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Narrower Bush Win Seen in Ohio

By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, December 4, 2004; Page A03

President Bush's margin of victory in the all-important battleground state of Ohio appears to have been closer than previously believed.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Associated Press, which conducted separate county-by-county surveys of the final election results there, found that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry netted more than 17,000 votes in the post-Election Day ballot count. That would shrink the president's margin there from about 136,000 to 119,000 -- or about 2 percent of the 5.5 million ballots cast.

A spokesman for the Ohio secretary of state said the media finding "seems to be accurate" but otherwise declined to comment on the reports because the state will not disclose its official election results until Monday. That tally will include provisional and absentee ballots that were collected, analyzed and counted after the election.

Carlo LoParo, the spokesman, estimated that 77 percent of the 155,000 provisional ballots cast in the Buckeye State were ultimately counted. The remainder were discarded -- usually, he said, because the voter had not registered to vote.

But the state's official tally will not be the final word on the election. A pair of third-party presidential candidates, who complain that reports of election irregularities there have been ignored, are expected to formally request a recount of the presidential vote next week.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) and nine other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have written to Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (R), asking him to respond to a list of reports of problems at the polls on Nov. 2. "We are concerned that these complaints constitute a troubled portrait of a one-two punch that may well have altered and suppressed votes, particularly minority and Democratic votes," the letter said.

LoParo denied that there were significant problems at Ohio's polls but said Blackwell would respond to the lawmakers' inquiry. "We certainly answer our mail," he said.

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