Congress on Thursday certified President Bush as the winner of the November election, despite efforts by a handful of Democrats to stall the process by protesting alleged electronic voting irregularities in Ohio.
By lodging formal objections with both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Democrats managed to force an unexpected debate on Election Day procedures used in Ohio. The objections were effectively a form of public protest and did not threaten the final certification, which eventually took place by an overwhelming vote in both chambers.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., criticized "malfunctioning electronic machines that may not have paper receipts" and that can cause an "additional loss of confidence by the public."
During the floor debate, Rep. Cynthia McKinney warned of a "democracy entrusted to private voting machines (that can be) hacked, overheat, break down or have their batteries die."
Republicans characterized the Democrats' move as a case of sour grapes after Bush won the election. "It is time to move forward and not engage in conspiracy theories or partisan politics of this nature," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
While most reports have concluded that e-voting machines performed reasonably well on Nov. 2, a variety of anomalies have cropped up that have fueled interest in rethinking the process and perhaps moving toward stricter standards for the devices.
A recent report prepared by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said that "there are "ample grounds" for challenging the Ohio outcome. The report cited "the failure to provide adequate voting machinery," possible irregularities by voting machine manufacturer Triad, and alleged problems with the recount.
Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., said the lack of a nationwide set of standards showed that "Congress must establish the standard with verifiable paper or an audit trail." A vocal collection of computer scientists has urged a similar approach.
The objections to certifying Ohio's electoral votes eventually were rejected 267 to 31 in the House and 74 to 1 in the Senate.