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Judge grants injunction to freeze Palm Beach vote certification
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- As the controversy continued to mount Friday over alleged voting irregularities in Palm Beach County, county officials said they would recount the vote by hand, a congressman said a circuit court judge must determine the "the will of the voters" and a judge issued an injunction freezing certification of the vote in that county.
Responding to requests from Democrats and Republicans, Palm Beach County officials announced Thursday they would conduct both a manual and machine recount Saturday of the county's presidential election results.
In addition, an area congressman, Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Florida, said Friday that under Florida law a "circuit court judge would be required to determine what the will of the voters was and create a remedy." He said that could include throwing out the election, as was done in March 1998 when a judge threw out the sitting mayor of Miami because of absentee ballot fraud and ultimately installed his opponent in that office.
Deutsch said Palm Beach Circuit Judge Kathleen Kroll postponed certification of the vote in Palm Beach County until she hears a challenge on Tuesday, but he said the larger issue is how to handle 19,000 ballots discarded because voters "double punched" candidates in the presidential race.
Deutsch said a sample ballot distributed in advance of the election did not match the actual ballot.
"George W. Bush should concede defeat," said Deutsch, predicting that any court-ordered remedy will give Vice President Al Gore 10,000 votes in Palm Beach County and the election in Florida.
Asked what would happen if no court orders a remedy, Deutsch said, "If George W. Bush is elected under these circumstances, he will be an illegitimate president."
Kroll granted a temporary preliminary injunction in favor of Beverly Rogers and Ray Kaplan, two Boca Raton women who filed a lawsuit saying they and thousands like them were cheated out of their right to vote because the county's two-sided ballot was illegally confusing.
The decision to do a hand recount came amid increasing questions about the format of the ballots in the county and a flurry of lawsuits. Some voters said they were confused by the layout and may have mistakenly voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Democrat Al Gore.
The manual recount, sought by Democrats, will be conducted on 1 percent of the votes cast, or roughly 4,000 ballots. Officials said they would broaden the manual recount if significant discrepancies are found. The machine recount, requested by Republicans, will cover all ballots in the county. Officials said they might announce the results Monday.
Several lawsuits challenging election results have been filed in state court by Palm Beach voters. Protesters in front of the county's elections supervisor's office demanded a "re-vote" in the race because of what one plaintiff described as "crossword puzzle" ballots.
"I punched the right dot. I had no idea that in this country you have to read zigzag and diagonal to know who you're voting for," Andre Fladell said on CNN's Larry King Live.
Democrats here told CNN they had fielded 5,000 calls since Wednesday from voters complaining about the presidential ballot.
Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Florida, whose district includes Palm Beach County, said 19,000 ballots were thrown out -- without being counted -- because the voters mistakenly voted for two presidential candidates due to the confusion.
Wexler said those votes were concentrated in African-American communities -- which traditionally vote Democratic.
County Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore confirmed that 19,120 votes had been disqualified, but did not explain why.
Wexler released a memo Thursday that he said came from LePore on Election Day telling poll workers to "remind all voters coming in that they are to vote only for one presidential candidate and that they are to punch a hole next to the arrow next to the number next to the candidate they wish to vote for."
Appearing on CNN's The Spin Room, Wexler called it "the smoking memorandum," saying it came out in response to complaints from voters about the ballot. Wexler said he also complained about the format.
Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson joined a local rally protesting the Palm Beach County vote, which he likened to a car wreck due to poor wheel alignment.
"The issue here today is not about black and white. It's about wrong and right," he told reporters. "We want a fair count to remove the shade from over this election."
Hundreds of protesters, blacks and whites, carried signs saying, "I demand re-vote now," "Crooked America, stand up," "A vote for Buchanan is a vote for Gore," "Gore got more" and "The world is watching. Do what's right. Count our vote."
The Gore campaign has expressed concern, and in some quarters outrage, that it may have lost as many as 10,000 votes -- more than enough to overtake Republican candidate George W. Bush in Florida's contested popular vote.
Gore captured 62 per cent of Palm Beach County's vote, which is traditionally Democratic, while Buchanan got a total of 3,407 -- a number even he acknowledged seemed "outsized." County voters cast nearly 450,000 ballots for president.
"I don't doubt a number of those ballots, of those votes that were cast for me, probably were intended for Vice President Gore," Buchanan said on CNN's Larry King Live.
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