Tags: Judge | Allows | Exclusion | Hand | Recount

Judge Allows Exclusion of Hand Recount

Friday, 17 November 2000 12:00 AM

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said Harris had complied with his earlier ruling that upheld a deadline for 5 p.m. Tuesday but that required her not to arbitrarily reject hand-counted ballots submitted afterward. Harris said she considered the issues carefully before deciding not to accept them, and the judge said that was all she had to do.

At stake are Florida's 25 electoral votes, which now seem certain to decide whether Bush, the GOP candidate, or Democrat Vice President Al Gore becomes the 43rd president.

Nationally, the unofficial electoral vote stood at 255 for Gore and 246 for Bush, with 270 required to win the election. The counts are projected based on the unofficial popular vote counts. The Electoral College casts its official ballots Dec. 18.

Apart from Florida, New Mexico - with five Electoral College votes - and Oregon -- with seven - are still in doubt. Gore has a small lead in Oregon, and New Mexico appears to have swung back to his column by a margin of a few hundred votes after the discovery of a clerical error.

The Bush campaign announced Thursday it would not ask for a recount in Iowa, where Gore's margin is less than than 5,000 votes, making Florida the key to a Bush victory.

The ruling said: "On the limited evidence presented it appears that the secretary has exercised her reasoned judgement to determine what relevant factors and criteria should be considered, applied them to the facts and circumstances pertinent to the individual counties involved and made her decision. My order requires nothing more. Accordingly it is ordered and adjudged that the plaintiff's motion is denied."

In an hourlong hearing before Lewis Thursday, the Gore campaign argued that Harris violated the earlier ruling.

Friday, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, who is monitoring the recounts for Bush, hailed the decision.

"I have just spoken with Gov. Bush and Secretary (Dick) Cheney. They are understandably pleased with judge Lewis's opinion," Baker said.

"The court applied the rule of law objectively and fairly, upholding, as the judge's opinion states, the 'reasoned judgment' of the secretary of state's and the state elections commission's certification of results on Nov. 15," Baker said.

Democrats planned an appeal to the state Supreme Court seemed almost certain.

The high court had issued a separate order Thursday allowing two counties to conduct full manual recounts of ballots from the presidential election last week.

Bush holds a 300-vote lead among nearly 6 million votes cast in Florida. Harris said the election would be certified after overseas absentee ballots are counted after midnight Friday.

"We now look forward to the prompt counting and reporting of the limited number of uncounted overseas absentee ballots so the process of achieving a final result of the election in Florida is not subject to further delay," Baker said.

Also Friday:

Officials in Broward County said the recount so far had produced a net gain for Gore of 21 votes, including the sample count conducted on Monday. So far, counters have completed 90 out of 609 precincts, or about 15 percent of the total, officials said.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International.

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Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said Harris had complied with his earlier ruling that upheld a deadline for 5 p.m. Tuesday but that required her not to arbitrarily reject hand-counted ballots submitted afterward. Harris said she considered the issues carefully before deciding not...
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Friday, 17 November 2000 12:00 AM
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