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Third-party candidates seek second Ohio recount

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Two third-party presidential candidates asked a federal court Thursday to force a second recount of the Ohio vote, alleging county election boards altered votes and didn’t follow proper procedures in the recount that ended this week.

Lawyers for Green Party candidate David Cobb and the Libertarian Party’s Michael Badnarik made their request in federal court in Columbus.

The two candidates, who received less than 0.3 percent of the Ohio vote, paid $113,600 for a statewide recount after the vote was certified earlier this month by the secretary of state. They have said they don’t expect to change the election results, but want to make sure that every vote is properly counted.

Ohio and its 20 electoral votes tipped the race to President Bush when Sen. John Kerry conceded the morning after the Nov. 2 election.

Counties finished the recount Tuesday. Bush won the state by 118,457 votes over Kerry, according to unofficial results provided to the Associated Press by the 88 counties.

“We’ve documented in this filing how this recount was not conducted in accordance with uniform standards throughout Ohio” as required by the U.S. Constitution, said John Bonifaz, a lawyer from the National Voting Right Institute representing the candidates.

Ohio law requires an elections board to manually recount a randomly selected 3 percent of ballots. If the totals match certified results for those precincts, all the county’s votes are then machine-counted. If the hand count is off, a county must manually recount all its ballots.

The filing, part of an ongoing lawsuit originally brought by a county board of elections to stop the recount, alleges counties did not randomly select precincts for the manual recount and some workers altered votes to prevent a full hand count.

Bonifaz said the filing is based on the experiences of Green Party representatives who observed the recount.

Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, called the contentions “baseless accusations.”

“The ballots were counted in Ohio, they were counted again, they were recounted. The election is over,” LoParo said.