Gore Goes to Florida Supreme Court
Election 2000 stretched into Thanksgiving Day without a president-elect Thursday as the fierce tug of war between George W. Bush and Al Gore over Florida’s crucial electoral votes finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The holiday provided no break for officials in Broward County, who resumed the laborious handcounting of questionable ballots. In Tallahassee, the Gore campaign asked the Florida Supreme Court to order Miami-Dade officials to resume and complete a full handcount of at least the 10,000 undervotes _ those with possible indented chads that machines didn’t read the first time. The court said it would try to respond later in the day.
``We have been contacting the justices,″ court spokesman Craig Waters said. ``The court is aware of the urgency of this particular matter.″
Miami-Dade suspended a full manual recount after the Florida court set a Sunday deadline for counties to report adjusted vote totals.
Gore’s brief suggested that Miami-Dade officials were intimidated by ``protests, plitical attacks and near mob-like action″ when they decided to suspend the recount, and that the court give the county an extension if a full recount could not be completed by the deadline.
The extraordinary election legal battle reached the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday night, when Bush’s lawyers asked the justices to block the Florida court’s decision allowing hand counts in three Democratic-leaning Florida counties.
Without a decision by the Supreme Court before Dec. 18, when each state’s electors cast the final vote on who next will occupy the White House, ``the consequences may well include the ascension of a president of questionable legitimacy, or a constitutional crisis,″ the appeal said.
Gore’s legal response to the Bush filing was expected later Thursday.
It’s an unpredictable, never-ending presidential race that just keeps getting more bizarre.
``I heard someone compare it to a marathon,″ said Bush’s spokeswoman, Karen Hughes. ``You think there’s a finish line and as you cross it someone says, ’Oh, by the way, it’s not over.‴
While most Americans were feasting on turkey, paper ballot chads were again on the menu for Broward County election officials. They gave up their holiday to continue counting ballots before the Sunday deadline set by the Florida Supreme Court.
Suzanne Gunzburger, a Democrat and member of the board, greeted observers in the courtroom with ``Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’re enjoying the parade as much as I am.″
Gore and Bush each planned Thanksgiving dinner with their families, in Washington and Texas, respectively.
Bush holds a 930-vote lead in Florida, not counting the results of manual recounts initiated at Gore’s behest in the three counties, where 1.7 million of the state’s 6 million ballots were cast.
Election workers in Palm Beach County took the holiday off and were to resume their count Friday. A Palm Beach County judge said officials must consider ``dimpled chad″ punchcard ballots _ those that show an indentation but no perforation.
But Judge Jorge Labarga said elections officials can reject the questionable ballots if the voters’ intent can’t be determined. Elections board chief Charles Burton said both sides would be able to make their cases Friday, but on first glance he didn’t think the ruling would change the way his board has judged ballots. Gore wants the county to loosen its standards.
Away from the courts and counting rooms, GOP vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney was reported to be ``doing great″ Thursday, a day after suffering what doctors called a very slight heart attack. He underwent a procedure Wednesday to expand a narrowed artery.
Kathleen Shanahan, Cheney’s chief of staff, said he had been examined by doctors in the morning and that his family was bringing Thanksgiving dinner with them to the hospital later in the day.
``I can tell you they didn’t find any pregnant chads,″ Cheney, 59, quipped on CNN’s ``Larry King Live″ program. He said he hoped to be discharged from the hospital in ``a day or two.″
Bush also filed suit in a Florida court asking 13 counties with heavy military populations to count overseas ballots. Hundreds of ballots, many from military outposts, were rejected last week when Democratic lawyers urged county boards to scrutinize them. Both sides believe Bush lost more votes than Gore in the rejected ballots.
The Florida Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday night directing Secretary of State Katherine Harris to include the results of the hand recounts in the state’s certified vote totals has GOP lawmakers in both Tallahassee and Washington threatening challenges to Gore electors.
Gore now has 267 electors pledged to him, Bush 246. Florida’s 25 electors would give either the 270 majority needed to be declared the winner.
Republicans, who hold majorities in both houses of Florida’s legislature as well as in Congress, talked of convening to overturn the effect of a Florida court decision they noted was made by seven judges appointed by Democratic governors.
Tom Feeney, Florida’s new House speaker, was ready to ``ensure an Electoral College representation for Florida″ _ though he also suggested on Thanksgiving eve that everyone ``relax, take a deep breath for at least 24 hours.″
In Washington, House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas said Republicans in Congress were prepared to disqualify Florida’s electors if the outcome of Florida’s recount does not appear to be legitimate.