AP-- Bush to Gore: Recount 'Arbitrary'

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Bush to Gore: Recount 'Arbitrary'

Updated 11:18 PM ET November 15, 2000

By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer

In dueling televised appearances, Al Gore made a surprise proposal for a statewide hand recount of Florida's 6 million ballots Wednesday and George W. Bush swiftly rejected it, calling the effort under way in several Democratic-leaning counties "arbitrary and chaotic."

With their futures tied up in a knot of legal battles, the presidential rivals called for a quick end to the contested election but disagreed on how to do it.

"Our goal," the vice president said at his official mansion, "must be what is right for America."

Their evening addresses capped a whirlwind day of legal activity that gave both weary camps a taste of victory and defeat - but no clear road to completion.

The Florida Supreme Court opened the action by rejecting a request from Secretary of State Katherine Harris to block any manual recounts "pending final resolution" of whether the process was proper under Florida law. Bush's camp had intervened in the case, seeking to consolidate the tangle of legal petitions under one state court.

The high court's ruling, though far from the final word, gave Democrats new vigor in their ballot-by-ballot bid to trim Bush's 300-vote lead in the state. Officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties hunkered down for an excruciating hand count of 1 million ballots.

Even as they did, the Republican secretary of state set the stage for another legal clash by announcing she would not accept the hand-counted ballots, calling the counties' reasoning "insufficient." Harris vowed to certify the Florida election results Saturday without the hand recount totals.

Gore's lawyers said they will challenged her decision in state circuit court Thursday.

The fight careening out of Florida, a federal appeals court in Atlanta agreed to consider Bush's bid to shut down the recounts. The Texas governor lost a round on that question in federal court earlier this week in Miami.

In a 182-page brief, Bush's attorneys argued that granting the injunction to stop the hand counting in Florida would "not substantially injure the rights of the defendants. ... and will clearly advance the public interest."

The appeal seeks to stop the hand counting in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties in Florida.

There was no word from the court when it would hear the appeal.

There were many legal issues left unresolved. Gore's lawyers had asked the high court justices to uphold the validity of the manual recounts and extend the deadline for completing them. There was no immediate answer on those questions from the Florida Supreme Court, whose members were all chosen by Democratic governors.

Republicans accused Gore of using the courts in an attempt to overtake Bush by manual recounts after the state had already reviewed 6 million ballots by machine.

"Five days ago ... I cautioned that there would be no reasonable end to the election process in Florida if it should dissolve into multiple recounts and court cases," said James A. Baker III, a former secretary of state working for Bush. "I'm afraid to say that's exactly what's happened."

Warren Christopher, the former secretary of state overseeing the case for Gore, pledged to do what he must to "protect the rights of the vice president" - holding open the prospect of a protracted legal fight that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the latest public relations salvo, Gore pledged that, if Republicans allow manual recounts to continue in Florida's Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, he would accept without challenge whatever tally those recounts should yield - added to certified results from 64 other counties and overseas absentee ballots due by midnight Friday.

"I will take no legal action to challenge the result, and I will not support any legal actin to challenge the result," Gore said, offering to drop the threat of major Democratic litigation that has hung over the proceedings for days.

He suggested a meeting with Bush before state officials certify the results "not to negotiate, but to improve the tone of our dialogue in America." And he said both candidates should meet again after a winner is declared "to close ranks as Americans."

Democrats said precious time was wasting while Republicans tied up the recount drive in court.

"They stop and start and stop. And the clock is running out," Gore campaign chairman William Daley said of the recounts, then added in a slap at the Republican secretary of state: "Her clock anyhow."

Their closely fought campaign ended more than a week ago with Bush holding a 1,784-vote lead in Florida's election. State law required a machine-tabulated recount, which trimmed Bush's lead to 300 votes. Both sides expect Bush will win a majority of the overseas ballots.

That makes Gore's effort to recount votes in Democratic-leaning counties critical.

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll showed a small majority of voters said they are willing to wait for the recounts if the choice is between naming a victor now or rechecking the ballots. But seven out of 10 said a winner should be declared once the overseas ballots are added to the totals this weekend.

