|NMU||FLORIDA||Freedom of Information||Dec 15, 2000|
Media organizations prepare for count of Miami-Dade ballots
- Several media outlets have attempted to develop a system to examine the controversial ballots from the presidential election once they are returned from the court in Tallahassee.
At a hearing in Miami on Dec. 14, county officials agreed to release the ballots from the presidential election for media inspection upon their return from Tallahassee, but they also voiced concern about the inspection process.
Five media organizations have collaborated in an attempt to persuade Miami-Dade county officials to agree to the process. The Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Time, Inc. and New York Daily News are developing a tracking system for inspecting the disputed ballots. The media outlets hope an agreed-upon procedure will be in place before the ballots return to south Florida from the state capital. No definitive guidelines have been determined following the hearing, according to Sanford Bohrer, an attorney representing the media organizations. One preliminary option would use a standardized form that each reporter would fill out upon inspection of a ballot, another utilized a photograph of each individual ballot, Bohrer said.
“We have to be pretty quick because the Supreme Court just told the clerk of the court to return the records to the trial court, so we are only perhaps a quick order tomorrow morning away from that court saying send up the Ryder trucks, we’ll send the stuff back to you,” he said. “My guess is that these ballots could be back by Tuesday or Wednesday. And by next Thursday the county could be ready to produce them for inspection.”
The Miami Herald representatives estimated it has enough man-power to complete the count in three days. Bohrer is investigating how to involve other media organizations in a coordinated inspection process.
The Miami Herald sued Miami-Dade County after its Nov. 27 request to see the ballots was denied because the ballots were involved in ongoing litigation. Circuit Judge Alan Postman ordered the county to produce the ballots before Dec. 14 or prove why it could not.
(Knight Ridder v. Finefrock; Media Counsel: Sanford Bohrer, Holland & Knight, Miami) — CC
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press