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November 3, 2004
Provisional Ballots And The Election

After a couple of hours, the new count of provisional ballots in Ohio appears that it will barely outstrip the margin of victory by George Bush over John Kerry. With 10 smaller counties left to report their provos, Ohio has 135,149, including 24,788 from Cuyahoga County. At the moment, the Ohio Secretary of State's website shows that Bush has a lead of 133,164 votes, with 99.9% of all precincts reporting. The gap between the two numbers is significant legally, if not for the overall result.

Races in Ohio get automatically reviewed under two scenarios. First, by statute, if the margin of victory does not exceed 0.25% of the overall votes cast for that race, a recount is automatically undertaken. The gap for President is much broader than that -- 2.44%, making a recount unnecessary. The second regulatory threshold is if the margin fails to exceed the number of provisional ballots cast, the provisional ballots must be reviewed and qualified ballots counted before the results are final. It looks like the latter case will automatically be invoked at this stage.

It doesn't matter anyway. The Kerry/Edwards campaign wanted to make the case that 250,000 provisional ballots remained, which was clearly an exaggeration. Assuming that absentee ballots, including those from the military, broke exactly even between the two candidates (and that would be a hell of an assumption for military ballots), the remaining provos would all have to be legal and almost every one of them would have to vote for John Kerry.

It's ridiculous on its face. First, as veteran pollworkers told news organizations all night long, provisional ballots have a low rate of acceptance, usually around 25% at best. A good deal of them wind up being cast by ineligible voters, people who went to the wrong precinct or have no proof of residence. Even giving them a 75% approval rating, the best Kerry could get would be around 90,000 fresh ballots into the calculation. If every single one of them voted for Kerry, not only would that be extremely suspicious, it would still leave Kerry about 40,000 votes shy of victory.

Once that math starts to sink in at Kerry's campaign HQ, I suspect we'll be hearing a concession from the once and future Massachussetts Senator. The math will sink in elsewhere in the party, and as I heard at least one Democratic spokesperson say on television a couple of hours ago, Kerry will be forced to concede by his own party. Attempting to pull another Florida after losing by so many votes, and losing the popular vote by over three points, will be disastrous to the Democrats.

Expect the concession speech by noon today. All the votes will be counted, of course, but the outcome is not in doubt. Only the character of the loser is.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 3, 2004 5:39 AM

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