By a 2-1 margin, voters told pollsters they thought Bush would be the next president.

Senior Gore advisers say the presidency hinges on whether they can show progress in the next two or three days. They need vote gains to persuade courts to keep the recounts going and, more importantly, to survive the court of public opinion.

In private, Gore's team grudgingly admired Harris' decision to appeal to the state Supreme Court, saying the action effectively froze their recount drives for critical hours. Publicly, lawyer David Boies said, "We think it would be very unreasonable to ask people to stop those recounts, because the game here may be - I hope not - but the game may be, delay those recounts as long as possible and then bring down the curtain."

Republican vice president Dick Cheney was yanking at the curtain in Austin, where he thanked campaign workers and told them the weekend's vote totals "will wrap it up."

Gore holds a popular-vote lead of about 230,000, and has a narrow lead in electoral votes - with Florida the prize that would put either man over the 270 votes required to win the White House.

In a telephone interview, Daley said the counties need more time to complete their recounts. He said officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties seem eager to get to work. "Everybody is trying to speed this up. Whether or not there is a deadline Friday, they figure if they can go crazy maybe they can get some (recounts) in" before the deadline, he told the AP.

Even the vice president's advisers conceded his options would dwindle this weekend if he couldn't claim a lead - or dramatic progress toward one - with the hand recounts.

Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill gave Daley a thumbs-up Wednesday, but said privately afterward that they will reassess at the end of the week.

A Democratic official who has spoken with Gore within the past 48 hours said party officials were afraid the vice president's side in the dispute wasn't being presented well to voters. Campaign officials are increasingly frustrated that the hand recount issue is being cast as an unusual procedure when in fact it is not so rare, said the official.

Thrust into the glare of the nation's spotlight, county officials in Florida have wavered, bowed to pressure and bickered - leaving the situation fluid and, at times, indecipherable.

Miami-Dade County, the state's largest and perhaps Gore's best hope of picking up votes, voted against a full recount Tuesday night. The vice president was taking that case to court.

In Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale, officials reversed course Wednesday and granted Gore's request for a full recount of its 588,000 presidential election ballots. After the first 7,000, Gore had picked up three votes.

Palm Beach County delayed its recount until the state Supreme Court spoke on what it could count. Officials there planned to begin counting Thursday.

It was chaos bordering on the comical in some areas.

In West Palm Beach, a judge gave the vote counters wide latitude to decide whether a ballot with "dimpled chad" could be counted or not. Republicans accused county commissioner Carol Roberts of fiddling with the ballots to help Gore. Just as Harris has been labeled a partisan by Democrats from Washington, Roberts abruptly found herself the focus of attacks from the GOP.

-- (in@the.news), November 15, 2000


http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20001115/ts/election_leadall_dc_162.ht ml

Wednesday November 15 11:05 PM ET

Gore Offers Statewide Recount, Bush Refuses

By Carol Giacomo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Democrat Al Gore (news - web sites) called on Wednesday for a statewide manual recount of Florida's disputed vote in the U.S. presidential election but Republican George W. Bush (news - web sites) rejected the proposal, saying it would not be fair or accurate.

Gore and Bush, both trying to look stately and presidential before television cameras, battled for the heart of American public opinion as their lawyers fought pitched legal battles over the vote-counting in Florida that will determine which of them becomes the next president.

Gore offered to either accept the verdict of Florida once hand recounts are completed in the heavily Democratic counties of Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, or to accept the result of a statewide recount.

Both Bush, the Texas governor who currently leads in Florida by a mere 300 votes out of nearly 6 million cast, and Gore, who leads the national popular vote, need Florida's 25 electoral votes to get the 270 votes needed to become the next president.

``This is a time to respect every voter and every vote,'' Gore told reporters at his Washington residence with vice presidential running mate Joe Lieberman (news - web sites) at his side. ``This is a time to honor the true will of the people. So our goal must be what is right for America.''

Hours later, Bush appeared at the Texas governor's mansion to explain why Gore's proposal was ``neither fair nor accurate.''

