- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. Election canvassing board members in Broward County started their review yesterday of up to 2,000 contested ballots, and by the end of the day, Vice President Al Gore had picked up a net 88 votes.
The canvassing board arrived at that number after making their way through 314 of those ballots.
Broward's recount of the questionable ballots raised Mr. Gore's net gain in the county to 225 votes as of last night beyond the numbers the state certified last week, which bodes well for the vice president in his bid to overcome the initial state victory and current 930-vote lead of Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
The Broward counters adjourned yesterday at 3:30 p.m. and will pick up their work again this morning.
Meanwhile, their peers in neighboring Palm Beach County took the day off with several thousand ballots awaiting a similar review.
The latest figures that county has released give Mr. Bush a net gain of 14 votes over election-night numbers.
Both of the three-member panels expect to complete their review in time to meet Sunday's 5 p.m. deadline, a mandate that was established earlier this week by the Florida Supreme Court.
"We still think we're on target to get finished," said Judge Charles Burton, chairman of the Palm Beach County canvassing board. "The board will have to kick it into gear and sit down and go through all the questionable ballots."
Judge Burton said this week that a court ruling that Democrats say forces the Palm Beach County board to loosen its standards for counting a ballot as a vote will not affect the process.
Counters there were released from duty Wednesday evening, although the canvassing board has not reported results from two-thirds of the county's 531 precincts.
Democrats have challenged the exclusion of 785 dimpled ballots that they say were votes cast for Mr. Gore, while Republicans have contested 479 such ballots they say were cast for Mr. Bush.
These are in addition to up to 10,000 Palm Beach County ballots that are to be considered by the canvassing board starting today.
Both canvassing boards quasi-elected conferences composed of the county elections supervisor, the county judge and a member of the county commission are scrutinizing ballots that were not punched through completely on Election Day, leaving them with dimpled, "pregnant" or hanging chads.
The review process is a tedious undertaking that was moved in Broward County to the more intimate confines of the courthouse, where board members sat with official observers at a large wooden table.
The board began poring over remaining questionable ballots after vote counters finished hand recounts of all 588,000 ballots from 609 precincts, as well as 49,718 absentee ballots.
Panel members pondered each ballot, holding it up to the overhead lights, glancing at it from angles and holding it up again.
Some took six seconds, others more, although as one Democratic observer noted, "There are very few contested ballots in there."
Most checks are easy and quick: "There is a punch there, it's a Bush vote," noted board member Suzanne Gunzburger yesterday afternoon in a typical exchange.
It is a tedium peppered with tension. One observer became a nuisance to the board and had to be threatened with removal by a sheriff's deputy.
At one point about four hours into the day, Judge Robert Lee also a board member threatened to have a Republican attorney, Bill Scherer, removed from the room for making comments about the ballots.
"You can kick me out of here if you want to," Mr. Scherer said, adding that he was "going to continue keeping a record."
Mr. Scherer was allowed to remain.

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