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Last of disputed ballots head home

They came to Tallahassee, dimpled and pregnant, in the election hubbub. They leave in a rental truck.

Without fanfare, the last of the disputed ballots brought to Tallahassee during the drawn-out presidential election dispute arrived home in a Ryder truck Thursday night.

A light rain was falling about 6 p.m. as several workers unloaded 80 boxes holding about 640,000 ballots and took them inside a Miami-Dade County building to be locked up.

In Tallahassee on Thursday morning, a few Leon County court employees loaded the boxes onto the truck under the scrutiny of a reporter, a photographer and a cameraman. A Republican Party observer joined a Miami-Dade sheriff's deputy and county employee for the trip to Miami.

The Miami-Dade and Palm Beach ballots and some voting machines had been trucked to the state capital for a potential recount last month as part of a challenge by Vice President Al Gore, who sought a court order to have disputed ballots manually recounted.

After Gore lost a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ordered the ballots sent back. Palm Beach County's ballots went home last week.

Meanwhile in Tampa on Thursday, reporters and political activists resumed examining more than 5,000 ballots that did not register a vote for president when scanned by Hillsborough County machines. The review is expected to take about 10 days.

About 10 ballots had clear punches in the presidential race.About 10 percent had no presidential votes.

"One unusual one is someone took their "I Voted' sticker and stuck it to the card; it permanently sealed up several votes," said Jim Williams, a Republican volunteer.