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IN THE NEWS - Election Roundup - 2004-10-23

Broadcast: October 23, 2004

This is Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

Americans in some states are already voting in the November second general elections. Thousands of people lined up to vote in Florida, one of four states where early voting began Monday. Election officials estimate that at least twenty percent of voters will vote before Election Day. Those votes, however, will be counted at the same time as the others, on November second.

Since the two thousand election, many states have made it easier for people to vote before Election Day. More and more people vote by mail. Absentee ballots are meant for people who cannot go to their local voting station on Election Day.

There is also a kind of ballot called a provisional ballot. These are given to people who try to vote on Election Day but do not find their name on voter lists. In two thousand two Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. This law requires a provisional ballot to be counted if officials are able to later establish that an individual could vote. Republicans and Democrats, however, are fighting over the rules for counting provisional ballots.

In the final days before the election, campaigning is aimed at several states known as swing states or battleground states. These are where Republican President George Bush and Democratic Senator John Kerry are closest in levels of support.

Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania are considered the top three among these states. Some political experts say whichever candidate wins two of those three states will win the election.

Americans do not vote directly for their president. Instead, each of the fifty states represents a number of electoral votes. The number is related to population. A candidate must gain at least two hundred-seventy out of five hundred thirty-eight electoral votes to win.

In two thousand, the dispute over the vote in Florida lasted more than a month. The Supreme Court finally decided the legal battle. Many Americans are concerned about the possibility of another such delay.

Democrats and Republicans have been organizing thousands of lawyers to deploy on Election Day. A coalition of civil rights groups says it will have six thousand lawyers and law students to assist minority voters. The Republican National Lawyers Association says it has trained about one thousand lawyers to watch for anyone who tries to vote illegally.

Some international election observers are already at work. And computer experts plan to watch for any trouble with electronic voting machines that will be used in many places.

Election officials around the country say record numbers of people have registered to vote. This includes record numbers of Americans living in other countries. Officials estimate that six million Americans live outside the United States. At least half are registered to vote. This includes about five hundred thousand members of the military and their families.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.