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Bush files fifth suit over absentee ballots

Orange County named in latest petition

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush's presidential campaign has sued a fifth Florida county in an effort to have disputed absentee ballots included in the state's final vote totals.

Lawyers for the GOP nominee filed the lawsuit against Orange County on Sunday, a day after suing Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco and Okaloosa counties.

Many of the disputed ballots are from military personnel overseas and were rejected because they did not have postmarks or had not been properly signed or dated.

"No serviceman on the front line overseas can go get his ballot postmarked," said Bush campaign press secretary Mindy Tucker.

"I don't think it's reasonable for us to think that we should force him to do that or (we will) not count his ballot," Tucker said.

Representatives of Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, have said the ballots should be counted if they have a postmark or if they are signed and dated without a postmark.

"If they've gone beyond that, then we have to take a look at what standard they've applied," David Boies, lead attorney for the Gore campaign, said.

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Bush's lawyers filed the five separate suits after withdrawing on Saturday a petition in Leon County Circuit Court that sought to compel 12 counties to include the absentee ballots in their certified tallies.

Bush officials said they decided to withdraw that suit after they determined that some of the counties named in the petition were counting the ballots.

About 1,500 overseas ballots were rejected statewide. Of the counties in the withdrawn suit, six already have given the rejected ballots a second look, Bush lawyer Ben Ginsberg said.

Ginsberg said that, "prodded by Democratic lawyers, some county boards have sought to evade bipartisan calls to count overseas military ballots by raising procedural issues concerning venue, challenging the court's jurisdiction and posing other obstacles."

Gore campaign officials have denied the accusation, saying they had advocated that the county canvassing boards follow the law.



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Sunday, November 26, 2000

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