Deadline Looms As Recount Continues
By JACKIE HALLIFAX
.c The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Nov. 13) - Florida's secretary of state had this message Monday for election workers weary from the tedious task of counting presidential votes: hurry up.
Sticking to a firm state deadline, Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris said all 67 counties must finish their recounts by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
But her decision was challenged hours later in court by lawyers for Palm Beach and Volusia counties, Democrat Al Gore and the Florida Democratic Party, who said counties should have as much time as they need to complete their hand counts.
Broward County, one of the four Florida counties weighing full recounts by hand, rejected the idea late Monday after workers performed a manual count in three precincts and turned up no major problems.
The strong Democratic county, which includes Fort Lauderdale, found only four additional votes for Gore after hand counting 3,892 ballots in three precincts.
Democrats immediately vowed to go to local court to overturn the decision, alleging Broward County officials relied on erroneous advice from Harris' office.
''We intend to file litigation seeking judicial relief from this decision, which we think was based on an erroneous legal decision sent down by the secretary of state,'' Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jenny Backus said.
Attorneys for George W. Bush and Harris' office defended the deadline.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he would issue a ruling Tuesday morning.
The deadline is a major concern for Democratic officials because the manual recounts they requested cannot all be completed by the end of the day Tuesday. The state said counties that don't certify their vote by the deadline ''shall be ignored.''
Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he was asking Florida election officials to halt the recounts until his representatives can get in place to monitor the action. Some Democratic voters in Palm Beach County have complained that a confusing ballot may have led them to vote for Buchanan by mistake.
Weary workers, meanwhile, continued the counts Monday in scattered counties:
- Volusia County, home of Daytona Beach, resumed hand counting 184,339 ballots and might finish by late Monday. Election workers also were recounting roughly 29,000 absentee ballots.
- Palm Beach County, home of West Palm Beach, prepared to start hand counting 425,000 ballots Tuesday. They expect to continue through Sunday, working 14 hours a day. Palm Beach is strongly supporting Gore.
- In Miami-Dade County, the largest, officials planned to meet Tuesday to consider the Democrats' request for a hand recount.
- In Osceola County, south of Orlando, Democrats withdrew their request for a manual recount.
An informal survey of 61 of Florida's 67 election supervisors found that they had mailed out more than 18,500 overseas ballots. Of those, about half had been returned and the majority of them counted. It was not immediately known how many ballots were outstanding. Election supervisors plan to count the remaining ballots on Friday and send the results to the Harris's office.
Volusia and Palm Beach counties want to continue their manual counts through Saturday. Gore's lawyers sought an indefinite postponement of the deadline.
''Our most sacred right ... is to have our vote counted to pick the leader of our country and the free world,'' said Gore lawyer Dexter Douglass.
Jon Sjostrom, a lawyer representing Harris' department, told the judge: ''There simply is no showing that would permit you at this point to interfere in the electoral process.''
Bush lawyer Barry Richard told the judge: ''No candidate, no political committee, no voter has a right to a manual recount at any time.''
Democrats won a court victory in Miami, where a federal judge rejected a Republican lawsuit seeking to stop the manual recounts. U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks said the issue was not for a federal court to decide.
The latest unofficial tally by The Associated Press gave Republican Bush a 388-vote lead in Florida, but hand recounts and overseas ballots due by Friday will determine the final margin - and likely the winner of the presidency.
Harris, the state's top election official, said she wants the Florida winner certified by Saturday.
''The law unambiguously states when the process of counting and recounting the votes cast on Election Day must end,'' she said in a statement distributed in Tallahassee.
Warren Christopher, overseeing Gore's recount effort, met briefly with Harris and said her stance was politically motivated. He noted that she has campaigned for Bush, and is a political supporter of Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
''There's no reason why the full, fair and lawful'' balloting shouldn't continue, Christopher said at a news conference in Tallahassee.
After counting in 140 of Volusia County's 172 precincts, Gore picked up a net of 24 votes. Polk County, east of Tampa, announced new totals Monday that pushed Bush's lead statewide to 388 votes, according to an unofficial AP canvass of the presidential vote. Palm Beach awarded Gore a net gain of 39 votes after a weekend rescan.
