Some networks have called Ohio for Bush but people at the Kerry headquarters in Columbus aren't crying. As of 3:00 a.m., Bush leads by 135,000 votes, while there are as many as 250,000 provisional ballots remaining to be counted. Meanwhile, there's hope that the few precincts with pending results will be rich in Democratic votes, since they mainly are located in the inner city, where long lines meant that many people didn't vote until after 11 p.m., hours after the polls officially closed.
"The provisional ballots can go several days," said Steve Key, an Ohio Democratic field organizer. Indeed, under Ohio law, provisional ballots dont even begin to be counted until 11 days after the election.
Ken Blackwell, Ohio's right-wing Secretary of State, told Dan Rather that in 2000, 90 percent of 100,000 provisional ballots that were cast turned out to be valid. If the same holds true this year, it's conceivable that Bush's lead could disappear.
That said, Republicans cast provisional ballots too. As Blackwell told Rather, many of Ohio's churches ran huge voter registration drives in support of the state's anti-gay ballot measure Issue 1, bringing many new right wing voters into the system who may have also been missing from voter rolls and forced to vote provisionally. "Those provisional ballots that come in are going to be all over the map," Blackwell said.
Thus at least a few Ohio Democrats are reluctantly contemplating the growing fundamentalist domination in their state. "I think we had more Bible belt than we realized," says Carol Hedrick, a volunteer for Kerry's Central Committee in Columbus.
In the ballroom at Columbus's Renaissance hotel, where several dozen weary Kerry supporters are still waiting for an electoral miracle, David Gergen appeared on a monitor and said something that many here are thinking. "For an awful lot of people on the losing side, there's going to be a sense of alienation, of, is this the country we thought it was?" he asked. A few people actually applauded this statement. Others just nodded their heads.