Officials say results may come by 5 p.m. today
Florida officials began recounting nearly 6 million ballots Wednesday to determine the next president, while Democrats and some voters complained of election irregularities. Partial results showed Al Gore cutting into George W. Bush's lead.
The recount in all 67 counties was triggered by state law because Republican Bush led Democrat Gore by less than one-half of 1 percentage point. State officials said they expect to finish by the end of the day Thursday.
Florida elections supervisors also waited for an undetermined number of overseas ballots, primarily from military personnel and their families. The state allows 10 days after the election for the ballots to come in.
The state counted about 2,300 overseas ballots in the 1996 election — more than the margin separating Gore and Bush this time — so there is a remote possibility that those ballots alone could change the outcome.
The Florida totals, including all absentee ballots received so far, showed Bush with 2,909,135 votes and Gore with 2,907,351 — a difference of 1,784 in a state with 8.75 million registered voters.
After 28 of Florida's 67 counties were recounted Wednesday, Gore had gained 351 votes.
Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg, will have to redo its count because a poll worker inadvertently failed to run an unknown number of ballots through its computer Wednesday, county Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said. The county retracted its original announcement that Gore had gained 404 votes and Bush dropped by 61 votes in its recount.
The scrutiny was intense because Florida and its 25 electoral votes will decide the next president. In an added twist, the state's governor, Jeb Bush, is the Republican nominee's younger brother.
"We thought it would be close. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine it would be this close," Jeb Bush told reporters Wednesday.
Both Bush and Gore campaigned hard in the state and regarded it as crucial.
Some counties completed the count Wednesday and forwarded results to Tallahassee for certification by Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris and state elections director Clay Roberts, a Republican appointee. Jeb Bush said he recused himself.
Although both candidates typically pick up votes in a recount, veterans of the process said it is unusual for one side to pick up enough votes to make a difference in the outcome.
In each county, a county judge, the chairman of the county commission and the local elections supervisor, recounted the votes by feeding punch cards through tabulation machines three times. The makeup of the canvassing board is supposed to insulate the process from politics, Roberts said.
Two former secretaries of state — Warren Christopher for Gore and James A. Baker III for Bush — were heading monitoring teams sent to Florida on Wednesday.
In Florida and elsewhere, Democrats grumbled about long lines at the polls, reports that ballots were late in arriving at polling places and other possible irregularities.
``We've received literally thousands of telephone calls and inquiries and reports of irregularities like ballots appearing and disappearing, voter intimidation, and the totals of this election sort of mysteriously disappearing and growing overnight,'' state Democratic Party chairman Bob Poe said.
All News Stories for Thursday, November 9, 2000