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Voting-device designer takes stand for Bush, gives boost to Gore

John Ahmann of Napa, California, testifies in Tallahassee on Sunday  

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- A witness who took the stand for the campaign of Republican George W. Bush wound up giving ammunition to Democrat Al Gore when he acknowledged that a re-inspection or recount of ballots may be required in cases of extremely close elections.

John Ahmann, a mechanical engineer who helped develop the Votomatic devices used by voters casting ballots in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach elections, was called to testify Sunday in Leon County Circuit Court by Bush attorneys, apparently to vouch for the reliability of the voting devices.

On direct examination, Ahmann's testimony favored Bush's attorneys, who said there is no reason to count by hand the 14,000 ballots on which counting machines detected no vote for president.


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Ahmann also said he doubted a voter would be unable to push chad through on a normal voting device, and he described as "remote" the chances chad buildup within a voting device would prevent a voter from casting an intended vote.

Hanging, pregnant and merely dimpled chad are at the heart of the present controversy that has the Gore campaign in court seeking a manual recount of about 14,000 ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

The most damaging acknowledgement to the Bush side, however, may have come at the end of Ahmann's testimony.

Gore attorney Stephen Zack asked Ahmann: "Is this true that when you have hanging chads, and particularly when you have lots of them because the machine doesn't tear them off correctly, that every time they run through a vote counter the vote changes, because the chads close up and therefore to the machine it looks like there has not been a vote when in fact there has been and that's why you need a manual recount?"

Ahmann responded: "You need either re-inspection or manual recount when you have that situation. Yes, you do, if you get a very close election."

In Votomatic instructions to election boards using Votomatic equipment, the devices' makers recommend the devices be cleaned of chad after every election, Ahmann said. However, Dade County officials said it had been eight years since the last time their devices were cleaned, Zack said.

Greta Van Susteren on the significance of the contested ballots hearing
December 2, 2000
Gore camp says time is running out for ballot recounts
November 30, 2000
Gore team asks Florida Supreme Court to speed recount
November 29, 2000
Bush, Harris urge end to Florida recount; Gore seeks uniform standard
November 19, 2000

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