What Counts in Ohio Recount

President Bush was officially reelected to a second term on Dec. 13 by the Electoral College with a 286 to 252 victory. That might have dampened a continuing low-level buzz about the legitimacy of the Nov. 2 popular vote count, which Mr. Bush won by some 3.5 million votes.

But not in Ohio.

Bush officially took the state's pivotal 20 electoral votes by 118,775 ballots. That was close enough to cause some losers to pay for a recount, begun last week. Also, Ohio's high court has been asked to review issues raised about the voting process, such as double-counted ballots and a shortage of voting machines in heavily Democratic areas.

Tellingly, the recount challenge doesn't come from the Democratic Party, but from the Green and Libertarian parties, which don't stand a chance of winning Ohio even if Bush actually lost the state.

That doesn't mean individual Democrats aren't crying foul. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, for instance, has implied that some of Ohio's new electronic voting machines were set to record votes for Bush by the company that manufactured them because the firm's president supported Bush.

That charge may be a bit extreme, but it's worth watching the more credible challenges and recount as a useful exercise to help all states further improve their election machinery. Reconfirming Bush's victory will also help many disaffected Democrats move beyond faulting their loss on the voting system, and allow the party to get on with repairing itself.

For widespread vote fraud to have occurred in Ohio, the major parties would have had to conspire together. Each of the state's counties has a bipartisan election board made up of two Republicans and two Democrats with authority over polling places and machines used. That's a pretty strong rebuke to those who allege voter fraud on a scale that would've given the state to Sen. John Kerry.

That's not to say that long lines and touch-screen voting machines that didn't produce a paper trail (as in Ohio) aren't problems that need fixing. American elections must be an example for other nations. Giving Ohio's vote count a clean bill of health would help that cause.

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