Bush, Gore await court rulings

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2000

The Associated Press

Tuesday, November 14, 2000

In the presidential campaign that refused to die, George W. Bush and Al Gore sweated out the uncertainty of court rulings and slow-moving hand recounts Tuesday in Florida’s contested election. A late afternoon deadline loomed to stop the vote canvass, with no certainty it would be enforced.

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Top state officials issued conflicting legal opinions. Lawsuits proliferated as the post-election campaign neared the end of its first week.

After a long night of hand counting ballots, a spokesman in Volusia County said, "we need the extension" that county officials are seeking in court.

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has already said she won’t grant one, but it was up to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to rule on whether to stay her hand and permit the counting to continue after the 5 p.m. deadline.

There was confusion in Palm Beach County, where local officials voted 2-1 to stop a hand recount.

That alone threatened to spawn two legal actions. Local officials said they would ask the Florida Supreme Court to clarify which conflicting opinion is correct – that of the Democratic attorney general or Republican election officials – on whether hand counts of ballots could continue.

A senior Gore strategist said the Palm Beach canvassing board’s decision to delay the recount would be challenged immediately in Circuit Court, along with the Florida secretary of state’s ruling on which the board’s decision was based.

The two candidates remained out of public view, Bush in Texas, Gore in Washington, while a phalanx of lawyers and spinmeisters did their bidding.

One week after the nation voted, neither presidential contender had an Electoral College majority, and both needed the 25 electoral votes offered by Florida to fashion one.

Bush held a 388-vote lead in an unofficial statewide recount tally by The Associated Press, not including the unknown number of overseas absentee ballots.

Appearing on ABC’s "Good Morning America," on Tuesday, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher said talk of a statewide recount was "news to me." He added, "If the suggestion was made … it’s certainly something we’d want to look at." Several other senior Gore strategists, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the idea has not been discussed internally.