A large majority of Americans are certain that their vote will be accurately counted on election day but worry that problems with the tally could occur elsewhere in the country, according to a Washington Post tracking poll.
The survey found that 62 percent of all likely voters said they were "very confident" that their own votes would be properly counted and another 29 percent were somewhat certain. Fewer than one in 10 expressed real concern that their vote would not be accurately recorded.
But confidence in the vote count plummeted when these likely voters were asked whether they expected problems counting the votes elsewhere in the country. Only one in four likely voters said they were very confident that the votes for president nationwide would be correctly tallied, though nearly half -- 46 percent -- were somewhat certain that the overall count would be accurate. About three in 10 expressed little or no confidence in the accuracy of the national count.
Those concerns were undoubtedly fed by fears of a repeat of 2000, when challenges to the Florida count left the election uncertain until early December. Even then, the controversy continued after it became clear that President Bush had won more electoral votes but Vice President Al Gore had won more popular votes.
The latest Post tracking survey found that slightly more than half -- 54 percent -- of all likely voters said the winner of the popular vote should be declared the president in the event that one candidate wins the most votes nationally but the other wins a majority of ballots in the Electoral College.
Four in 10 said the winner of the Electoral College should be president, up slightly from a Post survey of likely voters taken immediately before the 2000 presidential election.
Under the Constitution, the president is elected by a majority vote of electors in the Electoral College and not by a direct national popular vote.
States get one vote in the Electoral College for each U.S. Representative and Senator it sends to Congress, with most allocating all of their electors based on the statewide popular vote. On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December, each state's electors meet in their respective state capitals and cast their electoral votes, one for president and one for vice president. Those ballots are collected and opened on Jan. 6 before a joint session of Congress. The candidate who wins a simple majority -- 270 -- is the next president.
A recent Associated Press-Ipsos political survey found that six in 10 likely voters said they will not be a clear winner by Nov. 3, the day after the presidential election. Democrats (69 percent) were more likely than Republicans (56 percent) or political independents (49 percent) to expect that the race will not be decided.
The latest Post tracking poll found the candidates virtually tied with Bush supported by 49 percent of the likely vote and Sen. John F. Kerry at 48 percent over the four-day interviewing period. Independent Ralph Nader had 1 percent. While Kerry started the week strong, Bush has narrowly led in each of the past three nights of Post tracking surveys.
A total of 2,145 self-identified registered voters, including 1,747 likely voters, were interviewed by telephone Oct. 24-27 for this survey. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points.