Sorting ballots one-by-one, Democrats hope to close gap - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Sorting ballots one-by-one, Democrats hope to close gap


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Weary election officials in three Florida counties are going back to the ballots in search of a president, counting hundreds of thousands of votes by hand and machine.

Supporters of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore continued to spar over whether votes should be recounted and how to do it.

Bush's campaign was moving Saturday to stop the manual recount, deciding to seek an injunction, a senior aide to the Republican nominee said. Democrats favored a recount by hand, the method being used in Palm Beach and Volusia counties.

Bush's team believes that the hand-counting process is open to mischief and possible fraud if Democratic election officials in heavily Democratic precincts recount the vote, according to the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Palm Beach election officials planned to recount ballots in three precincts by hand Saturday. If there is a change in the count, they will then decide whether to do a recount by hand of the entire county.

Palm Beach County is a Democratic stronghold and has been at the center of the struggle over the election. Democrats complain that the county's ballot was so confusing that many Gore voters mistakenly voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan.

Florida election officials said Friday the ballot did not violate state law, as several lawsuits contend.

In response to one lawsuit, a circuit judge issued a preliminary injunction barring the county's canvassing commission from certifying the final recount results until a hearing Tuesday.

Democrats said thousands of votes in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in Florida may not have been counted because the tiny piece of paper punched out for a candidate did not completely dislodge.

About 30,000 ballots were rejected in Palm Beach County alone because they had two or more holes punched for president _ or computers didn't detect any holes at all.

Officials said 6,686 ballots were not counted in Broward County because the computer did not recognize any selection. 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.

Volusia election workers planned to hand-recount all the county's 184,018 ballots Saturday. Workers there spent Friday sifting through the ballots for any write-in votes.

Democrats and Republicans were bringing in more than 100 people each from around the country to witness the Volusia process.

In Polk County, officials planned to continue rescanning ballots in 60 of 163 precincts.

An unofficial Associated Press canvass of the presidential vote in Florida showed 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.

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's 67 counties have until Tuesday to turn in certified election counts to Harris' office.

In all, the Gore campaign is requesting that 1.78 million of the nearly 6 million Florida ballots cast be hand counted, and that the state delay the certification deadline until hand recounts are completed.

``We're looking for a quick resolution of a full, fair, accurate count,'' said Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway. ``There's no specific time frame we've laid out.''

Democrats also want a hand count in Miami-Dade. Election officials there plan to meet Tuesday to discuss what to do.

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 they had mailed out more than 10,000 ballot. 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.
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