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John Zarrella explains why hand recounts press on in Palm Beach County

John Zarrella
John Zarrella  

Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella discusses the status of the hand recounts in Palm Beach County.

Q: What was the reaction in Palm Beach County when the judge ruled that there is nothing wrong with the Florida secretary of state's decision to reject hand recounts?

ZARRELLA: The reaction here on the ground is pretty much no reaction at all. They're continuing with the recount here in Palm Beach County, which got under way last night and ended about 3 o'clock this morning. They reconvened this morning around 8 a.m. and started counting again.

The reason for no reaction here is simple: The Florida Supreme Court late yesterday gave them the go-ahead to begin recounting by hand. Until they get the Florida Supreme Court to tell them to stop recounting or that it's pointless, they are going to press on.

Q: How are recounts being conducted?

ZARRELLA: What they are doing right now is that there are 26 teams inside. There are two counters and two observers per team -- one Republican observer and one Democratic observer.

The ground rules are this: The ballots that they count if they are clearly punched they go in a pile for whichever candidate they are marked for. Any ballots for which there are questions -- that is those chads or dimple ballots -- those ballots are put in a separate pile. Then, the canvassing board along with observers from the Republican and Democratic parties look over those. It's the canvassing board that has to make the ultimate decision on the voters' intent on those questionable ballots. The canvassing board members are the ones decide on any ballots that might be in dispute.

Q: What does all this mean?

ZARRELLA: I think what's quite interesting in all of this is that the Florida Supreme Court told the canvassing board yesterday that they have the authority to go ahead and recount. But it was a very limited ruling. The state Supreme Court was not asked about whether the hand recount would count if the secretary of state said she didn't want them. That part has not been answered by the Florida Supreme Court and that is the next and probably final step in the Gore campaign's efforts to get the secretary of state to certify all the late ballots from the hand recounts.

The other interesting thing is that it is certainly possible they could continue to count by hand even if they are told their manual recount won't count.

What would happen then if in the final outcome the vice president should overtake the Texas governor but the vote had already been certified? They could probably do nothing about it. It would just go down in the history books.

Q: What's security like in the building?

ZARRELLA: Security remains extremely tight. There are Palm Beach County Sheriff officers that are posted at the entrance of the emergency operations center. There are officers stationed outside the entrance to the parking area and media compound. And, of course, there are officers inside anywhere near where the ballots are. They are heavily secured inside so that there can be no problems with this recount.


Friday, November 17, 2000



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