Bush Ohio Win Closer Than Thought

Joann Davidson, checking for hanging chads on a absentee ballot, is one of about 75 people participating in the ballot-checking process at the Montgomery County Board of Elections in Dayton, Ohio Nov. 2, 2004. Absentee ballots were being opened.
President George W. Bush's victory over John Kerry in Ohio was closer than the unofficial election night totals showed, but the change is not enough to trigger an automatic recount, according to county-by-county results provided to The Associated Press on Friday.

Mr. Bush's margin of victory in the state that put him over the top in his re-election bid will be about 119,000 votes — smaller than the unofficial margin of 136,000, the county election board figures showed. That means Kerry drew closer by about 17,000 votes.

The margin shrank primarily because of the addition of provisional ballots that were not counted on Election Day and were not included in the unofficial tally. Overseas ballots also were added to the count in all 88 counties.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell will certify the results Monday.

The president's margin of victory was about 2 percent, not close enough to require an automatic recount. That happens only when the difference is 0.25 percent or less.

Mr. Bush beat Sen. Kerry nationally by 3 percentage points.

Out of 156,977 provisional ballots checked, 121,598 were pronounced valid and were accepted, meaning about one in five was thrown out, according to an AP tabulation. Provisional voters are cast when poll workers cannot immediately confirm if a voter was properly registered.

The Kerry campaign and two third-party candidates are seeking a recount in Ohio. The Green and Libertarian parties said they have raised enough money to cover the cost. The Kerry campaign said it is not disputing the outcome of the presidential race but wants to make sure any recount is "done accurately and completely."

A hearing on the recount request began in federal court in Columbus on Friday afternoon.

The narrowing of Mr. Bush's margin only increases the possibility that the election results could be changed, the Green Party said. "Who knows what else will turn up when we examine the discarded ballots?" Green spokesman Blair Bobier asked.