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Bush leads Gore by 327 votes in Florida recount, Associated Press reports

Another Palm Beach recount on Saturday

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Sample of the disputed Palm Beach County ballot.

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Florida officials have counted, for the second time, every presidential election ballot cast in the state. Texas Gov. George W. Bush has a thin lead over Democrat Al Gore in the state's popular vote. But another recount this weekend and uncounted overseas ballots make the race still uncertain.

The Associated Press, reporting results unofficially for all of Florida's 67 counties, put Bush's advantage over Gore at only 327 votes.

Both candidates are short of the 270 electoral votes required to become the next president of the United States. Whoever wins Florida's 25 electoral votes wins the White House.

The Bush campaign reacted immediately, calling on the Gore campaign to give up. The Gore campaign responded saying, "This is just the beginning."

The statement from Karen Hughes, the Bush campaign spokeswoman, said: "The vote count on Tuesday night showed Governor Bush won Florida's election and a recount has now confirmed his victory. We hope Vice President Gore and his campaign will reconsider their threats of lawsuits or still more recounts which could undermine the constitutional process of selecting a president and have no foreseeable end."

Meanwhile, the top elections official for Palm Beach County has confirmed reports that more than 19,000 votes cast in the county on Tuesday were thrown out without being counted.

In this story:

'Every election has over-votes'

Several lawsuits filed; one withdrawn

Recounts requested by both sides

Bush campaign keeping 'watchful eye' on other close states

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris said state elections officials had received unofficial results from 53 of the state's 67 counties. The remaining 14, she said, would be given until next Tuesday to get their totals in. The final statewide vote before the recount gave Bush a lead of 1,781 votes.

Another recount, conducted by machine, and manually on a small sample of votes, is scheduled for Saturday in Palm Beach County. Voters there have complained that the county's ballot design was confusing and netted Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan hundreds, perhaps thousands, of votes intended for Gore.

After the statewide recount is completed, state officials must wait until at least November 17 to certify those results. That is the deadline for the estimated 2,000 ballots cast by Floridians living overseas -- mostly military personnel and their families -- to arrive in the state. Those ballots must have been postmarked by Election Day.

Former U.S. President George Bush comments on the election (November 9)

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Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris announces known recount results with several counties not in yet (November 9)

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Officials from the Bush campaign comment on the Florida recount and allegations of confusing ballots (November 9)

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William Daley, Warren Christopher and Kendall Coffey of the Gore campaign discuss the Florida recount midday Thursday (November 9)

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Latest Election 2000 video


'Every election has over-votes'

Theresa LePore, the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, confirmed to CNN Thursday night that 19,120 votes in the county had been disqualified, but she did not explain why. Earlier, Charmaine Kelly, a spokeswoman for LePore's office, said, "Every election has over-votes."

The issue was raised by state Rep. Robert Wexler, a Democrat whose district includes Palm Beach County. Those votes were thrown out, Wexler said, because they had been marked for more than one presidential candidate by voters who were confused by the layout of a "butterfly ballot" that put punch holes down the middle of the ballot between the names of candidates.

Some voters contend they may have voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan when they intended to vote for Gore, the Democratic candidate.

Wexler said the greatest concentration of the disqualified ballots came from African-American communities, which traditionally vote Democratic. As a result, black voters were "substantially disenfranchised with respect to this presidential race," Wexler said.

Bush campaign staff countered by citing figures showing that 14,872 ballots were disqualified in Palm Beach County in the 1996 elections for the same reason. They argue that this shows the number of ballots thrown out in the same county in the 2000 election is not unusual.

Wexler referred to a memo on Thursday that he said came from LePore on Election Day telling poll workers to remind voters "to vote only for one (1) presidential candidate and that they are to punch a hole next to the arrow next to the number next to the candidate they wish to vote for."

Appearing on CNN's "The Spin Room" program, Wexler called it "the smoking memorandum," saying it was a response to complaints from voters about the ballot.

Several lawsuits filed; one withdrawn

Several lawsuits have been filed in Florida state court by Palm Beach voters, challenging the election.

And protesters in front of the county's elections supervisor's office on Thursday demanded a "re-vote" because of what one described as "crossword puzzle" ballots.

"I had no idea that in this country you have to read zig-zag and diagonal to know who you're voting for," Andre Fladell, a plaintiff in an elections suit, said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

A planned federal court suit seeking an emergency injunction to void the county's presidential vote was voluntarily withdrawn by plaintiff Milton Miller, described by his attorneys as a "loyal Democrat" who felt it would be better to support legal action at the state level that has the party's backing.

One of Miller's lawyers, Wendy Wallberg, said he may become a party to another lawsuit already pending in state court or possibly join another, if one is filed, for example, by the state Democratic Party.

Another of his attorneys, Lawrence Navaro, withdrew the suit during a brief appearance in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp, who had agreed to hold an emergency hearing in the case.

Officials at a Democratic telephone bank set up in a Palm Beach law office told CNN it had taken 5,000 calls since Wednesday from voters complaining about the presidential ballot.

Recounts requested by both sides

The manual recount in Palm Beach County, sought by Democrats, will be conducted on 1 percent of the votes cast, or roughly 4,000 ballots. Officials said they would broaden the manual recount if significant discrepancies are found. The machine recount, requested by Republicans, will cover all ballots in the county. Officials said they might announce the results Monday.

The Gore campaign has expressed concern, and in some quarters outrage, that it may have lost at least 10,000 votes -- more than enough to overtake Bush in Florida's contested popular vote. Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley on Thursday called for votes to be recounted by hand in three other counties with reports of irregularities -- including Dade, heavily Democratic Broward and Volusia counties.

Democrats set up a toll-free number (1-800-579-8871) where Florida voters could report irregularities.

Gore captured 62 per cent of Palm Beach County's vote, which is traditionally Democratic. Buchanan got a total of 3,407 -- a number even he acknowledged seemed "outsized." County voters cast nearly 450,000 ballots for president.

"I don't doubt a number of those ballots, of those votes that were cast for me, probably were intended for Vice President Gore," Buchanan said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

  Click for a larger view
Votes for Pat Buchanan by county in Florida

Bush campaign keeping 'watchful eye' on other close states

However, Bush campaign aides suggested that those votes may have been intended for Buchanan after all. They noted that the Florida Board of Elections shows 16,695 voters in Palm Beach County are registered independents, as compared to 476 registered independents in Broward County where the Buchanan vote was much lower.

"We believe it's important to put all this information in perspective and to do so in a thoughtful fashion ... not a fashion that misrepresents numbers to suit a political agenda," a Bush campaign staffer said.

However, elections officials said of the 16,695 independent voters, only 359 were specifically registered with either the Reform or American Reform parties.

Bush aides also emphasized that samples of the Palm Beach County ballot, described by some as confusing, were sent out to voters and published in the newspapers ahead of time and were approved by Democratic as well as Republican election officials in Florida.

"This is not as susceptible to confusion as Chairman Daley indicated," said Karl Rove, a chief campaign strategist for Bush, referring to the Democratic campaign chairman.

The Bush campaign was keeping a "watchful eye" on the final count in other close states, including Wisconsin and Iowa. Bush officials demurred when asked if the Bush campaign would consider calling for a recount in close states that went for Gore. "We think the vote counts bear watching," one aide said.

The atmosphere at the Bush camp was described "businesslike" by aides, who added the governor's spirits are good. Bush spent Thursday morning conducting state business with various staffers and officials.

He also met with foreign policy adviser Condoleeza Rice, his campaign staff and vice-presidential nominee Dick Cheney in what aides say are preliminary discussions about transition.

CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley contributed to this report.






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