Absentees due Friday, but they may not end it

By LAURA MECKLER

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Some questions and answers about the presidential election and the vote recount in Florida:

A: No. Absentee ballots from Floridians living abroad must be postmarked by Election Day but will be tallied as long as they arrive by Friday. It’s unclear how many of these ballots remain to be counted. Traditionally, overseas ballots have favored the Republican candidate.

A: The presidential race is so close that neither Republican George W. Bush nor Democrat Al Gore can win without Florida. And so far, Florida is still too close to call.

To be elected president, a candidate must receive 270 votes in the Electoral College. Bush has won 29 states worth 246 electoral votes, and Gore has won 19 states plus the District of Columbia for 262. Outstanding are Florida, with 25 electoral votes, and New Mexico, with 5. But winning New Mexico won’t give either candidate the presidency, so the result rests on Florida.

A: Gore is ahead nationally by a little more than 216,000 votes. He has 49,260,111 votes vs. Bush’s 49,043,820. But there were enough absentee votes still to be counted in several states that could give Bush the lead. California alone has more than 1 million uncounted ballots; Washington state has about 350,000 and New York about 300,000.

But the popular vote doesn’t matter in determining the winner.

A: Bush was ahead after the first count of the ballots, and remained ahead after a statewide recount, but only by a tiny margin: 288 votes out of nearly 6 million cast, according to an unofficial Associated Press canvas. The secretary of state in Florida said on Friday that Bush was up by 960, but that tally lagged behind the AP count.

A: The statewide tallies were conducted by machine. The Gore campaign requested that ballots in four predominantly Democratic counties — Palm Beach, Volusia, Broward and Miami-Dade counties — be counted again by hand.

A: Yes. It has asked a federal court to stop the hand counts. The court has scheduled a hearing Mtoday to consider the request.

A: Yes. Bush asked for a third machine count in Palm Beach County, though the results were not what the Texas governor had in mind. Gore gained three dozen additional votes.

A: That’s unclear. In Palm Beach County, Democrats and many voters have complained about a confusing, two-page ballot that listed Gore’s name second but required Gore supporters to punch the third hole. Those who punched hole No. 2 actually voted for Pat Buchanan, who got an unusually large number of votes from the county. There were also a large number of ballots with two votes for president that were thrown out; Democrats contend these were marked by confused voters.

Eight lawsuits have been filed complaining about the ballot, and a state court has ruled that the county can’t certify its results until Tuesday, when it considers the matter. Many Gore supporters are calling for the courts to order a new election in Palm Beach County, though there is scant legal precedent to support their case.

A: The presidential electors meet on Dec. 18 to pick a new president, who replaces Bill Clinton on Jan. 20.

Florida has until Dec. 12 to designate its electors. If Florida’s votes are not delivered on Dec. 18, the electoral process will continue without them. That would mean no candidate would have a majority of the 538 electoral votes, sending the decision to the House of Representatives. In the House, each state would have one vote.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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