On Friday, Harris said Bush had a 960-vote lead over Gore, but with one county still to be recounted, Palm Beach, where the AP showed a big gain for Gore.
The state has been unable to include updated Palm Beach County figures in its tally because a state judge issued an injunction last week in response to lawsuits by voters claiming they were confused over the ballot design.
GOP Gains in First Round
Monday, November 13, 2000
Recounts — both manual and machine — proceeding in some counties in Florida are favoring George W. Bush so far. But officials with the Texas governor's campaign maintain their opposition to the process regardless of who gains from it.
Nov. 13: A Volusia County worker holds up a ballot for review in DeLand, Fla., as the recount continues.
Bush showed a net gain of 97 votes in Polk County after a weekend re-scan of ballots there, and squeezed another 21 votes out of Volusia County with 69 of 172 precincts recounted by hand there so far. Hand recounting over the weekend in Palm Beach County turned up a net gain of 39 votes for Vice President Al Gore.
"It doesn't matter whether we gain or lose votes, our principle remains the same — that a hand recount without any standards is unreliable, and as we can see ... often results in chaos," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "The best course of action is to allow the existing two recounts to stand. Anything less would be so subjective that it would neither be fair nor right."
As of Monday, Bush leads Gore in Florida by 388 votes, with hand recounts proceeding in two counties and on horizon in two others. A federal judge Monday morning refused the Bush campaign's request to halt the manual recount process.
All this, despite word from the Florida Secretary of State that recounts in all of Florida's 67 counties should be completed by 5 p.m. Tuesday and a winner certified by Saturday after overseas absentee ballots are rolled into the totals.
"The law unambiguously states when the process of counting and recounting the votes cast on Election Day must end," Harris said in a written statement distributed in Tallahassee. "For this election, that time is 5 p.m. Nov. 14, which is tomorrow."
Under those constraints, Volusia County, home of the Daytona International Speedway, could be the only one county to finish its work before the deadline. Some 42 officials there began counting the 184,019 presidential ballots there Sunday and said they expected to be finished late Monday.
"The count is going faster than we first expected it would. It looks like all precincts will be counted by tonight, or very early Tuesday morning at the latest," said county spokesman David Byron.
Just in case, the heavily Democratic county sued for the right to complete and certify its manual count regardless of the deadline, and to bar the state from ignoring its results.
Also Monday, Broward County officials said they plan to begin a hand recount of about 6,000 ballots in three precincts. If major problems are found, authorities will consider a full hand count of all precincts in the Democratic stronghold.
And in Miami-Dade County, the state's largest, officials planned to meet Tuesday to consider the Democrats' request for a hand recount.
Under Florida law, manual recounts are allowed if a candidate meets a post-election deadline to request them and the local election board agrees.
Democrats in positions of control over tally
By Steve Miller
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.
"These are not people who are interested in the rule of the law," said Palm Beach County Republican Party member Sid Dinerstein, speaking of local Democrats. "They are interested in winning."
Four Democrats are wielding extraordinary power in the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush:
• Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol Roberts joined with Democratic colleague Theresa LePore to outvote the panel's sole Republican to approve a manual recount of the county's 462,657 votes. The move came after a sampling of four precincts found that Mr. Gore received a previously unrecorded 33 votes to Mr. Bush's 14.
• Palm Beach Circuit Judge Kathleen Kroll granted an injunction preventing the Elections Canvassing Board from certifying Tuesday's presidential election vote until today's hearing in Miami to decide the merits of a Republican request to block manual recounts in Florida counties.
• U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks, a Clinton appointee and son-in-law of former Democratic U.S. Rep. Harry Johnston, will consider the Republican petition in Miami.
"It really sounds like they're running things, doesn't it?" said Barni Shuhi, president of the Royal Palm Republican Women's Club, a rare organizational presence in the county.
"Theresa LePore is a Democrat, and her staff is mostly Democrats," Miss Shuhi said. "It [the ballot] was made up by the staff and approved by the staff and the Democratic Party. And now, when their candidate loses, they make these claims. It is truly a partisan situation that is controlled by Democrats."
