New voting irregularities found

The Washington Post

Continuing news media examination of the presidential election in Florida has turned up new evidence of irregularities in the state, which President-elect George W. Bush carried by a final certified margin of 537 votes over Vice President Al Gore.

The Miami Herald reported Sunday that its review of the voting in 138 of Miami-Dade County’s 617 precincts has led to the discovery of votes cast by 144 people who were not registered to vote or otherwise ineligible. In one case, a vote was cast in the name of a Haitian American who has been dead since 1997.

If such illegal voting took place at the same rate across the entire county as it did in the precincts examined by the Herald, it would mean that Bush’s victory was certified on the basis of a count that included approximately 625 illegal votes.

However, the paper reported no evidence of an organized effort at fraud and it is not clear that the allegedly illegal voting in Miami-Dade would have altered the outcome in the state. The Herald did not say how many of the alleged illegal votes went to Bush and how many went to Gore, his Democratic opponent.

Still, the report shows that the debate over what happened in Florida is not going to end soon — and that, with news organizations rummaging through hundreds of thousands of ballots across the state, the questions could continue long after Bush takes the oath of office on Jan. 20.

One leading Democrat reacted Sunday by musing aloud about what he implied were widespread doubts concerning the legitimacy of Bush’s election.

“It doesn’t mean much in terms of who will be the president,” Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “But it does mean a lot in other ways. I think what could happen upon further investigation we find that there really were voting-rights violations that this — that the election could have turned out differently, if we find that out, I don’t know for sure, then I think that’ll be a real challenge for George W. Bush. I think there will be continuing indignation.”

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R.-Neb., agreed that Bush could face such “issues,” but added “I don’t think we can unwind all of this … and go back and try to replay it all. We’ve got to move forward. We’ve got a country to govern and a world to lead.”

The Herald attributed most of the alleged illegal voting to mistakes by poorly trained poll workers who were often overwhelmed by the heavy voter turnout. Often, poll workers failed to obtain picture identification from would-be voters, or were unable to reach election authorities by phone to verify voter registration.

Gore attempted but ultimately failed to obtain a full manual recount of the votes in Miami-Dade, which he and his running mate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s carried with about 53 percent of the vote.