Bush Extends Lead in Florida with Overseas Votesgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread
Saturday November 18 11:49 AM ET
Bush Extends Lead in Florida with Overseas Votes
By Paul Simao
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Republican George W. Bush (news - web sites) on Saturday tripled his lead over Democrat Al Gore (news - web sites) in Florida after overseas absentee ballots were reported, but the fate of the presidential election hung on decisions next week by the state Supreme Court.
Bush, the governor of Texas, led Vice President Gore by 926 votes after all of the state's 67 counties filed results from overseas ballots, according to an unofficial count by the Associated Press, which was widely reported by the media.
But Bush could still not declare victory, nor could Florida's Republican secretary of state certify the results, due to an order from the state Supreme Court handed down on Friday freezing the situation until it could hear arguments on Monday. Both sides on Saturday were preparing to submit written arguments.
The key issue now was whether hand counts underway in Palm Beach and Broward County and about to begin in Miami-Dade County could be included in the state total. All of those recounts are expected to favor Gore.
The winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes will win the Nov. 7 presidential election.
Bush communications director Karen Hughes said Bush was ''pleased'' with the results of the overseas ballot count and called on the Supreme Court to ratify the results quickly.
``We are hopeful that once the Florida Supreme Court has heard arguments in this case, the laws of Florida will prevail and the election will be certified,'' she said.
``We continue to be concerned that the manual recount of ballots that have already been machine counted several times is flawed and subject to human error,'' Hughes said.
Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said the vice president's camp had expected Bush to benefit more from the overseas ballots.
``We actually expected Governor Bush to pick up many more votes than he has, so we're happy actually with the way the overseas ballots are turning out,'' he said.
According to MSNBC, 2,203 absentee ballots were accepted while 1,420 were rejected because they lacked proper postmarks, signatures or envelopes.
Miami-Dade County election officials met on Saturday to decide when and how to proceed with a manual recount of all 654,000 ballots cast in Florida's most populous county, which could take up to three weeks to conclude. The election board decided on Friday, by a 2-1 vote, to conduct the full manual recount.
Calm Prevails In State Despite Legal Storm
Otherwise, the state was calm following a storm of legal rulings on Friday, which ended with the Florida Supreme Court forbidding Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (news - external web site), a staunch Republican, from announcing a certified winner in the presidential race until after Monday's 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) hearing before the state high court.
Hattaway said most of the legal disputes now underway were precipitated by Harris' attempts to end the election before all the counts were completed.
``She (Harris) has set up all these obstacles to counting the votes and we have had to challenge those so that peoples' votes could be counted,'' he said.
After the state Supreme Court ruled on Friday, both camps offered highly scripted comments in a contest that has included a heavy public relations component.
``We need to get a fair and accurate count to resolve this election,'' Gore said late on Friday from his home in Washington. ``The American people want to make certain that every vote counts, and that every vote is counted, fairly and accurately.''
Bush has stayed largely out of sight, but his adviser, former Secretary of State James Baker, expressed disappointment at the state high court's ruling. However, he was optimistic the Republicans would prevail in barring manually recounted Florida votes.
``The Supreme Court ... specifically noted that we are free to return to the federal courts to present our constitutional challenges to the selective and subjective manual recount process at an appropriate time in the future,'' Baker said in nationally televised comments to the media in Tallahassee.
Both sides were expected to submit briefs to the state Supreme Court over the weekend but Harris was ordered not to certify the vote. She had planned to make the certification of a winner on Saturday, but after the court ruling, said she would follow the court's decision.
Also on Friday, a U.S. appeals court in Atlanta rejected a Republican request to halt manual vote recounting in Florida.
In another close state contest where the tally has switched back and forth between the two candidates since Election Day, New Mexico's five electoral votes appeared to be destined for Gore.
A Reuters survey of the state's individual counties showed Gore leading by 495 votes. Bush spokesman Andrew Malcolm said the campaign was studying the close New Mexico result but would not make a decision soon about requesting a recount.
-- Elector (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 18, 2000
If hand counting the ballots in one county would take 3 weeks, how long would it take to count the whole state?
-- johnn littmann (email@example.com), November 18, 2000.