GOP considering lawsuit over thrown-out overseas ballots : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

GOP Mulls Suit on Overseas Ballots

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Republican governor said Saturday George W. Bush's margin among voters who sent ballots from overseas should have been larger than reported, saying the GOP is considering a lawsuit because large numbers of absentee ballots were thrown out.

While gaining 1,380 votes to Al Gore's 750 from the overseas absentees, the Bush campaign complained about a large numbers of ballots that were thrown out, often for a lack of an overseas postmark.

Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, appearing at a news conference that Republicans held in Austin, Texas, told reporters that ''the vice president's lawyers have gone to war in my judgment against the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.''

Racicot said Bush's lawyers could still file a legal challenge to the rejected military ballots. ''We are presently in the process of examining our remedies,'' he said. '' ... We haven't made our final judgment.''

Rep. Tillie Fowler, a Republican who represents part of the Jacksonville area, stood outside the Memorial Wall to Duval County's war dead and read the names of local military people whose ballots were thrown out because of Democratic challenges.

''There was an organized Democratic effort throughout this state in every single county to get military ballots thrown out,'' said Fowler.

Earlier, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the Desert Storm commander who lives in Florida, said, ''These armed forces ballots should be allowed to be tallied.'' And Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a veteran and former secretary of the Navy, also criticized the rejection of some 1,500 ballots during county-by-county tallies.

''It is a very sad day in our country when the men and women of the armed forces are serving abroad and facing danger on a daily basis ... yet because of some technicality out of their control, they are denied the right to vote for the president of the United States who will be their commander in chief,'' Schwarzkopf said in a statement released by the Bush campaign.

The final absentee totals were handed out without comment, just after 1 p.m., by a state aide. That was in contrast to a ceremony planned Saturday afternoon in the Florida Cabinet meeting room in which Secretary of State Katherine Harris would have officially certified the victor in the battle for Florida's 25 electoral votes. The Florida Supreme Court on Friday blocked Harris from certifying the results and scheduled oral arguments for Monday.

Bush's Florida lead grew to 930 votes with the gain of 630 from the overseas results.

''Bush didn't get what people expected,'' Gore campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway said. ''He got like 600, and we're happy about that.''

Hattaway rejected GOP allegations of a Democratic effort to target military ballots that Bush thought would mainly go to him.

''Both sides had observers there and it's a very bipartisan process,'' Hattaway said. He said he knew of no Democratic strategy to challenge the overseas ballots.

Warner, now chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, wrote Defense Secretary William S. Cohen about military ballots rejected for lacking postmarks.

Warner wrote that the missing postmarks were the ''duty not of the voter but of the military postal clerk,'' adding that ''human error, as well as time and operational constraints, results in some mail not being postmarked.''

County observers argued over how to interpret a pre-election memo by Harris that said overseas ballots ''must be received by the supervisors of elections by midnight Friday. They are not required, however, to be postmarked on or prior to last Tuesday (Nov. 7).''

Scott McMillen, an Orlando attorney representing the Democrats in the Seminole County vote, said some ballots were accepted without any postmark at all.

''I think the state law is pretty clear,'' McMillen said Saturday. ''I didn't see a trend for or against military ballots by the Democrats. What I saw was some people trying to follow the rules exactly and some people saying that the canvassing board could interpret the rules to let in the maximum number of ballots.''

AP-NY-11-19-00 0112EST< 

-- (The@2000.election), November 19, 2000

Answers BSENTEE001118.html

How About Ballots Without Postmarks?

Inconsistencies in the way the different counties could handle questionable ballots could spur a constitutional challenge, says Baran.

Duval County, for example, has 100 overseas absentee ballots without a postmark, so they will be rejected because Florida law requires these ballots have a postmark, says Richard Carlberg, assistant elections supervisor.

But in Bay County, which has 83 pending overseas ballots, election supervisor Melanie Williams-Boyd says she has one ballot without a postmark, but which her office stamped on Nov. 8 when it came in. Williams-Boyd says she believes that this vote should count because “it is impossible for the voter to have voted after the election because of the time it took for the mail to arrive from overseas.” It will be up to the canvassing board to decide.

Although Duval also stamps its ballots, Duval's Carlberg says it “hurts” to “throw out” the 100 ballots without postmarks.

Handwritten Dates Problematic, Too

Florida constitutional expert Timothy McLendon, from the Center for Governmental Responsibility at the University of Florida, raises another potential problem with dating ballots: The law allows elections officials to accept ballots postmarked after the election, as long as the voter has manually written Nov. 7 -- or an earlier date -- on the envelope.

McLendon says this dating option, which is acceptable under Florida law, leaves open the possibility of fraud at either end of the process: The voter may have put a pre- Nov. 7 date on after the election. Someone could have put the date on while it was being mailed. Finally, someone in the elections' office could have written a date.

“It is unlikely there would be too many cases of this kind of situation, but it could happen,” McLendon says. “Every vote counts.”

Other problems with overseas ballots identified by an ABCNEWS survey include 20 in Lee County that have questionable or missing witness signatures (Florida law requires the voter to sign and have a witness sign and also write in an address); and 50 in Okaloosa County lacking a postmark.

-- (the@legal.issues), November 20, 2000.

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