Statewide Recount Begins in Florida
Judge Sets a 2 p.m. Sunday Deadline
By LEIGH STROPE
.c The Associated Press
(Dec. 9) - Racing the clock, election judges sifted through thousands of ballots across Florida today in a partial manual recount ordered by the state Supreme Court. George W. Bush looked to the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt, but Al Gore argued that would only delay the ultimate resolution of the nation's improbably close presidential election.
In legal papers filed at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Gore's attorneys dismissed Bush's claim that the recount would inflict ''material harm'' on the electoral process. ''This suggestion is contrary to established law, the U.S. Constitution and basic principles of democracy,'' they said.
As the recount machinery geared up, Bush was rebuffed at mid-day by the state Supreme Court, where the justices refused to halt the recount to give time for the federal courts to rule.
The legal maneuvering followed a 4-3 ruling on Friday by the state Supreme Court that ordered the partial manual recount sought by Gore, and whittled Bush's lead to an infinitesimal 193 votes out of roughly six million cast statewide.
By mid-day Saturday, Gore had gained a net four votes on his rival, based on the first, partial returns from Orange County.
The White House is the prize that will go to the winner, since neither man could claim a majority in the Electoral College without Florida's 25 votes.
The court ordered recounts of an estimated 45,000 ballots in dozens of the state's 67 counties on which machines failed to detect a vote for president - so-called undervotes.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, empowered to carry out the high court's directions, set a 2 p.m. Sunday deadline for completing the recount. That would give state officials time to certify a slate of electors by Tuesday, the date that theoretically could shield the electors from a subsequent challenge.
At the same time, though, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature hovered in the background. Lawmakers convened Friday in special session, and seemed prepared to vote by mid-week on its own slate of electors - this one loyal to Bush.
Pending the result of any recount, action by the legislature could establish rival slates of electors, and create a conflict when the Electoral College votes are counted in Congress on Jan. 6.
Both camps rushed supporters to Florida - lawyers, political supporters to help oversee the recounts and politicians to wage the obligatory public relations campaign.
New York Gov. George Pataki was on the scene for Bush; Gore countered with Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.
There are 9,000 undervotes in Miami-Dade, which gives the best chance of catapulting Gore ahead of Bush. The Republicans said the only way to avoid double counting of votes in Miami-Dade would be to conduct a full manual recount of all 600,000 ballots there.
Bush was in Texas and running mate Dick Cheney worked at the Republican transition offices in suburban Washington, D.C., as the battle raged in Florida.
''This is what happens when, for the first time in modern history, a candidate resorts to lawsuits to try to overcome the outcome of an election for president,'' said former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the head of Bush's legal team. ''It is very sad. It is sad for Florida. It is sad for the nation. And it is sad for democracy,'' he said Friday night after the state court ruled.
The opinion overturned a ruling Wednesday by Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls. Sauls immediately recused himself from the case without explanation and it was reassigned to Judge Terry Lewis. Lewis told lawyers for the two campaigns in Tallahassee that he had read the state court's ruling ''and I intend to follow it.''
Gore's lawyers called for the counting to begin immediately and asked the court to establish a procedure to count undervotes statewide, while Bush's lawyer suggested a slower approach. The judge declined to set a single standard for determine which votes count, leaving it to local officials.
''Hours make a difference here,'' said Gore lawyer David Boies, saying about 40,000 disputed ballots had to be counted. ''Minutes may make a difference.''
''It's going to be a big job,'' said Bush attorney Phil Beck, projecting that 64,000 ballots needed to be counted. ''I think the Supreme Court has created an impossible situation here.''
Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley said the Florida Supreme Court decision caught himself by surprise, but the vice president remained optimistic.
''He believes when this is finished he will be sworn in on January 20th as our president,'' Daley said.
ELECTION 2000, Day 33
Judge orders Florida's
military votes counted
Ruling: 'All federal write-in ballots
rejected for the above stated
reasons are declared valid'
By Jon E. Dougherty
© 2000 WorldNetDaily.com
In a victory for Republican George W. Bush, a U.S. district judge yesterday ordered all Florida counties to reexamine discarded military absentee ballots and to count them in final vote totals if they were properly signed and dated.
The Bush campaign had sued five Florida counties for discarding the ballots initially because they did not have a postmark when they arrived.
However, U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier, in a 28-page ruling issued Friday, ordered the canvassing boards in those counties to accept some absentee ballots that were previously rejected by local elections officials.
According to unofficial tallies, 1,547 overseas absentee ballots -- about 40 percent of the total Florida received -- were thrown out by county elections workers, mostly because they lacked either a date or a signature, or in some cases because they were not filed by registered voters.
