By RUSS BYNUM
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Led by their 1996 presidential nomineee, Bob Dole, Republicans cheered outside the courthouse today as election officials inside looked for dimples and pinholes of light in Broward County’s disputed presidential ballots.
The county canvassing board is looking one by one at the ballots to decide if either Democrat Al Gore or his GOP rival, George W. Bush, should be credited votes that machines couldn’t read.
Addressing a bussed in crowd outside, Dole, the former Senate Republican leader, said Gore has never been ahead and asked “When is it going to stop.”
“It seems to me that now … we’re throwing out military votes on technicalities while we’re over here divining votes on what somebody intended to do when they have no idea what they intended to do,” Dole said. ” … There’s something wrong with this system.”
With all precincts and absentee votes recounted, Gore had a net gain of 245 votes over the last machine count in Broward. The figure includes votes from an ongoing review of an estimated 1,500 questionable ballots.
Before the recount resumed today, a bus full of GOP faithful arrived at the county courthouse. Some of those aboard said they were at a Wednesday rally that Gore’s camp claims intimidated Miami-Dade County officials into suspending their unfinished recount.
Broward and Palm Beach counties face a Sunday deadline for sending their final tallies to the Florida secretary of state. Palm Beach also resumed its work today.
Earlier this week, Broward County finished its initial hand recount of all 609 precincts and more than 49,000 absentee ballots. That left five boxes of the questionable ballots to be sifted through.
The three board members held each ballot to the light, straining their eyes for evidence of votes cast without dislodging the tiny, perforated chad on the punchcard ballot.
“I’m tired. I’m physically drained,” said Circuit Judge Robert Rosenberg, the lone Republican on the panel. “I’ll try to do what I have to do. I have an obligation. But the fatigue factor may make people miss and be sloppy.”
The counting moved along quietly for most of Thursday, with lawyers for the Democrats and GOP sitting silently in front of the board.
However, Republican observers objected when board members began looking for party-line Democratic votes down the ballot to bolster their arguments to count some indentations for Gore.
“They’re assuming that people vote a straight ticket, when the reality is everyone in the country knows people split their tickets,” said Ken Lisaius, a spokesman for the Bush campaign.
Rosenberg agreed. He said Broward County voters often pick Democrats in state and local races, but vote Republican on the national level.
Circuit Judge Robert W. Lee, the canvassing board chairman, said partisan voting patterns should be considered along with other factors, but is “no more or no less than some evidence of intent. It is not conclusive.”
Some Democrats didn’t like the party-line test either. U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch, a Democrat representing Broward County, noted the board refused to count some dimpled ballots for Gore when down-ballot votes were cast for Republicans.
“They’re not counting all the dimples,” Deutsch said. “I think they’re using their best judgment. But if I were sitting there, I’d be using the dimple standard.”
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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