TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ A divided Florida Supreme Court ordered an immediate recount of thousands of ballots on Friday in the state's contested presidential election, handing Al Gore a victory and sending George W. Bush to the U.S. Supreme Court with a hurry-up appeal.

Bush's request, filed late Friday night, asked for a temporary delay, or stay, in implementing the Florida court's ruling. His appeal argued the Florida Supreme Court ruling was unconstitutional and said the electoral process could suffer ``material harm'' if the recounts go forward.

``A stay is further justified by the extraordinary importance of the outcome of this case and the extremely time-sensitive nature,'' Bush's lawyers wrote.

A delay, the Republican request said, ``is the only means of protecting the integrity of the federal electoral process while ensuring proper and orderly access to the judicial system.''