U.S. election thriller hinges on Florida recount

More than 19,000 ballots from a Florida county have been disqualified.

Election officials announced Wednesday the ballots were pulled from Palm Beach County, where confusion over the punch card system led to complaints and a lawsuit.

Three people have filed a suit that says the ballots were so confusing they accidentally voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Vice-President Al Gore.

Hundreds of Gore supporters called the county elections office Wednesday fearing they had voted for Buchanan by mistake.

Election officials said 19,120 ballots in the county were nullified because they showed more than one vote for president.

Democratic Party lawyers said the design of the Palm Beach County ballot is illegal and they may ask for a re-vote.

No immediate action has been taken.

According to unofficial results, Buchanan received 3,407 votes more than he got in any other Florida county in an area known for its support for the Democratic Party.

In another Florida county, Pinellas County, election officials ordered a recount of the recount late Wednesday, saying some ballots weren't properly counted.

Meanwhile, Gore wants the world to know that no matter what the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, America will come through it with dignity.

"I want all of America, indeed the whole world, to be assured of that," said Gore Wednesday in a televised speech.

The wild roller-coaster that is the U.S. presidential election has come down to a recount in Florida.

Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush held a razor-thin lead of fewer than 2,000 votes over Al Gore in Florida on Tuesday.

"We now need to resolve this election in a way that is fair, forthright and fully consistent with our constitution and our laws," said Gore.

"Because of what is at stake, this matter must be resolved expeditiously but deliberately and without any rush to judgement."

Numbers this close force an automatic recount in the Sunshine State. Coincidentally, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the Republican candidate's brother.

The nail-biting presidential contest may not be settled for several days. Authorities began re-counting the Florida votes Wednesday, and hope to have results by Thursday afternoon.

But then there are Florida's absentee and overseas ballots that have to be mailed in. There are an estimated 2,300 of them and that count could take up to 10 days.

Bush was confident on Wednesday that the recount would give him a presidential victory.

At last count, Gore had a slim lead over Bush in the popular vote. But it's the Electoral College votes not popular support that will determine the next president of the United States.

There are 538 people in the Electoral College and it's their votes that will select the next president.

On that front, Gore is narrowly ahead, but the winner needs 270 votes. And Florida has 25 of those Electoral College votes up for grabs.

The remarkably close race has left Americans mystified as to who will be their next president.

The American television networks kept flip-flopping on what was happening in what turned out to be the key state of Florida. First, they said it was too close to call.

Then they announced Gore had won, only to swing it back as too close to call. After that, they proclaimed a Bush victory in Florida.

When the TV networks announced Bush was the winner, Gore started preparing his concession speech and phoned Bush to congratulate him later calling back to retract.

Spoiler Ralph Nader of the Green Party won three per cent of the popular vote, but not the five per cent of the vote necessary for his party to get federal funding for 2004 election.

Bush won in Gore's state of Tennessee. Gore becomes the first presidential candidate to lose his home state since George McGovern lost South Dakota in 1972.

The closest presidential race in recent history was John F. Kennedy's win over Richard Nixon in 1960 by 118,574 votes.

Personality and likability overshadowed real issues in this presidential contest. Gore was seen as having a better platform and understanding of issues such as health care that Americans care about. But Bush was considered the more likable candidate.

More than the presidency was at stake on Tuesday. The entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate faced the electorate.

The Republicans kept the majority of seats in both houses. It appears they will continue to control both the House and the Senate, though the Democrats have made gains in both places.

In one of the more notable races, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton won her fight for a New York seat in the Senate, defeating Republican Rick Lazio.