COUP WATCH: Hand Recount Ordered For Palm Beach County, Could Give Gore Florida
Palm Beach County election officials have ordered a countywide hand recount of all ballots cast in the presidential election. The decision was based on a second machine recount, in which Gore added 36 votes while Bush lost 3, and a hand count of 4 selected precincts which turned up enough errors to convince a 2-1 majority of the officials that a hand recount was necessary.
There are 531 precincts in Palm Beach County, with over 425,000 votes cast in the presidential election. One official, Carol Roberts, estimated a potential 1,900 errors, roughly 6 times the margin currently separating the two candidates.
The Bush campaign filed suit earlier today to stop the hand recount, but did not get an injunction to prevent the preliminary hand count of 4 precincts. This move added to the confusion that delayed the beginning of the recount for several hours earlier in the day.
In filing the suit, former Secretary of State James Baker claimed, “We regret that we were compelled to take this action,” but added, “At some point however, Florida's voters and indeed all Americans are entitled to some finality.” The American people apparently don’t see it that way, though. By nearly 3-1 (72% to 25%) Americans told a Newsweek poll that that making sure the Florida count is fair and accurate is more important. than resolving matters quickly. Now that the preliminary recount has provided evidence that a full hand recount could change the outcome of the election, the legal foundations of the Bush lawsuit seem as weak as support for Baker’s rationale.
There are numerous other electoral problems throughout Florida, including massive civil rights complaints by blacks, Hatians and Puerto Ricans as well as hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters in Beroward County who were turned away from the polls because they had moved or had another problem with their registration and poll workers couldn’t get through to election headquarters to verify basic information necessary to allow them to vote. Phone lines were so jammed that the average wait was 40 minutes. These irregularities also appear to have affected Democrats more than Republicans.