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"We risk our lives to form this great nation and
you wanna let George W. Bush run it !"

What would the Founding Fathers say if they were alive today
Dave's top 10

SALON

Anthony York

Democratic National Committee chairman declares a Gore victory;

Bush's Mexico trip puts life back into Buchananites; celebrate Not My President's Day, and Paul Wolfowitz finally gets his closeup.

Feb. 15, 2001

"Al Gore Wins the Election!"

That's the triumphant declaration in an e-mail sent to political reporters Thursday by Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jenny Backus.

As the Miami Herald continues its audit of Florida's undervotes, and a prestigious media consortium examines the state's overvotes and undervotes, the DNC is keeping track of results from other media recounts across the state.
And the news is good for Gore.

According to the certified Florida results, Bush won the state by 527 votes.

But Backus says recounts by the Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and the Chicago Tribune Co. collectively show Gore picking up 1,617 votes, giving him a "winning" margin of 1,080 votes.

Last week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Gore would have gained more than 200 extra votes if Orange County had conducted a hand recount of all its ballots that machines could not read. An earlier investigation of overvotes in Lake County showed a 300-vote pickup for Gore.

The Chicago Tribune examined more than 15,000 undervotes and overvotes in the 15 counties with the highest rate of rejected ballots, and found a net gain of 366 votes for Al Gore among the uncounted ballots.

An examination of so-called dimpled ballots in Palm Beach County by the Palm Beach Post had Gore picking up 682 additional votes if those ballots had been counted as votes. Palm Beach County Election Commissioner refused to count the dimpled chads, however.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Miami Herald, which once promised on its Web site to release its results around Inauguration Day, now say they are unsure when they'll be finished.

"We have been figuring on a number of weeks from now," said Scott Univer, general counsel for the accounting firm BDO Seidman, which is conducting the recount -- they call it an "audit" -- for the Herald. "I think the process has hit a snag. There was a lawsuit in one of the counties (that) led to the county election officials counting the ballots."

The lawsuit Univer refers to is in Duval County, which uses the punch-card balloting system and where there are roughly 5,000 undervotes. The Herald has sued to get those ballots released.

But the DNC isn't waiting for those results.

"The numbers don't lie : Al Gore carried Florida and won the 2000 election," new DNC national chairman Terry McAuliffe said in the statement.

"It's too bad that Bush was so afraid of counting the votes that the press had to do it.
Bush should keep these numbers in mind as he pushes his radical right-wing agenda."

Meanwhile, the Washington Times blasted the media's recount process in a report earlier this week. "Things are still loony in the land of chads. At least one of those people recounting the Florida ballots was drunk, the Republican Party of Florida claims. According to several witnesses, temporary workers hired by media groups reviewing ballots for a third or even fourth time 'routinely violated their own analysis standards, and in at least one case, have conducted their review while intoxicated.'"

Conservatives also point to another Herald investigation in 25 Florida counties that revealed more than 2,000 illegal ballots were cast by people who signed affirmations swearing they were eligible to vote, but were not.

Buchanan Brigades are back.

After a winter break, Pat Buchanan's Internet crusader Linda Muller is back on the job. In the first real criticism of the Bush administration to come from the Buchanan right, Muller and her Internet Brigade are focused on the issue of free trade on the eve of Bush's visit to Mexico.

Muller is now spamming her e-mail subscribers with assorted news stories critical of NAFTA. She even sent along a press release from Public Citizen, the public interest group founded by Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. During the presidential campaign, Buchanan and Nader staked out some common ground in their opposition to free trade. Still, the irony is difficult to miss, seeing Public Citizen's name attached to a Muller e-mail, which she signs off with her signature "for the cause, Linda."

Much more typical was one Brigade member's note attached to an article on NAFTA by Business Week's Paul Magnusson. In inimitable Brigade style, one member said of Magnusson, "The author would appear to be either a lobbyist for Mexican President Vicente Fox or else someone who has been at the 'tequila' much too long."


Impeach the GOP congress

Why vote for a DEMOCRAT?

Why a Democrat House MATTERS?

DEMOCRATS.COM    outlines  the  whole  scenario.

