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BUT HEY, WAIT A MINUTE... It seems to be something of a secret, but I believe six Republican counties conducted full or partial hand counts which produced a net gain to Bush of some 400 votes. If so, this would mean that all of Bush's lead of 300 votes could be attributed to hand counts. Although a hand count in Volusia County produced 98 votes in favor of Gore, the net change due to hand counts is roughly 302 in favor of Bush (400-98). It's hard to believe that vote gains to the Republican side as a result of hand counting is not even a topic of discussion while current (98 so far) and potential vote gains to the Democratic side is the center of a firestorm. Is it assumed that gains to Republicans are objective and fair, but gains to Democrats are subjective and evil ? --a Bush Watcher, 11/15/00 



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Democrat Al Gore's campaign on Wednesday said it would ask the Florida Supreme Court to resolve quickly the issue of recounts in the state, vital to settling the presidential election. "We will be asking the Supreme Court of Florida itself to resolve critical questions," said former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who has represented Vice President Gore in the struggle for Florida's 25 electoral votes, which are needed by both Gore and Republican rival George W. Bush to secure the election. Christopher was responding to a petition to the court by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris earlier on Wednesday to suspend all outstanding hand counts in the state and consolidate all pending legal appeals over the Nov. 7 election in a single trial court. Gore legal adviser David Boies said his campaign's petition would also ask Florida Supreme Court to set a "reasonable" deadline for the recounts, adding he expected the turmoil over the undecided election to end within days. Official results counted as of Tuesday gave Texas Gov. Bush a slim lead of 300 votes over Gore in Florida's disputed election. Outstanding absentee ballots must be received by Friday midnight.

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris filed an emergency petition with the Florida Supreme Court today seeking to halt all manual vote recounts in the state. Bush has now petitioned the Florida Supreme Court also.

Gore campaign observer Warren Christopher said Harris' petition to stop the recounts would "only result in further delay." Harris, a Republican and Bush's co-chairwoman in Florida, ordered counties that wanted to proceed with a manual recount to notify her in writing by 2 p.m. EST of their reasons why.

A Palm Beach County judge ruled today that the Palm Beach canvassing board may make its own rules on which ballots are valid. The board had asked the judge to rule on whether ballots with "dimples" -- when punches do not go completely through the card -- are valid. The county had delayed a recount pending this decision. It is not clear whether the county will go ahead with its recount.

Many GOP absentee requests had errors, were corrected by election officials

By STACEY SINGER and SCOTT WYMAN Sun-Sentinel      
Web-posted: 11:03 p.m. Nov. 14, 2000

Elections officials across Florida confirmed Tuesday that they had corrected thousands of bungled GOP absentee-ballot requests in the days leading up to the Nov. 7 election because of missing anti-fraud voter ID numbers.

 On a day when Vice President Al Gore's options for winning Florida seemed to dwindle, state Democratic Party leaders seized on the issue with vigor.

 "It is absolutely incredible," said Bob Poe, chairman of the state Democratic Party. "The potential for tampering here is outrageous."

Before Election Day, both Republicans and Democrats sent out direct mailings encouraging those registered independent or with their party to vote absentee. The mailings were supposed to goad inconsistent voters into casting a ballot. The tactic apparently worked. Elections offices reported unprecedented numbers of absentee votes.

The mailings typically consist of a postcard already filled in with voters' personal information. All the voters needed to do was sign the card, drop it in the mail, and wait for their ballot to arrive.

But in at least part of the GOP's mailings, a key piece of information -- the voter registration identification number -- was left off, and no blank space requested it. Republican Party Executive Director Jamie Wilson said the problem stemmed from a vendor's printing error. He declined to say how many postcards were affected.

"We consider that to be part of campaign strategy and we never tell how many pieces we mail," Wilson said.

Confronted with incomplete absentee requests flooding their offices, elections officials had few choices: Either they tossed out the postcards, or they tried to add the voter ID numbers.

Many elections supervisors, including those in Broward, Orange, and Hillsborough counties, said they opted to add data when they found omissions.

But in Seminole County, Elections Supervisor Sandra Goard, a Republican, said she would do neither. Instead, she allowed a Republican Party staff member to sift through the absentee requests and add the numbers by hand, saving the absentee requests from oblivion.

Although Republicans would not say how many requests were involved, Democrats think that as many as 4,700 ballots could be affected in Seminole County. Democrats had strong language for the way the ballots were handled.

"This is a criminal matter. This is not a civil matter. We are asking the state attorneys in the various counties to look into this," Poe said. "It's a felony. She can't just turn those over to anybody."

Republicans, growing testier about the issue by the hour on Tuesday, said it was a manpower issue, not a partisan issue.

"The Seminole County supervisor either didn't have the time or the manpower to look up the individual cards as they came in," Wilson said.

Goard told the Orlando Sentinel that she did not get involved other than to give the Republicans access to their mailers.

"The Republican Party asked if it could resolve that situation," Goard said. "They had an individual who had a database. We provided a chair. That is all."

State legislators approved stringent laws on how to give out absentee ballots in the wake of widespread fraud in the 1997 Miami mayoral election. The law says ballots can be issued only if voters provide their address, last four digits of their Social Security numbers, addresses and the voter registration numbers.

But elections officials in Broward County said the new law has not proven practical. "What are you going to do when Emma and George are in Connecticut and don't have their identification cards with them," said Nancy Butler, an aide to Broward County's Republican Elections Supervisor, Jane Carroll. "State law didn't take into account the realities of what goes on. If it's a crime we allowed them to get their ballots, so be it. State law was a knee-jerk reaction to what happened in Miami."

Butler said the Broward office routinely sent ballots to people whose requests lacked a voter registration number. Instead of rejecting the request, workers verify the identification number by cross-checking office records with the Social Security numbers provided. Butler said she did not know how many applications came in lacking all the required information.

June Condron, a deputy elections supervisor in Orange County, said that office, too, took a lenient approach to incomplete requests.

"We honored them and worked with the voter's record and identified the voter by other information that was given," Condron said. "It's no more complicated to look someone up by name and date of birth than it is by voter ID number."

Condron said that Orange County saw historic numbers of absentee requests in this election -- 40,000 in all. The absentee voters, by far, favored Bush. But it wasn't enough to deliver the traditionally Republican county. Countywide, Gore won a total of 140,220 votes. Bush won 134,517.

But the absentee results strongly favored Bush, with 21,349 Orange County votes cast for Bush and 16,946 for Gore.

"It's a lot," Condron said. "We haven't ever had that many."

With the presidency now hinging on the count of Florida's overseas absentee ballots, Democrats would dearly love to see the tainted ballots disqualified. But despite their outrage, the Democrats' call for criminal charges appeared unlikely.

"If you have a voter who has legitimately registered a ballot because that is the law, the fact that truthful information was added so they get what they had a right to -- that would not fit the rule of something you would see as a crime," said Wade Holms, chief assistant state attorney for Seminole and Brevard counties and a registered Republican.

Poe said the Democratic Party would consider civil litigation to disallow all the absentee ballots in Seminole County that resulted from the tainted request forms.

"The supervisor of elections office should be above partisan politics," Poe said. "They should not be allowed to facilitate campaigns."

Sun-Sentinel Staff Writers and researchers John Allman, John Maines and Kathryn Pease contributed to this report.  Stacey Singer can be reached at [email protected] or 954-356-4209.