Can Kerry swipe Florida from the Bush brothers?

A guide to the swing states.
Aug. 17 2004 3:00 PM

Florida

800,000 Cubans, 3 million old people, and my girlfriend's dad—the keys to victory in the Sunshine State.

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Item: These new voting machines take forever to boot up. According to Rodriguez-Taseff, they'll be powered up the night before and left running all night long (in polling spots with little security—like schools and libraries).

Item: There will be no printed receipt from the machines. Instead, the machines will just keep the vote records on their hard drives. Which of course could not possibly crash or malfunction, thereby losing hundreds and thousands of votes, with no printouts to fall back on. And of course you could not possibly hack into the machines, while they're left on all night, and screw with the voting data. Sure, there's no paper trail to stop you, but it just couldn't happen.

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The Democrats and Republicans have come up with radically different strategies to deal with this stuff, according to Rodriguez-Taseff. The Democrats—beaten last time, but not broken—are gearing up for another recount battle. They'll be ready this time, and they're sure they can win it.

But, says Rodriguez-Taseff, the Democrats are perfectly prepared for the last war. But the Republican plan for 2004 is to avoid a recount altogether. How? By beating the recount margin. If Bush wins by more than one-fourth of a percentage point, there will be no manual recount. If he wins by more than a full percentage point, there will be no recount at all.

Of course, Republicans will try to do this through fierce campaigning and strong positions on important issues. But at the same time, low-level operatives, acting independently, are no doubt aware of the opportunities for fraud. And they are also aware that, with a big enough win, there's no going back to check the votes. (Don't get me wrong here. People on both sides are able, and likely, to do shady stuff.)

Advantage: ProbablyBush.

If forced to guess, I'd guess that Kerry wins Florida. There are so many trends in his favor, and my sunnier side is hoping that fraud and error won't play a big role. Still, I expect a brutal fight to the finish. And I fully expect the lawyers to come out on Election Day—and on the days to follow.

Correction: The article originally claimed that highway I-4 ran to St. Petersburg. In fact, it ends in Tampa. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

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