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"I felt vindicated' by the media's Florida ballot review, Harris says

Secretary of State Katherine Harris, criticized by Democrats for her handling of the 2000 presidential election recount, said Tuesday she feels vindicated by a news media review of Florida's uncounted ballots.

The media-sponsored review of 175,000 ballots that did not register a vote last November found that George W. Bush would have prevailed even if Al Gore had won the partial recounts he sought in court. Gore wanted recounts of all votes in four predominantly Democratic counties or a statewide recount of just undervotes.

Harris, a Republican, certified Bush the winner in Florida by 537 votes, although Gore contested the election.

"I felt vindicated by knowing I followed the law (from) day one," Harris said after a speech to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's annual meeting. "I'm grateful that the study confirmed it."

She told the publishers that the review, released this week, was "important academically and for historic purposes."

The analysis of the ballots also found that Gore could have overtaken Bush by a narrow margin if there had been a statewide recount of all undervotes and overvotes _ a strategy Gore never pursued in court.

"I'm grateful that this study showed that overvotes needed to be taken into account," Harris said. "But that was not in place at the time."

Florida overhauled its voting system in the wake of the 2000 election. Besides eliminating punch card ballots, the new rules require a review of overvotes and undervotes in the event of a recount.

"We can look forward to the next election with confidence," said Harris, who is running for Congress next year.