A Joint Statement of National Voting Rights Institute, DEMOS, People For the American Way Foundation, Common Cause, and the Fannie Lou Hamer Project
As organizations deeply committed to full participation and the quality of American democracy, we support the decision by presidential candidates David Cobb and Michael Badnarik to request a recount of all votes cast in Ohio for president of the United States. It is not our expectation that a recount will change the outcome of the presidential election, nor is that the intent of this effort. We believe it is imperative that, in a democracy, every citizen’s vote be counted.
Moreover, we urge citizens and candidates to request recounts of any elections where doubt has been cast about the integrity of the counting, and we urge election officials in every state to preserve, protect, and maintain all ballots from the election, whether cast on machine, by absentee, or by provisional ballot. We further ask that they maintain all voter registration files, including all applications accepted and rejected, all records of resource allocation among precincts during the election, and all internal guidelines for evaluating all types of ballots.
A recount in Ohio and a full examination of ballots and registrations in Ohio and elsewhere are not only necessary first steps to ensure that we have an accurate count. Such efforts will also help all Americans better understand what is working and what is not working in our elections system. With that information, we can pursue reforms that will ensure that the next election is less likely to face doubts.
The questions in Ohio seem particularly troubling. Approximately 93,000 ballots have not been counted on the grounds that voters either voted for more than one presidential candidate or did not cast a vote in the presidential race. Ohio election officials are making determinations as to the eligibility of those who voted with provisional ballots and may be improperly disqualifying thousands of the 155,000 provisional ballots that have been cast. Ohio election officials are engaged in a similar process with overseas absentee ballots.
In addition, on Election Day, thousands of Ohio citizens reported difficulties and barriers in casting their vote. These reports included: lines into the hours at polling places, creating an undue burden on voters and discouraging many from voting; shortages of poll workers and machines; electronic voting machines which malfunctioned, with voting screens displaying a vote for a candidate which had not been cast; voters being required to show identification even though they were not first-time mail-in registrants; erroneous purges of voters from the voter rolls; voters who requested absentee ballots but never received them and were nevertheless barred from voting in person. In one precinct in Franklin County, Ohio, an electronic voting system gave George W. Bush 3,893 extra votes out of a total of 638 votes cast.
Every voter throughout the country needs to know that every effort has been made to count his or her vote, and this nation needs to understand exactly what procedural issues have been raised by the vote this year. A recount of all votes cast and an examination of all procedures used in Ohio will allow the nation to produce a full and detailed accounting of the election in that state, and will help lead the way for needed reforms to safeguard our elections in the future. While such efforts will not address all of the irregularities and potential voting rights violations which occurred in Ohio and elsewhere on Election Day, it will give us a full understanding of what else needs to be done so that we will have an election system of which this nation can be truly proud. Continuing to improve our election procedures will aid the work of restoring the people’s trust in our democratic process. Without such trust, our democracy is in crisis.