The world waits for Ohio

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The Independent US

Once again, the outcome of the US presidential election could come down to the result in a single state.

In 2000 it was Florida, where the recount went on for 36 days before the Supreme Court intervened and effectively handed victory to George Bush.

This year, it could be Ohio, where the Democratic candidate, Senator John Kerry, appears set to demand every vote is counted before he concedes.

Mr Bush is excruciatingly close to re-election. If he carries Ohio he is virtually guaranteed a second term in the White House.

As of 8am UK time, with 97% of precincts reporting in Ohio, Mr Bush had 2,706,778 votes and Mr Kerry 2,581,451 a difference of more than 125,000.

But the Democrats claimed there were still 250,000 votes uncounted - many of them provisional ballots.

Provisional ballots are cast by people who turn up to vote, but have their eligibility questioned.

Rather than simply turning these people away, they are allowed to cast a provisional ballot.

If they are later proved eligible to vote their ballots are counted. Those who are ineligible have their ballot thrown out.

But under election law, provisional ballots are not counted for 11 days, meaning there could be a delay in the outcome of the election.

In addition, there are postal ballots, which have to be postmarked on or before November 2.

And there are still the military ballots to be counted.

The question for the Democrats now is whether to push for the provisional ballots to be included in the final count.

Such ballots may be just as likely to be for the Republican Party as the Democrats.

Postal ballots could also be evenly split and the military votes usually go Republican.

But Mr Kerry's running mate, Senator John Edwards indicated that the fight would go on.

He told supporters in Boston that he had promised that "in this election every vote will count and every vote will be counted.

"And we are keeping our word and we will fight for every vote."