Recount gives Bush lead by 300 votes

by George Fairbanks

The standoff continues. America is still no closer to knowing who will be the 43rd president as the election turned a week old.
Leon County, Fla., Circuit Judge Terry Lewis denied a motion Tuesday to throw out the 5 p.m. Florida deadline for reporting election results.
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris said she expected all results to be reported by the deadline. At a news conference Tuesday evening, Harris announced that Texas Gov. George W. Bush held a 300-vote lead over Vice President Al Gore based on certified returns submitted by the state’s 67 counties.
She reported that Bush received 2,910,492 votes compared to 2,910,192 for Gore. Harris also set a 2 p.m. deadline today for election officials in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties to explain the “facts and circumstances” surrounding their decision to proceed with a manual recount.
Harris said a number of overseas ballots will be counted by Friday night.
Since the hand recount was expected to take several days, the judge’s decision put a damper on hopes for a definite end to the situation.
However, Lewis allowed wiggle room for both Harris and Vice President Al Gore’s campaign. The ruling gave Harris discretion in deciding whether to accept hand recounts that come in after that deadline.
Lewis wrote: “The Secretary of State may ignore such late-filed returns, but may not do so arbitrarily.”
“I think the judge sent an unavoidable message to Gore and his people,” said University political science professor Steve Smith.
Gore’s Florida spokesman Warren Christopher considered the language of the ruling to be a victory for the Gore camp. “The court holds that she must receive and be prepared to consider those counts that are recorded after that time,” he said.
As has been the norm in the increasingly terse back-and-forth between Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, Bush’s representatives fired back quickly.
“The Bush campaign disagrees with that,” said spokesman Mandy Tucker. She further accused the Gore camp of looking for “any glimmer of light.”
The Bush campaign also announced it will seek another injunction — similar to the one denied Monday — to stop all hand counts.
Hand counts are expected to favor Gore due mainly to the reported mass confusion over ballots that resulted in wrongly marked and double-marked ballots.
But the overseas absentee ballots may still be the trump card for Bush. A large number of those ballots are thought to be coming from military personnel who tend to vote Republican.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report
George Fairbanks covers politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]