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Bush sues 4 counties over absentee ballots

Fifth county petition expected Sunday

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- George W. Bush's campaign sued four Florida counties Saturday -- and will file against a fifth Sunday -- in a bid to force them to count disputed absentee ballots.

"Any ballot that's signed, and arrives here on time, which meant by November 17 to be counted, should be counted," said Mindy Tucker, Bush's press secretary. "It's that simple."

The separate law suits were filed after the Republican candidate's lawyers withdrew a petition asking a state court to compel 12 counties to include the ballots in their certifiable tallies.

Bush officials said the statewide suit was withdrawn after finding that some the named counties were counting the ballots. They decided to file individual petitions in holdout counties.

The disputed absentee ballots are primarily from military personnel and were discarded for lack of a postmark or other problems.

The counties sued on Saturday were Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco and Okaloosa. A petition was to be filed in Orange County on Sunday.

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 Of the counties in the withdrawn statewide suit, six already have given the rejected ballots a second look, Bush lawyer Ben Ginsberg said.

"No serviceman on the frontline overseas can go get his ballot postmarked," said 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."

Ginsberg said in a news conference 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."

Representatives for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore have denied urging that any military ballots be discarded, saying they had simply advocated that canvassing boards follow the law.


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Saturday, November 25, 2000

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