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Kerry campaign joins suit seeking recount of Ohio vote

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- John F. Kerry's campaign has joined a lawsuit by third-party presidential candidates seeking a recount in Ohio, and a lawyer for the campaign said yesterday the Democrat's camp does not question his loss but wants any counting to take place statewide.

Kerry's campaign this week joined the suit filed by Green and Libertarian party candidates seeking a recount of the vote in Delaware County. A judge in that county issued a restraining order blocking that request, but the order expired yesterday. A hearing is set in federal court in Columbus today on the recount request.

"The Kerry-Edwards campaign felt it had to intervene," said Daniel Hoffheimer, a Cincinnati lawyer who represents the campaign in Ohio. "We did not want a recount to go forward if it only was 87 [of Ohio's 88] counties."

The two minor parties also have asked for a statewide recount, but a judge ruled that cannot begin until Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell certifies the vote, likely on Monday. The parties say they have raised the $113,600 fee the state requires to conduct the recount.

The Kerry campaign isn't disputing the outcome of President Bush's Nov. 2 victory in Ohio -- a 136,000-vote margin, based on unofficial results -- but wants to make sure any recount is "done accurately and completely," Hoffheimer said.

Hoffheimer said he knew of no other challenge by the campaign to the national results. Bush won the national popular vote by about 3 percentage points, but Ohio's 20 electoral votes would have been enough to turn the race for Kerry.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for a group alleging fraud in Ohio put off until at least today the filing of a challenge to the results. Cliff Arnebeck, who alleges that votes intended for Kerry were shifted to Bush, said his team needed more time to collect and analyze evidence. He said the challenge could be filed as late as Monday.

In another development, Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, sent a letter to Blackwell asking for his assistance as the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee investigates "election irregularities." That probe would be in addition to one sought by the Government Accountability Office.

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