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The Florida Recount: Absentee Ballots Likely to Tilt RepublicanAired November 16, 2000 - 2:18 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Vote counting in Florida reaches a critical point on Saturday, as we've been hearing over and over again, when officials plan to announce the results of the absentee balloting. Republicans remain confident they will prevail when those votes are counted.
More on that now from CNN political analyst Bill Schneider.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right now, Al Gore is running 300 votes behind George W. Bush in Florida, without factoring in those uncounted ballots. The "St. Petersburg Times" has surveyed all 67 Florida counties. Election authorities reported a total of 1,865 overseas absentee ballots on hand that have yet to be counted.
To overcome Bush's current margin, Gore would have to win 301 more votes than Bush, or 59 percent of the ballots on hand. Of course more ballots are expected to come in between now and Friday night. The more ballots come in, the lower the percentage Gore would need to make up his 300-vote deficit.
But in previous Florida elections, those last-minute ballots have tilted Republican. There are reasons to believe those last-minute ballots will tilt the same way this year. The "St. Petersburg Times" reports that in 25 counties that tally overseas ballot requests by party, more Republicans than Democrats requested overseas ballots. The "Times" also reports that 57 counties have tabulated the domestic and overseas absentee ballot votes that came in by Election Day. Those votes went 59-37 for Bush.
The GOP tilt could be reversed if, as some people expect, more overseas ballots than usual come in this year, and if they include a smaller proportion of military ballots. As of Tuesday, according to the Postal Service, only 447 ballots from military personnel around the world had arrived in Florida.
TOM FINA, EXEC. DIR., DEMOCRATS ABROAD: Most of the conservative part of the vote, to the degree that that's military, has already been in and been counted, and that the remaining votes that are coming in are the civilian votes. SCHNEIDER: Also, some 4,000 Florida voters live in Israel. Florida's Jewish vote went nearly 80 percent for Gore on Election Day. Many of those overseas Jewish votes would be cast in Broward County where about 1,100 requested overseas ballots had not come in by Election Day.
Republicans say they're not worried.
MICHAEL JONES, EXEC. DIR, REPUBLICANS ABROAD: We have registered more Republicans in Broward County than the Democrats have, and that's their stronghold. So we're confident.
SCHNEIDER: How confident are Republicans?
JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: We're willing to say that if we should lose the count of the overseas absentee ballots, it's over. We lose.
SCHNEIDER: Lou, we have an update on that figure of 447 military ballots that have been received -- or in Florida. That came from one post office in Miami. But it turns out that other post offices in New York and Austin report that the number of military ballots coming in yet to be counted is actually greater. So the military count may be a larger proportion of that total -- Lou.
WATERS: Democrats are not confident at all about the absentee ballots, doesn't sound like.
SCHNEIDER: They're not. And today, both the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" published their own estimates of how those overseas ballots are likely to go. They used different methods, but they came up basically with the same result. The "New York Times" canvassed 67 counties -- that's all the counties in Florida -- said there were, quote, "about 2,200 overseas ballots to be counted." The "Post" canvassed 61 counties, said there were approximately 1,780 to be counted.
Both made different assumptions, slightly, about how those ballots were likely to go, but in both cases they pointed to a net gain of votes for George W. Bush. The "New York Times" said about 265 votes, the "Post" said about 310 votes. Neither newspaper reporting today, or the "St. Petersburg Times" yesterday indicated, that Al Gore is likely to get any gains from those remaining overseas ballots.
WATERS: Didn't both campaigns have a strenuous effort in the area of absentee ballots?
SCHNEIDER: They both had an overseas ballot effort, unprecedented in both political parties. But the Republicans spent a lot more money and made a much greater effort, and they feel that they have the advantage because of those military votes. In Florida there are an awful lot of overseas votes cast by the military, apparently more than 500, and those votes are likely to do them a great deal of good. WATERS: All right, senior political analyst Bill Schneider, another dimension to all of this.
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