According to the order, Collier said the ballots should not have been discarded simply because they had no postmark. Furthermore, he ruled that federal write-in ballots must be accepted, even if there was no formal request for a write-in ballot.
"It is truly an unfortunate circumstance when a citizen of the United States is denied the fundamental right to vote, whether residing in one of the several states or residing overseas," Collier wrote in his ruling. "It is even more unfortunate when a vote cast by a member of the armed forces serving abroad is rejected for no legitimate or compelling reason."
"It is unfortunate that Florida will accept an overseas absentee ballot with an unsworn, handwritten date, yet questions the oath, under penalty of perjury, of many of its service men and women," Collier said.
Ed Fleming, an attorney for the GOP, said he now expects rejected absentee ballots from all 67 Florida counties to be shipped to the capital of Tallahassee to be counted.
"The ruling could actually be the critical ruling," Fleming told local ABC affiliate WEAR-TV. Referring to the state Supreme Court's ruling yesterday mandating hand recounts, Fleming added: "For instance, if in Miami-Dade, they show 600 net votes for Gore, meaning that Al Gore takes the lead, we believe there's hundreds of military ballots out there that will have to be counted under the mandate of this order."
In his ruling, Collier also recommended that the Florida legislature -- which met in special session yesterday to begin consideration of a new set of electors for Bush -- change state statutes on absentee ballots to more closely match federal laws.
Collier also rejected a Bush campaign request to declare more than 600 overseas ballots -- most from military personnel -- valid because they were undated.
"Because Florida accepts overseas absentee ballots beyond election day, it must provide a way to assess that the vote was timely cast," explained Collier.
The judge was specific in his instructions to local canvassing boards regarding their ballot responsibilities.
"The Court reminds the local canvassing boards ... that their job is to accept votes, not reject them," he wrote. "Election officials must diligently count every vote that substantially complies with a state's election law absent any indication of fraud."
Collier also noted that "there are some very real conflicts between federal and state law that, if not interpreted correctly, could disenfranchise the men and women who fight for the very principle that our democratic society is based -- the fundamental right to vote."
Florida Supreme Court Justice Opinions
Saturday, December 9 7:39 AM SGT
Florida chief justice offers scathing dissent in recount case
TALLAHASSEE, Florida, Dec 8 (AFP) -
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Wells filed a scathing dissent in Friday's ruling allowing further recounts in the presidential vote dispute, arguing the move will result in "confusion and disorder."
Wells, who was in the minority in the 4-3 decision, wrote, "I could not more strongly disagree with (the majority) decision to reverse the trial court and prolong this judicial process."
Two other justices signed a separate dissenting opinion.
Wells said the majority ruling "cannot withstand the scrutiny which will certainly immediately follow under the United States Constitution."
"I have a deep and abiding concern that the prolonging of judicial process in this counting contest propels this country and this state into an unprecedented and unnecessary constitutional crisis," Wells wrote.
"I have to conclude that there is a real and present likelihood that this constitutional crisis will do substantial damage to our country, our state, and to this court as an institution."
He argued that the courts should exercise restraint in election matters "because the health of our democracy depends on elections being decided by voters, not by judges."
Wells maintained that a challenge can be upheld only if there is "some irregularity or inaccuracy in the balloting or counting."
"Laying aside the constitutional infirmities of this court's action today, what the majority actually creates is an overflowing basket of practical problems," Wells wrote.
"I must regrettably conclude that the majority ignores the magnitude of its decision. The court fails to make provision for: (1) the qualifications of those who count; (2) what standards are used in the count; are they the same standards for all ballots statewide or a continuation of the county-by-county constitutionally suspect standards; (3) who is to observe the count; (4) how one objects to the count; (5) who is entitled to object to the count; (6) whether a person may object to a counter; (7) the possible lack of personnel to conduct the count; (8) the fatigue of the counters; and (9) the effect of the differing intra-county standards.
"This case has reached the point where finality must take precedence over
continued judicial process. I agree with a quote from John Allen Paulos, a
professor of mathematics at Temple University, when he wrote that, "the margin of error in this election is far greater than the margin of victory, no matter who wins. Further judicial process will not change this self-evident fact and will only result in confusion and disorder."
Saturday December 9 11:54 AM ET
Experts Say Gore May Not Gain From Florida Recount
By David Lawsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At first glance, the Florida Supreme Court's decision to order a manual recount of thousands of ballots looked like good news for Al Gore, but a fresh analysis of voting data on Saturday showed that the Democrat actually may lose ground to Republican George W. Bush.
``Gore may not be clearly advantaged by the statewide recount of the undercounted ballots,'' Harvard University professor of government Jasjeet Sekhon told a group of fellow academics in an e-mail after crunching numbers into the wee hours of Saturday morning. A copy of the e-mail was provided to Reuters.
