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    Palm Beach ballots make trip home

    The focus of the presidential dispute arrives home after a second eight-hour, 400-mile trip.

    ©Associated Press

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 21, 2000

    WEST PALM BEACH -- Thousands of Palm Beach County ballots loaded in a rental truck made it back home Wednesday after a second 400-mile trip across the state.

    The more than 460,000 ballots arrived at the Elections Supervisor's Office about 4:45 p.m., almost eight hours after being loaded onto a Ryder truck at the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee.

    Sheriff's deputies unloaded the 166 metal boxes and three brown cardboard boxes containing 30,000 undervotes and overvotes at the center of last month's recount dispute between President-elect George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. The ballots were locked in a vault.

    Palm Beach County sheriff's Lt. Jim Kersey, one of two deputies who guarded the ballots, said Wednesday's trip did not receive the vast national media attention that the Nov. 30 trip to Tallahassee did.

    Miami-Dade's ballots were scheduled to depart Tallahassee about 9 this morning. Eventually they, the Palm Beach ballots and those in the other 65 counties will be examined by the media and others.

    Leon St. John, an assistant Palm Beach County attorney, said Wednesday that the media will be able to view the Palm Beach ballots Jan. 2.

    Reporters from the Associated Press and several newspapers conducted a preliminary inspection Monday and Tuesday of some of Broward County's disputed ballots to help them determine whether a full statewide review would be feasible. After a holiday break, the recounting will resume in January. The various news organizations and Judicial Watch are splitting the $300-an-hour fee being charged by the county for the recount.

    Elsewhere, the Orlando Sentinel has inspected more than 6,000 discarded presidential ballots in Lake County and found 376 clear votes for Gore and 246 for Bush, which would have meant a net gain of 130 for Gore had they been counted officially.

    In Orange County, a planned media recount did not take place Wednesday, but a lawyer for the Tribune Publishing Co. (whose newspapers include the Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel) watched a test of one precinct, said Margaret Dunn, senior deputy elections supervisor.

    In Hillsborough County, a ballot review was scheduled to begin at 9 this morning, said Darrell Smith, director of operations and support for Elections Supervisor Pam Iorio. News organizations will only see about 5,500 undervotes out of the 369,000 total ballots. Smith said he expected the process to take two six-hour days.

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    From the Times state desk