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Associated Press

As a volunteer for George W. Bush, Maryland Republican political consultant Kevin Igoe's role in the 2000 presidential drama was to sit for hours at a time staring at tiny holes in small punch cards in Florida's Broward County.

"The work was very tiring," Igoe said Friday.

"You are trying to focus on a one-sixteenth square inch punch on a ballot that's maybe 3 1/2 inches by about 7 inches. Your eyes just go on you."

Igoe, a resident of College Park, worked from Wednesday through Saturday last week as the Republican observer on a team of counters that included two county employees and a Democratic observer. During that time, Igoe said he challenged numerous ballots that went into a pile to be considered later by the Broward County canvassers and caught minor counting errors that had favored Gore. It was a bit part in the extraordinary 2000 presidential election, but Igoe is convinced it was worth his time and effort.

"Based on the fact that we're in a situation where every vote counts, I think it was certainly important," Igoe said.

Igoe was in Broward County when the hand recount began. He and a Democratic observer sat at a table on each side of two county employees.

"They would show you the ballot. You looked at one side of the card. You flipped it around and looked at the other side," he said.

Igoe looked for holes that were only partially punched out and for other potential problems such as a pen mark or a fold in the card.

"I had a couple of ballots that looked like they had Hershey's chocolate syrup spilled on them," Igoe said.

If he or the Democratic observer thought there was a problem with a ballot, they objected.

"You don't have to justify it. You just take it and put it in the challenge pile," Igoe said.

When all the ballots for a precinct were checked, those that passed muster were divided among Gore and Bush and counted out in stacks of 25. Igoe would then take a Gore stack and hold it up to the light to make sure all the punched out holes lined up. Twice he found a Bush vote in a Gore stack. He also found two occasions when a Bush stack had 26 cards instead of 25. If he found a mistake in Bush's favor, Igoe did not point it out.

"That was the Democrat's job," he said.

Despite the high stakes, there was not a lot of tension at the tables, perhaps because there was little interaction between the Democratic and Republican observers, he said. Igoe said he did not see any occasions in which he felt there was any deliberate attempt at fraudulent vote counting. But he came away convinced there is much room for human error in a hand count.

"These ballots are clearly made to be counted by a machine," Igoe said. "Having been there and done it, you will never convince me that a hand count of half a million ballots is more accurate than a machine count."