The Ohio Recount Won’t Make Any Difference

There’s an undercurrent of chatter about the recount and count of provisional ballots in Ohio on both sides of the political spectrum. Some Conservatives are worried that somehow the Democrats will manage to pull it out of their hats and a lot of lefties are hoping against hope that Kerry is going to be able to pull it out.

Here’s a message for everybody who is wondering, worried, hoping, you name it, that Ohio is going to turn blue: Not. Going. To. Happen.

The margin is just too big. Let me break down the numbers…

Bush won Ohio by 136,483 votes but a voting error added 3,893 to Bush’s total, so he actually should have been ahead by 132,590 votes on Nov. 3rd.

Now, there are three possible sources of vote gains for Kerry. There are 155,337 provisional ballots, 92,672 “spoiled” ballots on which a vote for President wasn’t recorded, and overseas absentee votes. I’m going to leave out the overseas absentees votes because I haven’t seen an accurate count of the ones left to be counted (military ballots had until Nov. 12 to come in) and they tend to break Republican anyway.

So Kerry has to beat Bush by 132,590 ballots out of the 248,009 votes that haven’t been counted, right (190,300 (77%) for Kerry to 57,709 (23%) for Bush)? Not quite.

So far, only 81% of the provisional votes reviewed are valid. So now we’re down to roughly 107,398 ballots if that percentage holds.

Now, how will those ballots break out? Well, they’ll likely break out about roughly the same way the vote did: for Bush in Republican leaning counties and for Kerry in Democratic leaning counties. For example, in Richland county they’ve finished the count…

“Tuesday, the board tallied 1,212 validated provisional ballots. On election day, 1,357 were cast, but 145 were ruled invalid when they were reviewed by the board last week. Of those, 28 were from voters registered in Richland County but casting votes in the wrong precinct, 92 were not registered in Richland County and 25 were not registered in another county as they claimed.

The presidential vote on those provisional ballots reflected almost exactly the percentages of the general vote, with 610 favoring President Bush and 578 going for Sen. John Kerry.

“It almost always turns out that way. There’s never a big margin for one (candidate) or the other (from provisional votes),” Hankins said.”

But, let’s be generous — let’s say that Kerry takes 60% of the provisional ballots and Bush only takes 40%. Does that mean Bush is in trouble? Not at all. That would add 21,479 votes for Kerry which would put Kerry behind by 111,111 votes with 92,672 “spoiled ballots” left to be counted. So by the time the provisional ballots are fully counted, Kerry will be out of it.

But, let’s say somehow, someway, Kerry’s not out of it after the provisional ballots are counted. Can he make it up with the spoiled ballots? No.

Know why I say that? Florida in 2000. The media did a statewide recount of the spoiled 64,248 and as you’ll remember, Bush’s lead was less than 1,000 votes, not a 100,000 plus. And the results?

Bush won the recount after the election done by the Miami Herald. Here’s a headline and the first two paragraphs from their website…


Republican George W. Bush’s victory in Florida, which gave him the White House, almost certainly would have endured even if a recount stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court had been allowed to go forward.

In fact, a comprehensive review of 64,248 ballots in all 67 Florida counties by The Herald and its parent company, Knight Ridder, in partnership with USA Today, found that Bush’s slender margin of 537 votes would have tripled to 1,665 votes under the generous counting standards advocated by Democrat Al Gore.”

Bush also won a 2nd recount done after the election by eight media groups. Here’s what the New York Times, certainly not a Bush supporting paper, had to say about that. I am quoting the headline and the first paragraph…

“Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote

A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year’s presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward”

So after counting 64,248 “spoiled” ballots, there was only an 1128 vote swing and it was towards Bush, not Kerry. The lesson here is that you shouldn’t expect any sort of massive swing one way or the other because of the statewide recount.

So the numbers of ballots left to be counted may appear quite large, but it’s practically impossible for them to produce anywhere near the sort of massive shift Kerry would need to win.

So for better or for worse — I say much, much, much, better — a recount and count of provisional ballots in Ohio isn’t going to change anything.

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