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Florida Democrats await race results

Miami Herald says Reno lost

Reno at her campaign headquarters Tuesday
Reno at her campaign headquarters Tuesday  

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Florida voters still do not know which Democrat -- Janet Reno or Bill McBride -- will face Gov. Jeb Bush in the November elections because of voting equipment problems that created confusion reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election fiasco.

The Miami Herald late Wednesday said its analysis of outstanding precincts found that McBride, a Tampa attorney, narrowly beat Reno, U.S. attorney general under President Clinton, in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The official results are still not in.

The state's top election official gave two counties a grade of "F-minus-minus-minus" for the delays and electronic glitches in Tuesday's primary elections.

Secretary of State Jim Smith Wednesday said election officials in 65 counties "for the most part got it right," but he blasted Broward and Miami-Dade counties for failing to open the polls on time.

"It is unacceptable that people cannot get themselves organized so that people cannot get the polls open at a set time," Smith said.

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In numerous polling places there, the new touch-screen machines failed to start up. It took several hours in some locations to get them working. In one predominately black precinct in Miami, polls didn't open until lunchtime; in Miami Beach, some voters waited more than 90 minutes.

Reno waited more than an hour to vote at her Miami-Dade precinct.

With 95.6 percent of the votes counted, Reno, with 43.3 percent of the votes, trailed McBride, who had 45.1 percent. State Sen. Daryl Jones had 11.6 percent.

Many of the uncounted votes were cast in south Florida, where Reno performed strongly.

Because of the delays, Bush Tuesday ordered the polls to stay open for an extra two hours.

"I know I seem hot about this," Smith said. "I've talked to the governor... and I ain't nothing compared to what he is."

Smith said counties have until noon Thursday to provide unofficial results, but he expected to have a pretty good idea of the results by the end of Wednesday.

A McBride victory would be a come-from-behind upset over the better-known Reno, who led by a large margin in polls until the last weeks of the campaign. Polls showed Bush leading both Democrats by a wide margin.

The Justice Department said 17 monitors that were sent to Miami-Dade, Orange, and Osceola county to observe Tuesday's primary for possible civil rights voting violations will remain in the state.

"The department is aware complaints have arisen (about polling machines). We will take seriously all complaints that fall within our division," a Justice Department official told CNN.

Florida spent millions of dollars on the new equipment and training for poll workers after the 2000 presidential election, when problems with punch-card ballots used in many of the state's largest counties kept the presidential race in dispute for 35 days after the voting had ended.

Attorneys for President Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore went to court over whether the state should allow hand recounts in several counties, including Broward and Miami-Dade, to look for so-called undervotes, or ballots that were only partially punched and could not be read by machine.

Gore's campaign was convinced that there were enough undervotes to tip the election in his favor.

The dispute was not settled until late December 12, the deadline for Florida to name its delegates to the Electoral College, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the recount in a 5-4 decision.

Smith said that Tuesday's primaries showed that officials in most Florida counties had prepared well since then. He said that more training is needed before the November general election, and that county officials need to pressure venders to make sure the voting equipment is properly tested.




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