In a contentious struggle early yesterday morning, Miss Roberts, a commissioner since 1986 and local Democratic fixture since being elected to the West Palm Beach City Commission in 1975, was joined by Miss LePore in voting for the countywide hand recount.
The hand recount of 1 percent of the precincts showed Mr. Gore gaining 19 votes.
"Based on the sample, there would be 1,900 votes that would not have been picked up" countywide, Miss Roberts said, over the dismayed disapproval of County Judge Charles Burton, who had moved to ask the Secretary of State's Office for an opinion before proceeding with the lengthy manual count.
Miss LePore, a lifelong Democrat who moved from clerk to supervisor with the wealthy backing of local Democratic clubs, seconded her motion, giving the recount a majority.
The postelection votes have added up for Mr. Gore. A requisite mechanical recount in Palm Beach County last week found 751 more votes for Mr. Gore. Mr. Bush now has a 279-vote lead in Florida in unofficial returns.
Several lawsuits have been filed by voters whose complaints range from intimidation at the polls to a flawed ballot that, they say, made them vote for the wrong candidate or prompted them to accidentally vote twice.
One of the first suits came from local Democratic activist Andre Fladell, who said his action was not partisan. His suit says he was denied his right to vote by a confusing ballot.
"The Republicans and the Democrats can bang each other's heads together," Mr. Fladell said. He was trying to vote for Mr. Gore but feared he voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan. He also voted for Bill Clinton twice.
And a striking coincidence after the second recount made some Republicans uneasy: Mr. Bush held a lead of 1,754 votes in 53 counties that had been so far the exact difference between the candidates after the initial state count was completed Wednesday.
Kevin McCarty, a state committeeman from Delray Beach in Palm Beach County, said the situation does not look good. He worked with a group of Republican lawyers to go "judge shopping" last week when it appeared the election went awry.
"We ended up with Kathleen Kroll, who is an ultraliberal," Mr. McCarty said. "Then we get Middlebrooks . . . this couldn't have happened in a worse place, because we have the large retired community and, in this election, had the Lieberman effect."
The "Lieberman effect" is the rallying of the substantial Jewish vote in South Florida's Jewish retirement communities.
Anticipating another round of complaints from the Democrats, Florida Republican Party spokesman Jim Smith cautioned absentee voters who failed to send in their ballots at this point, since the deadline was Nov. 7.
Mr. Smith said at a press conference that "our system has never seen such abuses." Mr. Smith cited news reports that some absentee voters who did not vote were now being encouraged to do so.
He cautioned that to do so would be felonious, and that encouraging others to vote fraudulently is also a crime.
Absentee ballots are scheduled to be tabulated on Friday.
Democrats, for their part, are convinced that the system in Palm Beach County was flawed, and that only a manual count will remedy the situation.
"This is not partisanship," said Monte Friedkin, chairman of the Democratic Party of Palm Beach County. "Gore was going to [trail Mr. Bush] because of the ballot, and the only way to fix it is through a hand count."
It is in the midst of these allegations, maneuvers and exchanges that Judge Middlebrooks will decide if the Republican lawsuit has merit or if Palm Beach County and three others will be allowed to conduct manual hand counts, which could tip the presidency toward Mr. Gore.
Today's decision in Miami is destined for an appellate court. Democrats have so far been the most litigious, backing, at least in spirit, the lawsuits filed by at least eight voters who feel wronged.
Mr. Dinerstein, the Palm Beach County Republican, believes the recount movement is illegitimate, that local Democratic activists are usurping the system.
"When I see people I know, who have been activists for a long time, saying they didn't vote right, I know that things aren't quite right here. But I hope that, ultimately, the law will come down on the right side."
Butterfly Ballots Under Fire in Florida,
But Not in Other States
Monday, November 13, 2000
By Catherine Donaldson-Evans
South Florida isn't the Lone Ranger in its use of "butterfly ballots" — the voting forms at the center of the fight over who will be the country's next president.
Gary I. Rothstein/AP
Counties in Ohio, Illinois and West Virginia all used a variation of the same two-page punch-card design that poll workers gave voters in Palm Beach County, Fla. Few voters in those counties complained, although election officials said the forms confused some people.
