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Palm Beach County Excludes Dimples – for Now

Tuesday, 21 November 2000 12:00 AM

The panel has made a tentative decision to exclude – for now – the tally of hundreds of "dimpled" ballots that if tallied could hand the election to Democrat Vice President Al Gore.

Gore dispatched retiring Democrat Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska to West Palm Beach Tuesday. Kerrey told UPI that the board could decide the outcome of the election.

"The history of this election is going to be written by people who make local decisions," Kerrey said. "It will have an enormous impact on this election."

At the suburban Emergency Operations Center, the board has set aside more than 800 of the dimpled ballots in case they are, in fact, included in a final tally.

Democrat lawyer Dennis Newman said 557 of those ballots would probably go to Gore, while 260 would probably go to Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush. But that number reflects only the results of a count of 170 of Palm Beach County's 531 precincts, so it could rise considerably.

Dimpled ballots show an indentation where the voter supposedly "intended" but failed to punch out a chad for a candidate. Democrats have claimed that voting machines might not have worked accurately, or elderly voters might not have pushed hard enough on the machines to dislodge the chad.

"What about the 85-year-old woman who walked into her precinct and did not have the strength to punch all the way through the card?" Kerrey actually said.

Excluding the results of hand counts in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Bush leads Gore by a slim 930 votes. So a decision by Democrat-dominated canvassing committees on how to count the dimpled ballots has tremendous import.

The latest data shows Gore with a net lead of 125 votes in Broward County, where counters have tallied 608 of Broward's 609 precincts. In Miami-Dade County, Gore has gained 114 votes with 99 out of 614 precincts totaled. In Palm Beach County, Gore has gained a net of only three votes in a count of 104 of the county's 531 precincts, but that number does not include the dimpled ballots.

Nearby Democrat-ruled Broward County is considering a dimple on a ballot as clear indication of a voter's "intent." The Miami-Dade commission has followed Palm Beach County's lead and is not counting dimpled ballots.

All three members of the board in Palm Beach – Judge Charles Burton, Theresa LePore and Carol Roberts – are Democrats.

Lawyers for Gore Monday appealed to the Florida Supreme Court to order the three-member board to count those dimpled ballots.

"It is quite important that this court be as specific as possible as to the standard so that we have some uniformity," Gore attorney David Boise told the court Monday.

But Bush attorney Michael Carvin noted that judging dimpled ballots was a "standardless and subjective inquiry" that could "impart partisanship" into the vote-counting process.

"I would urge the court that to count [those ballots] after the election had been held would change the rules," he said.

The Gore campaign is worried that the Supreme Court will not address the dimple, or simply leave the decision up to the board. So Democrats have appealed to the Palm Beach Circuit Court to instruct the commission here as well.

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jorge Labarga Wednesday is scheduled to hear a plea by Gore attorneys to instruct the board here to consider the dimpled ballots.

Bush media expert Mark Corallo said Gore now wants to "change the rules" on the board because he needs the votes to win the White House. Corallo called the dimpled ballots Gore's "reserve fund."

But all sides agree that the three board members' tentative, or final, decision could swing the fate of the White House one way or another.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The panel has made a tentative decision to exclude - for now - the tally of hundreds of dimpled ballots that if tallied could hand the election to Democrat Vice President Al Gore. Gore dispatched retiring Democrat Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska to West Palm Beach Tuesday....
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Tuesday, 21 November 2000 12:00 AM
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