Report: Felons voted in
© The Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Al Gore picked up more votes in Democratic-leaning Broward County on Saturday, while Republicans expressed concern about a published report that at least 39 felons voted in the county.
With 154 of the county's 609 precincts hand counted by midday, Gore had gained 48 votes over official tallies sent to the secretary of state on Tuesday. It remained uncertain if any of the manually recounted votes would be added to official totals.
Secretary of State Katherine Harris has said she won't accept any manual recount totals, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled Friday that she cannot certify election results until it holds a hearing Monday.
Meantime, a spokesman for the Bush campaign said Republicans are troubled about a Miami Herald story saying felons voted in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
"Anytime someone votes illegally, it's troubling, particularly when we are talking about convicted felons," Ray Sullivan said.
The Bush campaign planned to ask county canvassing board members to conduct an investigation to identify and disqualify votes cast by felons. Bush advisers also were consulting with lawyers to determine whether they would ask board members to suspend the hand count while the investigation is conducted.
"The Republicans are clearly desperate at this point. This is yet another attempt to delay the process," said state Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Weston in Broward County.
Republican activist William Scherer earlier asked a court to end the recount, but Judge Leonard Stafford refused.
Scherer said the manual recount requires the county's three-member canvassing board to make subjective decisions about whether voters' intended to vote for Gore or Bush. Allowing it to continue violates state law, he said.
Democratic Party attorney Leonard Samuels rejected the argument, saying the canvassing board has standards for determining whether a vote should count.
"For some reason they are petrified about the canvassing board doing their job," Samuels said.
"He's right -- we are petrified," Scherer said. "This (process) scares us to death. This scares the nation."
Meanwhile, the board was considering a motion by Democrat Suzanne Gunzburger to change its current standards of determining whether a ballot is valid.
Right now, they only count ballots if two or more corners of the chad are detached. If one or no corners are detached, they don't. Gunzburger wants them to adopt a more subjective standard used by Texas, which would include one corner detached or pregnant chads.
Board member Jane Carroll, a Republican, opposed the motion.
"I think that if we change the standard in the middle of all this, it's going to be a lot more confusing at the end," she said.
That left the decision up to County Judge Robert W. Lee, who said he would think it over. He echoed the concerns of Carroll, but said the board had been rejecting ballots where the voter's intent was clear.
"I don't think this will cause internal confusion but it will cause a lot of external confusion because of all the hype surrounding this," Lee said. "Whatever we say will be misconstrued 12 different ways two minutes after we say it."
The motion to change the process came a day after second Circuit Court Judge John Miller that urged the board to reconsider. He said the board should consider ballots where the chads were only dimpled, or pushed out.
"If they are not looking at the totality of the ballot, I'll tell them to do it again," Miller said.
"They've already set the rules, it would be a real problem if they went back and changed them now," said Ed Puzzuoli, Republican Party chairman for the county.
The ballots with dimpled, pregnant or otherwise questionable chads were being put into separate envelopes, in case they need to be reviewed later.
Ed Puzzuoli, chairman of the county's Republican party, said the proposed change was an effort by the Democrats to collect more votes because Vice President Al Gore lost ground in Friday's tally of overseas ballots.
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