Florida-2000 syndrome hits Ohio on the eve of Election Day

Florida-2000 syndrome hits Ohio on the eve of Election Day

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Hürriyet Daily News
Florida-2000 syndrome hits Ohio on the eve of Election Day

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With the presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney driving a neck-and-neck race, particularly in the battleground state of Ohio, there are concerns that the U.S. will have to wait for its next president until the completion of a complicated legal process reminiscent of the 2000 election in Florida.

According to the latest polls, the Obama-Romney race seems to be tied in Ohio,where the decision will be decisive in the election of the next president.Both sides claim that they lead the polls with a slight margin but atthe same time have instructed their legal departments to stand at the readyfor legal action according to the results to be announced on Nov. 6, Election Day.

"Ohio is among the top five states in the country as far as fairness ofthe elections is concerned," Bob Bennert, chairman of the OhioRepublican Party told the Hürriyet Daily News Nov. 2. The electioncommission is composed of an equal number of members from both camps andis doing its job very well, he added but did not rule out legal confusion like that in Florida in 2000 if the difference between the two sides' votes is small.

Ohio has nearly 7.7 million registered voters and around 5.7 millionvoted in the 2004 and 2008 elections. Nearly one-third of voters cast their ballots early but a good majority will vote Nov. 6.

Apart from votes cast on Nov. 6, the number of provisional votes,plus totals from overseas, military and last-minute absentee ballotsthat have not yet been received is relatively high. The 2008 electionsaw almost 208,000 provisional ballots, 80 percent of which werecounted. If the difference will be small, then no party candeclare its victory until Nov. 17, the date when the counting ofprovisional voters has to be finalized. If the gap betweenObama and Romney is not large enough, then the suspense will continueanother 10 days while county election boards complete a canvass of thevote to come up with official totals. If the official count results ina race that is only 0.25 percentage points apart, the votes will haveto be recounted in a fresh process that has to be completed by Dec.11, according to Ohio law.

Conditions changed since 2008

Though this scenario is not far from being realistic, both sides claimthey lead the polls and will declare victory the night of Nov. 6.Recalling that Obama had a nearly 4.5 percent lead in the polls in 2008 because of what he calls "George W. Bush fatigue," Bennert said, "TheAfghanistan fatigue, war in Iraq... and besides we had the wrongcandidate. In addition, Obama came with a very powerful message in2008. But this does not exist anywhere in Ohio now."

"We feel very confident where we are. The president was very aggressiveagainst us in his recent appearances in Ohio," he said, adding that it wasan indication of his concern about the rise in Romney votes.

Having the same concerns that presidential elections could turn into alegal mess, volunteer groups from both sides are trying to do everythingto transport Democrat- or Republican-leaning people to the early votingcenter to cast their ballots. "I and my wife will take people withDemocratic worldviews to the polls on Sunday [Nov. 4]. Every vote counts now. We know Republicans do the same,” a businessman told the Daily News on the condition of anonymity. 

Both leaders will show up in different counties of Ohio until the Election Day to convince more people to vote for them.