all had to leave. The Republican contingent, however was allowed to stay in a conference room for an additional ten minutes or so for a private discussion.  more
  • Summit County: Recount witnesses were threatened with expulsion if they spoke to counting teams. In some instances, they were expected to "observe" from up to 20 feet away, despite Ohio Election Law allowing observers to be close enough to actually observe.  more on Summit
  • Medina County:: Election officials were aware of several "problem" districts, but instead chose to perform the manual 3% test recount on two precincts that had been part of a School Levy Recount the previous Monday. That meant that those ballots had been taken out of the standard "double lock" situation and had been handled several times since Monday.  more
  • Cuyahoga County:: Almost all of the witnesses felt that the ballots were not in random order, and that they had been previously sorted. As the ballots were fed into the counting machines, there were long runs of votes for only one candidate and then long runs for another, which seemed statistically improbable to most.  more
  • Huron County: The punchcard tabulator test was observed only by Republican witnesses. This test was conducted the day before the Green witness was invited to observe the recount.  more
  • Henry County and Fulton County: We found that the Triad Company can reprogram voting machines using remote connections. Is this the case for other counties as well? Don't voters have a right to know?  more on Henry   more on Fulton
 
 

Samples Were Not Randomly Chosen

These and other irregularities are the subject of further investigation and action. Also, nearly all of the 88 Ohio counties may be in violation of the Ohio recount law because they did not choose the precincts to be manually recounted in a random manner.

For example, in Vinton County, a unilateral decision was made to pick a county for the 3% manual recount test simply because its vote total was closest to 3% of the county total.

In Morrow County, a decision as to what is "random" was made without input from recount observers after a county election official called Secretary of State Blackwell's office and was told that her interpretation of "random" was the correct one, despite Green Party recount observer protests.

Ohio Election Law is very clear on this point:

"The board must randomly select whole precincts whose total equals at least 3% of the total vote, and must conduct a manual count."

"If the tabulator count does not match the hand count, and after rechecking the manual count the results are still not equal, all ballots must be hand counted. If the results of the tabulator count and the hand counted ballots are equal, the remainder of the ballots may be processed through the tabulator (for optical scan and punchcards)."

(Section 3515 of the Ohio Revised Code)

Lack of random samples threatens to undermine the entire recount process, as it does in other situations where random sampling is critical. For example, when testing whether a manufacturing company is complying with local air quality regulations, a sample taken near the smokestack is going to produce results that are different from a sample taken near the front door. A fair sampling procedure would randomly include samples from all over the company's property.

Relating this back to the recount procedures, when you read in the newspapers that recounts were done and no discrepancies were found, it could be because the election officials chose to do test recounts on precincts where there were no problems. There may still be problems or there may not be, but no one can know for sure. What we do know is that lack of random recounts does not follow either the spirit or letter of the law, and may necessitate further action, including a second statewide recount.

 

Background on the Recount

While the nation has spent the last few weeks observing and talking about an activity called the "Ohio Recount," in reality there have been 88 different recounts taking place in Ohio's 88 counties. The political maxim that "all politics is local" is especially true as it relates to the process of registration, voting, and counting the ballots.

When David Cobb and the Green party teamed up with Michael Badnarik and the Libertarian Party to demand that each Ohio vote be counted, several steps had to be followed. First, the parties demanding the recount had to raise $10 per precinct for the recount costs. With 11,360 precincts in Ohio, the amount needed was $113,600. Thanks to over 6,000 donors giving small donations over the Internet, the money was raised in four days.

The candidates filed their formal demand for a recount, along with the necessary filing fees, in each of Ohio's 88 counties on November 19. At that time, approximately half of the counties already had completed their initial canvass of the vote. Secretary of State Blackwell and the counties, however, refused to start the recount at that time.

Next, the candidates went to court to try to expedite the recount process. Kenneth Blackwell, who served both as Ohio Secretary of State (the man in charge of Ohio's vote-counting process) and the partisan co-chair of the Bush-Cheney Re-election Campaign in Ohio, took six weeks to certify the Ohio vote count, the same time needed by Washington State to certify the vote, complete a state-wide recount, and start a second one. While the courts did not require the recount to be speeded up, they did order every county to participate.

Over 3,000 volunteers came to Ohio to help us with this recount, and each one deserves a big thanks from the rest of us for their faith in democracy and their willingness to participate in this historic process. Many of them served as official county recount witnesses or regional coordinators, and it is their reports you will be reading on the following pages.

 

Next Steps Toward Fair and Open Elections

Reports are still flowing in from the 88 counties. Once they all are completed, we will meet with our attorneys, state election officials, and the broad coalition of groups who have participated in this historic undertaking.

No matter what the outcome of the recount, these are but a few of the steps which must be taken to make our elections more open, accountable, and fair:

  • Demand that electronic voting machines produce voter-verified paper trails.
  • Demand public access to and scrutiny of the software used on electronic voting machines and tabulators (vote counters).
  • Establish Election Day as a holiday, and provide for voter registration right up to Election Day (already the law in Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Wyoming, and Idaho).
  • Establish uniform standards for the conduct of elections and recounts.
  • Ensure that sufficient voting machines are provided in all communities, not just affluent ones.
  • Aggressively investigate reports of voter suppression and intimidation, and voting machine tampering. Prosecute the individuals, companies, and organizations involved in any illegal activity.
  • Abolish the Electoral College, and use Instant Runoff Voting to elect the President.
  • Shorten the long lines seen at polling places such as the African American precincts in Cuyahoga County.
  • Fully fund and fairly deploy Election Day resources so that places such as Columbiana County will have more than four telephone lines available on Election Day and more poll workers will be able to get through to report problems.
  • Clear up the vagueness in Ohio Election Law that allows each county to interpret words such as "random" recount in their own way.
  • Establish non-partisan election law arbiters in each county and on the statewide level so that the Secretary of State and other officials will not have a conflict between their official and campaign responsibilities.
  • Other Electoral Reforms: The Green Party has consistently called for other electoral reforms that will improve the voting process and bring us closer to a one-person-one-vote democracy, including Proportional Representation and Publicly Financing Campaigns. For more details, see Commitment to Democracy.
 
 

Conclusion

While many of the local election officials and staff members we have met in Ohio's 88 counties are hard-working, well-meaning people, almost none of them have allowed the recount to proceed using "random" recount processes. In addition, we have found election and recount procedures in several counties that do not appear to follow the spirit or letter of Ohio Election law. Finally, election laws appear to have been applied unevenly across Ohio in ways that produced unfairness against poor and minority voters.

We will be posting the latest information and analysis here on the www.votecobb.org website as it becomes available.