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Ballot box found in Florida church did not contain votes

Every vote counts for presidential candidates Bush, Gore

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A ballot box discovered Wednesday morning by a church preschool employee was a supply case, and was not stuffed with forgotten ballots, Miami-Dade County election officials told CNN.

"We have accounted for all voted and un-voted ballots," said John Clouser, supervisor of elections for the county. He said such boxes, despite appearing like and being marked "ballot box," are left behind in precinct locations to be picked up the next day.

With the outcome of the neck-and-neck presidential race hinging on the outcome of a recount in Florida, the prospect of additional ballots proved tantalizing for some.

"It's a very interesting scenario," pastor Nebel Buchanan told CNN.

GOP presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush holds a 1,784-vote lead over Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore in Florida. Because the lead is so narrow, Florida law mandates a recount -- which election officials say must be completed by the end of the business day on Thursday.

Preschool director Tatleen Francis told CNN she discovered the ballot box shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday when she arrived at work.

Francis said she saw the box through a door window across the hall from her office. She said she unlocked the door, went into the fellowship hall where balloting took place, picked up the box and examined it.

"I shook it. It was full, and it was very heavy," Francis added.

She notified a lawyer she described as someone she knows who works for a U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat. She said the lawyer also works for the Democratic Party.

Francis said the lawyer called an elections official to notify the board of the ballot box left behind.

Buchanan described his congregation and the neighborhood as being largely African-American and West Indian. He claimed most residents are registered Democrats.



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