- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2000

The Al Gore campaign has urged the George W. Bush legal team to let local Florida election boards do recounts autonomously, but now Democrats have gone to court to ask judges to dictate where and how manual counts are done.
The Florida Democratic Party filed suit this week in Broward County to force the election board there to conduct a manual recount. The board initially voted 2-1 not to retabulate, saying a spot check of three precincts showed no voting abnormalities. It changed its mind yesterday and a hand count is under way.
The Democrats also went to court in Palm Beach County to overturn the election board's decision to discard "dimpled" or "pregnant" paper chad on a punch-card ballot. Yesterday, a county judge ruled the board must consider whether an indented, but not broken, chad shows a voter's intent.
The moves appear in contrast to declarations by Gore surrogates that local officials should be left to follow Florida law.
"Let me remind you," William M. Daley, Mr. Gore's campaign chairman, said Saturday, "there is an election committee in each one of those counties who makes the determination, number one, as they move through a sample of precincts, whether there's enough evidence to indicate anomalies to go to the next step to a full-county sample."
On Sunday, "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert asked Gore representative Warren Christopher about the varying methods being used in Palm Beach County to add up punch-card votes.
"These are local election officials chosen by the people in their counties," Mr. Christopher said. "They're doing the very best they can. I think it's not very useful to parody what they're trying to do… . So these procedures are standard, they're election officials chosen in the counties themselves. In many cases, they're bipartisan groups, and they're doing their best to see whether or not the machine counts are accurate."
Two days later, the Florida Democratic Party filed suit against the same Palm Beach County Canvassing Board that Mr. Christopher had defended. The lawsuit asked a judge to order the board to count loosened and dimpled paper chads which would clearly favor Mr. Gore.
The Democratic lawsuit states that if the board had counted indented ballots, Mr. Gore would have garnered "several hundred additional votes" just from a small recount sample. This could have wiped out Mr. Bush's 300-vote lead in the state, the Democrats said.
The Bush campaign has made it clear its wants the local boards to stop all manual recounts. Florida law allows a manual recount if an initial sampling of 1 percent of voters "indicates an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election."
The Bush team says that sentence means the sampling must have revealed a mechanical error in adding up votes. Since it did not, the lawyers say, manual counts are illegal in this instance.

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