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Notre Dame waits for 2004 Ohio decision

Claire Heininger | Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Mirroring their home state, Notre Dame students from Ohio lingered longest in front of election coverage Tuesday night as the race hinged on the final swing state’s 20 electoral votes.Despite some television networks’ early declarations of victory for President Bush there, Katie Johnson, a sophomore from Toledo, and Chris Tracy, a sophomore from Cincinnati, planned to stay up until the state’s entire tally was in.”I don’t think Ohio is definitely in the bag yet,” Tracy said after Fox News called the race for the president. “I think it’s going to be too close.”But the possibility of a statewide recount would not be as daunting as the Florida crisis in 2000, Tracy said.”I don’t think a recount has the same stigma,” he said.”People are expecting it,” Johnson added. “Whichever party loses is going to try to find states where people weren’t counted … and drag this out.”While both Tracy and Johnson voted for Bush, they acknowledged that the partisanship consuming the country throughout the campaign would pose a challenge for whoever is the eventual winner.”Both parties need to show some leadership to calm it down a little bit,” Tracy said.Taking a lighter tone as he watched the returns, Ryan Iafigliola, a sophomore from a Cleveland suburb, basked in his state’s sudden spotlight.”We’re hoping [Bush] takes it on Ohio so we can take credit,” he said, adding that a battle there was inevitable, due to the precedent that no Republican has won the presidency without taking Ohio and the heavy campaigning from Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry.Iafigliola, who mailed his absentee ballot overnight so it would arrive in time, said he understood the media’s hesitation in declaring a winner.”A lot depends on how the networks cover it,” he said. “They want to be real careful after 2000.”The candidates must also avoid repeating past mistakes, political science professor David Campbell said. After Al Gore conceded on election night four years ago, he entered the Florida recount at a disadvantage – a scenario Campbell said was unlikely to occur this year.”You will only see a concession if they’re truly convinced,” he said.And while an Ohio recount seems likely, Campbell added, the weeks and months of legal challenges predicted by national pundits might not materialize.”A lot of people are operating under the assumption that 2004 will be a repeat of 2000, but it’s not certain in my mind that it’ll play that way,” he said. “A lot of bizarre things had to happen at once.”Greater scrutiny at voting precincts – one consequence of the problems that arose four years ago – should also mean greater accuracy this time, Campbell said.”I think it’s great that there’s so many people out there watching the polls,” he said, adding that he believes a balance can be struck between minimizing fraud and maximizing the right to vote. Not everyone who stayed up to watch was thrilled to see the election extending into the coming days.”I’m not really excited about a recount,” said senior Brendan O’Connor, a Kerry supporter from Hammondsport, N.Y. “But if the state constitution calls for it, you have to do it.”Ohio law stipulates that a recount is mandatory if the margin of victory is within 0.25 percent, Campbell said.If the finish is that tight, Kerry stands to benefit, said juniors and Democrats Alexandra Pennington of Louisiana and Sheena Bowman of New York.Pennington pointed out that the Democratic senator has been a strong closer throughout his political career.”He’s weak at the beginning … but usually comes from behind at the last minute,” she said.Bowman took a more pessimistic view about Kerry’s chances, but both students sought a silver lining in the opportunity posed by the next four years.”We can use that time to reassess our situation and come back really strong in 2008,” Pennington said, still calculating electoral scenarios as she spoke. “But I still have faith … it’s not over until they call Ohio.”