Thursday, November 4, 2004
Election fuss gave Blackwell a boost
Deftly avoided Fla.'s six-week debacle
By Jim Siegel
Enquirer Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS - Ohio did not turn into the Florida of 2004, and with the election called by noon Wednesday, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell did not transform into Katherine Harris.
Ken Blackwell answers reporters' questions early Wednesday.
Associated Press/PAUL VERNON
"Bloodied but now bowed" is how a weary-sounding Blackwell described himself the day after a record number of Ohioans went to polls - an election that was preceded by more than 20 lawsuits filed by individuals, independent groups and both political parties.
Harris was Florida's chief elections official in 2000. Democrats said she stopped the recount in order to preserve Bush's thin lead there.
For weeks Blackwell has been the public face of an election in the most closely watched state in the nation. Hundreds of protesters marched on his office. Ohio Democrats demanded he resign.
But in his typical style, Blackwell remained calm and cool, deflecting criticisms with wit and soaking up the spotlight. On Wednesday he credited Ohio's election system and its 50,000 poll workers for ensuring that, in the end, he was not vilified.
And now that Ohio's election has avoided the chaos some predicted, Blackwell is ready to start two new endeavors: passing a constitutional amendment next year limiting state government spending, and running for governor in 2006.
Blackwell hopes his recent moment in the national sun has shown Ohioans a man who tries to do the right thing.
"I took a stand in defense of a system that was geared toward providing Ohio voters with an opportunity to exercise their franchise in a voting station that was void of intimidation," he said.
The biggest controversies leading up to the election - limited provisional balloting and challengers posted at poll sites - did not materialize as problems on Election Day. Bush's margin of victory was too large for provisional ballots to matter, and challengers, for the most part, stayed out of the way.
The biggest problem Tuesday - long lines - is largely out of Blackwell's hands. He doesn't control how many poll machines each county election board buys.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said Wednesday that Blackwell was "magnanimous in saying he wanted every vote to be counted.''
"There was no doubt that Ken Blackwell, the Republican secretary of state in Ohio, wanted to show that he wasn't going to be partisan,'' Blitzer said.
Blackwell said the only decision he regrets is how he handled the directives over the thickness of paper forms for voter registration.
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