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Ohio certifies Bush's 119,000-vote win

Kerry campaign, other contenders to seek recount

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- This battleground state yesterday certified President Bush's 119,000-vote victory over Senator John F. Kerry, even as the Kerry campaign and third-party candidates prepared to demand a statewide recount.

The president won Ohio with 2.86 million votes, or 51 percent, to Kerry's 2.74 million votes, or 49 percent.

The 118,775-vote lead was closer than the unofficial election-night margin of 136,000, but not enough to trigger a mandatory recount. Absentee ballots and provisional votes counted after election night made most of the difference.

"This was an election where you have some glitches, but none of these glitches were of a conspiratorial nature and none of them would overturn or change the election results," said Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who, as the state's chief election official, certified the results.

The presidential election hung on Ohio, prized for its 20 electoral votes. Not until the morning after the election did Kerry concede, realizing that there were not enough provisional ballots to erase Bush's lead.

Critics have cited numerous Election Day problems, from long lines, a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority neighborhoods, and suspicious vote totals for candidates in scattered precincts.

Last week the Kerry campaign joined the presidential candidates for the Green and Libertarian parties who are asking for a recount. The candidates, who received less than 0.5 percent of the Ohio vote, planned to file their requests today. The Kerry camp is not disputing the outcome of the race but says it wants to ensure that every vote is counted.

A ruling by a federal judge in Columbus on Friday rejected one county's attempt to stop a recount, avoiding a legal precedent that could have prevented other recounts. Green and Libertarian party candidates have already raised the required $113,600 for the recounts.

Republicans said conducting a recount is pointless.

"If there's a recount, there's going to be two losers: John Kerry and the Ohio taxpayer," said Mark Weaver, a lawyer representing the Ohio Republican Party. "It's going to cost more than $1.5 million to find out what we already know."

The amount the independent candidates have raised is based on a state law calculating the cost of a recount to be $10 a precinct, but Blackwell's office has said a more realistic price tag is $1.5 million.

About 20 people protested outside Blackwell's office yesterday, demanding that he postpone the Dec. 13 Electoral College vote in Ohio until the recount is finished. Blackwell said the vote will take place.

Keith Cunningham, vice president of the state election boards association, bristled at suggestions that the election was plagued by fraud or widespread error.

"To actually assert that elections officials in Ohio have intentionally done something is beyond insulting," he said yesterday. "I know election officials all over the state -- it's just fantasy run wild."

The Democratic Party also said yesterday that it will examine reports of voting problems in Ohio.

Terry McAuliffe, outgoing Democratic National Committee chairman, said the party will spend "whatever it takes" to study complaints from Ohio voters.

McAuliffe said the study will be conducted by nonpartisan specialists to be announced later, with a report issued in the spring that recommends changes to prevent such problems in the future.

Blackwell oversaw the election process while serving as one of several statewide GOP leaders who cochaired Bush's campaign. The 2000 Florida recount was also administered by a Republican secretary of state, Katherine Harris, who is now a member of Congress.

In a conference call with reporters, McAuliffe said the panel needs to look at the practice of secretaries of state serving as campaign officials. He said he thinks it is a laudable goal for election officials to be nonpartisan.

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