Let the Chads Fall Where They May

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In Broward County, the hand recount continues...

The Florida Supreme Court wouldn't let Katherine Harris name a president, but on Saturday she let her number be known anyway: Bush by 930 votes. The governor, says his spokeswoman, is "pleased." And with that number as our new uncertified finish line, the race is on between the hand-counters and the spinners, the courts and the people's patience.

Guess what. It might just be close.

In Broward County, hand-counters have held a quarter of their 400,000-odd twice-scanned ballots up to the light, fought over dimpled chads and fallen ones, and found only 50 net votes for Gore. Their final number is expected at the end of Monday.

In Palm Beach County, the manual counting of 462,000 is just beginning while the butterfly-shaped fight over 29,000 rejected ballots — 19,000 for double-punching, 10,000 for no punch at all, who knows how many for Buchanan when they meant Gore — lies in wait as a legal wild card. (And in GOP-heavy Seminole County, other judicial madnesses — an allegation that Republican get-out-the-absentee-vote drivers did too much of voters' registration work for them. Ruling due Monday.)

Miami-Dade County will start in on its 650,000 ballots Monday morning after a nonpartisan judge on the board changed her vote Friday. Is that Gore's treasure trove? Maybe not — only just over half those votes went for the vice president, with some 290,000 going for Bush. They promise to be done by December.

The Bush camp isn't waiting around. Karen Hughes hit the podium Saturday to take down the hand counts from their rear-view mirror. She said the campaign has eyewitness accounts of hand-counter mischief — Bush votes in the Gore pile, and the like — and accused Democrats of attempting to disqualify the votes of thousands of U.S. troops abroad. But can calling hand-counting "distorting, reinventing and miscounting" make the counts go away?

Not so far, and 930 is still Al Gore's target. But wait — that one's moving again too. Republicans are accusing Democrats of playing stickler with overseas military personnel after playing sympathetic with old ladies in Palm Beach. Of 3,626 mail-in ballots received, 1,420 have been rejected because of issues with postmarks, signatures and other extra-booth variables. Can a ballot without a postmark be deemed on time? Will it be post offices, foreign and domestic, that pick our president now?

Secretary of State Harris has weighed in, urging leeway — so has the Department of Defense. (So has Norman Schwarzkopf.) But different counties are counting different ways, the spinners are out in force and the lawyers are sharpening their briefcases. A new war is brewing.

And this one's got real soldiers in it.