Tags: Supreme | Court | Agrees | Hear | Bush | Petition

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Bush Petition

Friday, 24 November 2000 12:00 AM

The court said it would hear arguments next Friday on the Bush petition, which contends the Florida high court improperly changed a law enacted by the state legislature when it extended the deadline for vote certification to this Sunday. The Florida Supreme Court in its order allowed the final state total to include hand recounts from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Miami-Dade later called off its recount, saying it could not meet the deadline. The Gore campaign said it would contest the Miami-Dade decision after Sunday's vote certification.

The U.S. Supreme Court ordered briefs to be filed by next Tuesday and counter-arguments by next Thursday, and told both sides to keep their filings to 50 pages or less. The case is scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. Friday.

The high court agreed to consider two questions raised by Bush:

The Supreme Court in its order granting review also asked both sides to prepare arguments on the question of what would be the consequences if the court were to find that the Florida Supreme Court had not complied with federal law requiring states to resolve controversies about appointment of electors under laws enacted before election day.

In Tallahassee, Republican Tom Feeney, Florida House speaker-elect, applauded the decision and said the state legislature would seek to join the Bush suit to assert its rights.

"The legislature has a direct delegation of authority under the United States Constitution" to decide how to pick the state's Electoral College delegation, he said.

"In our view the action of the Supreme Court of Florida changed the rules and standards of the State Legislature of Florida prior to the election. He also said the legislature is creating a special oversight committee to watch out for the rights of Florida voters and hired lawyers to help make sure they were protected.

He said the committee would not take any action until Tuesday at the earliest.

The Supreme Court's agreement to hear the Bush appeal capped another day of rapid-fire developments.

In Washington, Republican vice presidential candidate Richard Cheney was released from George Washington University Hospital after suffering what doctors called "a very slight heart attack" Wednesday. Cheney underwent angioplasty to insert a stent in a partially blocked artery, and his doctors said he was expected to make a quick recovery.

Also on Friday, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman called for an end to what he described as Republican demonstrations in Florida, charging they are orchestrated by GOP public relations men and intended to intimidate elections officials.

Lieberman said the demonstrations may have been the reason the canvassing board in Miami-Dade County decided to end their recount of ballots and let the results certified after the election stand, possibly depriving Gore of gains from a recount in the Democratic-leaning county.

"I am deeply disappointed by reports of orchestrated demonstrations Wednesday inside a government building in Miami-Dade County not just to express a point of view but to disrupt and halt the counting of ballots, " Lieberman said.

Many of the same demonstrators were seen Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Democrats said, protesting in front of the Broward County Court House where election officials are conducting another recount.

On Friday, hand-recounts favored by Democrats whittled slowly away at Bush's lead in Florida, while Republicans asked a circuit court judge to force election officials to count hundreds of overseas absentee military ballots expected to add to Bush's total.

At stake are the few hundred popular votes that will determine whether Bush or Democratic Vice President Al Gore will claim Florida's 25 Electoral College votes - and almost certainly become the 43rd U.S. president. Electors meet in state capitals to cast their votes Dec. 18, and whoever wins Florida will have more than the 270 needed to win.

Bush led in Florida by 930 votes, but hand recounts under way in Palm Beach and Broward counties were adding net votes to the Gore column.

Going into the day, Palm Beach County had recorded a net gain of 14 votes for Bush, but there were 8,000 contested ballots remaining to be examined by the three-member canvassing board. Broward County reported a net gain of 225 ballots for Gore with more than 1,000 ballots left to be reviewed. Adding in the net 211 votes for Gore, the unofficial Bush advantage was 719 votes.

In Leon County Circuit Court Friday afternoon, Republicans pushed their claim that Democrats deliberately sought to cast aside ballots from overseas military personnel.

At issue were about 1,420 absentee ballots rejected by Florida county canvassers for late postmarks and missing signatures. Officials said most of the overseas absentee ballots were from military personnel.

Friday morning, top figures in the Republican Party Friday accused Gore of orchestrating a campaign to disenfranchise the votes of overseas military personnel.

"I was bothered to arrive in this state and learn that a presidential campaign was actually behind this scheme to target our military and confuse the canvassing boards in 67 counties in the state of Florida," said Indiana Rep. Steve Buyer at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Buyer was flanked by Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, and former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who was seriously wounded during World War II.

Speaking for military personnel, Dole told a cheering crowd that while military personnel are not entitled to special rights, they do have the right to vote.

"We're throwing out military votes on technicalities, while we're over here divining votes on what someone intended to do when we have no idea what they intended to do," Dole said.

Democrats had no immediate reaction but have said there was no organized plan to reject military ballots and that they should be counted with or without postmarks.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party officials were working to explain their Thanksgiving Day announcement that they expected to contest the results certified Sunday - no matter who is declared winner then. David Boies, chief lawyer for the Gore campaign, said Republicans already had filed contests in several counties and the Democrats were within their rights to do the same. He counseled patience and said that all challenges would be over by Dec. 12, the date that states must certify their electors.

The Gore campaign suffered a blow Thanksgiving when the Florida Supreme Court refused to order Miami-Dade County officials to resume a hand count of presidential election ballots in the Democratic-leaning county. Gore had asked the state's highest court in an emergency appeal to restart ballot counting in the county, which they said was being stalled by local officials.

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The court said it would hear arguments next Friday on the Bush petition, which contends the Florida high court improperly changed a law enacted by the state legislature when it extended the deadline for vote certification to this Sunday. The Florida Supreme Court in its...
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Friday, 24 November 2000 12:00 AM
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