LP Ohio Recount Controversy

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LP presidential candidate Michael Badnarik has teamed with the Green Party's David Cobb–and now the Kerry campaign–to demand a recount in Ohio's election. It appears as if that recount will indeed happen–to the consternation of some local election officials:

"I'm just really thoroughly disgusted with the whole thing," [Ross County Board of Elections Director Nancy] Bell said…."I resent our honesty and integrity being questioned."

Bell said if there were a great difference between the "unofficial vote totals and official vote totals," that is the total votes on election night, and the later count which includes provisional ballots, the board would want a recount. However, she said, there is not a great difference between these totals.

She's not the only one disturbed by the recount request. This move from Badnarik's team has sparked a fair amount of controversy among some LP supporters as well. Some think it merely benefits the Greens and the Democrats and others who wish to cast a shadow of illegitimacy over Bush's second term, wastes taxpayer resources (although the challengers had to pay Ohio's counties $10 per precinct for the recount, the effort will cost far more than that–Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell claims as much as $1.5 million), and provides no benefit for the LP and the possible P.R. harm of making the party seem a tool of disgruntled leftists. (No recount requests have been made in states where Kerry was the official victor, and in Ohio apparently the Greens needed Badnarik as a frontman for suit since, as he was a candidate on the ballot and Cobb was not, he had standing for the challenge.)

The money for the campaign is being raised by the Green side, with, according to reports from workers with the Badnarik campaign, only $10,000 or so raised through Badnarik supporters, and the Badnarik web site no longer has a contribution option for this cause. Badnarik wonders about the wide gap between early exit polls and the final results, saying

"Our goal is to uncover voting irregularities and bring them to light…Voters all across America have a legitimate expectation that their votes are going to be counted, and that they're going to be counted legitimately."

The national LP has disavowed Badnarik's effort, in a statement from National Chair Mike Dixon, supplied to me today by LP press secretary George Getz:

"The national Libertarian Party was unaware of this lawsuit until after it was filed, and no party funds have been spent in the effort. Mr. Badnarik is making a well-intentioned effort to protect the integrity of the voting process. However, because no one anticipates that a recount will change the outcome in Ohio, the Libertarian Party prefers not to see taxpayer resources expended in this effort."

The executive director of the Ohio state LP, Robert Butler, has also been complaining in some e-mails I've seen circulating about angry donors and the fear of negative press because of the recount campaign, a campaign in which he sees no real upside for the LP. People supporting the recount argue that it presents the LP positively as disinterested defenders of the integrity of the electoral system, and helps cement possibly beneficial future ties with Greens down the road.