latimes.com: GOP Rep. Foley blasts public reviews of Florida ballots
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (Los Angeles Times) -- As the public inspection of disputed ballots continued for a second day here, a Republican lawmaker on Tuesday denounced the review by newspapers and private citizens as "a waste of time [that] undermines the legitimacy of the presidency."
"I am concerned about what further reporting could lead to," said Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who held a news conference outside the Broward County election department warehouse where reporters, members of a conservative public interest group and a few curious voters are examining ballots cast in the Nov. 7 presidential election.
"Mr. Gore has conceded, and that should have been the end of this," said Foley. He added that any suggestion that George W. Bush is not the legitimate winner of the election "further diminishes his ability to govern at this perilous time."
Foley, the GOP's deputy majority whip whose district includes neighboring Palm Beach but not Broward County, stopped short of demanding that newspapers and Judicial Watch, a conservative Washington-based group, halt the review.
The congressman said he was speaking out on his own initiative and not at the behest of Bush or Vice President-elect Dick Cheney. But Foley's appearance here was hardly impromptu. He was introduced by Broward County GOP Chairman George LeMieux and party attorney Mark D. Wallace, who had prepared for the TV cameras enlargements of the tally sheet being used by the Miami Herald and a similar form used by a group of other news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Associated Press and the New York Times.
The sheets list several descriptions of ballots--such as blank, chad punched and one-corner chad--which reporters and other observers working for the news organizations are using to categorize the more than 6,000 undervotes. Those are ballots that registered no vote for president when fed through a machine. When undervotes were recounted by hand by the Broward County canvassing board last month, Al Gore picked up 567 votes.
All three Republicans ridiculed the categories as meaningless and suggested the news organizations only wanted to find that Bush was not the true victor in Florida. "Any inspection that purports to be a recount misstates and misrepresents the facts," Wallace said.
The newspapers and AP are not acting as a single group or consortium but are attempting to agree on procedures for a review that could extend to other Florida counties.
Media groups say they have no intention of recounting the Florida vote, deciding what is a legitimate ballot or proclaiming a winner. The intent of the review, they said, is to examine ballots and describe them to readers.
After two seven-hour days, in which just 872 ballots were inspected and categorized, the Broward County review will cease at least until January. The news groups and Judicial Watch are to begin a review of undervotes Thursday in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa.
The Miami Herald and Judicial Watch have announced intentions to review disputed ballots in all 67 Florida counties.
Meanwhile, in Lake County, an Orlando Sentinel inspection of more than 6,000 discarded ballots found that Gore lost a total of 103 votes in the conservative county that the newspaper concluded were clearly intended for him.
The newspaper said those votes were among 376 ballots discarded as ruined because voters had filled in with pencil an oval next to Gore's name and also mistakenly filled in another spot on the ballot reserved for write-in candidates. Either Gore's name or that of his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, was written in, the newspaper reported.
An additional 246 ballots were mismarked in a similar fashion, showing clear intent to vote for Bush and Cheney, the newspaper said. Those votes also were tossed out.
The Sentinel said its review of Lake County votes was the first outside inspection of ballots to be completed in Florida since the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 9 halted a statewide recount.