In the court’s hands

By RON FOURNIER

Associated Press

George W. Bush and Al Gore marshaled their legal forces for a climactic state Supreme Court showdown todayc, with GOP attorneys saying it would be unjust "to keep the state and the nation on hold" during interminable recounts. Democrats said the truth can’t be rushed, as jangled nerves and protests punctuated another painstaking day of south Florida vote counting.

With the long-count presidential election stretching into a third agonizing week, the court strategy of both camps reached critical mass: Republicans hope to stop manual recounts that threaten Bush’s 930-vote lead out of 6 million cast in make-or-break Florida; Democrat Gore wants the work to grind away, under rules most favorable to him, though his aides fretted Sunday over how little progress they’ve made in the slow-moving recounts.

The candidates kept a low profile as their attorneys prepared for the momentous Supreme Court hearing today. Each went for a jog and to church.

Calling these "extraordinary times," Bush’s attorneys argued in court papers that Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris has the authority to certify election results without accepting hand counts. They also said allowing the recounts to continue in scattered Democratic-leaning counties would violate the constitutional rights of voters elsewhere.

"The selective manual recounts authorize county boards to engage in arbitrary and unequal counting of votes, and result in the disparate treatment of Florida voters based solely on where within the state they happen to reside," Bush argued.

In a separate brief, Harris tried to distance herself from both Bush and Gore, even as Democrats pointed to her GOP presidential campaigning as a sign of bias. All seven Supreme Court justices were appointed by Democratic governors.

"It is clear, that for the Democrats and the Republicans, the object is to win, and that is understandable," Harris’ brief said. "The stakes are very high."

In its paper reply, the Gore team asked the court to set a generous standard for officials to "ascertain the electorate’s will" when ballots were punched in the disputed presidential election. They said local election officials in close cases can "determine the voter’s intent" by closely examining the ballot.

Twelve days after America voted, the weekend tally of overseas absentee ballots lengthened Bush’s tiny 300-vote lead to a still-minuscule 930.

With recounts under way in two Democratic-leaning counties and a third set to begin, Gore had a net gain of 96 votes, which if allowed would cut Bush’s lead to 834. On Sunday, both sides objected to county vote-counting procedures.

Gore narrowly won the national popular vote and holds a slight edge over Bush in the all-important Electoral College tally, though neither man can reach the 270 electoral votes needed without Florida’s 25.

The identity of America’s 43rd president rests with the courts and in the ballot-counting rooms of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where more than 1.5 million ballots were cast, a majority from Democrats.

"It seems to be that they’re doing everything they can to stop the recounting of votes because they’re slightly ahead and they fear that after the recounting they won’t be," said Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, who conducted a rare tour of all five major news shows Sunday.

Bush’s camp continued its assault on the Gore-backed recounts, depicting the process as riddled with human error and Democratic bias.

Gore’s advisers were frustrated Sunday by small recount gains, particularly in Palm Beach County, where the election tempest first began when Democratic voters complained of a confusing ballot.

The vice president’s team accused the local elections board of imposing a too-strict standard for approving ballots.

In one Palm Beach precinct, Democrats said Gore picked up 11 votes in a sample recount conducted more than a week ago. When the same precinct was counted Saturday, Gore had lost 10 votes from the first tally. The board had actually counted 202 precincts, but only released totals where there were no disputed ballots.

A senior Gore aide said the vice president will have a difficult time overtaking Bush unless Palm Beach eases its threshold for accepting ballots.

In Broward County, Gore had a net gain of 108 votes when officials recessed the count for the night about 11 p.m. Less than a third of the 609 precincts remain to be counted. Republicans accused the elections board of bowing to political pressure and reversing a decision to throw out ballots that did not have two corners poked out of the "chad" — the tiny pieces of paper in a punch-card ballot.

"The Gore campaign now wants to lower the bar because it needs more votes," said Ed Pozzuoli, chairman of the county GOP.

Democrats said the ruling allows voters’ intentions to be noted. "These chad marks didn’t get on the ballot by osmosis," said Democratic attorney Charles Lichtman.

Miami-Dade County began mechanically sorting ballots by machine in preparation for a hand count. Bush’s attorneys protested the action, saying it would alter the delicate ballots, but a circuit judge gave the go-ahead.

Tempers flared as the count dragged on. A fracas broke out late Saturday night in Palm Beach when a counter accidentally put a ballot in the wrong stack.

"You would have thought she’d killed 14 people," County Judge Charles Burton said Sunday. He urged monitors from both political camps to make their points "in a nice way."

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

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

Brian Hennessy leads a demonstration of equipment used in fire training at the Maritime Institute in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘Ready to go full sail’: Maritime Institute embarks at Port of Everett

The training facility offers Coast Guard-certified courses for recreational boaters and commerical vessel operators.

George Beard poses for a photo outside of the the Stanwood Library in Stanwood, Washington on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
From sick to the streets: How an illness left a Stanwood man homeless

Medical bills wiped out George Beard’s savings. Left to heal in his car, he got sicker. Now, he’s desperate for housing. It could take years.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit says Snohomish County deputies not justified in Sultan shooting

Two deputies repeatedly shot an unarmed Sultan man last year, body camera video shows. An internal investigation is pending.

An airplane is parked at Gate M9 on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Jordan Hansen/The Herald)
Good luck to Memorial Day travelers: If you’re like me, you’ll need it

I spent a night in the Chicago airport. I wouldn’t recommend it — but with flight delays near an all-time high, you might want to pack a pillow.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

The original Mountlake Terrace City Council, Patricia Neibel bottom right, with city attorney, sign incorporation ordinance in 1954. (Photo provided by the City of Mountlake Terrace)
Patricia Neibel, last inaugural MLT council member, dies at 97

The first woman on the council lived by the motto, “Why not me?” — on the council, at a sheriff’s office in Florida, or at a leper colony in Thailand.

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.