St. Petersburg Times Online: Election 2000
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Recount dominates day after elections

Hernando elections officials and party representatives gather to review the vote count in the narrow-margin presidential race.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000

BROOKSVILLE -- Her final election before retiring, Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Ann Mau arrived at work about 8 a.m. Wednesday hoping for an uneventful day after.

Within an hour it became clear that would not be the case.

As Mau organized her staff to audit the ballots cast in the county's 51 precincts, County Attorney Garth Coller came to inquire how Mau planned to conduct the presidential election recount he had heard about on the national news.

At the time, Mau had not received word that a recount was in order. State law mandates a recount if the results in a race separate winner and loser by less than 0.5 percent.

An hour later, Mau got the official word from Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Republican George W. Bush had won the state by only 1,784 votes, or 0.03 percent, prompting the automatic recount. In the end, nothing changed in Hernando's 1,998 majority for Gore over Bush, but the event occupied much of the morning and afternoon.

Mau met briefly with Supervisor-elect Annie Williams and technical adviser Steve Ricke in her office just after 10:30 a.m., then emerged to get the process under way.

"I'm going to call the Canvassing Board and get a time to come into session, and then we will take it from there," Mau said, Rolodex in hand.

With Canvassing Board Chairman Peyton Hyslop and member Chris Kingsley, she set the meeting for 12:30 p.m. and began notifying the media and the political parties. She also had her staff clean the office tabulating room.

Kingsley and Mau talked about how someone would contest the results, because Kingsley had received a call from the Democratic National Committee asking for the information. Mau then worked to ready her office, collecting the appropriate statutes and documents, and Kingsley then went to call his DNC contact.

Local Republicans soon started to arrive, checking into the method to be used.

Attorney Ric Howard, who planned to monitor the the recount for the Republicans, called the day an "exciting time for democracy."

"In a close election in some other countries, they have coups and things like that," he said. "We just live by the rule of law."

By 12:30 p.m., the room was filled with observers. The meeting was delayed about 40 minutes because Hyslop was late.

During that time, elections office workers methodically unzipped each computerized ballot box from its nylon black case and plugged each into the wall. They then printed out the tallies from each precinct. The Canvassing Board met briefly to discuss the statutes driving the recount, then convened.

Hyslop explained that the recount would involve only confirming that the returns announced accurately reflected the total votes cast for each presidential candidate, and that the number of votes did not exceed the number of ballots counted. The computer key cards would be reviewed, he said, and not each paper ballot.

That was what the law required for electronic recounts, Hyslop said, passing out the relevant statutes for review. Local elections were not being recounted, he added, because no margins were close enough to require a recount.

At 1:42 p.m., the board and observers entered the computer tabulation room, which was kept at a 72 degrees with 50 percent humidity. The recount began with precinct 14 and ended less than 40 minutes later with absentee ballots.

The result was unchanged. Gore had won 32,644 votes, Bush had received 30,646 and third-party candidates collected 1,962.

All in the room seemed satisfied.

"We just want to see the final numbers and make sure they agree," said Thomas S. Hogan Sr., Republican state committeeman for Hernando County. "We don't need any complications in this county."

"This is what was done for Election Day," local Democratic chairman Al Jenkins said. "They just ran the discs again. They should match."

The Republicans left before the Canvassing Board did its official comparison between Tuesday's results and the recount totals. Hyslop and Kingsley read down the numbers precinct by precinct, following along with a ruler to make sure they were on the same line. The end was anticlimactic.

"That's it," Kingsley said after confirming the tally.

"We're done," Hyslop announced, putting an end to the recount in Hernando County.

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