- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

MIAMI George W. Bush would have gained six more votes than Al Gore if all the dimples and hanging chads on 10,600 previously uncounted ballots in Miami-Dade County had been included in the totals, according to a review by the Palm Beach Post.
If everything were counted from the faintest dimple to chads barely hanging on ballots the Post review showed 251 additional votes for Mr. Bush and 245 additional votes for Mr. Gore.
That would have been a hard blow to Mr. Gore's hopes of claiming the presidency in a recount.
Before the vice president conceded last month, the Gore camp had expected to pick up as many as 600 votes from a Miami-Dade recount just enough to overtake Mr. Bush's razor-thin Florida lead.
Instead, the Post's review indicates Mr. Gore would have lost ground.
The review, concluded last week, also showed the vast majority of ballots rejected as undervotes when counted by machine appeared, in fact, to cast no vote for president. About 7,600 undervotes had no mark at all on the presidential column, or in rare cases included multiple votes that defied judgment. Most of the voters who did not indicate a vote for president punched choices in other races.
At least 2,257 voters apparently poked at their ballot cards without properly inserting them into the voting machines. Miami-Dade County elections supervisor David Leahy says that's because they didn't follow instructions.
Of these miscast votes, 302 more would have gone for Mr. Gore than Mr. Bush, under Mr. Leahy's theory.
Even if those votes had been cast correctly, however, this would not have changed the final Bush margin of 537.
"In other words, Dade was a wash," says Ivy Korman, director of special projects for the Miami-Dade County supervisor of elections. "And, knowing our county the way that we do, that is why we didn't feel the need to do a manual recount."
Mr. Gore easily carried the county by more than 39,000 votes on Nov. 7. The certified results in Miami-Dade were 328,808 for Mr. Gore and 289,533 for Mr. Bush, according to the Secretary of State's office.
The Post's review of all the undervotes is the first of several planned or under way. Later this month, a consortium that includes the Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times will begin looking at the undervotes in each of Florida's 67 counties. The Miami Herald and USA Today are making a similar review. The Herald/USA Today review, using accountants, is expects to finish in Miami-Dade this week.
Because of varying judgments by reviewers on how each ballot is marked and the inevitable human error that occurs when thousands of ballots are examined by hand, results of the reviews by the different newspaper teams are almost certain to differ.
Furthermore, experts say no count whether done by hand or by machine will ever be exact. Computer industry consultants estimate the error rate for counting punch cards could run as high as 1 percent and varies with the number of times the cards are handled.
In the 37-day contest of Florida election results, Mr. Gore had hoped to find a large cache of votes in heavily Democratic South Florida to overtake Mr. Bush. A manual recount in Broward County added 567 votes for Mr. Gore. The manual recount in Palm Beach County would have added 174 votes if the county had met the deadline imposed by state law.
The Miami-Dade Canvassing Board abandoned its manual recount Nov. 22 after counting 140 of the county's 616 precincts. And four teams of judges in Leon County were about halfway through Miami-Dade's disputed ballots Dec. 9 when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped all recounts in Florida. No results were released from the judges' partial recount.
"These are interesting findings and point to the need for a new system," says Larry Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch Inc., a government watchdog conducting its own review of undervotes in eight Florida counties. "The system we have is broken."
Mr. Klayman says his organization would intervene on behalf of a lawsuit filed Thursday by the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming that irregularities in Florida's vote amount to a denial of the equal protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Judicial Watch supports the claim that the NAACP and the ACLU make regarding equal protection, but it does not support their claim that racial discrimination skewed the outcome of the presidential election.
The Post found the rate of voting mishaps was greater in black-majority precincts, where many voters were casting ballots for the first time and were not familiar with voting procedures. While 1.6 percent of all votes cast countywide for president were not counted because there was no clear punch for any candidate, that rate was 2.7 percent in the 112 precincts with a black majority.
Thomasina Williams, a lawyer representing the NAACP and other civil rights groups suing the state and seven counties over the election, says there were probably more problems in black precincts because voters were using using older, less reliable voting machines and poll workers in those precincts had had less training.
"Predominately black areas fall prey to that because they don't get the same service," says Miss Williams, who filed suit in federal court in Miami Wednesday asking that the punch card system be eliminated.
Republicans are conducting their own count of disputed ballots in Florida. Mark Wallace, a Miami lawyer representing the state's Republican Party, insists the media count is a waste of time.
"It doesn't matter what the outcome [of the media review] is," he says. "The fact that we gained votes is fine and dandy, but the things [the Post] counted didn't correspond with the law."


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