Tags: Bush: | 'Court | Rewrote | the | Law'

Bush: 'Court Rewrote the Law'

Wednesday, 22 November 2000 12:00 AM

Bush said the court usurped the authority of Florida election officials and improperly changed state law. Bush now plans to appeal the Florida court's decision to the United States Supreme Court on the grounds that the Florida court violated the separation of powers requirement of the U.S. Constitution.

"Make no mistake, the court rewrote the law," Bush said. "It changed the rules and it did so after the election was over. Manual recounts will continue in three selective counties, with no uniform standards, no clear direction and therefore no fair or accurate result."

Bush repeated his belief that "Secretary Cheney and I won the vote in Florida. I believe some are determined to keep counting in an effort to change the legitimate result. It is important that votes are counted accurately and it is equally important that votes be counted fairly and in a process that is seen to be fair."

Gore on Tuesday night praised the Florida high court's decision.

"The Florida Supreme Court has now spoken and we will move forward now with a full, fair and accurate count of the ballots in question. I don't know what those ballots will show. I don't know whether Governor Bush or I will prevail. But we do know that our democracy is the winner tonight."

At the opposite corner of the country, in Washington state, control of the U.S. Senate continued to hang on the outcome of the too-close-to-call race. Democratic challenger Maria Cantwell grabbed a 1,823-vote lead over GOP incumbent Slade Gorton late Tuesday – her first advantage since the election two weeks ago.

Slightly fewer than 10,000 votes remain to be counted, and the close race is certain to trigger a recount next week under state law, officials said.

If Cantwell wins, the chamber will be split 50-50 and the sitting vice president would cast the deciding vote in ties. That could create a situation where Vice President Gore could conceivably cast a deciding vote affecting the election, should it end up before the U.S. Congress in a battle over seating electors. If Gorton wins, the Republicans will retain control of the Senate by a 51-49 margin.

In Florida, Republican legislators said they would consider whether to convene a special session of the state legislature. The Republican-controlled legislature could decide to appoint a slate of electors itself, as provided by the U.S. Constitution, or move to invalidate the court's ruling by passing legislation that specifically requires the vote total as of last Saturday to be certified – a move that Democrats would be expected to again challenge in court. That total, including overseas ballots but not hand recounts conducted after Nov. 7, gave Bush a lead of 930 votes.

Meanwhile, recounts proceeded under various forms of protest or court challenge. As of Tuesday night, the manual recounts had turned up enough additional votes for Gore to unofficially shave 250 votes from Bush's statewide lead.

In Palm Beach County, a hearing on whether to count dimpled ballots – instances where voters made a depression on the ballot but did not push the paper "chad" entirely out – wound up Wednesday with Circuit Judge Jorge Labarga announcing he would rule later in the day. Canvassing board chairman Charles Burton, a Democrat, testified it was extremely difficult to determine the intent of the voters from dimpled ballots.

The Miami-Dade County elections canvassing board Wednesday voted 3-0 against holding a recount and declared the votes certified the day after the presidential elections as the county's total. They had considered counting only the 10,750 under-votes but decided against it.

Broward County wrapped up its recount except for overseas ballots, which the canvassing commission was counting.

Also at issue are several thousand absentee ballots rejected by county election officials around Florida because of no postmarks and other violations of election law. Republicans charged that Democrats made a concerted effort to block those votes, the majority of which went to Bush. They said federal law did not require postmarks on military ballots. The Gore campaign denied it had made an effort to block military ballots or any other and said it had no objection to those being added to the total.

So far, however, there has been no action to amend the total.

A hearing is set for Monday in Seminole County on a challenge by the Democrats of overseas absentee ballots that were allegedly manipulated by Republicans.

Tuesday night's state Supreme Court ruling mandated that Secretary of State Katherine Harris accept the results of manual ballot recounts in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, if those counts are turned in by 5 p.m. Sunday (or 9 a.m. Monday if Harris' office is closed Sunday). Harris would be expected to add those counts to the existing state totals – which gave George W. Bush a 930-vote lead over Vice President Al Gore – and certify the state's vote on Monday.

That certification will initiate an official "contest" period, during which any voter or candidate can challenge the certified vote. Under federal law, those contests must be completed and resolved by Dec. 12, when Florida's delegation to the Electoral College must be announced.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford, who has been a strong Bush advocate throughout the process, said Wednesday that he will ask the legislature by letter to convene a special session in early December to consider overturning the court's ruling.

The new legislature, sworn in Monday, has a strong Republican majority in both the state House and Senate. Republicans hold a 77-43 lead in the House and a 25-15 majority in the Senate. It is not scheduled to reconvene until March, and a staff member in the office of Republican state Senate President John McKay said Wednesday he had not yet made a decision on convening a special session.

Bush campaign spokesman James Baker and others have also suggested that the Bush camp might be able to appeal the Florida court's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and other parties may join after the certification of the state vote. Several legal experts in Florida said they expected that after the certification is announced on Monday, a number of legal challenges will be filed over the standards used for judging voter intent in the hand recounts.

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Bush said the court usurped the authority of Florida election officials and improperly changed state law. Bush now plans to appeal the Florida court's decision to the United States Supreme Court on the grounds that the Florida court violated the separation of powers...
Wednesday, 22 November 2000 12:00 AM
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