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Secretary of State refuses Reno recount request

'We are just trying to continue the process'


MIAMI (CNN) -- Former U.S. Attorney Janet Reno Friday requested a statewide manual recount of ballots cast in Tuesday's problem-plagued Democratic primary for governor, which unofficial returns show she lost by less than 8,200 votes to Tampa attorney Bill McBride.

But the office of Secretary of State Jim Smith decided not to grant the recount because the margin between McBride and Reno was not small enough to trigger a manual recount under state law.

David Host, a spokesman for Smith, said manual recounts are only triggered when the margin between two candidates is less than one-quarter of 1 percent. McBride was ahead of Reno by six-tenths of 1 percent, according to unofficial returns filed with the Elections Canvassing Commission on Wednesday.

Florida primary: McBride wins, but Reno challenges - CNN's John Zarrella reports (September 13)

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Reno campaign officials said they made the request in order to meet a Friday evening deadline for recounts set out in state law. However, so far they are requesting only a review of ballot counts on electronic voting machines in about 330 precincts Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, not a statewide recount, and they made the request so that those reviews can proceed.

"We are not trying to declare war against anybody. We are just trying to continue the process," said Alan Greer, Reno's campaign treasurer. He said a court fight over the results was unlikely, which would mean the election dispute could be resolved by Tuesday, when certified election results from the state's 67 counties become final.

The Reno campaign is asking elections officials to review ballot tabulations in precincts where the actual number of votes counted on Tuesday were far below the number of registered voters. In one Miami-Dade precinct where 832 voters were registered, 305 of whom were Democrats, the initial account showed that no ballots were cast in the Democratic gubernatorial race, said Reno's campaign manager, Mo Elleithee.

A review of ballot tabulations in four Miami-Dade precincts, turned up about 1,800 ballots that were not counted in just four precincts, Greer said.

"We don't know which way those votes go," he said. However, Reno carried 70 percent of the vote in Miami-Dade and 64 percent of the vote in Broward, which he said indicated that the uncounted ballots have the potential to change the outcome of the election.

However, Host said that while local elections officials can add any new votes they discover to vote totals already submitted, state law no longer allows them to initiate a full-scale recount.




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