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Bush to Gore: Recount ‘Arbitrary’

November 16, 2000

In dueling televised appearances, Al Gore made a surprise proposal for a statewide hand recount of Florida’s 6 million ballots Wednesday and George W. Bush swiftly rejected it, calling the effort under way in several Democratic-leaning counties ``arbitrary and chaotic.″

With their futures tied up in a knot of legal battles, the presidential rivals called for a quick end to the contested election but disagreed on how to do it.

``Our goal,″ the vice president said at his official mansion, ``must be what is right for America.″

Their evening addresses capped a whirlwind day of legal activity that gave both weary camps a taste of victory and defeat _ but no clear road to completion.

The Florida Supreme Court opened the action by rejecting a request from Secretary of State Katherine Harris to block any manual recounts ``pending final resolution″ of whether the process was proper under Florida law. Bush’s camp had intervened in the case, seeking to consolidate the tangle of legal petitions under one state court.

The high court’s ruling, though far from the final word, gave Democrats new vigor in their ballot-by-ballot bid to trim Bush’s 300-vote lead in the state. Officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties hunkered down for an excruciating hand count of 1 million ballots.

Even as they did, the Republican secretary of state set the stage for another legal clash by announcing she would not accept the hand-counted ballots, calling the counties’ reasoning ``insufficient.″ Harris vowed to certify the Florida election results Saturday without the hand recount totals.

Gore’s lawyers said they will challenged her decision in state circuit court Thursday.

The fight careening out of Florida, a federal appeals court in Atlanta agreed to consider Bush’s bid to shut down the recounts. The Texas governor lost a round on that question in federal court earlier this week in Miami.

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