``This process must be accurate. As Americans have watched on television, they have seen for themselves that manual counting, with individuals making subjective decisions about voter intent, introduces human error and politics into the vote-counting process,'' Bush said.

In direct defiance of the Gore camp, the Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (news - external web site), a Republican, announced in Tallahassee she would refuse to accept the results of a manual recount of ballots in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Harris, Florida's top election official, said the three counties had given ``insufficient'' reasons for seeking to amend their vote tallies with the results of the manual recount.

She said the current tally -- which shows Bush ahead -- would be certified as official on Saturday after taking account of the last absentee ballots from overseas that must be received by midnight Friday (0500 GMT) to be counted.

Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley called her announcement ''rash and precipitous'' and vowed to challenge it in a Florida state court.

``I think it is an act that indicates that there is a desire to try to shut this down too quickly,'' he said.

In his statement, Gore also proposed a one-on-one meeting with Bush as soon as possible ``not to negotiate, but to improve the tone of our dialogue in America.''

Bush said he would be happy to meet Gore -- after the election winner is decided.

``The outcome of the election will not be the result of deals or efforts to mold public opinion. The outcome of this election will be determined by the votes and by the law,'' said Bush.

And not to be outdone by Gore, he said he joined the vice president ``in pledging that regardless of who wins, after this weekend's final count, we will work together to unite our great county.''

Gore made his offers after Baker accused the Democrats of seeking delays until they could find a way to change the results. Baker, who put the number of lawsuits filed by the Gore side at 12, said the litigation had ``run amok''.

``By now the Gore campaign strategy I think is crystal clear: Keep conducting selected recounts, keep filing lawsuits, keep making false charges that divert attention and keep refusing to accept any deadline until the results change,'' Baker said.

But Gore argued a recount would not delay unduly a final decision. He said if there were no further interruptions to the process, the statewide count could be completed within seven days of starting.

Gore's team scored a victory when the Supreme Court of Florida, seven justices all appointed by Democrats, refused an application by Harris to stop recounts.

Bush's legal team had joined Harris in asking the court to order counties to halt manual recounts and consolidate all election lawsuits in one Tallahassee court. They were also fighting the recount on the federal appellate level in Atlanta.

Gore's legal advisers, who say vote-counting machines had undercounted the vice president's vote and only human examination of each ballot could fix the problem, responded by asking the state Supreme Court to take charge of the recount issue.

With eight days elapsed since the nation voted and still no president- elect, the fight for the White House came down to legal punch and counterpunch with new developments almost hourly.

On the federal court level, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta agreed on Wednesday to hear another Republican bid to end manual recounts. The full 12-judge court will hear appeals of lower court opinions that there was no federal jurisdiction involved in the Florida election.

Underscoring the constantly changing political landscape, two Democratic counties at the center of the hand-counting controversy in Florida changed positions.

Palm Beach County had planned to start the hand recount early on Wednesday but then decided to wait for a judicial ruling. Broward County officials decided to go ahead with a recount after earlier this week voting not to.

Election officials in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties met a 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) deadline set by Harris for counties to provide written explanations why they needed to continue to count ballots. They argued the hand counting had turned up evidence of initial miscounts.

``Clearly the results of the manual recount could affect the outcome of this very close presidential election if the manual recounts in the other precincts also vary in this degree from the machine count,'' wrote Palm Beach's canvassing board chairman, Judge Charles Burton Burton.

An official state count of reports submitted from all 67 counties showed on Tuesday that Bush had 2,910,492 votes to 2,910,192 for Gore.

-- (in@the.news), November 16, 2000.

The Bush team has blown this big time. Over 55 percent of Americans want the recount. Citrus heiress Harris looks arrogant and unfair, and she'll lose in the Supreme Court. She's in over her heaad. Bush should have accepted Gore's offer to recount the whole state. It was the only chance to gain extra votes. He's blown it. The law will side with Gore on this one.

-- mark my words (it's@over.bush), November 16, 2000.

The law will side with Gore on this one.

Maybe. Maybe not. We'll just have to wait and see.

-- (in@the.news), November 16, 2000.

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