Ohio Officials Clear Vote Tampering Charge

Election officials watched Monday as a technician repeated a repair he had made to a vote tallying computer, then announced they had found no evidence of any sort of tampering, despite a congressman's request for an FBI (search) probe.

Observers, including a Green Party (search) representative who had sought a presidential recount, agreed the procedure did not alter the Election Day (search) vote total in the county, Hocking County Prosecutor Larry Beal said.

"Everybody felt better," he said.

Questions about the integrity of the machine arose when an employee of TRIAD Governmental Systems Inc., the company that wrote the voting software used across much of Ohio, arrived Dec. 10 to inspect Hocking County's tabulating machine.

According to a sworn statement from Sherole Eaton, the county's deputy director of elections, the representative told her "the battery in the computer was dead and that the stored information was gone."

That prompted Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, to urge the FBI to investigate possible election tampering.

Brett Rapp, president of Xenia, Ohio-based TRIAD, said it is standard procedure to prepare the machines for a recount and that in this case the computer's hard drive had to be repaired. No vote tabulations were lost, he said.

Elections officials, a Green Party representative, prosecutors and an officer who investigates computer crimes were among the observers Monday as the same technician repeated the repair and answered questions.

Rapp explained that the 14-year-old computer's battery needed for rebooting was low. The technician swapped the hard drive to a newer machine to read the information needed for reboot before reinstalling it in the original.

"During this whole process, the ballots were locked up," Rapp said.

Ohio and its 20 electoral votes determined the outcome of the election, tipping the race to President Bush when Democrat John Kerry conceded the next morning.