- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2000

"Once the votes have been legally cast, they have to be counted." So Vice President Al Gore told CBS News anchor Dan Rather recently. Unfortunately, Mr. Gore's high-minded civic activism stops at a courthouse door in Tallahassee, where a rather bizarre trial begins this morning. If Mr. Gore has his way, the case could lead to the disenfranchisement of more than 15,000 absentee voters from Florida's Seminole County. A similar trial involving nearly 10,000 absentee voters in Martin County is also set to begin shortly.
For weeks Mr. Gore publicly distanced himself from these frivolous lawsuits for the obvious reason that the remedy sought by their Democratic plaintiffs would have resulted in the disenfranchisement of more than 25,000 voters, which conflicted with Mr. Gore's call to count all the votes. Since more than 16,000 of those votes were cast for Mr. Bush, disqualifying all of them would tip the election in Mr. Gore's favor.
But in the wake of the devastating legal defeat Mr. Gore suffered Monday afternoon when Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls rejected every single claim the vice president made in his lawsuit contesting George W. Bush's Florida victory Mr. Gore is relying on a new set of "talking points." He and his running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, spent Monday afternoon burning up the phone lines across the nation, appealing to Democratic governors, U.S. senators, U.S. representatives and mayors to hold their calls for concession because Mr. Gore believes he can still prevail in the lawsuits contesting all the absentee votes cast in Seminole and Martin counties.
In the Seminole County case, a Gore contributor has filed a lawsuit protesting the fact that Republican operatives added the voter identification number to about 2,100 absentee ballot applications not the ballots in the Seminole County election canvassing office. The identification number is required by state law, but a printing contractor hired by the Republicans had accidentally left the number off. Elections supervisor Sandar Goard says she would have allowed Democrats to add identification numbers to their absentee applications, but the Democratic form had no such flaw. The ballots themselves were subsequently legally cast by the voters who were totally unaware of the snafu on their applications. A similar problem occurred in Martin County.
The plaintiffs say that the addition of the identification numbers to several thousand applications has somehow tainted the entire pool of 25,000 absentee votes. Nobody has alleged fraud or coercion regarding the casting of the votes. Nobody alleges ballot tampering or improper voter influence. Nevertheless, plaintiffs are demanding that every absentee voter be disenfranchised.
This gambit appears to be too much even for several high-level Florida Democrats. "I would literally keel over if it happens," Jon Austman, first vice chairman for Florida's Democratic Party told Investor's Business Daily. "Here you are in good faith saying, 'All I want to do is vote like any other American,' " attorney John French, the former leader of the Florida Democratic Party, told CBS News Friday. "And are we going to throw their vote out because their political party or their vendor screwed up?" Mr. Gore left no doubt yesterday afternoon that that is precisely what he intends to do. It wouldn't be the first time the vice president has substituted political expedience for principle. If he uses these cases to win the presidency, it surely won't be the last.

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