Racing the clock, election judges sifted through thousands of ballots across Florida on Saturday 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 added.

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.