Florida Supreme Court allows hand recount to proceed

by George Fairbanks

The election has been out of the hands of voters since Nov. 7. Now it has become increasingly apparent that the election is also out of the hands of the candidates.
The court system and huge teams of lawyers representing both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush might very well decide the next president.
This much is known: with 270 electoral votes needed to win the office, Gore is sitting idle at 255 while his Republican counterpart is close behind at 246. Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes will be the margin that put either man over the top. Currently, through two recounts Bush has a tenuous 300-vote lead.
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ motion to block all potential and current hand recounts was denied Wednesday afternoon by the Florida Supreme Court.
Harris, in an emergency petition to the court Wednesday morning, requested that all legal issues involving the recount be taken over by Florida’s highest court.
The court’s refusal means that hand recounts can and likely will go forward in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Additionally, recently discovered ballots in Collier and Miami-Dade counties may be added to current totals.
After Harris filed her request, the Gore campaign specifically asked the state Supreme Court “whether hand counts are appropriate under Florida law and if so what is the deadline for their completions.”
David Boies, one of Gore’s lawyers, explained the petition would request the court to set a reasonable time limit for the recounts. He further added that the Gore camp expects the election dilemma, which has garnered attention worldwide, will be over within a matter of days.
Meanwhile a federal court in Atlanta agreed to hear Bush’s appeal of Monday’s lower court ruling rejecting his demand to end all manual recounts. The court is expected to announce Thursday when it will hear arguments in the fast-tracked case.
The Bush campaign argues that the manual handcounts are unconstitutional because they effectively treat certain voters differently than others depending only on where they reside.
“The whole purpose of Florida law is to ensure an accurate, not subjective, and nonpartisan tabulation of votes,” said Bush campaign attorney Mark Wallace at a press conference. “Only in the extraordinary circumstances — when there is systematic machine error — does Florida law allow a manual recount. That did not happen here.”
Warren Christopher, former Secretary of State and Gore’s key adviser in Florida, stepped up criticism of the Bush camp Wednesday, accusing the Republicans of delay tactics.
“We think that the effect of this proposal would be to delay, yet again, the effort to ascertain the views and the will of the people,” he said.