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In Florida, Broward Democrats challenge decision not to manually count ballots


FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- Attorneys for the Broward County Democratic Party filed Tuesday morning for an emergency hearing to challenge the county's decision not to manually count all of the election ballots.

A party volunteer accompanying the attorneys said Democrats were "very hopeful" the judge would rule in their favor.

Attorney Charles Lichtman said the reason for filing was that "every vote should count."

Republicans at the Broward County courthouse criticized the Democrats for filing the suit.

Complaint from Volusia County Canvassing Board challenging November 14 deadline for election certification - McDermott v. Harris - November 13, 2000 (FindLaw)(PDF format)

Judge Middlebrooks' ruling denying injunction sought by Bush campaign

Federal complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief filed by the George W. Bush campaign (FindLaw) (PDF format)

State court complaint seeking a new election in Palm Beach County, Fladell v. Palm Beach (FindLaw)

Palm Beach County voters' class action civil rights complaint, Horowitz v. Lepore (FindLaw) (PDF format)

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"I guess if you don't like the result, you just keep the ball in the air," said Ed Povvuoli, chairman of the Broward Republican Party.

Broward County election canvassers decided Monday 2-to-1 not to proceed with the manual recount after a sample of about 1 per cent of the county's voters found a difference of only four votes -- in Gore's favor.

The Democratic lawsuit is directed against the members of the canvassing commission.

The county canvassers voted to reject the full manual recount after receiving an advisory opinion from the state elections division, within the office of Secretary of State Katherine Harris, which had been requested by the state Republican party.

The advisory said, "The inability of a voting system to read an improperly punched card ballot is not an error in the vote tabulation and would not trigger the requirement for the canvassing board to hold a manual recount for the whole county."

In the filing, the Democrats cite Attorney General Bob Butterworth's advisory opinion disagreeing with Harris' views as to what should constitute a need for manual recount.

Lichtman said the advisory missed the point, and that the issue did not concern improperly punched ballot cards. "We had properly punched ballots that weren't being counted by the ballots. All we were asking was ballots that were properly punched be counted."

Lichtman said the advisory contained several other flaws. For example, he said, Florida law holds that the Republican Party can seek advisory opinions only about its own conduct. "It cannot seek an advisory opinion about the conduct of any other institution," he said.

Lichtman also cited a Florida statute he said makes advisory opinions binding only on the person seeking the opinion. "Clearly, the canvassing board did not seek the opinion," he said. The secretary of state's office in Florida "is a Republican-held body controlled by Mr. [Jeb] Bush," Lichtman said of GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush's brother.

Lichtman said he was not sure whether the four votes that had been found in Al Gore's favor would be added to the Democrat's official tally.

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Florida Attorney General Web site
Florida law: Electors and elections
Florida law: Conducting elections and ascertaining the results

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