Countdown to the Presidency

With Absentee Ballots Still Pending, the Nation Continues to Wait

WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 10—With more than 2000 overseas absentee ballots uncounted, Florida's 25 electoral votes are still up in the air despite the recount.

This morning, press reports had Republican George W. Bush clinging to a lead of 327 votes. Yesterday, a judge barred election officials in Palm Beach County from certifying the results there until a hand count is completed next week.

Campaign officials for Democrat Al Gore have announced they plan to sue over the Palm Beach ballot, which many voters say was so confusing they wound up punching the hole for Reform candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Gore. The Gore camp says the design of the ballot appears to violate state law, because punch holes were placed to the left of some candidates names, rather than to the right as the statute requires.

The absentee ballots won't be counted until next Friday and many of them are coming from military families, who could lean to Bush; in 1996 the majority of the overseas absentee ballots were from military personnel and went to Bob Dole. Others are reported to be from Israel where Gore might get the nod. But nobody really knows....

Bushites are sticking to their guns, hoping military absentee ballots will do the trick. One unnamed Bush policy advisor said that if the Palm Beach County vote is done over, then Gore will win the election.

Gore Democrats are challenging votes in four counties, demanding a hand count. Jesse Jackson is running a broad investigation of intimidation of minority voters. Janet Reno hasn't yet decided whether the Justice Department will step into the case, explaining that elections are mostly a matter of state law, not federal.

Complaints of voter irregularities are pouring in by the thousands to a Democratic party-sponsored hotline. In all likelihood Gore supporters will be filing several suits challenging the election in state court.

In addition to Florida, recounts may be possible in four other states. According to ABCNews.com, Oregon state law may mandate a recount if the final outcome falls within a margin of one-fifth of 1 percent. The Bush campaign is also considering requesting recounts in Iowa and Wisconsin, where Gore defeated Bush by narrow margins. A database glitch has delayed the count in New Mexico, where the tallying continues.

 
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