Conspiracy Theories Abound After Bush Victory

The county's Web site was confusing -- it lumped several precincts' absentee ballots together and then counted them several times, for each precinct. But those were glitches in vote-reporting -- not vote-counting. The "phantom" voters who mysteriously appeared and voted for Bush in the county -- which voted overwhelmingly for Kerry -- did not exist other than in the imagination of Democrats upset about Kerry's loss.

This afternoon, the Web site that first raised the questions about the Cuyahoga votes took it all back. "OK," wrote the Webmeister at "Americans 4 America," "finally had a chance to figure this out. I apologize for any anxiety that went along with these numbers. It seems that data is useless without knowing how counties arrived at the numbers and this was a particularly tricky process."

Exit Polls as Fact?

Finally, there is the controversy regarding the television networks' exit polls, which seemed early on to indicate a better day for Kerry than the one he actually had.

But as we now all know, the exit polls were off a bit. Regardless, exit polls are not hard data, they are as accurate as polling -- which is sometimes on target, and sometimes not. "If I'm given exit polls and voting results, and I'm [asked] which do I rely on more, I rely on voting results," said Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

Clearly for many people, however, results are not enough. When Mark Twain remarked that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can put on his shoes, it's astounding to think he was speaking decades before the invention of the Internet.

Clayton Sandell contributed to this report.

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