Close Race May Again Delay Election Results
This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Oct. 15, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: This Election Day may be deja vu all over again. There are a multitude of potential complications in this year's voting, that could delay the final results in a number of states, for days if not weeks after the election. And if the election is as close as everyone thinks, some fear we might not know who won the presidency until closer to Thanksgiving. How can that possibly be the case?
John Fund (search), "Wall Street Journal" columnist and author of "Stealing Elections, How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy," is here to help.
John, thanks for joining us.
JOHN FUND, AUTHOR, "STEALING ELECTIONS": Thanks, Jim.
ANGLE: Let me ask you first, there are several major complications this year. We'll take them one by one. One is that many states have not yet determined exactly who is on the ballot for all sorts of reasons. Those ballots obviously can't be sent to overseas absentee voters, including members of the military, until the ballot is settled.
So, what is going on here? What is — what are the problems that are keeping the ballots from being finally settled on this close to Election Day?
FUND: Well, John Kerry has 10,000 volunteer lawyers to look for problems on Election Day. But before that happens, they are sharpening their knives by getting Ralph Nader off as many ballots as they can. They're suing. Those lawsuits are only now hitting some states. Therefore, some military voters and some civilian voters overseas may never see a ballot.
ANGLE: Well, because you have states in which the argument is being heard over whether Nader should or shouldn't be on the ballot. You can't send the ballots with Nader on them if he gets taken off. So you couldn't send a bad ballot to someone serving in Iraq, for instance.
FUND: You've got something that's betwixt and between. And it usually takes about 30 days to make sure that a ballot goes overseas, because not everybody is using Federal Express...
FUND: ... is filled out and then sent back.
ANGLE: Well, now the Justice Department goes into these cases and argues that you have to have 30 days. And that is what they've done in Pennsylvania, where there will be a hearing next Tuesday. So, if you take 30 days from the date the ballots are mailed out. And they are mailed out, let's say 18, 19 and 20 in Pennsylvania, that gets you to November the 20?
FUND: Well, remember those Florida ballots in 2000 that were trickling in, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.
ANGLE: Right. So you have the potential here, especially if it's in battleground states, such as Pennsylvania — I believe Ohio is one of the states where the Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Florida, Nevada, all states where the Democrats are suing to get Nader off the ballot this late in the process, suggests that there are a lot of states that had very small margins in the last election, that may not be able it tell us who won their state.
FUND: This is how we turn Election Day into election month.
ANGLE: Not something anyone is looking forward to. Now, absentee ballots are not the only problem. There's also provisional voting.
FUND: Provisional voting something nationwide for the first time this year. It means in every state you march in a polling place, your name is not on the list, bureaucratic snafu, or you forgot to register, you have to be allowed to cast provisional ballot. It's separated from the rest and counted after everyone else's ballot is counted.
But here's the problem. It's not like an absentee where you're just comparing signatures. You have to investigate if that person is a valid voter. Now, we've only had one election, Jim, that was so close that provisional ballots were the difference. A Colorado congressional race in 2002: three counties count, three different standards as to what's eligible to vote.
ANGLE: Three different standards.
FUND: Three different standards. Each county can have its own standard. There's an Equal Protection argument for someone. Then they hired a bunch of temporary workers to count the ballots, they argued over the ballots, it took 33 days to count 2,700 ballots.
ANGLE: Thirty-three days!
FUND: And I would remind you, Jim, we only have 43 days between when we vote for president and when the Electoral College meets to select the president.
ANGLE: Now, that was a problem in Florida where Gore ran out of time.
FUND: Well, the time is very set. And that's why the lawyers are all going to be focusing both sides in that 43-day window.
ANGLE: Now, the provisional voters can come in with or without identification. What do you have to show when you come in?
FUND: It varies from state to state. If you've registered for the first time by mail you do have to show some form of I.D., although there are lawsuits to overturn that, for example, in Michigan. Provisional votes may have to show identification. In addition, there's also the problem of what if a whole bunch of provisional voters show up at the last minute? Let's say they are bused in, and there's a lawsuit to keep the polls open, as was done in St. Louis, Missouri in 2000. That — then you could have challenge to those votes that were cast after the polls were supposed to be closed. Are they valid?
ANGLE: All right. Last few seconds. What are the chances we won't know on Election Day or the morning after?
FUND: There's a 25 percent chance we go into overtime. There's a 75 percent chance we'll know who the winner is.
ANGLE: All right. We're in overtime too.
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