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Judge Rejects Ballot Inspection Bid

November 29, 2000

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A judge on Wednesday rejected a conservative law group’s bid to keep examining Palm Beach County’s presidential ballots, including 3,300 being sought by Al Gore’s legal team for a recount.

``I think these ballots need to be up in Tallahassee now so whatever needs to be done can be done quickly,″ Circuit Court Judge Jorge Labarga said, clearing the way for the transfer of the ballots to the state capital.

Also Wednesday, the county canvassing board released the results of its manual recount, showing a net gain of 188 votes for Gore. Overall, the vice president gained 515 votes and George W. Bush gained 327.

Secretary of State Katherine Harris on Sunday rejected as incomplete the Palm Beach manual recount, throwing out 180 additional votes for Gore. She instead accepted an earlier machine recount total before certifying Bush as Florida’s winner.

The board kept working after missing Harris’ 5 p.m. Sunday deadline and finished about two hours later.

Late Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls of Tallahassee said he would take possession of the Palm Beach ballots and 10,750 ones from Miami-Dade later this week. He set a Saturday hearing to decide whether there must be a ballot recount in the battle over whether Gore or George W. Bush won Florida.

Members of the conservative group, Judicial Watch, began their inspection of Palm Beach ballots on Tuesday, a week after Labarga granted the organization access to the hotly contested punch cards.

Judicial Watch enlisted hundreds of people to inspect ballots in several Florida counties. Chairman Larry Klayman said he hopes to determine what standard canvassers followed in judging voter intent.

The review in Palm Beach so far found ballots counted with ``no discernible standard,″ he said.

After Wednesday’s ruling, Klayman said he would seek access to the ballots in Tallahassee. That drew a sharp response from the judge.

``Judge Sauls obviously has enough on his plate now,″ Labarga said.

Gore’s lawyers contend that Palm Beach canvassers were too tough and wrongly ignored clear votes for the vice president. They asked Sauls for the recount in the hope that canvassers would glean enough Gore votes to surpass the official Bush lead of 537 votes and give Florida’s decisive 25 electoral votes to the vice president.

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