Tags: Democrat | Calls | for | Protest | Probe

Democrat Calls for Protest Probe

Wednesday, 29 November 2000 12:00 AM

Republican attorney Fred Bartlit said at a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., the scene "was noisy and peaceful and nothing else."

Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Fla., however, said the demonstrators created a climate of violence that led to a halt in the recount process.

Deutsch, who represents a district that covers parts of Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, met with the department's civil rights division chief Bill Lann Lee and Associate Attorney General Dan Marcus for almost an hour.

Deutsch said he was pleased with the meeting and said the issue is getting attention at the highest level, but he couldn't say if there will be an investigation. One of the issues is the balance between possible intimidation of the canvassing board and free speech rights of the protesters.

He said the issue may be treated as separate from the results of the election and not subject to the deadlines faced by those involved in litigation involving the results of the election.

Videotape shows scores of demonstrators trying to get into the elections office on the 19th floor of Miami-Dade County Hall by pulling on the doors and then pounding on them.

Soon after that, the three-member canvassing board voted to cease a hand recount. Elections Supervisor David Leahy denied the board was intimidated and said the count was halted because it was impossible to complete it by the deadline set by the state.

"What was being contested was violation of the Sunshine Law," Bartlit said. "They were moving to count behind closed doors. Mr. Leahy and others were not intimidated. They made the decision because they could not complete the count."

Former Secretary of State James Baker said the 10,000 votes that were not recounted as a result were from people who did not vote for president. He said the percentage in Miami-Dade County of "non-votes" was lower than in several other counties in Florida and in other states, including Wyoming, Ohio and Illinois.

Miami-Dade County is one of three counties being contested by the Gore campaign in an effort to overturn the certification of Texas Gov. George W. Bush as the winner in the state.

Democratic attorney Jeff Robinson said the videotape will provide "ample evidence" of what happened in Miami last week.

"You can call it a mob. You can call it what you want," he said. "There's ample evidence of what happened. At the time – but not now – members of the board said that but for what was going on outside they'd still be counting."

The Miami Herald said the demonstrators included two congressional aides – Elizabeth Ross, who works for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Thomas Pyle, who works for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Democrats said that was evidence it was an organized demonstration intended to shut down the recount.

Terry Holt, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, denied the demonstration was planned, but said they had recruited Republicans from throughout the nation to observe the recount and paid some of their travel expenses.

An analysis by Bruce Hansen, a University of Wisconsin economics professor, shows that a hand count in Miami-Dade County would produce a net gain for Gore of 191-355 votes, not enough to swing the outcome. The certified statewide vote gives Bush a 537-vote victory.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International.

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Republican attorney Fred Bartlit said at a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., the scene was noisy and peaceful and nothing else. Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Fla., however, said the demonstrators created a climate of violence that led to a halt in the recount...
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2000-00-29
Wednesday, 29 November 2000 12:00 AM
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