By Joanne Kenen, Reuters, January 6, 2005
The U.S. Congress on Thursday formally certified President Bush as the victor of the November elections after two Democrats symbolically stalled the event in protest at alleged voting irregularities in Ohio.
California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, formally lodged objections because of Ohio, although they said they recognized Bush had won and were not trying to overturn the results.
They said their goal was to force lawmakers to heed problems that had been particularly evident in Democratic-leaning minority and urban neighborhoods and to consider the need for more voting reforms including standard election rules in all states.
"This objection does not have at its root the hope or even the hint of overturning or challenging the victory of the president," Tubbs Jones said. Boxer called it a matter of "electoral justice."
The rare objection to vote certification, the first filed in decades, forced the House and Senate to halt their joint session, usually a routine and ceremonial affair. Each chamber then debated the objection, and rejected it, the Senate by a 74-1 vote, the House 267-31. The state-by-state certification was completed a few hours later.
About 200 protesters near the White House, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, beat drums and urged Congress not to certify the results because they said unreliable voting machines and partisan election officials had tilted the closely fought swing state of Ohio to Bush.
Tubbs-Jones and Boxer listed a number of problems in Ohio, including rejection of provisional ballots, long lines and inadequate numbers of voting machines in urban neighborhoods that tended to back Kerry.
But one of Ohio's senators, Republican Mike DeWine, called the complaints "wild, incoherent and completely unsubstantiated." Several lawmakers in both chambers noted that Ohio votes had been recounted and the results certified by bipartisan local election boards.
In the much more rancorous aftermath of the 2000 race between then-Texas Gov. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, which was decided in the Supreme Court, no senators stepped up to lodge an objection. Boxer said she had refrained from objecting then at Gore's request, but had since come to regret her silence.