Miami Herald Recount Theory

The Five Worst Republican Outrages

200,000 disenfrenchised

How the GOP Gamed the System in Florida

NONE dare call it Treason

Telling Lies in America

Lost Votes and a Stolen Election

Florida Recount - DEMOCRATS.ORG

Florida Inquiry

The US mainstream media Cover-up


ELECTION  IRREGULARITIES  in  FLORIDA <


Mining the Overseas Absentee Vote

Injustice, Ineptitude and Inefficiency

Supreme Injustice

Bush v. Gore and the Supreme Court


GORE  DID  WIN  FLORIDA
The Guardian

ED VULLIAMY

December 24, 2000

As George W. Bush handed further key government posts to hardline Republican right-wingers, an unofficial recount of votes in Florida appeared to confirm that Bush lost the US presidential election.

Despite the decision by the US Supreme Court to halt the Florida recount in the contested counties, American media organisations, includ ing Knight Ridder - owner of the Miami Herald - have commissioned their own counts, gaining access to the ballots under Freedom of Information legislation.

The result so far, with the recounting of so-called 'undervotes' in only one county completed by Friday night, indicates that Al Gore is ahead by 140 votes.

Florida's 25 electoral college votes won Bush the presidency by two seats last Monday after the Supreme Court refused to allow the counting of 45,000 discarded votes. But as the media recount was suspended for Christmas, the votes so far tallied in Lake and Broward counties have Gore ahead in the race for the pivotal state, and hence the White House.

Gore's lead is expected to soar when counting resumes in the New Year and Miami votes are counted. In a separate exercise, the Miami Herald commissioned a team of political analysts and pollsters to make a statistical calculation based on projections of votes by county, concluding that Gore won the state by 23,000.

The media initiative is likely to bedevil Bush in the weeks to come, thickening the pall of illegitimacy that will hang over his inauguration on 20 January.

It has already led to a face-off between almost all the news media organisations in the state and Bush's presidential team. In the most extreme example of the Bush camp's desperation to avoid a recount, the new director of the Environment Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman, has proposed that the Florida ballots be sealed for 10 years.

Bush's spokesman Tucker Eskew dismissed the recount as 'mischief-making' and 'inflaming public passions' while his brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush, accused the papers of 'trying to rewrite history'.

Meanwhile, Bush made his boldest ideological statement yet with the appointment of John Ashcroft as Attorney General.

The appointment is especially significant, because as head of the Justice Department Ashcroft would be the man to bring any felony charges against President Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair. During the scandal, Ashcroft was among the loudest and shrillest voices for impeachment.

There have been many calls to President-elect Bush to pardon his predecessor as a sign of peace, but he made a point of rejecting them.

Ashcroft lost his Missouri Senate seat to the widow of the state's popular Democrat governor, Mel Carnahan. From the family of a Pentacostal minister, he is an outspoken social conservative and an ally of the extremist Pat Robertson.

Ashcroft represents a host of militant committees and activist groups, of which the Christian Coalition is most prominent. He is an opponent not only of abortion but even - as he said in one speech - of dancing.


Once again, the media try to con the people
Online Journal

BEN CONOVER

April 5, 2001

With each little game the major media, with the exception of the Palm Beach Post, are playing with the Florida ballots in a feeble attempt to legitimize the illegitimate Bush administration, it becomes clearer and clearer, that, if one carefully reads what they are saying, Al Gore won the Sunshine State, was entitled to its 25 electoral votes and should be residing in the White House today.

Perhaps if Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami, had been the lead attorney on Gore's post-election legal team, instead of playing second or third fiddle to the flamboyant David Boies, Gore would be president today and we would not today be suffering the Bushistas' rampage to reverse engineer their way to the Fourth Reich.

Instead we have headlines from the media's latest creative recount that scream :

REVIEW SHOWS BALLOTS SAY BUSH - Miami Herald, April 4, 2001
Newspapers' recount shows Bush prevailed - USA Today, April 4, 2001
An Analysis of Florida Balloting Favors Bush - The New York Times, April 4, 2001
Another Ballot Review Shows Bush Still Won - Washington Post, April 4, 2001
Ballot Review: Bush Would Have Won Anyway - Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2001

... ad nauseum.

Make the headlines big enough, bold enough, and put up charts and graphs, and the people will buy the lie, right? You know the old adage: Repeat the lie often enough and people will believe it.

Obfuscate the issue with claims of inconsistencies in the way recounts that were underway were being conducted when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the process. To paraphrase Poppy Bush's "it's the vision thing" with another of the media's bold-faced lies, "It's the standards thing."

Well, Florida has very clear laws about the way ballots will be designed, when and why ballots are to be recounted by machine and hand, and by whom, and who may apply for an absentee ballot.

Coffey understood these laws. Boies, who focused on "the big picture," did not. It's much like that bloody forest that keeps getting in the way of seeing the trees.