"It's a ballot used elsewhere; it's not as if this was the first time," said elections expert Darrell West, political science professor at Brown University.
It was the first time Palm Beach County used such a ballot for a presidential election, said Jamal Simmons, Democratic National Committee spokesman for the recount effort there.
The Palm Beach butterfly has two facing pages, with candidates' names in staggered blocks alternating between the left- and right-hand sheets like steps. Some running for the same office appeared on opposite pages, not in one vertical column; voting punch-marks were lined down the middle.
The ballot was apparently designed so senior citizens could better see the enlarged names, but Democrats have charged it bewildered thousands of voters who wanted to pick Vice President Al Gore. Several residents said they accidentally chose Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, because the spot to punch for a Buchanan vote was sandwiched between the names of Gore and Republican contender George W. Bush.
The confusion snowballed into a national dilemma when it became clear that both Gore and Texas Gov. Bush needed Florida's 25 electoral votes to win the presidency, and a swing of a few hundred cast anywhere in the state could topple the tally in either candidate's favor.
The Gore campaign has argued that since so many ballots were tossed because voters mistakenly picked two candidates, the vice president should have won a larger victory in predominantly Democratic Palm Beach.
Across the county, 19,120 people chose two or more candidates, and 10,582 votes didn't register at all in the presidential race — meaning a total of nearly 30,000 ballots were invalidated, said local state Democratic Sen. Ron Klein of Boca Raton.
Some Florida Democrats who said they intended to vote for Al Gore claim the above ballot led them to mistakenly vote for Pat Buchanan.
Republicans countered that in 1996, an election with a lower turnout, about 14,000 people in Palm Beach County voted for more than one candidate, or didn't successfully vote for anyone. That figure, Bush supporters said, indicated the confusion was already there, and wasn't created by the butterfly ballot this year. But Klein said this year's vote was flawed because invalidated ballots actually doubled.
Bush supporters looked to parts of Chicago and surrounding Cook County, Ill., that use a similar system to the one causing the Florida uproar. Chicago-area officials said their cards were slightly different because no candidates running for the same office were listed on opposite pages.
While defending their ballots, county leaders also admitted the system probably needs to be changed.
Like their Floridian counterparts, 120,503 of the 2 million Cook County residents who trekked to the polls there wound up submitting invalid voter cards, according to The Chicago Tribune. That's due to either "overvoting" — punching holes next to two or more presidential candidates — or "undervoting," failing to register a choice because they didn't fully puncture the circle next to the name.
County officials acknowledged the same problem resurfaces in every election, but said few area citizens have formally complained.
Election observers reported no complaints in West Virginia, where some residents used similar voting cards.
New Hampshire banned all punch-card voting when its secretary of state protested against adopting the system in 1986 on the grounds it might perplex people.
About 70 of 88 Ohio counties also use a version of the butterfly ballot. One election official from Cuyahoga County said he wasn't happy with the method.
"It's difficult for people to punch, and so human-intensive there's bound to be mistakes," elections board member Thomas J. Coyne told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Some voters there reportedly spent as long as 10 minutes staring at the ballots, with a few saying they had to take the sheet out of its slot to eye it. Floridians described similar bewilderment.
"I don't think anybody would question there was confusion here," Klein said. "There's something fundamentally wrong with the voting process in Palm Beach County."
Cheesehead Ballot Has Holes, Too
Monday, November 13, 2000
By Kenneth Lovett
MILWAUKEE — Tales of voter fraud and irregularities in last week's presidential election have swept through Wisconsin, where Al Gore enjoys just a slim lead over George W. Bush.
Since the elections, hundreds of voters have complained to the Wisconsin Republican Party of problems they say they either experienced or witnessed at the polls.
Nine, all from heavily Democratic Milwaukee County, discussed the allegations with The Post yesterday.
Beverly Hecker, a 63-year-old Republican, said she received a ballot that was already premarked for two Democrats, including Gore. Wisconsin makes voters fill out their ballots before entering them into the polling machine.
Hecker said that when she tried to mark her vote for George W. Bush, the ballot machine spit the paper out because it contained two votes for president.
Hecker said she gave the defective ballot to an election inspector and voted on a fresh sheet.
