- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Al Gore yesterday contested the certification of Florida's election results by filing a lawsuit that insists he would be nine votes ahead of George W. Bush if the state would throw out scores of military ballots.
Mr. Gore's renewal of his call for disqualifying the votes of soldiers and sailors stationed overseas returns his campaign to an earlier stance that had proved a public relations disaster.
"In order to come up with that number, you would have to disregard several hundred absentee ballots from overseas," a reporter pointed out to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who was dispatched to Tallahassee by the Gore camp yesterday. "Is now the Gore team … saying, 'No, those votes ought not count'?"
"Well, your question I think is symptomatic of the situation we're facing right now," Mr. Daschle replied. "You have votes coming in from all directions. And I don't think anybody has an absolute count."
Rather than directly answer the question about disqualifying military ballots, Mr. Daschle emphasized the vice president's desire to count votes that were not part of Sunday's certification.
"We know that in Miami-Dade, the vice president picked up 157," he said. "We know that in Palm Beach, he picked up 215 that were not in the certified account."
But there is not much time for the Democrats to prove their case in court. Florida law allows Mr. Bush up to 10 days to respond to the Gore lawsuit and then more time could be taken up by a trial.
Because federal law requires Florida to select its 25 electors by Dec. 12, which is only two weeks away, Gore lawyer David Boies sought a dramatic acceleration of the court schedule. He wanted the trial to begin as early as this afternoon and no later than tomorrow.
But Leon County Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls yesterday gave the Bush team until Friday to file a reply to the Gore suit and indicated there might be an additional period for discovery. Resolution seemed unlikely until at least early next week.
Even if the court were to rule in Mr. Gore's favor, that schedule would leave only about a week in which to force Miami-Dade County to hand-count hundreds of thousands of ballots. Although Gore lawyers said they would be satisfied if the county tallied only 10,750 disputed ballots, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has been unwilling to accept the results of partial hand counts.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawyers continued to push for the entire county of Palm Beach to return to the polls and vote all over again, arguing that a "butterfly ballot" confused would-be Gore voters.
Originally filed by six Palm Beach voters, the lawsuit asserts as many as 22,000 people either voted mistakenly for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan or invalidated their ballots by double-punching them.
Unable to convince a circuit court to order a revote, the lawyers took their case to a state appeals court, which sent the matter directly to the Florida Supreme Court yesterday. But one of the three appeals court judges issued a dissenting opinion that argued against a revote.
"A revote only in Palm Beach County, not in the entire state, would be unprecedented," wrote Judge J. Klein of the 4th District Court of Appeals. "In addition, a revote for the whole state, which was not requested in this case, would be contrary to federal law."
The Florida Supreme Court did not decide whether to accept the case but asked for briefs to be filed by today.
At the same time, lawyers for both the Gore and Bush teams put the finishing touches on briefs that were due today at the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear arguments Friday on whether the Florida Supreme Court overstepped its bounds by extending the deadline for hand recounts.
Bush lawyers argue the lower court violated a federal law that prohibits changing election rules after votes are cast.
The nation's highest court yesterday rejected a demand from news agencies to allow cameras in the courtroom for Friday's oral arguments.
Also yesterday, Gov. Jeb Bush signed the official papers that certified Mr. Bush's Florida victory and the 25 electors who will vote for him when the Electoral College meets next month to elect the next president.
Jeb Bush, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight during the political and legal battle over Florida's election, quietly signed the papers Sunday night and immediately sent them off to Washington after Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified that the Texas governor won the state.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the Florida House and Senate continued to work on contingency preparations yesterday under their authority to name a slate of Republican electors if Mr. Gore's legal challenges to overturn the election prove successful.
A state House-Senate committee formed last week to examine the Legislature's legal and constitutional prerogatives was scheduled to hold its first meeting today.
But most of the attention was focused on Leon County Circuit Court, where Mr. Gore filed his lawsuit to contest the election results. Florida law lets a candidate protest election results prior to certification and then contest them afterward.
Gore lawyers argued that it was illegal for Mrs. Harris to certify Florida's statewide results, which gave Mr. Bush a 537-vote lead, because she did not include votes the vice president insists should have been counted in several counties. These include:
Miami-Dade County, which called off its hand recount when officials realized they would not complete it by 5 p.m. Sunday, the deadline set by the Florida Supreme Court. Gore officials argued in yesterday's lawsuit that noisy Republican demonstrators intimidated the county officials into scrapping the tally.
Palm Beach County, where officials failed to meet the Sunday deadline and attempted to submit partial results just before the deadline. The partial results would have given Mr. Gore a net gain of 180 votes.
Nassau County, where Gore officials object to the canvassing board's decision to disregard the results of a machine recount. Because officials could not account for hundreds of ballots in the machine recount, they opted to revert to their original count, costing Mr. Gore at least 50 votes in the process.
Throughout the state, Gore lawyers object to those canvassing boards that counted previously rejected absentee ballots from overseas. Mr. Bush picked up more than 100 votes from these ballots, many of which were cast by service members serving abroad.
Donald Lambro contributed to this report.

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