Ironically, buried in the April 4, 2001, Miami Herald is this story :

Law : Check 'defective' ballots

with the subhead :

But officials often ignore code's call for inspection

Herald reporter Jay Weaver wrote, "A revision of Florida's election code in the 1970s calls for county officials to inspect any ''damaged or defective'' ballot that cannot be tabulated by machine. In 1998, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that 'defective'' includes a ballot 'marked in a manner such that it cannot be read by a scanner.'"

In the next paragraph Weaver pointed out, "Canvassing boards in most of Florida routinely ignore that provision of state law because they maintain they are only required to examine unreadable ballots if there is machine error, not voter error. On Nov. 7, they considered thousands of ballots that did not register a vote for any candidate the fault of voters who incorrectly marked them."

But Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris's boy, Clay Roberts, a Republican who heads the Florida Division of Elections, told Weaver, "It's hard to know what the right answer is now."

Might we translate that to mean he know what the right answers are, but if he gives them some folks would be facing a prison cell?

Yet, the law says [section 101.5614 (5)] :

"If any ballot card ... is damaged or defective so that it cannot properly be counted by the automatic tabulating equipment, a true duplicate copy shall be made of the damaged ballot card in the presence of witnesses and substituted for the damaged ballot ...

"If any paper ballot is damaged or defective so that it cannot be counted properly by the automatic tabulating equipment, the ballot shall be counted manually at the counting center by the canvassing board. The totals for all such ballots or ballot cards counted manually shall be added to the totals for the several precincts or election districts ...

"After duplicating a ballot, the defective ballot shall be placed in an envelope provided for that purpose, and the duplicate ballot shall be tallied with the other ballots for that precinct."

Hey, it's the Republicans who keep yammering about "the rule of law." Apparently, "the rule of law" doesn't apply when it's inconvenient or goes against their candidate.

Weaver further noted, "Tucked into this section is the state's voter-intent law: 'No vote shall be declared invalid or void if there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter as determined by the canvassing board.'" Then he contended that law was ambiguous as to what "a damaged or defective ballot" is.

Weaver has an interesting, to say the least, way of contradicting himself when the law clearly states that a damaged or defective ballot is one that "cannot be counted properly by the automatic tabulating equipment."

Bend ... reach ... twist ...

Yet, in citing Beckman v. Volusia County, Weaver stated that the Florida Supreme Court "implied that the more important goal was the canvassing board's attempt to determine voter intent on those disputed absentee ballotseven if its methods were found to violate the statute."

So here we have precedent for voter intent, which the Rehnquist Five completely scoffed at in handing the presidency to George W. Bush.

And while the major media were having fun with hanging chad, "stupid" Jews and "illiterate" (okay, they didn't use that word, but the meaning was clear) blacks, they ignored the issues of an illegal butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County, an illegal ballot in Duval Countywhere the presidential candidates were spread over two pages, but the instructions on sample ballots mailed to voters said, "Vote every page"

Some 64,000 people cleansed from the voting rolls as felons, when the majority weren't; African Americans thwarted from voting by every means aside from being physically assaulted; absentee ballot applications passed out like candy to political party operatives in violation of the lawand allowing the operatives to "fix mistakes" on applicationsand the acceptance and counting of questionable absentee ballots that weren't properly signed or didn't bear the required postmarks.

Despite all the bobbing and weaving of Republican officials and former officials about what the law actually means, Coffey told Weaver, "It suggests that routinely the election supervisors [in Florida] have not been following the law. If you were literally applying the law, then those votes should be counted on election night if they can be discerned with sufficient certainty."

Now the major media are cranking up for round two : counting the overvotes.
It will be interesting to see how they diddle that outcome, too.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... er, in Tallahasee, who in the media is doing anything other than accepting p.r. handouts from the House Rules, Ethics and Elections Committee that just approved bills to "reform" (scary word) the state election system?

If approved by both houses, the bills would do away with punchcard ballots, the old lever mechanical machines and, worst of all, ban paper ballots. The committee proposes to offer the counties, on a competitve basis, $100 million in interest free loans to lease optical scanners for the 2002 election. Then for 2004, a $400 million "state of the art" (oh boy) touch screen computer system is being considered.

Once again, one of our most precious rights, the right to vote and have our vote counted is being entrusted to the hands of private companies that will supply the equipment and hold the proprietary computer codes.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or should we say, they get worse?

While optically scanned ballots do leave a paper trail, touch screens don't. And even with a paper trail, what good is it if the scanners are rigged, and the rigging is subtle enough not to raise questions that result in a manual count of the ballots?

