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No winner in US presidential election

Dems schedule Florida 2000 re-run in Ohio

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Americans and many people abroad were no doubt hoping for a decisive victory in the presidential election. Sadly, this is not to be. There are delays in both Ohio and Iowa, and these may extend for as long as ten days, and possibly longer still.

At this writing, Bush is ahead 249 to 242. Ohio's 20 electoral votes would guarantee Bush a win, or put Kerry back into the race. However, Bush leads in Ohio by over 130,000 votes with 99 per cent of precincts reporting, which certainly sounds like a victory - only the Democrats have refused to concede it.

According to the Democrats, Ohio has over 170,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted, and these, the Party predicts, will be almost entirely for Kerry.

Early Wednesday morning, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards announced that the Democrats would "make sure that every vote counts, and that every vote is counted."

Thus it's clear that the lawyers will be taking over on Wednesday. While the provisional ballots will not likely give Kerry a victory, they might narrow the margin of victory enough for a re-count.

If the margin of victory is less than 1/4 of one per cent, Ohio law requires a re-count. This is what the Democrats are hoping for. A re-count will give them the opportunity to challenge thousands of ballots for Bush, and, with luck, get enough of them thrown out to give the state to Kerry.

If Bush wins enough electoral votes to win the election without Ohio, the Democrats will obviously abandon this scheme. (We should know if that is so within two or three days.) But if Ohio becomes crucial to Bush, the Kerry camp will do whatever it can to force a re-count, and then the lawyers on both sides will descend like locusts to fight over every ballot, in a process that might go on for weeks.

We should mention that the vast majority of Ohio voters use the punch-card ballots that created such a mess in Florida in 2000. Chads, both hanging and pregnant, may well dominate the headlines again.

It may take eight to ten days for Ohio to finish counting the provisional ballots. But that will be just the beginning if the process narrows the margin of victory enough to force a re-count, as the Democrats hope.

Additionally, there are problems with optical scan machines in Iowa, and these may not be fixed until Wednesday afternoon. Iowa is close, and may not be decided until absentee and provisional ballots have been counted. Provisional ballots will not be counted until Thursday.

Exit polls

On Tuesday we predicted a decisive Kerry victory. Early exit polls showed a strong lead for Kerry in Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. We calculated that if he got those four Eastern battleground states early, he would run the table.

But the polls were off the mark. Kerry did win New Hampshire, which Bush won in 2000, and Pennsylvania, which Bush lost previously but fought hard for this time, but Kerry lost Florida early, and seems to have lost Ohio. And even if he pulls it out of his hat, he didn't get the decisive early win that he would have needed to create the momentum for an electoral landslide.

Perhaps that's for the best. Bush has an impressive lead in the popular vote, and it's always better for the president to win both. Losing the popular vote in 2000 raised doubts about his legitimacy among many Democrats, and the Supreme Court's interference in the Florida re-count made the situation worse. If Bush wins both votes this time around, Democrats won't be able to whine that he's not really the president. On the other hand, if Kerry does get off the respirator, but loses the popular vote, he will be dogged by the same doubts that plagued Bush throughout his first term. ®

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