Sekhon is one of a group of government and statistical experts from Harvard, the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University and Northwestern University who have closely followed voting irregularities in Florida's 67 counties since the Nov. 7 election.
Sekhon and others analyzed data and distributed it via e-mail in light of a decision on Friday by the Florida Supreme Court requiring a statewide recount of ``undervotes,'' which are votes that machines were unable to count but a person may be able to discern the voter's intention.
The latest conclusion: It's anybody's ballgame, although the pattern suggests Bush may gain more votes than Gore.
Data from Duval county, calculated earlier, showed that more Gore ballots were spoiled or undercounted than Bush ballots. But data from Palm Beach and Broward Counties, the only two that have done full hand recounts, shows that when ballots were examined by hand Bush gained more votes than Gore.
Gore's Chances Less Than 50 Percent
A recount has never looked good for Gore, according to this group of experts.
``It's been the situation so far ... that if Gore gets his recount the chances of him winning are still less than 50 percent,'' Sekhon said in an interview on Friday before crunching the numbers again.
Before the latest analysis, the group's work showed that 49 counties had an unusual number of spoiled ballots because they used obsolete punch-card machines or poorly made optical scanners.
One of those counties -- Broward -- counted votes by hand and had its totals included by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris on Nov. 26 when she certified Bush as the winner of the presidential election in Florida.
A second county, Palm Beach, had its hand count added to the statewide total on Friday on orders of the Florida Supreme Court. A third county, Miami-Dade, partially completed a hand count last month and its votes, too, were added to the total by the state high court.
The addition of Palm Beach and the partial vote from Miami-Dade sliced Bush's certified lead of 537 votes down to just 154 out of nearly 6 million cast.
But that leaves 47 counties including the rest of Miami-Dade with an unusual number of ``undervotes'' due to flawed voting equipment, according to the experts.
The Miami Herald also reported on Saturday that its own precinct-by-precinct statistical analysis suggests that Gore may not reap enough votes across the state to overcome Bush's lead.
The Herald said that by a conservative calculation, the recount ordered by the state Supreme Court could boost Bush's lead by about 40 votes. In addition, if disputed ``dimpled'' ballots were counted as votes, Bush could win the state by 278 votes, the Herald added.
Machines Have Limitations
Whatever happens, the professors believe that the count should be done because it is the fair thing to do.
``It's a close election, and in a close election we know that the machines have limitations and miss obvious votes,'' said Henry Brady, professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley and director of that university's Survey Research Center.
``It gets down to a fundamental thing about human intelligence versus machine intelligence,'' he said. ``Humans are much better at matching patterns than machines.''
The same group of academics served as consultants for a group of voters in Palm Beach county who contended in court that the county's ``butterfly ballot,'' whose design was deemed confusing by some voters, caused them to spoil their ballots or accidentally vote for the wrong candidate. The court case was rejected.
Harvard's Sekhon said their methodology showed that Gore lost a minimum of 4,500 net votes because of those problems in Palm Beach county, and possibly as many as 9,400. Either total would have given Gore the state's 25 electoral votes, enough to clinch the presidency.
Justice Kennedy Considers Florida Supreme Court Stay
Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000 - 9:00 a.m. EST
Bush campaign lawyers have requested that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy issue a stay of today's Florida Supreme Court ruling, which has thrown the presidential election into chaos.
Kennedy has responsibility for handling emergency requests of the U.S. Supreme Court for cases arising within the jurisdiction of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, which includes Florida in its jurisdiction.
Should this request for a temporary injunction be granted, all counting of ballots in Florida would be halted.
There are two ways this issue could be considered by the nation's high court: Kennedy could sign the order himself or he could consult with all of the justices.
A decision could be issued at any time.
The Bush campaign has also appealed directly to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that body to now reconsider its case requesting that hand counts be stopped due to lack of uniform standards which violate equal protection concerns. The court had recently declined to proceed because the issue, at that time, was not deemed ripe. That it is now 'ready' for adjudication at this time would seem more than justified.
Briefs totaling more than 130 pages have been filed overnight in the 11th Circuit case. Gore has until 7 a.m. Saturday to respond. The 12 federal judges comprising this appellate court are expected to issue some indication of their intent to proceed sometime today.
Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000 1:39 a.m. EST
Kemp Calls Court Action 'Coup Attempt'
Jack Kemp, former U.S. congressman and co-director of Empower America, reacted to yesterday's Florida Supreme Court ruling as a "judicial coup d'etat."
In a release issued later yesterday, Kemp said the court's action was "unprecedented in modern history."