We cannot say this often enough : When they steal your vote, the rest doesn't matter!

Equally as worrisome is that the committee is proposing that every registered voter be listed in an Internet database allegedly accessible by only election officials and precinct workers. We all know how secure the Internet is, don't we?


U.S. Justice officials examine complaints about
unfair treatment at Tennessee polls

Tennessean.com

MONICA WHITAKER

April 6, 2001

The U.S. Justice Department is trying to verify Tennessee complaints about race-based polling place problems and is considering holding public hearings, state civil rights advocates say.

Examples collected by the state and local NAACP after the November election include names missing from voting rosters, changes of polling times and polling places "without notification," and allegations that a poll worker placed several white voters ahead of a black Murfreesboro woman, telling her, "You know what it means to sit at the back of the bus."

The 16 complaints from Tennessee are part of a nationwide list of polling site irregularities gathered from each state and compiled by the national NAACP.

Justice Department spokeswoman Cristine Romano said federal attorneys are examining the NAACP list. She declined to say what penalties could result if the complaints are verified, whether they will schedule public hearings, or if the office has singled out incidents for closer investigation.

"I wouldn't want to say what will happen here. It would only be speculation."

However, Justice Department attorneys contacted the Tennessee NAACP earlier this week and are trying to coordinate public hearings where they could gather more information, said Gloria J. Sweet-Love, president of the NAACP Tennessee Conference of Branches. They also want more detailed information about the existing complaints, she said.

Sweet-Love said she is asking local branch presidents to go back for more information from the people who made complaints. In several cases, including the incident reported by the Murfreesboro woman, branch presidents reported the complaint without a voter's name or the specific polling site.

Murfreesboro NAACP branch president, the Rev. Dwight Ogleton, said he told state NAACP organizers about the incident involving the black woman who was put behind white voters but has neither proof of the allegation nor any information about the woman who complained.

"She never followed through on it. She basically gave me a call, and I asked her to come into the office and provide me the information that we needed. ?As of yet I haven't heard from her."

State, Davidson and Rutherford county election officials said they have not received formal notice of the incidents and have heard mostly general references to problems.

"I welcome some specificity," said Tennessee Election Coordinator Brook Thompson.

In Rutherford County, election officials heard about the comment to the Murfreesboro woman after reading something posted on a Web site, but they are not sure if or where it occurred, said Election Administrator Hooper Penuel.

"I'm just appalled that anything like that would happen. Number two, if it did happen and I find out who did it, they certainly wouldn't be working elections anymore."

Davidson County Election Administrator Michael McDonald said he is familiar with problems involving one incident listed in the NAACP report. By midafternoon on Election Day, more than 600 people, including hundreds of students, stood in line at a Hadley Park library polling site, he said. McDonald said he learned of the situation at 3 p.m., asked a police officer to whisk him to the site and then ordered another voting booth to open.

The line was so long, many people had not voted by the poll closing hour at 7 p.m., but those already in line were allowed to cast ballots, he said.


Gore's Lost Votes
Consortium News

ROBERT PARRY

July 12, 2001

A new study suggests that American voters favored Al Gore by a larger margin nationwide than his official plurality of more than a half million votes ?possibly significantly larger.

The reason : ballots from poorer, heavily African-American precincts were over three times more likely to be thrown out than those from affluent, primarily white districts.

The study by the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee discovered that a hodgepodge of voting machines ?some modern and some outmoded ?was not distinctive to Florida. The pattern was repeated across the country, contributing to a suppression of votes by blacks and other minority groups.

The congressional study did not address how this uneven pattern of thrown-away ballots ?almost 2 million nationwide ?might have affected the outcome of the presidential election last fall or whether any states that went narrowly to George W. Bush might have tipped into Gore's column.

But the disparities in the disqualified votes suggest that votes from low-income precincts with high African-American populations were more severely undercounted than votes in wealthier, whiter districts. Generally, Gore ran strongly in poorer areas and carried the African-American vote by a margin of more than 9-to-1 over Bush.

The study focused on 40 congressional districts in 20 states, about 9 percent of the 435 congressional districts. Out of more than 9 million ballots cast in those 40 districts, more than 200,000, or 2.2 percent, were not counted. In the low-income districts examined, the discard rate was 4 percent compared with 1.2 percent in the wealthier areas.

