To the Editor,

For approximately ten days before the election I noted allegations of absentee ballot fraud in Florida on the message boards in America Online. My sense was that the postings were saying the alleged fraud was due to an excess of zeal on the part of a supercharged Bush campaign, and not to any organized absentee ballot fraud effort.

In fairness to Governor Bush, these many messages may just be hotheaded Internet message-board rhetoric, and not supported by fact. In fairness to Vice President Gore however, if there really was even a minor bit of fraud in this year's supercharged GOP absentee ballot effort in Florida, say several thousand votes worth, a far bigger injustice has occurred: He might have just had the election stolen from him

These message-board postings may actually be important and valid "tips" for investigators. It's very easy for a zealot to tell an infirm elderly person, a young overseas soldier, or a disinterested roommate "Just sign the ballot, I'll fill it out for you and send it in." It's also illegal as hell.

I don't know if these are malicious rumors or if they are the truth, but I do really want an answer. I therefore ask, I plead with the FBI and the news media to conduct a very thorough and careful, fair and nonpartisan investigation. This is a no small thing.

Bill Murphy

Mountain View<

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