At Last, the Finish Line

Nov 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm

Even the most die-hard political junkies are probably tired of the presidential campaign by this point, nearly two years after most of the contenders kicked off the race for the White House.—-

With less than 36 hours left before the last polls close in the western United States on Tuesday night, though, it’s time to check in with some notable campaign news — including developments that could directly affect the outcome in Hamilton County.

First, in an early morning meeting Friday, the county Board of Elections decided to quarantine just one ballot out of the 671 ballots cast during the “early voting window” of Sept. 30-Oct. 6, when state law allowed people to register to vote and cast a ballot all at the same time.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters had sought to quarantine all of the ballots, citing unspecified complaints about “voter irregularity” during the window. Pending a more thorough review, he wanted the 671 ballots kept with other provisional ballots that would be counted 10 days after the election, if they had been deemed valid. None of the complaints were filed by the Board of Elections.

Deters launched an investigation into alleged voter registration fraud two weeks ago but stepped aside amid questions about possible conflicts of interest. Deters also serves as Southwest Ohio campaign chairman for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

As exclusively reported by CityBeat Oct. 24, Michael O’Neill — a special prosecutor appointed by a judge to replace Deters — recommended none of the ballots be quarantined after his review of the documents.

The sole ballot pulled was one cast by a Connecticut man who was visiting Cincinnati. The man, whom the board hasn’t identified, later called local elections officials and asked that his ballot be pulled.

Of the remaining 670 ballots, there were 17 instances in which the voter registration cards were returned as undeliverable. If the addresses cannot be verified, those ballots won’t be counted and probably will be investigated further.

Forget Joe the Plumber; the most memorable figure of the 2008 election season locally is likely to be Joe the Drama Queen.

In related news, the U.S Justice Department decided Thursday to reject a request from President Bush to force Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to turn over detailed data about roughly 200,000 new voter registrations in the state to the Ohio Republican Party.

Bush made the request on behalf of local boy and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-West Chester), who also had concerns about people who registered during the early voting window.

This is the same Boehner who, in a moment that’s sure to make his mother proud, recently called Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama a “chickenshit” while speaking to some young Republicans at Miami University in Oxford.

The Republican Party also tried to raise allegations of voter registration fraud during the 2006 congressional elections, when it first began looking like Democrats would obliterate their party at the polls. Then, as now, there was no evidence to support the claims.

On the Politico Web site Sunday, a top member of the McCain-Palin “Honest and Open Election Committee” couldn’t cite a single instance in which problems with fake voter registrations resulted in phony votes being cast.

“Do we have a documented instance of voting fraud that resulted from a phony registration form? No, I can’t cite one, chapter and verse,” said Ronald Michaelson.

The GOP is worried because Ohio is a hotly contested battleground state that proved crucial in the 2004 presidential election and could be the deciding factor again this year. If even a few hundred ballots are ruled ineligible here and cast out, Ohio’s 20 electoral votes could go to a different candidate and swing the race.

Most polls show Obama leading McCain in Ohio.

Reuters/Zogby telephone surveys of eight battleground states show Obama “in a very strong position” to be elected president. The key findings in these polls show expanded Obama margins in Ohio and Nevada and continued leads in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In the other states tested in this latest Reuters/Zogby state surveys, Florida, North Carolina and Missouri remain close while McCain is holding an advantage in Indiana. Obama has leads of less than two points in Florida and Missouri, and McCain is ahead by the same margin in North Carolina.

Also, the final Ohio Poll conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati shows Obama leading with 51.5 percent of voters compared to 45.7 percent for McCain.

Polls in Hamilton County will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. For more information on polling locations, call 513-632-7000 or click here.