- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. The state of Florida last night certified George W. Bush as the official winner of its 25 electoral votes, counting 537 more popular votes than Al Gore.
Mr. Gore's lawyers vowed to contest the results by filing a new lawsuit today.
With the Florida votes, Mr. Bush won 271 electoral votes, one more than necessary, to Mr. Gore's 267 votes.
Mr. Bush stopped short of issuing an unequivocal claim to presidency. Almost three weeks after 100 million Americans went to the polls to select a new president, the fight is expected to drag on into December.
His spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, said the governor prefers for now to be called "Governor Bush." Nevertheless, with the certification, Mr. Bush is, until a court of competent jurisdiction says otherwise, the president-elect.
"On behalf of the state election canvassing commission, and in accordance with the laws of the state of Florida, I hereby declare Governor George W. Bush the winner of Florida's electoral votes for the president of the United States," said Secretary of State Katherine Harris.
"Our American democracy has triumphed once again, and this is a victory in which we can all take a great deal of pride and comfort. The true winner in the election is the rule of law."
Cheers immediately went up from the hundreds of Bush demonstrators gathered outside the Statehouse in Tallahassee where Mrs. Harris was speaking. They were echoed a thousand miles west, outside the Texas governor's home in Austin.
"Now that the votes are counted, it is time for the votes to count," the president-elect said last night. In his brief remarks, Mr. Bush said he had named a transition team to begin preparing to take office Jan. 20.
The Texas governor also called on the vice president to reconsider pressing forward with the post-election lawsuits.
"This has been a hard-fought election, a healthy contest for American democracy," he said from the Governor's Mansion in Austin. "The vice president's lawyers have indicated he will challenge the certified election results. I respectfully ask him to reconsider."
Mr. Bush said the fight by Mr. Gore and running mate Joseph I. Lieberman no longer has legitimacy.
"Until Florida's votes were certified, the vice president was working to represent the interests of those who supported him. I did not agree with his call for additional recounts, but I respected his decision to fight until the votes were finally certified.
"Now that they are certified, we enter a different phase. If the vice president chooses to go forward, he is filing a contest to the outcome of the election. And that is not the best way out for America."
In an effort to move on from the campaign phase to the governing phase, the Texas governor emphasized bipartisan themes that he hopes to promote in a Bush administration. He talked of the importance of education, a secure retirement for seniors, a prescription drug benefit, tax cuts and reform of Social Security and Medicare.
"I will work to unite our great land," Mr. Bush said. "All of us in this election fought for our views. Now we must live up to our principles. We must show our commitement to the common good, which is bigger than any person or any party."
He named his running mate, former Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney, as chairman of the transition effort, asking him to open an office in Washington and work with the Clinton administration on an orderly transfer of power. He also named former Transportation Secretary Andrew Card as his White House Chief of Staff.
"We look forward to a constructive working relationship throughout this transition," Mr. Bush said. "The end of an election is the beginning of a new day."
After Mrs. Harris certified the Florida returns, the television images of the jubilant crowds in Austin were quickly cut off as Mr. Lieberman stepped before cameras within minutes to dismiss the certification as meaningless.
"This evening, the secretary of state of Florida has decided to certify what by any reasonable standard is an incomplete and inaccurate count of the votes cast in the state of Florida," the Connecticut senator said from a hotel near the White House. "Vice President Gore and I have no choice but to contest these actions."
"What is at issue here is nothing less than every American's simple, sacred right to vote," he said. "How can we teach our children that every vote counts if we are not willing to make a good-faith effort to count every vote?"
Mr. Gore has said on Nov. 15 that after the recount, "I will abide by the result, I will take no legal action to challenge the result, and I will not support any legal action to challenge the result." However, he has planned since Saturday to make his own speech today to spell out his plan to contest the election.
Bush representative James A. Baker III called on the Gore campaign to give up the fight.
"I can certainly understand the pain and the frustration of losing an election so very, very narrowly, but it is time to honor the will of the people," the former secretary of state told reporters in Tallahassee and a national television audience. "It is time to let the orderly process of transitioning go forward."
