JANUARY 25, 2007
Two election workers in Ohio’s most populous county have been convicted of fraud for illegally rigging a recount of the 2004 presidential election in order to avoid a more labor-intensive thorough review of the cast ballots.
Ohio gave President George W. Bush the electoral votes he needed to defeat John Kerry and a statewide recount included Cuyahoga County, a Democratic stronghold where about 600,000 ballots were cast that year. Kerry gained only 23 votes in the recount and Bush won the state by 118,000 votes so victory was not the issue.
In fact, the prosecutor in the case assured that the crimes were not committed for political reasons, but rather to avoid working harder by conducting a full hand recount. The ballots were secretly pre-selected rather than chosen randomly as required by state law, the prosecutor said.
Ohio law states that during a recount each county is supposed to randomly count at least 3% of its ballots by hand and in front of a nonpartisan group of witnesses. If there are not discrepancies in those counts, the rest of the votes can be recounted by machine. A full hand-count is ordered if two random samples result in differences.
To avoid a tedious recount process mandated by law, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections coordinator and an assistant manager in the board’s ballot department, spent three days behind closed doors picking ballots they knew would not cause discrepancies when checked by hand.
The women, Kathleen Dreamer Jacqueline Maiden, were charged with various counts each of election misconduct and interference and this week a jury convicted each of a felony and misdemeanor. They face up to 18 months in prison.
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