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Media groups begin reviewing Broward County ballots

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- Seated in a room at a warehouse where voting equipment is stored, four organizations plus a handful of individuals Monday began poring over Broward County, Florida election ballots.

"We want to do a little forensic accounting, an audit of what went on beforehand," said Tom Fitton, president of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. "Immediately after the election, we knew these ballots would be an issue."

The Associated Press, the Washington Post and the Miami Herald were also reviewing the ballots Monday.

In all, 14 organizations petitioned to look at the county's ballots.

The news organizations hired accountants to review the ballots, beginning with 6,886 undervotes -- ballots for which no vote for president was recorded.

A hand count of the undervotes -- completed in time to be included in the state's final election tally certified by the secretary of state Nov. 26 -- determined 1,721 of those ballots were valid, of which Al Gore received 1,142 and George W. Bush received 579.

Ballots are being handled only by elections officials, who are charging the organizations $300 an hour for the chance to review them. The interested parties have agreed to share the cost.

Fitton said the Broward County review will likely take several days and the group intends to examine the ballots in all 67 Florida counties.


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Monday, December 18, 2000

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