Florida's top court gives go-ahead to keep counting

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-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), November 16, 2000



-- (link@link.link), November 16, 2000.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's high court gave the go-ahead to manual ballot recounts in the state's disputed presidential election Thursday but left unanswered the question of whether the results could help determine the winner of the statewide vote -- and with it the presidency.

"There is no legal impediment to the recounts continuing," the court said in a case brought by Palm Beach County. Within minutes, county officials announced they would join adjacent Broward County in reviewing hundreds of thousands of ballots by hand.

In the overtime campaign between Al Gore and George W. Bush, the ruling was a victory for the vice president, who had pressed for manual recounts in four counties in hopes of overturning the Texas governor's 300-vote lead. About 2,600 overseas absentee ballots remain to be counted, but so far, at least, there is no dispute about them.

The Florida Court issued its ruling as Bush lawyers looked to a federal appeals court in Atlanta to stop the recounts altogether.

One Florida county, Volusia, completed its new tally in time to meet a 5 p.m. deadline established by the Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. She has said the state will not include any of the post-Tuesday recount figures in its official tabulation, which she intends to announce on Saturday.

In another, Miami-Dade, officials said they would meet Friday to decide whether to go ahead.

Judge Charles Burton, a member of the Palm Beach County canvassing board, told a news conference the state's high court did not appear to have ruled on the underlying question of whether the results of the handcounts must be rolled into the official vote totals.

"I would imagine that's going to be the next round of litigation," he said.

Indeed, Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said, "This is an interim status quo decision. And to our knowledge it appears that it does not address the legality of Secretary Harris' decision."

Burton said, "The order allows us to begin the recounting process. That's what we intend to do. He said it could take as long as six days to complete the laborious process.

The ballots are under 24-hour-a-day security, locked to prevent tampering, he said.

The issue has been simmering for several days but was given new urgency by Harris' ruling that ballots recounted after last Tuesday would not count. Some Democratic lawyers urged the justices to rule quickly because counties didn't know if they should keep counting or not.

Palm Beach election officials had decided earlier this week to delay their manual recount until they got a ruling.

"We certainly hope the count gets under way in Palm Beach as soon as possible, and both counties complete their votes without further delay by the secretary of state," Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said.

Separately, a state judge heard Gore's argument Thursday that Harris ought to count the late tallies in her final total. That final total will determine which candidate captures Florida's 25 Electoral College votes and thus, almost certainly, the White House.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, a Democrat, did not say when he would rule on Gore's request to indefinitely extend the deadline for counties to submit hand-tallied results.

Lewis had ruled earlier in the week that while Harris could enforce the state's one-week deadline for filing vote tallies, she had flexibility in deciding whether some counties might need more time.

Gore's lawyers came back to Lewis' court Thursday to contend that Harris had shown no flexibility and had arbitrarily decided not to count late filings.

Harris contributed to delays in getting the counts done, and then punished the counties for not finishing on time, lawyer Dexter Douglass said.

"It's like when a police officer says stop, and a line of cars backs up behind you ... and then he gives you a ticket for blocking traffic," lawyer Douglass said.

Four counties -- three of them heavily Democratic -- asked for an extension. Harris turned them down late Wednesday.

A lawyer for Harris, Joe Klock, said she acted scrupulously to follow Florida law and Lewis' order.

"Rather than violating the order of this court, we paid particular attention to following the orders of this court," he argued in court.

If Bush wins Florida he will collect enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency. His lawyers argue that Florida state law mandates that any recounts be completed and the results submitted within a week of an election.

On yet another legal front, both campaigns awaited word from a federal appeals court that has agreed to hear Bush's constitutional challenge to the recounts.

Bush wants the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the hand counts pending a ruling on whether they violate voters' rights to be treated equally under the law.

Democrats filed the first of two legal briefs in that case Thursday, with more due on Friday.

"This case is simply not appropriate for federal court intervention of any kind at this point in the proceeding," Gore's lawyers argued.

Bush lawyers asked the court to stop hand recounts and warned that Americans are witnessing the "disintegration" of the way they elect presidents.

The Bush camp says hand recounts are prone to error and treat voters differently based on where they live. The 11th Circuit also is considering a related appeal by Brevard County, Fla., Bush voters who claim their rights were violated because Brevard is not recanvassing votes by hand.

Whichever side loses in Atlanta could then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

-- text (of@the.story), November 16, 2000.

Bush lawyers asked the court to stop hand recounts...

Bush is certainly intent on trying to suppress the truth of the *true* ballot tally. Is this the kinda' guy YOU want as Prez?

-- MyBroIsGov (DaddyWasCIA@CaughtWithTheCookieJar.com), November 16, 2000.


Neither side has the slightest interest in the truth. This is like the OJ trial -- the goal isn't to find out what happened, the goal is to win the case. Reverse their situations, and each side would be doing exactly what the other is now. They are both playing the hand fate has dealt them, for all it's worth.

Hey, Gore lost two machine counts of the whole state. If he now pops up and claims that he "won" because his own custom counts of just where he wanted counted, done just the way he asked put him on top, what republican would believe this was the "real" vote? "Hey, I may have lost both impartial counts, but the 'Gore Count' says I won anyway. So I'm President!" Uh, right.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), November 16, 2000.

Sorry Flint, it may look that way from your side of the fence, but it isn't true. I want to know what the truth is about who the people voted for when all the ballots are counted... including those that were rejected by machines, which in many cases can be determined by chads and agreed upon by both parties. Once that truth is revealed, I will support the determination of who should be rightfully elected, regardless of which side. I cannot speak for everyone, but polls indicate that a majority of the people concur.

-- (let.truth@be.known), November 16, 2000.

....and counting and counting and counting and counting and counting and.................

-- (nemisis@awol.com), November 16, 2000.

If it takes 15 recounts in order to dethrone shrubby of the presidency then I will support 15 recounts. The people have spoken. Chad is being denied his right to vote.

-- Chad has Spoken! (Chad@has.Spoken!), November 16, 2000.

And "Chad" is apparently very popular:

The Hanging Chad

Coming soon to a browser near you:

Pregnant Chad

And not to be outdone, coming soon from the makers of The Hanging Chad (TM):

The Pregnant Chad

(Can Disenfranchised Chads be far behind?)

-- Patricia (PatriciaS@lasvegas.com), November 16, 2000.

Lucky for the pregnant Chad he isn't in the other womb as a nonviable tissue mass.

-- Carlos (riffraff@cybertime.net), November 17, 2000.


You're sounding more like a closet Libertarian with every passing day!

Come on out!

-- Spindoc' (spindoc_99_2000@yahoo.com), November 17, 2000.


I've heard that right-to-life voters are insisting that pregnant chads count as TWO votes.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), November 17, 2000.

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