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Courts consider variety of challenges to Florida election results

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- Attempts to settle the Florida presidential election -- and with it the election for president of the United States -- were tangled Tuesday in a bevy of court suits.

In the latest developments:

• The Palm Beach County Canvassing board headed to court after Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Republican, issued an advisory opinion that the county could not hand recount its votes unless its counting machines had malfunctioned.

graphic WHO'S WHO
Who's who in the election recount
graphic DOCUMENTS
Complaint from Volusia County Canvassing Board challenging November 14 deadline for election certification - McDermott v. Harris - November 13, 2000 (FindLaw)(PDF format)

Judge Middlebrooks' ruling denying injunction sought by Bush campaign

Federal complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief filed by the George W. Bush campaign (FindLaw) (PDF format)

State court complaint seeking a new election in Palm Beach County, Fladell v. Palm Beach (FindLaw)

Palm Beach County voters' class action civil rights complaint, Horowitz v. Lepore (FindLaw) (PDF format)

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Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat, ruled Harris was in error. That sent the canvassing board to court to find out who is right.

The Bush campaign, which has protested the manual recount from the start, applauded the Palm Beach canvassing board for "doing due diligence."

• The Florida Democratic Party filed suit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in a bid to force the county's canvassing board to count dimpled ballots -- ballots with a slight indention, where the chad were not punched through completely.

• A circuit court judge in Leon County said he would rule whether or not Florida counties must certify their election results by a 5 p.m. deadline.

• Attorneys for the Broward County Democratic Party headed for court seeking to force the county's canvassing board to manually recount ballots from the presidential election. That board had stopped after Harris' ruled it could not proceed unless its machines had malfunctioned.

• And, a series of six suits that have been consolidated under one judge was due for a hearing in another Palm Beach court. Those suits were filed by voters complaining that the "butterfly" ballot in that county was illegal and confusing, resulting in them voting for the wrong presidential candidate.

Harris said Monday that votes must be certified to her office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. She said Florida law requires that returns not certified by that time -- with the exception of overseas absentee ballots -- "shall be ignored."

But election officials in Volusia and Palm Beach Counties and the Al Gore campaign argued that the counties should have as much time as they need to complete a hand recount.

Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he would issue a ruling allowing Harris' decision to stand or extending the deadline.

During a hearing Monday, Lewis asked numerous questions about absentee ballots. Under Florida law, overseas absentee ballots which are postmarked November 7 or signed and dated November 7 must be counted if they arrive by November 17.

In Fort Lauderdale, the Broward County Canvassing Board voted 2-to-1 not to hand recount ballots in the heavily Democratic county.

The board cited a ruling by Harris that hand recounts may only be conducted if there is evidence of voting machine failure.

But Charles Lichtman, an attorney for the Broward Democratic Party, said he will argue that Harris' ruling is in error and isn't binding on the canvassing board.



RELATED STORIES:
Gore joins lawsuit to extend Florida recount deadline
November 13, 2000
Judge grants injunction to freeze Palm Beach vote certification
November 10, 2000
Florida law provides variety of cures for problem elections
November 9, 2000
Reno says Justice Department keeping an eye on Florida election November 9, 2000
Justice Department discusses Florida election
November 8, 2000
Election Day allegations could form basis for legal challenges, experts say
November 8, 2000
Electoral win not a guarantee, no matter what happens in Florida
November 8, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Supreme Court of the United States
FindLaw Supreme Court Center
Legal Information Institute: Supreme Court Collection - Cornell University
On the Docket 2000-2001
The Supreme Court Historical Society
Jurist Guide to the Supreme Court - University of Pittsburgh
History of the Federal Judiciary


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