"In totally ignoring the election laws put in place by the Florida legislature and disregarding the canons of judicial interpretation, the Florida Supreme Court has created a crisis that will have to be resolved either by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida legislature or the U.S. Congress."
Kemp said his comments so far had been ones of caution and reserve.
But the capricious Florida Supreme Court ruling indicated that "the rule of law is in danger of being replaced by sheer judicial politics," Kemp said.
Gore, Democrats Continue Coup Attempt
Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000
In the hours after Al Gore began his contest of this election, NewsMax.com warned that he was setting into motion nothing less than a constitutional crisis.
We predicted Gore and his party’s leadership would do whatever steps were necessary to steal this election.
So far the facts have proven this to be true. The Florida Supreme Court ruling Friday demonstrates just how bold Gore’s extreme supporters can be.
One must remember that the present crisis that confronts us did not take place in a vacuum.
During the past eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration viewed our cherished Constitution as nothing better than a paper place mat at a greasy spoon diner.
With the complicity of the media and the acquiescence of many Republicans, Clinton-Gore got away with everything and anything: Waco, Vince Foster, Travelgate, IRS witch-hunts, Chinagate (the giveaway of America’s nuclear secrets to China for campaign cash). All of these scandals seemed to culminate in the president’s impeachment.
Yes, the Lewinsky matter was the least important of all the scandals, and yes, Clinton committed felonies in that brouhaha. But the Lewinsky case demonstrated that even with evidence staring the country in the face, Clinton-Gore could do as they pleased.
When congressmen were openly blackmailed (remember Larry Flynt’s ads), some of us wondered what else this gang would try.
We now know that they believe they can steal a presidential election in broad daylight.
During the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, many Democratic and Republican senators – Byrd of West Virginia and Specter of Pennsylvania come to mind – admitted that Clinton committed a felony by perjuring himself. Still, they opted to ignore the law.
So today it should have come as no surprise that the partisan and activist Florida Supreme Court voted to help Al Gore overturn the results.
No matter that the U.S. Supreme Court just repudiated this court for attempting to rewrite the state law of Florida.
Even the Florida chief justice, Charles Wells, admitted in a dissenting opinion today that the court was not only ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court action, but was ignoring its own illegal deadline it had set.
As Wells wrote, it was simply "plain error" for the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court, because counties had not met "the deadline set by this Court that recounts be completed and certified by November 26, 2000."
Wells continued, "I conclude that this not only changes a rule after November 7, 2000, but it also changes a rule this Court made on November 26, 2000. As I stated at the outset, I conclude that this contest simply must end."
The media plays this as nothing more than a "he said, she said" story to try to obfuscate the fact that the Democrats are attempting, as the Wall Street Journal described it, a bloodless "coup d’etat."
The Democrats have been emboldened and have little to lose.
If Bush wins the presidency, the Democrats will, for the first time in 70 years, have no control over either the Congress or presidency.
While Gore fights for the Oval Office, it is also clear that the Democratic leadership backs him for two reasons.
First, they truly believe Gore may be able to steal the presidency.
Second, even if they don’t win the presidency, they are seeking to undermine Bush’s standing and thereby weaken his ability to govern.
The Democrats believe that creating this rancor will help energize their base and make it possible for them to recapture the House and Senate in 2002.
For the moment, the Gore people still believe they can capture the presidency. As they try to do this, watch for the following in the next few days:
• Major media spin will be unrelenting, suggesting that Bush’s "win" is still open to question.
• Expect tremendous media pressure on Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida State Legislature not to certify Bush’s electors.
• Gore backers lost today in Seminole and Martin counties. They are appealing to the Florida Supreme Court. The court could easily reverse these decisions to help Gore.
• Bob Beckel, a Democratic operative, has made no bones about his desire to tamper with the Electoral College. Expect underhanded efforts to get Republican electors to switch or abstain.
Bush is still ahead, largely because the Republican base has been energized like never before. By going to the streets, Bush’s team has helped to sway public opinion. These efforts must continue.
NewsMax.com has been deluged with e-mails from our readers asking how they can voice their outrage to Gore, the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Legislature, among others.
It is true that politicians don’t take e-mails and phone calls as seriously as letters.
NewsMax.com has created a special service for our readers to send mailgrams, which we call PriorityGrams.
This service allows you to send your views via first class mail in a very powerful format.
Because of the urgent situation, all PriorityGrams sent to the Florida Legislature and members of the Florida Supreme Court will be hand-delivered within 24 hours.
As the Florida Legislature comes under attack by the major media, they need to know you support them as they decide the presidency.
At the same time, the Florida Supreme Court needs to hear from you about their ruling today and your opinion on their upcoming ruling on the cases in Seminole and Martin counties.
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