A Striking Variable

Though some ballots certainly represented voters making no choice for president, the study found evidence that only a tiny fraction of voters intentionally bypassed the presidential race. The one striking variable in the numbers related to the quality of the voting machinery.

Punch-card ballots ?made infamous during the Florida recount battle ?had a 7.7 percent error rate in poor districts and 2 percent error rate in affluent areas. By comparison, optical scanning systems that alerted voters to errors led to a sharp decline in discarded ballots, a 1.1 percent error rate in poor districts and 0.5 percent in wealthier ones.

The study's highest error rates were found in poor districts in Miami and Chicago where 7.9 percent of ballots were not counted and where punch-card ballots were used. The lowest error rate came in a poor, heavily black district in western Alabama where an optical scanning device was used and only 0.3 percent of the ballots registered no choice for president, the study found.

The study’s findings also undercut three leading Republican arguments about Election 2000.

One is that the so-called “undervote?in Florida ?ballots registering no presidential choice ?represented the voters?intent, not a machine malfunction. The study makes clear that the far greater variable was the type of voting machine used.

Second, some Republican operatives have argued that Democratic voters simply weren’t very bright and thus spoiled their own ballots. Though inexperience among first-time voters and confusing ballot designs were factors in Florida, the new study showed that outmoded voting machines were the principal culprit.

Third, the study helps explain why exit polls might have shown stronger support for Gore in some states than the official results. Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times, in particular, has promoted a conspiracy theory that major national news networks demonstrated a liberal bias by willfully delaying calls for Bush in states that he carried by comfortable margins, when exit polls showed narrower results.

Exit polls would simply register how voters thought they had voted, not whether their votes were counted. In Florida, for instance, accurate exit polls would have shown Gore carrying the state, though narrowly. Tens of thousands of Gore voters would not have known that their ballots had failed to register a vote for president or that they had accidentally voted for someone else because of confusing ballot designs.

Gains Not Estimated

Though the new congressional study does not estimate how many votes Gore might have gained if updated voting technology had been used in all districts throughout the United States, the findings suggest that the black vote and the vote totals in other Democratic strongholds were depressed by the inferior voting equipment in lower-income precincts.

Newspaper reviews have shown that Gore was the favorite of Florida’s voters. A USA Today examination put Gore's likely Florida margin at 15,000 to 25,000 votes. However, a combination of irregularities in Florida vote-counting and Bush’s success in stopping recounts allowed him to win the state by 537 votes ?out of six million votes cast.

By getting all of Florida’s 25 electoral, Bush narrowly won the Electoral College, though he trailed Gore by more than a half million votes nationwide.

A Shaky Mandate

Despite his tainted victory and a lack of a popular mandate, Bush entered the White House pushing a conservative political agenda. That strategy dominated the first few months of his presidency, but it also alienated Republican moderates and prompted Vermont’s Sen. James Jeffords to bolt the Republican Party. That gave the Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.

In the weeks since, Bush’s behavior has left more and more observers with the impression that he is unhappy in the job. Though in office less than six months, he has begun telling Republicans that he is ready to go back to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, if he doesn’t get his way in policy battles.

A source with knowledge about Bush’s day-to-day personal activities said the president often seems disengaged from his demanding responsibilities. The source said Bush spends a great deal of his time resting and working out.

Sometimes, Bush appears bored even in public. While celebrating his 55th birthday with family members in Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush dispassionately answered a few questions from reporters prior to a golf game with his father, former President George H.W. Bush. As his father sat upright in the golf cart, George W. Bush slouched backward, legs crossed, picking at the bottom of his golf shoe and talking to the cameras.

The presidency also has put new pressure on Bush’s immediate family -- and Bush has continued to demonstrate a questionable parental role in dealing with underage drinking charges against his 19-year-old twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara. The daughters skipped his birthday celebration in Maine, choosing to stay with friends in Texas.

For his part, Bush skipped a court hearing on July 6 at which Jenna’s lawyer entered a no contest plea on her behalf to a citation that she had used a false ID in an attempt to buy an alcoholic beverage, her second underage drinking offense. Legal experts say judges prefer to see both the teenage offender and a parent in court to indicate that the family takes the offense seriously.

Bush, who as Texas governor signed into law the restrictions on teenage drinking, also could have set an example for other parents by standing by his daughter in court. He could have shown that he is not unlike other Americans confronting legal and family troubles.

Instead, Bush chose to vacation with his father and some other relatives at the family’s ocean-front compound in Maine.

