Absentees May Decide US Vote

For perhaps the first time in US history, somebody cares if voters living abroad sent in their absentee ballots.

If they come from the US state of Florida, that is.

US embassy officials said this week that there are an unknown number of Florida residents among the estimated 1,000 US cit­izens living in Cambodia.

But it’s anybody’s guess how many of them registered to vote—and how many of those actually followed through, returning the ballot to Florida in time for it to count.

By law, Florida elections officials cannot close the books on the 2000 election until Friday, 10 days after the election, so that absentee ballots postmarked by the US election day, Nov 7, can arrive and be counted.

Those absentee votes could decide the next president of the US. As of Wednesday night Republican George W Bush, led US Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat, by 300 votes in Flor­ida. The winner there should take the state’s 25 electoral votes, enough to win the presidency.

The number of Floridians voting from Cambodia is probably not large. Dan Valentine, the local representative for Demo­crats Abroad, said he knows there were some Florida ballots among the approximately 80 ballots he sent to the US as part of the Democratic Party’s efforts to encourage US citizens living overseas to vote, but he took no special note of how many.

“No one state stood out over another, I do know that,” he said.

No one had any reason to think that the election might come down to a scattering of votes from around the world, he said.

Valentine said he gave out 97 applications for ballots and 78 actual ballots.

“But some people might have gotten ballots in other ways, such as contacting their local board of el­ec­tions,” he said. “There’s no way of knowing how many,” he said.

As for Republican efforts to get out the vote, Valentine said there is an organization called Repub­licans Abroad, but that as far as he knows, it has not been active in Cambodia.

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