Tags: Bush | Certified | Florida | Winner; | Gore | Campaign | Will

Bush Certified Florida Winner; Gore Campaign Will Fight On

Sunday, 26 November 2000 12:00 AM

Republicans said the presidential election was over, but the campaign of Democrat Vice President Al Gore said it will go to court Monday to contest the results from at least three Florida counties.

The certified state total announced by Secretary of State Katherine Harris: Bush, 2,912,790; Gore, 2,912,253. Harris and the two other members of the state elections board each signed five copies of the certification before announcing the results.

Harris rejected a partial hand recount from Palm Beach County "that purports to be an amended return." She said it failed to comply with Florida law and instead accepted the original machine count.

Palm Beach County was unable to finish its recount by 5 p.m. and had requested an extension from Harris Sunday afternoon. She rejected it, but election officials continued counting and finished about two hours later. The final hand recount tally from Palm Beach County was not immediately known. By midafternoon, Gore had picked up about 50 votes in the county.

Minutes after Harris's announcement, Democrat vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, in Washington, criticized the refusal to include the Palm Beach County recount and said the Gore campaign would contest the certification.

"How can we teach our children that every vote counts if we are not willing to make a good-faith effort to count every vote?" Lieberman said, speaking from the Hay Adams Hotel across from the White House.

"Because of our belief in the importance of these fundamental American principles, Vice President Gore and I have no choice but to contest these actions as provided under Florida law and in accord with the decision of the Florida Supreme Court."

The Bush campaign's point man in Florida, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, said that Bush had won the election even after the recounts in Florida that Democrats had asked for, and called on Gore not to drag out the process by contesting the result in the courts. He said that America had never had a presidential election decided by a contest in court, and that the contests proposed by the Gore campaign "could not be justified."

"At some point there must be closure," said Baker. "At some point the law must prevail and the lawyers must go home. We have reached that point. It is time to honor the will of the people. It is time to let the orderly process of transitioning go forward."

But Baker said that the GOP would continue with its challenge to the recount process in the U.S. Supreme Court: "We have no assurance that the other side will stop; in fact, their lawyers have said they intend to contest the election result, so obviously we cannot dismiss our request to the Supreme Court."

He also indicated that the Bush campaign might contest the election results themselves: "We would not file contest of the election result except as a defensive measure, perhaps as a counter claim in any contest that the other side might file."

Baker deflected questions about whether Gov. Bush now considered himself president-elect: "I would expect that you would hear from Gov. Bush this evening, and based on what he says you can make that judgment."

Florida's 25 electoral votes are enough to give either Gore or Bush the Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. Electors are appointed by state authorities Dec. 12 and meet Dec. 18 in their state capitals to cast their votes, which are counted in a joint session of Congress Jan. 6.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ordered Harris to accept manual recounts up to 5 p.m. Sunday, or 9 a.m. Monday if her office was not open. Harris did in fact open the office to receive results, meaning that without an extension the 5 p.m. deadline applied.

Before signing the certification, Harris said she disagreed with the ruling extending the certification deadline to Sunday. That extension, which allowed manual recounts to be included in the certified total, is the subject of a Bush campaign appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that will be heard Friday.

County Judge Charles Burton, chairman of the Palm Beach County canvassing board, said the members had written Harris to request an additional 16 hours.

The letter to Harris said in part: "The Palm Beach County canvassing board respectfully requests your assistance in ensuring that the most accurate results of the 2000 presidential election are submitted for certification

"Your consideration of our request to extend the deadline for final submission of this hand count until Monday, Nov. 27 at 9 a.m. would be greatly appreciated, as we know you are interested in counting all votes as accurately as possible."

Burton said about 14,500 questionable ballots had been set aside by the counters, and it is "an extraordinary and unprecedented challenge for the canvassing board to review each of the ballots."

The Gore camp has said it will challenge the results from Palm Beach County because in its hand count it excluded many incompletely punched ballots. The Democrats are also challenging Nassau and Miami-Dade counties' refusals to conduct a hand count despite discovering discrepancies from the machine count in a hand-count sampling.

In Seminole County, a lawsuit brought by a Democrat lawyer seeks to have all absentee ballots in the heavily Republican county excluded. The suit alleges that the county election supervisor allowed a GOP party worker to use her office for 10 days to correct flawed applications for absentee ballots from thousands of Republican supporters.

In the end, only Broward County managed to conduct a complete manual recount by the extended deadline. With relief Broward County canvassing board Chairman Judge Robert Lee announced early Sunday that his job and that of dozens of vote examiners was finished. "George Bush gained 579 votes, Al Gore gained 1,142 votes – that's a net increase for Al Gore of 563 votes. That's the results that we intend at this time to certify." Broward separately had also certified 20 net Gore votes from among disputed absentee ballots.

Bush's campaign announced Saturday evening it had filed suits against Hillsborough, Okaloosa, Pasco and Polk counties in an effort to force local election officials to reconsider invalidated military ballots cast in the election. They expected to file a suit against Orange County later Sunday.

Bush campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said the campaign chose the counties as targets because officials had publicly "stated they would not take any action [on counting the military ballots] without a court order."

Tucker said the campaign also wants the canvassing boards to reconsider ballots and include those that have no postmark, are undated and/or have no corresponding signature on file with the election boards.

The campaign had filed actions against 12 counties on Thursday to force them to reconsider 1,420 military ballots disqualified throughout the state because they arrived with either no postmark, a smudged postmark or a misplaced or missing signature.

But in a surprise move on Saturday, attorneys for Bush withdrew the suits filed in Leon County Circuit Court after some counties voluntarily agreed to re-examine their vote, yet still threatened legal action against those they considered having a "recalcitrant posture."

Post-certification challenges from either camp would come under a provision of Florida law titled "Contest of elections." Under the vague language of the law, either campaign or any voter could file suit in "circuit court" when it appears that the actual victor has not been declared the winner in the final vote certification. Any new state court action would be a different case from the one to be argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, and would be entitled to its own hearings and appeals process.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether the new deadline for final tallies set by the Florida Supreme Court – in order to allow the hand counts to be factored in - violates an 1887 federal law.

The 113-year-old law, enacted by Congress to prevent abuses in the post-Civil War South, has never been used, but requires any state to settle disputes over the appointment of presidential electors under "laws enacted prior to" election day.

A second issue before the court is whether the Florida court overstepped into territory controlled by the legislature, which the Constitution says is empowered to set the rules for picking electors.

(C) 2000 UPI. All Rights Reserved.

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Republicans said the presidential election was over, but the campaign of Democrat Vice President Al Gore said it will go to court Monday to contest the results from at least three Florida counties. The certified state total announced by Secretary of State Katherine...
Sunday, 26 November 2000 12:00 AM
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