- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A repeat of the Florida 2000 fiasco did not unfold in Ohio as many anticipated, as even Sen. John Kerry did the math: There were simply not enough provisional and overseas absentee ballots to overcome President Bush’s nearly 140,000-vote lead in the state that decided the election.

The state, however, will do its duty and count all the outstanding ballots, now a purely academic exercise that the Ohio election chief said will show how the election reforms passed in the aftermath of Florida are supposed to work.

“There were lots of people who thought they were going to witness some kind of havoc, some kind of chaos,” said Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. “We came through with flying colors. We came into this saying, ‘Let’s get control of this election. Let’s not leave it in the hands of lawyers and judges.’ And it worked.”

As of yesterday afternoon, Ohio was reporting that 135,149 provisional ballots were distributed throughout the state, with nine counties left to count them.

However, since the most heavily populated areas of the state have turned in their totals, it was unlikely that even the raw number of provisional ballots would exceed the president’s unofficial final 136,483-vote margin of victory by more than a few hundred.

It is simply not feasible that Mr. Kerry would have captured nearly 100 percent of those provisional ballots. Adding in the estimated 3,000 absentee ballots from overseas, most from pro-Bush military families, led Mr. Kerry to concede the inevitable yesterday afternoon.

However, the count will go on, and it could take a little more than a week, Mr. Blackwell said.

According to state law, the deadline for overseas absentee ballots is 11 days. While waiting for those ballots to come in, each local board of elections will begin to establish the validity of the provisional ballots. Those ballots were handed out on Election Day to voters who claimed they were eligible to vote, but didn’t show up on the register in the polling place they visited — ostensibly because of a clerical error.

However, Ohio law requires those voters to have received their provisional ballot from the precinct in which they reside. If a voter went to the wrong polling place and voted with a provisional ballot, the vote will not count. That rule, state officials say, is to prevent intentional voter fraud.

Before that rule was in place, Ohio had a 90 percent approval rate of its provisional ballots. Staffers at the Secretary of State’s Office refuse to speculate on the record on this year’s approval rate, but one official said on the condition of anonymity that he expects the rate to be no more than 60 percent.

After the 11-day deadline for oversees ballots to arrive, each county board of elections will canvass all their ballots — from the machines, the legal provisionals and absentees — and complete their official audit.

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