TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s highest court kept the presidential race on the legal fast track Tuesday, agreeing to speedily hear Al Gore’s appeal of a ruling awarding George W. Bush the state’s 25 electoral votes.
The arguments were scheduled for Thursday morning, the latest legal twist among many in the month since the presidential election left Bush leading by a slim margin among 6 million votes cast in the pivotal state.
Gore wants to reverse a devastating defeat Monday, when Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls rejected every argument Gore presented for why a state-certified 537-vote victory for Bush should be nullified.
Sauls concluded Gore had not proven the results of the election would change even if his legal arguments won out and the court conducted hand recounts of 14,000 disputed ballots in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters said the justices had allotted an hour Thursday for oral arguments, 30 minutes apiece. On a technical point of what issues would be argued, he said lawyers would discuss whether the court should decide the case as well as the issues.
The court could still reject the case, uphold Sauls’ ruling or reverse all or part of it, returning it to the lower court with further instructions.
Joseph Lieberman, Gore’s vice presidential candidate, said the Florida Supreme Court would be "the final arbiter" of the election dispute.
Gore’s appeal to the Florida Supreme Court was one of two election-related cases before the high court. The other, returned Monday from the U.S. Supreme Court, sought clarification of the reasoning behind the Florida court’s extension of the manual recounting deadline. Written arguments were submitted by both sides Tuesday.
On other legal fronts:
He said the Democratic votes were lost while Republicans were unfairly allowed to correct absentee ballot applications. A trial was set in the case for toWday after a lawsuit accused Republicans of tampering with ballot application forms by adding voter identification numbers.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this story.
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