SOS petitions court to STOP manual recount : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

-- viewer (, November 15, 2000


Wednesday November 15 11:01 AM ET

Florida Asks State High Court to Suspend Recounts

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida's top election official, a prominent Republican, asked the state supreme court Wednesday to suspend the manual vote recounts that Democrats think could push Vice President Al Gore into the White House.

In an 11-page petition to Florida's highest court, Secretary of State Katherine Harris asked the justices to corral all of the litigation contesting the presidential election, making a state court in Leon County, where the state capital is located, the ``exclusive venue.''

In a separate action, Palm Beach officials also went to the Florida Supreme Court Wednesday, asking for a decision on whether manual recounts are legal.

The official Florida tally gives a lead of 300 votes to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore. The candidate who prevails in Florida will garner its 25 Electoral College votes and win the U.S. presidency.

Harris asked the justices to order Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to end manual recounts until the courts reach a final determination as to whether election results certified by all of Florida's counties Tuesday can be modified.

Harris, a Republican who campaigned for Bush and helped lead his campaign in Florida, ordered all of Florida's 67 counties to certify election results by 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) on Tuesday, a decision upheld by a Leon County circuit judge as conforming with state law. But he also said she must use her discretion in admitting any post-deadline returns, leaving open the possibility of amendments by counties that might recount.

Democrats contested the deadline, lobbying for extra time for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to recount ballots in the hope that hand recounts will produce enough extra votes for Gore to win.

``Without question, this court must make it clear that the election of the president and vice president is not a matter of local pleasure,'' the petition said. ``It is, at the least, a statewide matter of concern.

Citing at least 11 lawsuits filed in state courts, three more in federal courts and the likelihood of ``a multitude of additional lawsuits'' being filed, Harris said the Supreme Court needed to secure its jurisdiction over the Florida electoral process.

``This court must assume control over this litigation to preserve its ability to establish standards, and to protect the voters of the state,'' it said.

The petition said diverse rulings from different courts threatened to affect ``whether, how and in what fashion'' additional ballot counting should be done.

``The multiplicity of actions also creates the spectacle of a the judicial system in Florida running in myriad directions, all while the citizens of Florida and the nation await the final tally of votes to determine who will be the next president of the United States,'' the petition said. Wednesday uncertainty swirled around manual recounts. Palm Beach County, the focal point of the presidential election whirlwind, suspended its manual count of all 460,000 ballots cast in its jurisdiction pending legal actions. In Broward, elections officials were meeting to decide whether to recount by hand.

Election officials in Palm Beach County asked the Florida Supreme Court Wednesday to decide if they can recount ballots by hand.

``The dispute squarely presented by this case ... has assumed statewide and indeed national, significance because it affects the ultimate tally of votes certified by Florida...,'' the Palm Beach County petition said.

In Miami-Dade County, the local canvassing board decided by a 2-1 vote Tuesday not to conduct a full recount of all 650,000 votes after a partial recount produced only a small difference from a machine recount.

``...if county-wide manual recounts continue before this court decision whether such recounts are authorized and/or constitutional, the results will be broadcast to the nation, which will neither advance the process nor serve the interests of public policy,'' the Harris petition said.

It also criticized Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat who led Gore's campaign in Florida, for issuing an opinion contrary to Harris' own on the vote tabulation process, noting that he had declined to issue election law opinions in the past.

``It is unproductive and confusing for contradicting opinions to issue from constitutional officers,'' Harris wrote.

Gore's campaign accused Harris of creating ``legal murkiness'' and blocking the presidential vote-counting process through her petition.

Spokesman Doug Hattaway said the Democratic legal team is examining the petition and deciding what its legal response, if any, will be.

``If you look at the situation, she's created most of the legal murkiness and created all the problems for the local (election) boards. If she wanted to simplify things she should stop that and let the counts go forward without further delays,'' Hattaway said.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), November 15, 2000.

Warren Mitofsky's Florida exit polls had it right after all.

Florida voters went for Gore. It was the voting machines that were wrong when they threw out tens of thousands of ballots -- more than all of Ralph Nader's 92,000 Florida votes. And that's NOT counting the 19,000 ballots thrown out due to the voting irregularities caused by the Palm Beach County "butterfly" ballot. There were an additional 11,000 Palm Beach ballots thrown out for "under voting," i.e., no presidential vote registered on them because they were not completely punched through -- the "hanging chad problem," and the machines could not read them. With Bush leading Gore by less than 400 votes, the Bush machine is moving heaven and earth to stop the hand count of ballots that would, evidence shows, give the election to Gore.

The news media for the most part have not made it clear to the public that Palm Beach board is NOT proposing to count the "over votes," i.e., the thousands of votes that were punched twice due to the confusing design of the ballot -- despite Bush attempts to imply that they are.

