The error would not have escaped detection during the certification process that validates the election results and does not even come close to changing the outcome, said Carlo LoParo, director of media and voter services for the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
"Both campaigns have thoroughly scrutinized the numbers after election day before making their decisions," LoParo said.
Scrutiny of the unofficial results posted to the Board of Elections Web site in Franklin County uncovered that Bush had received 3,893 extra votes. Bush's preliminary total is actually 365, the Associated Press stated.
The document summarizing the unofficial tallies could no longer be accessed via the Web site late Friday.
LoParo referred questions about the particular incident to Franklin County, where the error occurred. Representatives of the Board of Elections for that county did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment.
According to the preliminary results posted by the Ohio Secretary of State's office, Bush garnered 136,483 more votes in the state than Sen. John Kerry, and while 155,428 provisional ballots remain to be counted, the likelihood of Kerry closing the gap remains remote. Subtracting the nearly 4,000 votes granted to Bush's campaign does not change those odds.
However, the mistake is one of thethat have marred the performance of electronic voting machines during an election that was heavily scrutinized.
A county in North Carolina lost more than 4,500 votes because officials had thought the memory that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did, stated a report by the Associated Press.
Computer scientists and voting advocates have criticized the current crop of electronic voting machines for lacking strong security measures. While election officials have maintained that the voting systems are perfectly secure when used as intended, critics have pointed out that the machines generally have not made electronic voting more transparent. Some critics have pushed for paper ballots to be printed by the machines to create a better audit trail.
Such problems, however, caused far less of a problem than registration issues. Of more than 30,000 problems that voters encountered this week, only 6 percent were due to machines, while nearly a third were blamed on voter-register issues, according to voting watchdog group VerifiedVoting.org's incident database.
However, President Bush's extra votes in the key state of Ohio has grabbed the attention of election watchers.
Franklin County uses a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine manufactured by industrial equipment maker Danaher Corp. An official of that company maintained that the mistake would have been caught during the election certification process, or canvass, and corrected in the verified totals.
Some electronic voting experts argue that the glitch should have been caught right away.
"I definitely don't consider it to be minor," said David Wagner, assistant professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. While the mistake didn't affect the election results, he added that "this is the kind of error that a well-designed voting system should never be subject to."
Wagner explained that correction codes could have prevented the problem, or at least made it obvious to election officials.