Florida counties still expecting about 2,000 absentee ballots
LAKE CITY, Florida (CNN) -- In Columbia County, Florida, Elections Supervisor Carolyn Kirby is in charge of the absentee ballots that have trickled in daily since the November 7 election -- 10 so far.
Florida's absentee ballots may end up determining the next U.S. president
Seven of those are regular absentee ballots, and three are what are known as federal absentee write-in ballots -- generic ballots that citizens can pick up at a U.S. military base or Embassy overseas. Kirby and the other canvassing board members will count them Friday afternoon, then send them to the secretary of state's office in Tallahassee, about 100 miles to the west.
"It's exciting to think that there's such an issue about this and that these could be the main factor in in this election," Kirby said.
Across Florida, about 2,000 absentee ballots are still out in Florida's 67 counties, locked up and ready to be counted after the last of Friday's mail arrives. With the race for the White House hinging on Florida's 25 electoral votes, the ballots may end up determining the next U.S. president.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush leads Vice President Al Gore by only 300 votes in state totals.
The earliest the overseas absentee ballots will be certified is Saturday. If Bush wins that vote -- or loses by fewer than 300 votes -- he is likely to win Florida unless court disputes over the state's presidential recount delay certification of the election.
Bush, the Republican nominee, may have good reason to be encouraged about the overseas vote. Counties where he led the regular vote have about twice as many uncounted overseas absentee ballots as do counties won by his Democratic rival, Gore.
The party affiliation of all the uncounted ballots isn't known. But in Manatee County, which voted overwhelmingly for Bush, there are 127 uncounted votes: Of those, 74 are from registered Republicans, 26 from registered Democrats and 27 are listed as "other."
In Hernando County, which voted narrowly for Gore, 19 overseas ballots are waiting to be opened. Registered Republicans account for 13, four are from Democrats and 2 are from others.
In the last presidential election, GOP nominee Bob Dole took 54 percent of Florida's overseas absentee votes. Dole's status as a veteran may have helped him on military bases. But this election, some observers believe Gore's choice of Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate may attract more Jewish overseas votes to the Democrats.