Florida: Dead Man Voted

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Sunday, 24 December, 2000, 20:05 GMT Dead man 'voted' in Florida

The counting of contested ballots continues An American newspaper which is reviewing votes in Florida says it has uncovered evidence of irregularities which, together with the discarded ballots, could have affected the outcome of last month's presidential election.

Having examined just under a quarter of the ballots cast in one county, the Miami Herald said it found nearly 150 ineligible votes, including one cast in the name of a dead man.

Last week, the same newspaper reported that tests conducted just before the polls opened showed that 13 out of 20 voting machines were faulty in two of the precincts with the highest rates of discarded votes.

The Miami Herald and other organisations have commissioned a recount of votes excluded from the final tally and which were at the centre of the debate over the outcome of the elections.

Both candidates needed a victory in Florida to win the presidency - George W Bush was declared the winner in the state by fewer than 1,000 votes after the US Supreme Court halted a manual recount.

Dead man voting

An estimated 60,000 votes, or "undervotes" were excluded from the final result across the state of Florida.

A recount undertaken for the Miami Herald in just one of the state's 67 counties indicates that Mr Gore picked up what could have been a decisive number of extra votes.

The Miami Herald - which endorsed Vice-President Al Gore during the campaign - also looked for irregularities in Florida's most populous county, Miami-Dade.

On Sunday the newspaper reported that it had found a vote cast by someone calling himself Andre Alisme. But Alisme died of cancer in 1997.

Poorly trained

The paper also said it found nearly 100 ballots from people not registered to vote, and 25 from felons with no voting rights, as well as other irregularities.

The investigators suggest that if the same trend were repeated across the county, hundreds more illegal ballots could have been cast.

The Miami Herald said anti-fraud rules were not always followed because some of the poll workers were so poorly trained that they did not know the verification procedures.

Other possible causes were poll workers faced with constant engaged-tones when calling the Elections Department hotline, or feeling pressured by long queues.

Detailed description

The Miami Herald's investigation into the Florida vote is expected to continue well into the New Year, possibly when George W Bush is already occupying the White House.

The Bush team has dismissed the exercise as "mischief-making", and one Bush ally has proposed the ballot boxes be sealed for 10 years.

But the paper's executive editor, Martin Baron, has said it is not intending to declare who it thinks should have been declared the winner.

"Our intent is to examine the ballots and describe in detail what they show," Mr Baron said.

"People can come to their own conclusions."

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), December 24, 2000

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