Mrs. Harris declared Mr. Bush the winner after rejecting the results of an incomplete hand recount from Palm Beach County, which would have given the vice president an additional 180 votes. This would have not been enough to change the outcome. The county's canvassing board failed to finish its tally by 5 p.m., the deadline set last week by the Florida Supreme Court.
The three members of the canvassing board, all Democrats, took Thanksgiving off even though they had far more ballots to count than Broward County, which worked though the holiday and completed the counting on time.
For days, the Palm Beach board chairman, Charles Burton, had confidently asserted that the work would be completed well before yesterday's deadline. The board did not become alarmed until late Saturday, when members decided to work all night and through yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Burton asked Mrs. Harris for an extension. Gore supporters argued that she should delay certification until 9 a.m. today, the back-up deadline set by the Florida Supreme Court in the event that the secretary of state's office was not open on Sunday.
Mrs. Harris sent Mr. Burton a letter advising him that the office would be open on Sunday and that the 5 p.m. deadline would stand. Nine minutes before that deadline, the Palm Beach board sent partial results by fax to the secretary of state's office, and resumed the task of counting the remainder.
But Mrs. Harris declined to accept the partial tally because it did not include 52 of the county's 637 precincts. She instead accepted the countywide results of a machine recount, which all Florida counties undertook immediately after the Texas governor's razor-thin victory on Election Night triggered a Florida law that mandates a statewide recount.
"In accordance with the direction of the Supreme Court, my office accepted amended returns until 5 p.m. today," Mrs. Harris explained last night. "Palm Beach County has submitted a document that purports to be an amended return, but … is identified as partial manual recount that fails to comply with the provisions [of the law]."
The vice president intends to file a lawsuit this morning in Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee. The suit will contest the results in several counties, including Nassau, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.
Mr. Gore's lawsuit will charge in his lawsuit that the Palm Beach counters did not adopt a sufficiently liberal standard for counting "dimpled" ballots or those on which voters failed to clearly denote a candidate.
"The secretary of state has even refused to accept the results of the count in Palm Beach County, which means that hundreds of votes that have already been identified for Governor Bush or Vice President Gore are being discarded," Mr. Lieberman said. "In thousands of hours of work by hundreds of citizens of Florida, Republicans and Democrats and independents alike are being ignored."
The Gore team also will contest the Miami-Dade results because the county canvassing board opted against a hand recount. The county canvassing board said it had insufficient time to complete the tally by yesterday's deadline, although the Gore team maintains the board was intimidated into calling off the vote by Republican protesters.
"As you know, 388 votes were counted by the Miami-Dade canvassing board before they prematurely stopped its counting efforts," said Gore lawyer David Boies. "In addition to those 388 votes that have been counted, there are approximately 10,000 ballots that have never been counted once for the presidential election, and it is those so-called undervote ballots that we will be contesting."
The decision to contest the election contradicts Mr. Gore's promise, made on Nov. 15, that the standoff would be over in "days, not weeks."
"We should complete hand counts already begun in Palm Beach County, Dade County and Broward County to determine the true intentions of the voters based on an objective evaluation of their ballots," the vice president said then. "The results of this recount would, of course, be added to the present certified-vote total and the overseas absentee-vote total. If this happens, I will abide by the result, I will take no legal action to challenge the result, and I will not support any legal action to challenge the result."
Last night, Mr. Baker sharply criticized the vice president for pressing forward with the fight.
"Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney had more votes on Election Night," he said. "They had more votes after the automatic recount. They had more votes in the election returns submitted by all of the counties on November 14, following additional recounts.
"They had more votes after the overseas absentee ballots were counted," he said. "They had more votes under the standards first applied in selective manual recounts in predominantly Democratic counties by Democratic election boards that were oftentimes divining the intentions of the voters.
"And now, once again, they have more votes, even after the application of a very loose standard for manual recounts of dimpled ballots. The Florida Supreme Court provided 12 additional days for these manual recounts, almost tripling the statutory time period mandated by Florida's legislature."
Florida Agriculture Secretary Bob Crawford, a Democrat, called for closure.
"It's over," said Mr. Crawford, a member of the Florida state canvassing board who signed last night's certified results. "You know, Yogi Berra once said, 'It's not over till it's over.' Well, it's over, and we have a winner, and it's time to move on.

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