— Al Gore’s formal contest of George W. Bush’s victory in the Florida vote count is grinding on today, with closing arguments for all parties underway this evening.
David Boies, the lead lawyer making Gore’s case in Leon County Circuit Court before Judge N. Sanders Sauls, closed the plaintiff’s case by saying vote counts in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Nassau counties should be altered.
Pertaining to Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, Boies argued that more than 600 ballots counted by hand but not included in the certified tallies should be part of the final total.
“There cannot be any doubt about those 388 ballots,” said Boies, referring to the net gain for Gore in Miami-Dade County before canvassing officials voted to stop their manual recount on Nov. 22.
Boies added that “ there cannot be any doubt about the 215 ballots in Palm Beach,” citing the net gain Democrats say they would have made in that county if Secretary of State Katherine Harris had not certified the state’s vote total on the evening of Nov. 26., while the county’s canvassing board was nearly finishing its recount.
And the Democrats’ lead lawyer asked for 14,000 “undervote” ballots in the two counties to be tabulated by hand, saying, “They need to be counted. They need to be reviewed.”
“Undervotes” pertain to ballots with no presidential votes registered on them. The Gore side wants the results of new recounts to be added to the state’s total election tally, which currently has Bush ahead by 537 votes out of nearly 6 million cast.
Countered Bush lawyer Barry Richard, “There is no evidence in this case of any problem with the voting machines … I kept waiting for a witness to come in here to testify that there was a problem with the voting machines, and that there was a problem of sufficient magnitude to overturn the result. But there was none.”
Gore filed his contest case in hopes that Judge Sauls would allow a new round of manual ballot recounts in Florida’s presidential election dispute, aspects of which have been argued all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier testimony today covered subjects ranging from the mechanics of voting machines to statistical analysis of voting patterns and the recount procedure in Miami-Dade County.
But both today and Saturday, witnesses testifying for both sides have struggled under cross-examination from lawyers of the opposing camps.
At the end of the morning session in the unprecedented contest, voting systems operator John Ahmann, a witness for the Bush campaign, gave an apparent boost to the Gore campaign by acknowledging there were circumstances in which the votomatic punch-card machines used in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties might fail to register every vote and necessitate hand recounts.
Asked if he had ever said that hand recounts were advisable, Ahmann, who helped design and redesign the punch-card system used by the voting machines, said, “In very close elections, yes sir.”
On a day devoted to witnesses called by lawyers for Bush, the Republican candidate, the afternoon session centered on the vote-count procedures in Miami-Dade County, where the canvassing board controversially voted not to continue a hand recount on Nov. 22.
In the most contentious exchanges of the day, Gore’s lawyers objected to the testimony given by Thomas Spargo, a Republican lawyer sent to oversee the Miami-Dade recount, who testified the Miami-Dade hand counts were disorganized and unreliable.