WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Palm Beach County election officials announced early Sunday that a hand recount of 4,695 votes yielded enough of a discrepancy from original election results to warrant a hand recount of the more than 462,000 ballots cast countywide.
But it was still unclear Sunday - five days after the election - who would be the nation's next president. Palm Beach County officials are scheduled to meet today to plan the countywide recount. But it is unclear when the recount will begin or how long it will take.
At the request of Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, county officials spent the weekend recounting 1 percent of all votes cast in the county.
As the hand recount slowly progressed, machines in the next room were recounting all the ballots cast countywide.
Around 1:50 a.m. Sunday, the triumvirate of the county canvassing board - Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol Roberts, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore and county Judge Charles Burton - finally emerged from the grueling scrutiny of ballot after ballot and announced a blizzard of numbers. The bottom line: Gore had picked up an additional three dozen votes in this heavily Democratic county.
For Roberts, this meant the change was significant enough to warrant a hand recount of every one of the county's ballots. The vote for the massive recount was 2-1, with Burton dissenting.
Early Saturday, Bush spokesman James Baker called for an injunction on the manual recount at an early morning press conference in Tallahassee.
But county officials said they will continue with the recount until ordered to stop. Six groups of three counters and two observers from each party separated the ballots into 13 piles - 10 for each of the 10 presidential candidates, one for unpunched ballots, one for overpunched and one for questionable votes. All the questionable ballots were then examined by the board with representatives from both presidential campaigns glaring over their shoulders and trading barbs with each other and officials. There were more than 500 questionable ballots.
During the recount, Bush campaign spokesman Tucker Eskew criticized the process for both its disorganization and the partiality of the canvassing board. All three members of the board are Democrats. "This is further proof that another recount won't represent the most accurate account, but the most recent one," Eskew said.
But Kartik Kishnaiter, one of the Democratic observers, reassured reporters and casual observers that the process was being taken seriously. "We're looking at every single ballot as if the presidency depended on it."
At around 6 p.m. Bob Nichols, spokesman for the elections office, announced the process would be delayed because the board altered the way it would examine questionable ballots. But he reassured the anxious press corps that the ongoing recount saga eventually will be completed. "Everything has an end, and this will end at some point."
The Associated Press contributed to this story. The State & National Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.