Internet theories on election abound

President Bush declared victory eight days ago, but in the parallel universe known as the Internet, the presidential campaign is still raging. Web sites hostile to the president claim massive vote fraud, that the election was stolen, that Sen. Kerry really won.

Presidential candidate Ralph Nader says Republican officials in Ohio skewed the election towards Bush.

"This election was hijacked from A to Z,” says Nader.

Most of the Internet stories focus on the key battleground states of Ohio and Florida.

In the Florida panhandle, they ask, how could Bush have won so big when registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans? In Ohio they claim a computer glitch gave Bush 4,000 extra votes. In many states, they insist, some voters pushed "Kerry" on touch screen machines, but the check appeared next to "Bush." And what about those early exit polls giving Kerry the lead? They say that means the election was stolen.

Convinced? Well, even the Kerry team is not, declaring in a statement Thursday that while they want every vote counted, "the outcome of the election is not in doubt.”

Doug Chapin, director of the non-partisan group, says there were many problems on Election Day, from long lines to malfunctioning machines, but there's no evidence the election was hijacked.

“I don’t think this election was stolen,” says Chapin. "I think there are conspiracy theories. I think they are consistent with a phenomenon we have seen on the Internet in recent years.”

On the Internet, stories are told and repeated, often without being verified. Regarding those Democratic counties in Florida that voted for Bush, they've been voting Republican for years. As for the 4,000 extra Bush votes in Ohio, officials say it was just one machine, caught and corrected.

How about those reports of a vote for Kerry getting Bush? Election experts say it happened both ways, and in most cases it was voter error. And as for the early exit polls they were just that, early, and election officials say, wrong.

But those explanations are likely to have little effect on the president’s Internet critics, who are convinced the Republicans stole the election – again.