WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 9—Reports of voter irregularities in Florida continue to wash in. With a recount in progress, Republican George W. Bush’s lead has shrunk to just over 900 votes, a razor-thin margin that raises the stakes for each alleged instance of a break from electoral procedure.
At least 4000 Florida residents were struck from the rolls because they were mistakenly identified as former felons, the Mother Jones Web site reports. The state doesn’t allow ex-cons to vote.
Some 19,000 ballots in Palm Beach County were disqualified because voters punched two choices for president, lending credence to complaints that the ballots were so poorly designed that people who wanted to vote for Democrat Al Gore instead voted for Reform candidate Pat Buchanan. Just over 3000 Palm Beach voters made the same mistake in voting for Senate.
A group of Palm Beach voters has filed suit over the ballots, which were designed differently from those in other counties. A judge is set to hear arguments this afternoon.
Meanwhile the Democrats are questioning Volusia County’s vote count, which may have been affected by a computer error. According to Bob Poe, state chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, Democrats had received reports of an instance in which a preliminary Gore tally, given by Florida election officials, actually decreased by about 10,000 over time, before climbing again, reports ABCNews.com. A local judge ordered the county elections office to be sealed and ballots secured pending the outcome of an investigation.
Democrats have set up a toll-free hotline for voters to log irregularities: 1-800-579-8871.
The Tallahassee Democrat reports African Americans are alleging they were intimidated from voting by a state police checkpoint set up near the polling booths in southern Leon County. But Major Ken Howes, the Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, told the paper the sergeant and three troopers were unaware they were only 1.4 miles from the First Baptist Church of Woodville, the polling place for a precinct in which about one-third of the voters are black. The checkpoint operated from 10 to 11:30 a.m., he said, with about every tenth motorist stopped for a check of licenses, insurance, and equipment safety.
The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation of these charges.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson is also delving into accusations that the state violated people’s constitutionally mandated voting rights. Jackson says he has reports from largely African American precincts where people waiting to vote were told the polls were closed or there were no more ballots.