Friday, January 19, 2007

Prosecutor: Ohio County Rigged Recount

CLEVELAND - Three county elections workers conspired to avoid a more thorough recount of ballots in the 2004 presidential election, a prosecutor told jurors during opening statements of their trial Thursday.

Witnesses testified that, two days before a planned recount, selected ballots were counted so the result would be determined.

"The evidence will show that this recount was rigged, maybe not for political reasons, but rigged nonetheless," Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said. "They did this so they could spend a day rather than weeks or months" on the recount, he said.

Elections have fallen under greater scrutiny since the 2000 presidential election when recounts of paper ballots in Florida dragged on for weeks and the U.S. Supreme Court became involved.

Defense attorneys said in their opening statements that the workers in Cuyahoga County didn't do anything out of the ordinary.

"They just were doing it the way they were always doing it," said defense attorney Roger Synenberg, representing Kathleen Dreamer, a ballot manager.

Charged with various counts each of election misconduct or interference are Jacqueline Maiden, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections' coordinator, who was the board's third-highest ranking employee when she was indicted last March; Rosie Grier, assistant manager of the board's ballot department; and Dreamer. The most serious charge faced by each is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison, Baxter said.

Baxter made no claim about whether mishandling the recount could have affected the presidential election.

Ohio gave President Bush the electoral votes he needed to defeat Democratic Sen. John Kerry and hold on to the White House in 2004. Statewide, Bush won by about 118,000 votes out of 5.5 million cast. Green Party candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik sought the recount and complained about its procedure..........

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