The decision was reminiscent of a situation last fall when Jenna was hospitalized for appendicitis in Texas. Rather than stay by his daughter's side, Bush left her in the hospital and went on a fishing holiday with his father and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Amazing

Even reporters who have written favorably about Bush’s early tenure have begun to show new skepticism about the first popular-vote loser in more than a century to sit in the White House. For instance, the New York Times?Frank Bruni wrote a “White House Memo?column noting Bush’s indiscriminate use of the word “amazing.?lt;p>In one case cited by Bruni, Bush commented on the fact that he and an Associated Press reporter had the same birthday. “The amazing thing,?Bush said, was that “we’ll have our birthday on the same day again next year.?lt;p>The following day, Bush mused about the demands of his job and its requirement that he receive daily briefings. “The amazing thing about this job,?Bush said, “is the job seems to follow you around.?[NYT, July 9, 2001]

Given the wrenching election battle of last fall, more and more Americans seem to be holding a similar opinion. They appear to be amazed that the awesome duties of the president of the United States are following George W. Bush around ?especially since it's increasingly clear that the U.S. electorate wanted someone else.



To the Editor, The New York Times

Re : "How Bush Took Florida : Mining the Overseas Absentee Vote" (front page, July 15) :

By the Supreme Court's logic in Bush v. Gore, no overseas absentee ballots should have been counted in Florida, since the standard used produced a far greater denial of equal protection than the neutral, if somewhat vague, voter-intent standard used in a hand recount of other votes.

Your study shows that the differing standards for absentee ballots favored Republicans. Thus, if the equal protection clause demands that no ballots be hand counted even though clear intent could be discerned for many under even the most cautious standard, it surely demands that no absentee ballots be counted.

According to the Florida Department of State's Web site, Al Gore would have won Florida by 202 votes if no overseas absentee ballots had been hand counted after Election Day.

ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ
Cambridge, Mass., July 17, 2001

"When the cops join the robbers, we have a problem.
When the courts help the robbers, we have a crisis.
When our highest court becomes complicit in the robbery, we have a disaster."

Alan M. Dershowitz


GORE DID WIN FLORIDA
Guardian

Ed Vulliamy in New York

Sunday December 24, 2000

As George W. Bush handed further key government posts to hardline Republican right-wingers, an unofficial recount of votes in Florida appeared to confirm that Bush lost the US presidential election.

Despite the decision by the US Supreme Court to halt the Florida recount in the contested counties, American media organisations, includ ing Knight Ridder - owner of the Miami Herald - have commissioned their own counts, gaining access to the ballots under Freedom of Information legislation.

The result so far, with the recounting of so-called 'undervotes' in only one county completed by Friday night, indicates that Al Gore is ahead by 140 votes.

Florida's 25 electoral college votes won Bush the presidency by two seats last Monday after the Supreme Court refused to allow the counting of 45,000 discarded votes. But as the media recount was suspended for Christmas, the votes so far tallied in Lake and Broward counties have Gore ahead in the race for the pivotal state, and hence the White House.

Gore's lead is expected to soar when counting resumes in the New Year and Miami votes are counted. In a separate exercise, the Miami Herald commissioned a team of political analysts and pollsters to make a statistical calculation based on projections of votes by county, concluding that Gore won the state by 23,000.

The media initiative is likely to bedevil Bush in the weeks to come, thickening the pall of illegitimacy that will hang over his inauguration on 20 January.

It has already led to a face-off between almost all the news media organisations in the state and Bush's presidential team. In the most extreme example of the Bush camp's desperation to avoid a recount, the new director of the Environment Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman, has proposed that the Florida ballots be sealed for 10 years.

Bush's spokesman Tucker Eskew dismissed the recount as 'mischief-making' and 'inflaming public passions' while his brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush, accused the papers of 'trying to rewrite history'.

Meanwhile, Bush made his boldest ideological statement yet with the appointment of John Ashcroft as Attorney General.

The appointment is especially significant, because as head of the Justice Department Ashcroft would be the man to bring any felony charges against President Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair. During the scandal, Ashcroft was among the loudest and shrillest voices for impeachment.

There have been many calls to President-elect Bush to pardon his predecessor as a sign of peace, but he made a point of rejecting them.

Ashcroft lost his Missouri Senate seat to the widow of the state's popular Democrat governor, Mel Carnahan. From the family of a Pentacostal minister, he is an outspoken social conservative and an ally of the extremist Pat Robertson.

Ashcroft represents a host of militant committees and activist groups, of which the Christian Coalition is most prominent. He is an opponent not only of abortion but even - as he said in one speech - of dancing.


pearly gates