- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 2, 2000

Al Gore's campaign has become obsessed or is it possessed? with "counting" the roughly 14,000 "disputed" ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. The vice president and his allies have been pleading with both the Leon County Circuit Court, where Mr. Gore filed his lawsuit Monday, and the Florida Supreme Court, to which he appealed on Thursday, to begin the "counting" immediately.

Of course, a more appropriate word would be "recounting." Indeed, in the case of the 3,000 or so "disputed" Palm Beach County ballots, Mr. Gore is actually advocating "re-re-re-recounting" them. They have already been counted at least four times first on election day, then during the mandatory statewide recount, then as a prelude to the countywide manual recount, then during the manual recount itself. In fact, to be precise about what Mr. Gore really demands, one would have to say that he wants those "disputed" ballots to be "cast," not counted. Naturally he would be the beneficiary.

Since Monday, when Mr. Gore contested the Florida election, the Gore campaign has begged Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls to order the vote-casting to begin at the earliest possible moment. Never mind that Mr. Bush had not been given even a single hour of hearing to determine whether Mr. Gore was entitled to a review of the "disputed" ballots.

Indeed, while several preliminary hearings were held during the week, the actual trial does not even begin until today. Judge Sauls said on Tuesday that he would consider the counting issue as one of the trial's first orders of business. However, the Gore campaign appealed the "delay" to their seven Democrat-appointed friends on the Florida Supreme Court, who literally, and improperly, rewrote Florida election law on Nov. 21 by unilaterally extending the deadline for certification and manual recounts by 12 days. It was, of course, this extension that has significantly compressed the time available to Mr. Gore to press his lawsuit contesting the eventual certification he did so much to delay. Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Gore's attack on due process was too much to bear for even the Florida Supreme Court, which rejected his appeal to begin "counting" votes before the trial begins.

Interestingly, Mr. Gore is selective in his demands. He insists on tallying only the 14,000 "disputed" ballots from heavily Democratic Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Judge Sauls ordered that all of the ballots from those two counties 1.16 million be transferred to Tallahassee in the event he decides yet another recount is in order, although he has not committed himself to including all of them in any recount he might order. Mr. Gore would surely fight such a plan.

Understandably, Mr. Bush's attorneys have also subpoenaed the 1.17 million ballots from Volusia, Broward and Pinellas counties. Volusia County was the only Florida county to complete its manual recount before the statutorily authorized Nov. 14 deadline. Broward County conducted a very controversial manual recount well after the deadline, yielding Mr. Gore more than 500 highly questionable votes. And election officials in Pinellas County, according to an online report by Time magazine, had "removed the chaff from ballots before they were submitted for [the mandatory statewide] recount by the machines." That gambit helped to give "an additional 417 votes" to Mr. Gore's total.

Just as the Florida Supreme Court, by extending the certification deadline, changed the rules of the election after it was conducted, Broward and Palm Beach counties also changed the rules determining what constitutes a legitimate vote long after Election Day of Nov. 7. For example, in November 1990, Theresa LePore, who is elections supervisor in Palm Beach County, issued a memo outlining the "guidelines on ballots on which chad has not been removed." That standard, which prevailed until after this year's election, stipulated, "A chad that is fully attached, bearing only an indentation, should not be counted as a vote. An indentation may result from a voter placing the stylus into position but not punching through. Thus, an indentation is not evidence of intent to cast a ballot vote." In conducting its manual recount for the 2000 presidential vote, Palm Beach County retroactively changed its standards and accepted ballots reflecting indented, or "dimpled," chads if such ballots had at least one other indentation on them.

Even this revised, liberal standard is not enough for Mr. Gore, who is contesting the Palm Beach County vote because its election canvassing board did not apply the ridiculously liberal standard adopted, also retroactively, by Broward County. For years, Broward County policy accepted as legitimate votes only those ballots that had at least two corners of the chad detached. On Thanksgiving morning, as it prepared to recount nearly 2,000 "disputed" ballots manually, the Democrat-dominated Broward County election canvassing board voted to switch standards. The board relied on a new legal ruling by deputy county attorney Andrew Meyers, who, as Newsweek reported, "had contributed to Gore's campaign and was married to a member of the Ft. Lauderdale law firm that has been representing the Democratic Party in all the election disputes." Relying on the post-election "advice" of Mr. Meyers, overwhelmingly Democratic Broward County, to the utter delight of Mr. Gore, began accepting ballots that reflected a single indentation, or "dimple," in the presidential box even if no other indentations appeared on the ballot. This is the extremely liberal standard, which prevails in virtually no other electoral districts in the nation, that Mr. Gore now demands Judge Sauls apply to the 14,000 "disputed" ballots from heavily Democratic Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Mr. Gore's demands are not remotely "fair" or warranted. Judge Sauls would be on firm ground to cast his own vote against them.

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