In the end, Sen. John Kerry behaved exactly as President Bush said he had all along. Kerry flip-flopped on the most important issue of the day: counting the votes in the presidential election. After promising throughout the campaign to make sure all votes were counted, the Democratic candidate conceded the election Nov. 3, while even the TV networks were saying several states were still too close to call. To make it all the more cynical, Kerry gave up just hours after his running mate promised to fight for at least "one more night."
As it now stands, Bush won Ohio — and thereby a second term — by a margin of 136,483 votes. The number of provisional ballots cast was 155,428, according to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. That includes more than 14,000 in Hamilton County alone. Those votes still have not been counted. By refusing to fight until they are, Kerry showed what he was made of — a lot less than so many had hoped.
His talk of national unity and "healing" are a poor substitute for the struggle he had claimed to champion.
The question isn't the statistical likelihood of victory; it's the fundamental principle of making every vote count. It wasn't Kerry's election, but rather the people's.
Provisional ballots aren't the only votes left to be decided. Overseas military ballots also remain, according to Pamela Swafford, deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The deadline for certifying official election results is Dec. 1. Hamilton County likely won't have it done until Nov. 30, Swafford says.
"It's quite a massive job this year," she says. "People just don't realize how much time it takes."
In addition to the votes not yet counted, the irregularities that marred Ohio's election also raise serious doubts. In Warren County, the press was barred from observing the tabulation of ballots. In Hamilton County, reporters and photographers were barred from polling places — a rule that was widely violated, including by CityBeat.
"Any case where we knew, we told them they could not go in," Swafford says. "In cases where they went out and did it anyway, there's not much we can do. There were a lot of places that didn't know. You do the best you can."
One can only wonder what other election security rules were violated. Too bad Kerry doesn't. Fortunately, the grassroots groups that fueled his campaign haven't surrendered. The Ohio Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections, Common Cause, This Time We're Watching, Driving Votes, Election Reform Action of Ohio and the League of Pissed Off Voters are calling for public hearings to investigate voting irregularities and voter suppression in Ohio.
Struggles Worth Continuing
The family of Roger Owensby Jr. certainly isn't giving up. Nov. 7 marked the fourth anniversary of his death by asphyxiation in the custody of the Cincinnati Police Department. Owensby, an African-American man, was unarmed and not wanted on any charges at the time of his death (see "Piling On," issue of Oct. 3-9, 2002). Last week Roger Sr. and Brenda Owensby wrote President Bush and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, urging them not to grant Mayor Charlie Luken's request to end federal oversight of a package of police reforms in Cincinnati.
"It is my family's belief that without the Department of Justice continuing to work with the city of Cincinnati and this police department, the progress will stop and then be lost, as has happened several times in Cincinnati's past attempts in dealing with community-police relations," the letter says. "I do not know anyone who believes that progress will continue without the attorney general's staying the course for the full 60 months. President Bush, do not wobble on this issue, because I believe citizens' lives are at stake."
Owensby's parents wrote that federal agents still have never told them whether the Justice Department will act in the case, which led to the indictment of two Cincinnati officers on state charges.
A group of citizens outraged by Owensby's death held an informal memorial service Nov. 7 at the Bond Hill gas station where he died.
With the 2004 election over, candidates for city council are already gearing up for municipal elections in 2005. Leslie Ghiz, a Republican candidate in 2003, is one of several hoping to be appointed to fill Councilman Pat DeWine's seat after he moves to the board of county commissioners in January. Other hopefuls include Republicans Barb Trauth, Pete Witte and Tom Jones.
Nick Spencer, who ran as a Charter Committee candidate in 2003, has announced he will run again next year. Brian Garry, an independent candidate, is already asking supporters for help with yard signs. After the Nov. 2 election, he asked for donations of any used paperboard signs and metal stakes.
"We make our signs in-house and will recycle them for my upcoming city council race," Garry says.
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