Citrus recount uneventful
By BILL VARIAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 10, 2000
INVERNESS -- Election results were officially certified in Citrus County Thursday afternoon with only minor changes taking place through a mandatory state recount.
"Any more of this and I'm going to want a paycheck from the elections office," said County Commissioner Jim Fowler, a member of a three-person canvassing board that oversaw the recount, returning to the office Thursday to certify the official results.
Elections workers finished their recount about 11:15 p.m. Wednesday in a marathon 14-hour day that began around 9 a.m., said Susan Gill, Citrus County supervisor of elections. The vote recount was required under Florida law because the difference in the popular vote for president was less than half of 1 percent statewide.
In the end, Texas Gov. George Bush picked up 22 votes from Tuesday's initial tally. Vice President Al Gore gained 24. Recount monitors from the Democratic and Republican parties in Citrus County reported no irregularities.
"In Citrus County, I can tell you I've never seen anything as thorough in my life," said Sam Lyons, who managed the Republican campaign in Citrus County for Bush. "Those guys deserve a gold star."
Democratic Party monitor Cindy Cino, recently an unsuccessful School Board candidate, said she was not able to see all aspects of the recount and had some questions she said were not fully answered. But she said she saw no evidence of the sort of questions being raised in other parts of the state.
"I do tend to be a questioning kind of person," said Cino, a frequent government critic. "I can only have faith in my trust that Susan Gill performed her job carefully."
Gill said that the primary reason for the change in vote total was because of ballots that initially jammed in computerized vote readers at some of the county's 35 precincts or were otherwise not recorded. She said the slight variations are standard in any election, no matter what vote counting system is used.
"We feel very confident that we very meticulously handled the recount," Gill said. "Other than long and slow, it went very well."
Elections workers nevertheless remained busy Thursday, fielding calls from voters, including some with compliments, as well as inquiries from state and national news media and party representatives. Gill even fielded a phone call from a radio station in her hometown of Boston.
"They all want numbers," she said.
In all, the canvassing board, which included Gill, Fowler and County Judge Mark Yerman, re-scanned every absentee ballot and examined others in which voters selected more than one candidate.
Ultimately, they threw out 54 presidential votes as spoiled because someone selected two or more candidates in one race. In a few instances, voters inexplicably selected all the candidates.
Each potentially spoiled ballot was reviewed by all three canvassing board members to determine whether a voter truly selected two candidates or simply made a stray mark that triggered the computer scanner to reject it. The board members voted on each one, occasionally determining that a voter clearly meant to select one candidate.
In each instance, Gill said, she showed the ballots to the party members, though they did not have veto power. In cases where the vote was thrown out, the canvassing board filled out a new ballot with a voter's selections in other races and voided the old ballot.
One aside: 163 of 57,468 people who cast ballots in Tuesday's election in Citrus County did not select a presidential candidate. Gill said she could not offer an explanation for that any more than she can explain the voter who wrote in Forrest Gump for president.
Another 45 absentee ballots also were rejected because the people who submitted them did not sign the sealed envelope that contains them, didn't get a witness signature or provide the witness' address. Those envelopes were never opened, though Gill said her staff attempted to call voters who submitted the unsigned ballots before election day to see if they wished to get to her office to sign them.
She said she is expecting no more than 50 absentee ballots, post-dated by Nov. 7, to come yet. Citrus County does not have a large military presence and snowbirds who live here are more likely to send their absentee ballots elsewhere.
While her day was busy fielding phone calls, Gill said she didn't mind.
"I want them to see we're doing everything honestly and fairly," she said.
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From the Times election desk
From the AP