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Palm Beach Keeps Hand Counting

November 22, 2000

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ The head of the Palm Beach canvassing board told counters to get back to work Tuesday night after hearing their painstaking manual recount will be included in Florida’s official vote totals.

``So keep on counting. Thank you,″ Circuit Judge Charles Burton said.

The Florida Supreme Court decided unanimously that state election officials must accept the hand-counted returns from Palm Beach and two other counties as late as Sunday or Monday.

``We’re really making pretty good progress and I think we can meet the deadline,″ Burton said. ``We’ve still got a long way to go. But at least the voters can rest assured that every one of their ballots are being looked at.″

Burton, who initially opposed hand recounting ballots in Palm Beach, said there still were no plans to have counters work on Thanksgiving. But the board may need to call in extra workers on Saturday, he said.

As the fight for votes becomes paramount, Democrats are headed Wednesday to Palm Beach Circuit Court to argue the canvassing board should loosen its rules on what qualifies as a vote.

Democratic lawyer Dennis Newsman, overseeing the manual recount of presidential ballots in the county, said there were 557 ``dimpled″ ballots for Gore and 260 for Republican George W. Bush that weren’t counted.

With Gore down 930 votes to Bush in official totals statewide, those figures could be significant. On Tuesday alone, officials set aside 1,979 questionable ballots, including dimples and others.

The dimpled ballots _ which show an indentation but are not pushed all the way through the punchcard _ have been set aside in case a judge orders the board to change its vote-counting standards.

Democrats contend the canvassing board is violating a court order that said ``a policy of exclusion of any ballot that does not have a partially punched or hanging chad is not in compliance with the law.″

Palm Beach voters cast 462,350 ballots on Election Day, and 360,543 of those, or about 78 percent, had been recounted by 8 p.m. EST. About 30,000 ballots were thrown out during the initial machine counts, including about 10,000 on which no vote was registered by the machines. Those so-called undervotes are at the center of the current dispute.

Recounting continued for a sixth day Tuesday, with no new official numbers released. Gore had gained three votes with about one-fifth of the 531 precincts counted in the Democratic-leaning county.

Also Tuesday, a member of the county’s canvassing board surprised her colleagues with a reminder about her planned vacation to Myanmar starting Wednesday. But she reversed herself and was expected to stay.

Update hourly