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Senate Support Sought to Object to Ohio Vote

For Immediate Release
December 30th, 2004

Conyers Seeks Senate Support to Challenge of Ohio Electors
Ranking Minority Member on Judiciary Sends Letter to Colleagues

Rainbow / PUSH has circulated a letter addressed to Senator Barbara Boxer of California, sent by Representative John Conyers, apparently to each member of Congress. In the letter Mr. Conyers asks for the support of a member of the Senate for bringing a challenge to the seating of the Electoral College delegation from Ohio. Congress is scheduled to meet in joint session on Thursday, January 6th at 1:00 pm to certify the results of the 2004 Presidential election.

In his letter, Mr. Conyers cites the procedures agreed to by Congress when they adopted the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and goes on to write: "However, if a State - in this case Ohio - has not followed its own procedures and met its obligation to conduct a free and fair election, a valid objection -if endorsed by at least one Senator and a Member of the House of Representatives- should be debated by each body separately until 'disposed of'."

Many members from the Congressional Black Caucus sought to place before the 2000 Joint Session of Congress charged with counting the votes from the last Presidential Election, such an objection. Lacking the support of a Member of the Senate, Al Gore, then President of the U.S. Senate was required to rule each such attempt by a House Member to bring such an objection, out of order.

The full text of the Mr. Conyers letter follows:

Dear Senator Boxer,

As you know, on January 6, 2005, at 1:00 P.M, the electoral votes for the election of the president are to be opened and counted in a joint session of Congress, commencing at 1:00 P.M. I and a number of House Members are planning to object to the counting of the Ohio votes, due to numerous unexplained irregularities in the Ohio presidential vote, many of which appear to violate both federal and state law. I am hoping that you will consider joining us in this important effort to debate and highlight the problems in Ohio which disenfranchised innumerable voters. I will shortly forward you a draft report itemizing and analyzing the many irregularities we have come across as part of our hearings and investigation into the Ohio presidential election.

3 U.S.C. 715 provides when the results from each of the states are announced, that "the President of the Senate shall call for objections, if any." Any objection must be presented in writing and "signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives before the same shall be received."1. The objection must "state clearly and concisely, and without argument, the ground thereof."2 When an objection has been properly made in writing and endorsed by a member of each body the Senate withdraws from the House chamber, and each body meets separately to consider the objection.

"No votes . . . from any other State shall be acted upon until the [pending] objection . . . [is] finally disposed of."3 U.S.C. 717 limits debate on the objections in each body to two hours, during which time no member may speak more than once and not for more than five minutes. Both the Senate and the House must separately agree to the objection; otherwise, the challenged vote or votes are counted.

Historically, there appears to be three general grounds for objecting to the counting of electoral votes. The language of 3 U.S.C. 715 suggests that objection may be made on the grounds that (1) a vote was not "regularly given" by the challenged elector(s); and/or (2) the elector(s) was not "lawfully certified" under state law; or (3) two slates of electors have been presented to Congress from the same State.

Since the Electoral Count Act of 1887, no objection meeting the requirements of the Act have been made against an entire slate of state electors.5 In the 2000 election several Members of the House of Representatives attempted to challenge the electoral votes from the State of Florida. However, no Senator joined in the objection, and therefore, the objection was not "received." In addition, there was no determination whether the objection constituted an appropriate basis under the 1887 Act. How ever, if a State - in this case Ohio - has not followed its own procedures and met its obligation to conduct a free and fair election, a valid objection -if endorsed by at least one Senator and a Member of the House of Representatives- should be debated by each body separately until "disposed of".

Please contact me at 225-5126 to appraise me of your thoughts on this important matter. If your staff has questions, that may be forwar ded to Perry Apelbaum or Ted Kalo of my Judiciary Committee staff at 225-6504.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

John Conyers, Jr.

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