John Zimmerman, a GOP committeeman in a Milwaukee suburb, insists he saw a local college student leaving a polling center with a stack of ballots "an inch thick" under his arm.
A Marquette University student boasted on a local radio show that he voted 25 times for Al Gore.
Janet Riordan, 39, said that when she went to vote wearing a Bush-Cheney button, an election inspector asked, "Why would a young woman like you want to vote for George Bush?"
By far the largest complaint was that election inspectors required little or no identification when voters showed up. Wisconsin allows voters to register at the polls.
Cheryl Sorenson, a 44-year-old Republican, said one man was waved right through despite hesitating when asked his address.
Huntly Gordon, a Marquette University Law School student and a Tennessee native, said he was asked simply to sign a registration form without providing any identification.
"The election workers were doing nothing," said Gordon, a Democrat who voted for Bush. "It just promotes fraud."
Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann, a Democrat, said he has assigned six members of his staff to investigate after the complaints were forwarded to his office by the state GOP.
"We are not looking to overturn the election," McCann said. "We are looking for crime. We're not taking any of this casually."
Even before last Tuesday's election, McCann began a cigarettes-for-votes investigation into Manhattan socialite and prominent Democratic fund-raiser Connie Milstein.
Milstein was caught on tape by a Milwaukee news organization a week before the election offering homeless people packs of cigarettes in exchange for absentee votes for Gore.
Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist and County Executive F. Thomas Ament, both Democrats, accused Republicans of trying to "raise doubts" about Wisconsin because "they have doubts about what's happening in Florida."
"They really are desperate if they think they are going to try and overturn an election here," Ament said.
The Bush campaign has not ruled out a demand for a recount in Wisconsin, where Gore led Bush by 6,099 votes out of 2.5 million votes cast.
There is no automatic recount in Wisconsin, but a candidate may request one within three business days after the last vote canvass.
The Hijacking Of the Presidency
Monday, November 13, 2000 New York Post
The theft of the presidency proceeds apace.
A hand count of electoral returns has either begun or is about to begin in several heavily Democratic Florida counties — a shockingly subjective undertaking, front-end-loaded to deliver the Sunshine State, and thus the White House, to Vice President Al Gore.
But before that happens, the veep and his high-powered sidekicks need to think long and hard about what they'll do with a presidency that would amount to stolen property.
That is, a presidency devoid of moral authority to govern — a prescription for civil dissonance that will make the Clinton years seem like small beer in comparison.
We understand that the counting of ballots is part of the political process — that politicians are, of necessity, involved.
But too much is enough. The "recount" is swarming with Democratic Party operatives — not one of whom had the decency to do what George Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, did at the outset: recuse himself to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
By now, all America has seen the result: the Florida "hand recount."
This involves putting a disputed ballot up to a lamp and attempting to divine what it was the voter intended to do — as opposed to what he or she actually did.
But that's not a recount.
That's egg-candling. And mind-reading.
There's nothing objective about it. Or fair.
And it's wholly unacceptable as the means by which title to the presidency of the United States of America is delivered to anyone — let alone the guy who lost the state to George W. Bush, pending the opening of absentee and overseas ballots.
Bush won the state on the up — by a nano-whisker, to be sure. But he won.
Then he won the various recounts.
And that should be good enough.
But, of course, it's not.
Not to Al Gore. And not to Bill Daley of Chicago, the head mechanic in this broad-daylight effort to hot-wire the presidency and drive it off to Nashville.
Happily, lawyers for Gov. Bush will be in federal court this morning. Their mission: to stop this sham, and to freeze the process in place until Friday — when the absentee and overseas ballots are opened and counted.
And that should be the end of it.
Would that be fair? Yes.
Would it be perfect? Of course not.
But compared to what was going on all day yesterday — Democrats combing through their most reliable precincts, grubbing for the handful of votes they need to elect their candidate — it is the difference between night and day.
Between right and wrong.
Between a legitimate presidency and electoral piracy.
Between a domestically governable country and ceaseless political discord.
Between the beacon of democracy and reason that America has long been in a fractious, dangerous world — and the abyss.
That much is at stake this morning.