Council Calls for Presidential Vote Investigation By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday December 17, 2004

As a recount proceeds in Ohio, Berkeley has become the first city to add its voice to the chorus of skeptics demanding an investigation into alleged voting irregularities in last month’s presidential elections. 

On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Government Accountability Office undertake an investigation and calling for national election reforms. 

“Democracy is on the line,” said Phoebe Anne Sorgen of the city’s Peace and Justice Commission, which recommended the resolution to the council. 

Although she doesn’t expect the Bush administration or the Republican-controlled Congress to heed the city’s call, Sorgen hopes other municipalities and organizations call for investigations. 

Already Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has held informal hearings into irregularities reported in Ohio. Along with Democratic colleagues, Conyers has demanded that Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell respond to 12 irregularities in vote counting and election procedures disclosed during the sessions. 

On Wednesday, Conyers upped the ante, requesting that the FBI and an Ohio county prosecutor investigate possible election tampering in Hocking County, Ohio. The charges are based on a sworn affidavit by the county deputy director of elections, Sherole Eaton. According to the affidavit posted on Conyer’s website, Eaton said that a representative of Triad Governmental Systems, the firm which designed and manages vote counting software in Ohio counties, adjusted the tabulator in Hocking County last Friday in advance of this week’s scheduled recount. 

The recount, which under Ohio rules requires that 3 percent of the vote in each county be tallied by hand, is being funded jointly by the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. 

Closer to home, UC Berkeley Professor Michael Hout and a team of graduate students found that irregularities in Florida electronic voting machines may have awarded up to 260,000 votes to President Bush, who won the state by a margin of over 380,000. 

Berkeley’s resolution calls for, among other things, requiring that election day become a mandatory holiday or moved to the weekend, early voting throughout the county, a voter-verifiable paper trail of every vote cast, public access to election machine computer codes, consistent national standards for security and access, and that states appoint non-partisan officials to run elections. 

Councilmember Dona Spring pushed for the council to pass the resolution before its Christmas recess to show support for Conyers and others in Congress who are challenging the election results. 

“As time passes, the Congress will feel less pressure to deal with voting irregularities,” she said. 

At the request of Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, the council stripped the resolution of one section that noted that up to one-third of Berkeley ballots weren’t counted until three weeks after the election. The delay was due to a county policy that all write-in ballots submitted on election day be classified as provisional ballots, which require county officials to confirm that the voter is properly registered. Wozniak said he thought the matter was trivial compared to the other allegations in the resolution.