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Pair of absentee ballot lawsuits could help Gore win Florida

Henry Jacobs
Jacobs believes that all 15,000 absentee ballots in Seminole County should be disqualified because of missing voter application information  

In this story:

GOP: Cases show Democrats' desperation

Gore offers sympathetic words for lawsuits

RELATED STORIES, SITES



TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- A pair of lawsuits under way in Leon County, Florida, could be Vice President Al Gore's best chance to overcome Texas Gov. George W. Bush's slim 537-vote lead in Florida, even though Gore has refused to get involved in either case.

Democratic voters from Seminole and Martin counties are seeking to have thousands of absentee votes thrown out, claiming that election officials in those counties allowed GOP volunteers to add missing information to absentee ballot requests from likely Republican voters.

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The trials are going on almost simultaneously Wednesday, and judges have had to schedule breaks so that attorneys for the Bush campaign could participate in both cases.

The Seminole County case was brought by Harry Jacobs, an attorney and volunteer election observer for the Democratic Party. The lawsuit argues that all 15,000 absentee ballots cast in the county should be thrown out because there was no way to tell which ballots were cast by voters who's applications were incomplete.

Jacobs argues that adding the missing information was illegal, and the ballots should be disqualified.

"To allow those voters' ballots to be counted when they were illegally issued then dilutes everyone else's vote who voted legally in this particular election," Jacobs said.

GOP: Cases show Democrats' desperation

Seminole County Elections Supervisor Sandra Goard is also under fire for allowing Republicans to use her office to complete the absentee ballot requests. The GOP calls Jacobs' suit -- and a similar one filed in Martin County, also heavily Republican -- representative of Democratic Party politics at its most desperate.

"This is an attempt to target Seminole County, which is Republican-rich country, where they know mathematically if they can throw out 15,000 votes, they can gain a 5,000 vote advantage for Al Gore in the statewide count," said Ken Wright, a lawyer for the state Republican Party.

Gore offers sympathetic words for lawsuits

Though Gore is not directly connected to the lawsuits, he suggested Tuesday they could be significant.

"More than enough votes were taken away from Democrats because they were not given the same access that Republicans were," Gore said in his most specific comments on the cases to date.

Repeating Democratic charges, Gore said Republicans were allowed to come in and amend ballot applications so they could be counted. Democrats, he said, were denied the same opportunity.

"Now that doesn't seem fair to me," Gore said, predicting that the two cases would wind up before the Florida Supreme Court.

While the merits of the lawsuit will be tried Wednesday, Gore could face a political problem by supporting the Seminole County case or its companion in Martin County, CNN election law analyst David Cardwell said.

It would be bad public relations, Cardwell said, to fight a case before one Florida court arguing that all ballots should be counted, while arguing before another that thousands of ballots should be thrown out.

CNN Correspondent Mark Potter and CNN.com Writer Matt Smith contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
May It Please The Court
December 11, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Florida State Courts
Florida Southern District Court
Electoral College
Volusia County government
Palm Beach County government


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