Tags: Gore's | Scorched | Earth | Policy: | Won't | Concede

Gore's Scorched Earth Policy: Won't Concede

Thursday, 23 November 2000 12:00 AM

The campaign of Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore said Thursday it would contest the vote totals from Miami-Dade County in Florida after they are certified over the weekend, whoever is leading in the statewide tally.

The final results in the state are crucial because whoever wins Florida's 25 electoral votes is almost certain to become the next president. Wednesday's announcement, however, made it clear that even the certification of that state's vote totals will not mark the end of the most closely and bitterly contested presidential race in living memory.

Earlier Thursday, the state Supreme Court had rejected an appeal from Gore's lawyers aimed at forcing the County Canvassing Board in Miami-Dade to resume the manual recount it halted Wednesday. The board had decided it would be impossible to meet a court-imposed deadline for completion by 5 p.m. Sunday.

The decision to contest the Miami-Dade vote was announced by Gore aides in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon after the state Supreme Court summarily dismissed their argument that even if the full recount could not be completed, officials had an obligation to count as many votes as they were able to by the deadline.

"We will certainly contest," said Gore legal adviser Ron Klain later, "if – as they have said they are going to – the Miami-Dade board files a return of votes that's incomplete, that leaves out thousands and thousands of ballots of people who went to the polls and voted, and have a right to have their votes counted. … We're going to contest that return. … And we'll file that here in Tallahassee, probably Monday morning."

Bush campaign officials could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

In the battle for Florida's 25 electoral votes, Bush currently leads Gore by 930 votes statewide. But the Florida Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Secretary of State Katherine Harris must refrain from certifying the state's election total until counties have an opportunity to submit amended vote tallies resulting from ongoing manual recounts. The court set a 5 p.m. Sunday deadline for completion of the recounts.

At the time of the ruling, Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties were conducting manual recounts. By Thursday evening – according to unofficial tallies – Gore had picked up 213 votes in Broward and 14 in Palm Beach, cutting Bush's lead to just over 700 votes. However, large numbers of questionable or doubtful ballots, totaling as many as 12,000 by some estimates, remained to be ruled upon in both counties.

But the Miami-Dade board decided Wednesday to call off its recount, arguing that it would not have time to finish by the Sunday deadline.

Attorneys for Gore told the Florida Supreme Court Thursday that the decision to stop recounting could cost the vice president the election: "388 votes that the machines [in Miami Dade] failed to tabulate were counted …" said their petition, "the net gain for Gore of 156 votes – which, if extrapolated, could total almost 800 votes county-wide – clearly could have a substantial impact on the outcome of the election."

But Klain insisted that the decision to contest the result in Miami-Dade was not made because of fears Gore could not win without the additional votes he had been expected to pick up in the recount.

He said that they would contest the Miami-Dade totals even if Gore has more votes than Bush after amended tallies are submitted Sunday night, making it clear that the bitter fight over the outcome of the election will not end. And he hinted that the campaign might also contest vote totals in other counties where they feel the count was incomplete.

"We expect the Bush campaign to present contests, we're going to present contests. … The important thing is to get the vote tally right. … It seems clear that there'll be legal action by both sides at that point [Sunday after 5 p.m.]," Klain said.

Meanwhile, in Washington Thursday evening, lawyers for Gore filed a response to Wednesday's petition from Texas Gov. George W. Bush to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bush had asked the Supreme Court to overrule a decision by the Florida high court that late totals from ongoing manual recounts of ballots must be included in the state's final vote tally.

Gore's 32-page submission argues that the high court should not interfere with a task that has been constitutionally delegated to the state level and questions whether the Florida Supreme Court's interpretation of state law really presents a substantial federal question for the U.S. Supreme Court to review.

The brief also contests the Bush assertion that Florida's recount process violates the U.S. Constitution. It concludes by arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court's involvement will have an adverse effect on the outcome of the election.

"This court's interference with the normal processes by which questions of state law are resolved, and indeed, with the ongoing processes by which the President and Vice President of the United State are chosen, would only diminish the legitimacy of the outcome of the election," the brief says.

Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush filed a motion Wednesday in the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the Florida high court's decision that hand-counted ballots must be included in the state's final tally of votes cast in the presidential election two weeks ago. Bush, in his petition, argued that the Florida Supreme Court's decision violated provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

His lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme court to stop what they called a "selective, capricious and standardless" vote-counting process that "now borders on anarchy" and is "turning the presidential election in Florida into a circus."

The petition also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether the state court's decision is inconsistent with a constitutional provision that electors shall be appointed by each state "in a manner as the Legislature thereof may direct."

The Bush petition must be considered by the full court, with votes of four justices required to succeed, but it was unclear Thursday night when the Supreme Court might act.

Also in Washington, Bush campaign officials said Thursday that GOP vice presidential candidate Richard Cheney was "in great spirits" and had been visited by relatives at the George Washington University medical Center, where he is recovering from a slight heart attack he suffered early Wednesday morning.

Cheney was admitted to the hospital complaining of chest pains, and underwent a procedure to correct a narrowing of a major coronary artery.

Campaign officials said that he had spent Thanksgiving with his wife Lynne, daughter Liz Cheney-Perry and son-in-law Phil Perry.

They added that the former defense secretary was "recovering well" and "could be released as early as [Friday]."

Cheney, who has a long history of heart disease – including three heart attacks between 1978 and 1988, when he underwent cardiac bypass surgery – had a small metal mesh tube, called a stent, installed to correct a narrowing in the diagonal branch of the left anterior descending coronary artery. The stent was placed using a procedure known as angioplasty, during which a small balloon is inserted into the artery and inflated to widen the narrowed blood vessel.

(Shaun Waterman in Washington contributed to this report)

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The campaign of Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore said Thursday it would contest the vote totals from Miami-Dade County in Florida after they are certified over the weekend, whoever is leading in the statewide tally. The final results in the state are crucial...
Thursday, 23 November 2000 12:00 AM
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