Features

Florida recount seems to head through weekend

The Associated Press
Saturday November 11, 2000

DELAND, Fla. — Election workers in Volusia County were checking all of the 184,018 ballots there for write-in votes Friday as Democrats hoped for help in the still-undecided presidential election. 

Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties also were ready for the possibility of recounting hundreds of thousands of ballots by hand, while Palm Beach planned Saturday to perform a mechanical recount of all ballots at the request of Republicans. Across the state, officials were waiting for what could be thousands of overseas ballots to arrive in the mail. 

Three days after Election Day, it was clear the election was not over in Florida. 

After sifting through about a third of the ballots, Volusia County election officials had found at least two that had Vice President Al Gore’s name written in by voters who also filled in a bubble for the candidate. A machine would have discarded the ballots, reading them as two votes. Election officials counted them. The county’s election officials planned to go over the ballots again Saturday, counting each by hand to check the figures already counted twice by machine. They planned to work 14-hour days and expected to be finished by Tuesday. 

An unofficial Associated Press canvass of the presidential vote in Florida showed Republican George W. Bush with a 327-vote lead over Democrat Gore. The eventual winner will take Florida’s 25 electoral votes and become the nation’s 43rd president. 

“It’s amazing what people do to these ballots,” said Volusia County Judge Michael McDermott, the chairman of the canvassing board. “The instructions are nice and clear.” 

One voter wrote in Joseph Lieberman – Gore’s running mate. The vote was thrown out. 

On Friday, Secretary of State Katherine Harris said Bush had 2,910,074 votes to Gore’s 2,909,114, a difference of 960, with one county still to be recounted – Palm Beach County where the AP showed a big gain for Gore. The totals from the AP canvass were Bush 2,910,198, Gore 2,909,871. 

Florida election officials also said Friday that the Palm Beach County ballot did not violate state law as several lawsuits contend. Democrats say a poor ballot design in the county led some Gore supporters to inadvertently mark their ballots for Pat Buchanan. A circuit judge issued a preliminary injunction barring the county’s canvassing commission from certifying the final recount results until a hearing Tuesday. 

Elsewhere in Florida: 

• Palm Beach election officials agreed to recount ballots in three precincts by hand on Saturday. If there is a change in the count, they will then decide whether to do a recount by hand of the entire county. At the same time, officials also will perform a mechnical recount of all ballots, a recount requested by Republicans. 

• In Miami’s Dade County, elections officials will meet Tuesday to discuss a hand recount. 

• In Polk County, officials were rescanning ballots in 60 of 163 precincts to reconcile the number of ballots handed out with the number of votes cast. Election workers planned to continue work Saturday. 

— Broward election officials voted 2-1 to do a hand-recount of three precincts Monday. If there is a change, they also will consider a full hand-recount. 

Broward elections supervisor Jane Carroll cast the dissenting vote, saying, “We are setting a bad precedent.” She questioned why Democrats had asked for a manual recount only in four heavily Democratic counties rather than the entire state. 

One concern the Democrats said they had centered on the possibility that thousands of votes across the state were not counted because the tiny piece of paper punched out for a candidate did not completely dislodge. 

For example, 19,120 Palm Beach County ballots had two or more holes punched for president. And 10,582 recorded no choice for president. Officials said 6,686 ballots were not counted in Broward County because the computer did not recognize any selection. 

In all, the Gore campaign is requesting that 1.78 million of the nearly 6 million Florida ballots cast be hand counted. 

“We’re looking for a quick resolution of a full, fair, accurate count,” said Doug Hattaway, a Gore spokesman. “There’s no specific timeframe we’ve laid out.” 

Democrats and Republicans were bringing in more than 100 people each from around the country to witness the Volusia hand recount. The county was setting up 22 stations with two election workers and a Democratic and Republican witness at each. 

Still a factor in the results are the ballots cast by Floridians living overseas. An informal survey of 30 of the 67 election supervisors found that they had mailed out more than 10,000. Of those, a little less than half had been returned but no information was available on how many had been counted. 

Election supervisors must count any overseas ballots received within 10 days of the election and postmarked by Election Day. 

In Palm Beach, small groups of protesters gathered in front of the government center in downtown West Palm Beach Friday and emotions between Gore and Bush supporters was running high. 

A group of Bush supporters taunted and followed Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler outside the government center, where he was being interviewed by a television station. Sheriff’s deputies escorted him away.