Absentees join the recount

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2000

The Associated Press

Aides to George W.

Saturday, November 18, 2000

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Aides to George W. Bush hailed a count of overseas absentee ballots that padded his lead in Florida Saturday to 930 votes over Al Gore. They then set out to discredit ongoing hand recounts in three Democratic-leaning counties, all but accusing Democrats of using the process to manufacture votes for Gore.

”We now have clear and compelling evidence from eye witnesses that this manual recount process is fundamentally flawed and it’s no longer recounting, but is distorting, reinventing and miscounting true intentions of voters of Florida,” Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes said in nationally televised comments to reporters.

Hughes said Florida’s votes have been recounted in some counties several times. In a written statement, she said: ”We are hopeful that once the Florida Supreme Court has heard arguments in this case, the laws of Florida will prevail and the election will be certified.”

On CNN, Gore campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway defended the hand recounts. ”Given the scrutiny that has been brought to bear, everyone ought to be comfortable with the outcome,” he said.

All eyes were on the state’s Supreme Court, which has prohibited the Florida secretary of state from certifying final results without the court’s permission. The justices have set oral arguments for Monday.

Hand recounts resumed Saturday in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

In Miami-Dade County, Republicans objected to a plan by the canvassing board to put each of the area’s 654,000 punch-card ballots through a machine on Sunday before starting a hand recount on Monday.

David Leahy, supervisor of elections, said the process could take two weeks even with 25 teams of two counters working 12 hours each day to complete the manual recount, taking a break only on Thanksgiving Day.

”Our goal is to complete a counting by Friday, December 1,” he said.