Courts hear Bush, Gore as hand-count battle continues

George Fairbanks

Day 10 and the next president-elect is still a mystery.
For 18 months, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush went after one another on the presidential campaign trail.
Now the two men have faded into the background. The fight continues full throttle; however, the battlefield now resides in courtrooms and at press conferences.
In many aspects, the election has amounted to a chess game, with each side reacting to the other’s courtroom moves.
Thursday, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris rejected written requests by Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to submit hand recount tallies after a Tuesday 5 p.m. deadline.
“I have decided it is my duty under Florida law to exercise my discretion in denying their (requests),” she said at a press conference.
Although the Florida Supreme Court overruled Harris’ previous decision, it left one vital element ambiguous. The court didn’t state whether or not Harris would have to add hand recount numbers to the current total — an aspect which remains completely unanswered.
Playing off the court’s ruling, Palm Beach County began its hand recounting at 6 p.m. Thursday. The recount is expected to last six days.
However, if the Florida high court rules that Harris does not have to wait to add the totals to the overall count, she could certify the state’s count Saturday when all overseas absentee ballots are counted. That action would make the recount in Palm Beach County moot.
Gore’s team of lawyers also went in front of Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis Thursday, claiming Harris abused her position as Secretary of State. The Gore representatives asked Lewis to issue an order forcing Harris to mix the hand recount tallies in with the votes which will already have been certified.
Gore attorney Dexter Douglas argued in court, “The secretary did not exercise her discretion in the manner contemplated by this court’s directive. She did not consider any facts and circumstances. She discounts even the real possibility that the manual recount could affect the outcome of the election.”
Lewis gave no indication of when he might announce his decision, one which is considered vital to many in both camps. Appeals will certainly follow, though, no matter which side loses.
Bush’s legal team will also be in court Friday to make an attempt at blocking the ongoing hand count in Broward County. A decision in that hearing is expected later Friday.
In the hearing, Circuit Court Judge Leonard Stafford has requested the Broward County Canvassing Board to explain to the court why they have the authority to move forward in their recount.
Bush has also dropped cries for a recount in Iowa. The Associated Press is reporting that out of 1.3 million votes cast, Bush trails his Democratic foe by 4,407 votes.
Pointing out Gore’s efforts in Florida, Bush campaign chairman Don Evans declared the campaign was essentially conceding Iowa in an effort to draw closure.
New Mexico, another state where the winner has been in doubt, now shows Gore with a 374-vote lead out of nearly 600,000 votes cast.
In Oregon, where close to 1.5 million ballots were cast, Gore clings to a 4,233-vote lead, according to the AP.
Final tallies of the overseas ballots are expected Friday night. Those ballots, depending on legal wrangling, may hold the key to the election.