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Gore Keeps Picking Up Broward Votes

November 20, 2000

PLANTATION, Fla. (AP) _ Republicans accused the Broward County canvassing board of bowing to political pressure Sunday after the board reversed a decision to disqualify ballots with dimple or one corner chads.

The board had been throwing out any ballots that did not have two corners poked out of the chad _ the tiny pieces of paper in a punch-card ballot.

``The Gore campaign now wants to lower the bar because it needs more votes,″ said Ed Pozzuoli, chairman of the county’s Republican Party.

Pozzuoli said it was unfair for the board to change the rules in the middle of the recount. With 428 of the county’s 609 precincts counted by Sunday night, Gore had gained 108 votes over the official tallies sent to the secretary of state on Tuesday.

Ballots with only one corner of a chad pierced or simply a dimple were being set aside in a separate stack following Pozzouli’s protest and not included in the recount. The three members of the canvassing board voted to decide what to do with them after completing their initial hand recount of all precincts.

The process was to continue Monday morning, but it remained uncertain if any of the manually recounted votes would be added to the official totals.

``Any semblance of a standard of fairness in the hand-counting process in Broward County has been abandoned,″ said Bush campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan. ``Instead, they’re going to get a subjective reading of the votes by a majority Democratic board.″

U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Fla., whose district includes Broward, defended the canvassing board’s decision to include the dimpled ballots, and he dismissed the Republican allegation the board bowed to pressure.

``They’re also saying that people are eating chads in the room,″ Deutsch said. ``They’re saying a lot of things that aren’t going on. What’s clear is the canvassing board under Florida statute is there to decide the intent of the voter.″

Since the start of the hand counting of the 588,000 ballots, the counters have set aside questionable ballots in an envelope just in case they needed to be reviewed.

The board said Sunday it would consider the ballots with dimple, pregnant chads or otherwise questionable chads after its appellate attorney, Andrew J. Meyers, said the two-corner standard would not hold up in court.

Last week, Broward County attorney Ed Dion had argued the two-corner chad rule was legal. Since then, judges in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade made separate rulings that canvassing boards should look to see if a voter’s intent could be determined, even with a questionable chad.

Republicans alleged political pressure led to the change, but Dion _ a Republican _ flatly denied the charge.

``My only job is to represent the canvassing board. This is an evolving situation,″ Dion said. ``What we believed to be accurate legal advice on Monday is now changed.″

Democrats applauded the board’s change of heart.

``These chad marks didn’t get on the ballot by osmosis,″ said Democratic attorney Charles Lichtman, who added the voter’s choice was obvious on many of the ballots that have thus far been thrown out. ``The only way they could have occurred is with a stylus in a voting booth.″

Secretary of State Katherine Harris has said she won’t accept any manual recount totals, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled Friday that she cannot certify election results until it holds a hearing Monday.

The canvassing board on Sunday also rejected a media request to see rejected overseas ballots. Officials were concerned the ballots contained personal information, such as Social Security numbers and addresses.

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