Fla. high court hands Gore a crucial victory


Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A sharply divided Florida Supreme Court ordered manual recounts to begin immediately today in the state’s contested presidential election, breathing new life into Al Gore’s quest for the White House.

George W. Bush’s lawyers weighed their options for an appeal.

“Because time is of the essence, the recount shall commence immediately,” the court’s spokesman, Craig Waters, said in announcing the 4-3 opinion.

There was no immediate word on how many ballots were covered by the order.

By its opinion, the court also added 383 votes to Gore’s total from recounts already undertaken, apparently whittling Bush’s previous 537-vote margin.

“Two strikes, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and Gore gets a hit,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, one of the Democrats who had said in advance that an adverse ruling could spell the end of the vice president’s hopes.

Stung by the split opinion, Republican lawyers reviewed their options. One possibility was a two-pronged counterattack – asking a federal judge or the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency order to stop the recounting while asking the U.S. Supreme Court for a final ruling settling the election. Bush himself had suggested earlier that he would appeal an adverse ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court ruled as the Republican-controlled Legislature met in special session, ready to assure that Bush got the state’s disputed 25 electoral votes regardless of the outcome of the various court cases.

The ruling came little more than an hour after two trial court judges rejected a bid by Democrats to throw out 25,000 absentee ballots in Seminole and Martin Counties. The twin rulings were serious setbacks for the vice president, even though he was not a formal party to either lawsuit.

Circuit Court Judges Nikki Clark and Terry Lewis ruled jointly, saying that despite irregularities in ballot applications – the basis of the Democrats’ challenge – “neither the sanctity of the ballots nor the integrity of the elections has been compromised.”

In legal terms, the state high court’s ruling overturned an opinion issued Monday by Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls. Sauls had rejected Gore’s bid for selective manual recounts in a few counties.

It ordered a far broader recount than Gore had sought, however, saying that so-called undervotes – meaning ballots on which there was no vote for president – must be recounted in all 67 Florida counties “where such a recount has not yet occurred.

Recounts were completed earlier in Volusia and Broward counties, and the results incorporated into the results that Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified. A partial recount was completed in Miami-Dade County before the local canvassing board suspended its work. In addition, the Palm Beach County canvassing board completed a recount, but submitted the results after the deadline that Harris had been enforcing.

While the court ordered the recount to begin immediately, it was not clear where or how that would happen.

Waters, relaying the court’s opinion, said the votes were to be counted using the following standard:

“In tabulating what constitutes a legal vote, the standard to be used is the one provided by the legislature. A vote shall be counted where there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter.”

Across the street from the Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee, members of the Republican-controlled Legislature gathered in historic special session, and the GOP leadership pushed legislation assuring the prized electoral votes would go to Bush.

“The Legislature is convened for the sole and exclusive purpose” of making sure the state’s electoral votes count when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 18, read John Phelps, the clerk of the House, speaking before a packed chamber and a nationwide television audience. The legislation itself listed the electors by name – the ones picked by Bush when GOP Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified him the statewide winner last month by 537 votes.

The speaker of the Florida House, Tom Feeney, acknowledged he has received advice from Bush intermediaries but denied the campaign was calling the shots. Such allegations from Democrats were “out of touch” with reality, he said.

But the Bush campaign said its lawyers “provided legal interpretations when asked by legislators, and no one could be surprised by that. Nor would anyone be surprised if such contacts occurred between Democratic legislators and Gore lawyers,” said a spokesman, Tucker Eskew.

In a last-minute legal maneuver, Bush’s lawyers filed an unusual clarification with the Supreme Court, telling the seven justices they don’t have authority to grant Gore the manual recounts he seeks.

“This Court does not have authority to grant such relief under Florida law or federal law,” the Bush petition said, reversing comments Bush attorney Barry Richard made Thursday in oral arguments that the high court had “limited” jurisdiction.

Gore has been attempting to overturn Bush’s certified win in the courts, and win the manual recounting of thousands of ballots he says could reverse his rival’s lead. The winner of the state’s 25 electoral votes stands to take office in January as the nation’s 43rd president.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the Cascade Range and Olympic Mountains on Wednesday. (Provided by the National Weather Service)
Red flag warning issued for eastern Snohomish County through Wednesday

The National Weather Service says critical fire conditions are either imminent or occurring now.

Traffic camera shows Everett and Marysville firefighters on the scene of a crane accident along northbound I-5 near milepost 198 Tuesday evening. (Provided photo)
Two workers fall from I-5 bridge Tuesday evening

The workers were in a “cherry picker” type bucket when it tipped over. One man fell 60 feet into the water and was taken to the hospital.

Everett motorcyclist dies on Highway 99

Alexis Hernandez Cerritos was riding south on Highway 99 when a car driving north turned in front of him.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett’s rival minimum wage proposals: Second group submits signatures

Supporters from Raise the Wage Responsibly said their proposal strikes a balance between employees and employers.

Components of downtown Marysville’s new stormwater treatment facility can be seen from the walkway on Thursday, July 11, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. While much of the treatment and filtering happens out of sight, visitors of the area will see troughs, left, spilling water out onto the surrounding landscape, which soaks up the filtered water before it makes its way into a nearby lagoon. Overflow grates, right, help alleviate flooding during heavy rains. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
At new Marysville water treatment facility, plants filter out pollutants

City officials expect the $14 million project to clean 110 million gallons of water every year, reducing harm to wildlife.

Everett man sentenced to jail for threatening to bomb car dealership

The sentencing of Michael Harsh comes over two years after he threatened to bomb an Evergreen girls basketball game.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.