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Blackwell certifies Bush as Ohio victor by 118,775 votes

BLACKWELL

Ken Blackwell signs the official certification of the Nov. 2 election results, which give Mr. Bush Ohio's 20 electoral votes.

JAY LAPRETE / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - President Bush won re-election by carrying Ohio over Democrat Sen. John Kerry by 118,775 votes, according to official results that the state's chief elections officer certified yesterday.

At 3:35 p.m., Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell signed the official canvass of votes showing Mr. Bush with 50.82 percent and Mr. Kerry with 48.70 percent. Unofficial election night results showed Mr. Bush winning by 136,483 votes.

The final results were determined in a precinct-by-precinct audit by Ohio's 88 bipartisan county election boards that included the provisional ballots, overseas absentee ballots, and absentee ballots that arrived at election boards on Nov. 2.

A total of 92,672 ballots weren't counted because they had more than one or no vote for president, said Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office.

Of the 156,977 provisional ballots cast, 121,598 were valid. Election workers in most counties didn't tally those ballots separate from others in the official count, Mr. LoParo said.

"Elections are human endeavors and as such they are never perfect," said Mr. Blackwell, who was associate chairman of Mr. Bush's Ohio campaign. "But I can say with the fullest of confidence that this election in Ohio was perfectly inspiring. That's because at the center we had dedicated voters and professional election officials."

Mr. Kerry conceded on Nov. 3 after concluding that the count of provisional ballots wouldn't prevent Mr. Bush from winning Ohio's 20 electoral votes.

Mr. Blackwell certified the official Nov. 2 results four hours after the Democratic National Committee announced it will study "key election practices and issues" raised about the presidential election in Ohio.

"We are launching this comprehensive investigative study not to contest the results of the 2004 election, but again to help ensure that every eligible vote cast is truly counted," said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "This study will address the legitimate questions and concerns that have been raised in Ohio. Our goal is to understand and report back on what happened and why .●.●. We know we will not overturn the election, but we can't expect people to do a record turnout again if they are not confident in the system."

Mr. McAuliffe said he briefed Mr. Kerry on Sunday night about the study and the senator supported it. The study, which Mr. McAuliffe said should be finished by spring, 2005, will examine provisional ballots, long lines at polling places, and alleged voting machine irregularities. The results will be used to pursue any changes needed in state and federal law, he added.

Donna Brazile, who headed Al Gore's campaign in 2000 and now is chairman of the DNC's Voting Rights Institute, said Mr. Blackwell's directive restricted the number of provisional ballots that would be counted. He also helped suppress voting through a Sept. 9 directive that registration forms be on 80-pound text weight paper - and then revising the directive so that counties could accept copier paper that is 20 pounds, she said.

Mr. Blackwell said there were "some glitches in the election, but none of these glitches were of a conspiratorial nature and none of them would have overturned or changed the election results."

Bob Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said, "If the Democrats want to pay for a study to help them sleep at night, that's fine. Just don't expect anyone to believe it's credible.''

Some Democrats in Ohio and nationwide have questioned why the losing Green and Libertarian presidential candidates, not Mr. Kerry, are pushing for a recount in all 88 Ohio counties.

Also, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and an attorney representing the Alliance for Democracy are behind a suit to contest the results that show Mr. Bush as the victor.

Kerry campaign attorneys intervened last week in a lawsuit in which Delaware County failed to stop a recount because it would be too expensive.

Mr. Blackwell's comments at the certification ceremony didn't change the minds of those who have questioned Ohio's results.

"Florida 2000 has morphed into Ohio 2004," said Dan Hamburg, a former Democratic congressman from California who helped organize an anti-Blackwell protest. "We are seeing a lot of the same shenanigans; the same dirty tricks."

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com or

614-221-0496.

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