Warren Mitofsky heads the Voter News Service (VNS), the exit poll operation subscribed to by most of the news media, which called Florida for Gore at 8:15 p.m. on election night based on interviews conducted with voters as they left the polls. "I've done over 3,000 elections over thirty years," the professorial Mitofsky told the Lehrer Newshour, "and have called it wrong only five times in all that time." Mitofsky, who has been taking a beating in the media, may be exonerated -- but he may not be if Bush's lawyers succeed in stopping the manual count. And they are playing for keeps.

Now we've learned the astonishing news that George W. Bush's first cousin John Ellis, a producer in the political shop at the Republican- dominated Fox News Channel, was the one who pronounced Bush the president-elect at 2:16 a.m., November 8, based on the erroneous vote count at that time. That gave Bush the advantage of seeming the dethroned but rightful king. Republicans and the media, led by Tim Russert and the partisan Chris Matthews joined Republicans to demand that Gore "concede gracefully." Yet, not until Tuesday, November 14, did the New York Times and the Washington Post spell out to their readers Ellis's questionable involvement in the naming of the next president of the United States, including being in constant communication with his cuzzes Jeb and W., Auntie Bar, and Unca George that night. The Times's story appears deep inside the paper, and in the Post, in the "Style" section. The major media are so frightened of being labeled "liberal media elites," by Republicans that they skew and modulate their reporting to avoid the charge.

James Baker, III ("the third stands for the three coverups he's handled for the Bush family so far, not including this one," writes Internet activist J.M. Prince), has been spinning madly, but even he may not be able to put this one over on the American people, despite his past love affair with the "elite" media. There's a lot of information out there. And, unlike the financial and legal details of Whitewater, this is one the public, and even the media, show evidence that they understand. Support for the process is shrinking a bit, however, mainly due to the successful PR efforts of the Bush cabal who relentlessly pound away with untruthful claims.

Baker says that manual counts are less accurate than machine counts, and hints at corruption among the Palm Beach County voting officials. But Florida election officials, and many others around the country vehemently dispute that, saying that manual recounts are often taken to resolve problems in close elections. It is well established that computer glitches give inaccurate counts for a variety of reasons, in the Florida case because of incompletely punched ballots that didn't register properly. And as Baker knows very well, the recount will take place with Democrats and Republicans and all manner of other officials monitoring it closely, as was the case with Palm Beach's earlier sample recount of under votes that showed significant differences with the machine recount.

Baker and Company hope to paint Gore as a whining poor loser by saying that Gore wants "recount after recount after recount." But the only recount taken so far was the machine recount automatically triggered by Florida election law because of the closeness of the original count. And that recount reduced Bush's lead from about 1800 votes to 327, an 85 percent drop.

Florida law allows the counties and Gore to ask for a manual count of the votes, and a sampling recount of several precincts began in Palm Beach County and two other counties on Friday. However, Bush asked the Federal District Court in Southern Florida to stop the recounts -- despite Bush's own request on Friday for a manual recount that was taken in another Florida county. (It helped Bush and Karen Hughes wouldn't say whether they would accept the votes or not.) The hypocrisy doesn't stop eminence gris Baker from trying to spin the country for the Bushes. The request to bar manual recounts was rejected by Federal Judge Donald Middlebrooks, but Florida's Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, a George W. Bush supporter who campaigned for him, ordered all voting results to be in her office by 5 p.m. Tuesday, November 14, which if upheld, would end any manual vote recount in Florida. And would, by all signs, hand the election to Bush.

Baker has said repeatedly that he "was in the room" when former President Gerald R. Ford decided he would not contest his 1976 defeat by Democrat Jimmy Carter. Carter had 297 electoral votes, however, and won the popular vote by 1,682,970 while Ford had only 240 electoral votes. Does Houston corporate lawyer Baker really think he can revise history before our very eyes. A veteran political reporter remembers, "That wasn't even much of a story at the time."

Today, Baker today is trying to fool the nation into believing that the lawsuits filed by Florida citizens were in fact filed by the Gore camp.

But there is a danger that Gore could lose the PR battle. Baker has been joined in that aspect of this political war by Ted Olson who argued and lost before Middlebrooks. Olson was the chief architect of the Machiavellian and successful conjoining of the Whitewater witchhunt and Paula Jones charges which led to Clinton's impeachment. Olson's efforts in Arkansas and in Washington were funded by the right-wing scion of the Mellon fortune, Richard Mellon Scaife, whose billions have funded every single one of the assaults on the the Clinton administration, including the ongoing effort by Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch to disbar Bill Clinton. (And Olson's wife Barbara was one of the most poisonous anti-Clinton TV commentators.)

This political drama closely resembles the uncertain playing out of Nixon's coverup of his Watergate crimes. No one knew whether the system would work in that crisis, but it did. Now we shall see if the system still works.

-- M.D. (, November 15, 2000.

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