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Gore legal team wants manual count to proceed beyond 5 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Democrat Al Gore's legal team urged the Florida secretary of state to accept manual vote recounts after the certification deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday, saying rejecting the recounts out of hand would be arbitrary and violate a circuit judge's order.
Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled Tuesday that Florida Secretary of State Kathleen Harris may cut off filing of official election returns by 5 p.m. But Harris may not arbitrarily ignore late counts, which may not be finished until the weekend, Lewis ruled.
"We would all hope the secretary of state, having received this guidance from the court, would do the right thing," Gore campaign attorney David Boies told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Boies added that the Gore campaign is urging all counties where vote tallies are in dispute to "go ahead and finish the recount as fast as you can."
Gore campaign representative Warren Christopher lauded the court ruling, saying it would allow the recount to continue -- even though state authorities would retain the power to reject them.
"Under this decision, we now have a vehicle for the full, fair and accurate tabulation of the votes of the citizens of Florida," he said.
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."
Lewis ruled that counties may file supplemental or corrected totals after the 5 p.m. deadline, directing Harris to consider them with "the sound exercise of discretion."
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Volusia County in northeast Florida seeking to extend the deadline. The Gore campaign joined that lawsuit. The judge's ruling hews to state election law, though it gives Harris the leeway to extend the deadline.
Palm Beach County, where hundreds of voters said they were confused by the arrangement of candidate names on the ballot, was doing a manual recount of all ballots.
Several hundred overseas ballots also remained to be counted by Friday.
Those vote tallies will be added to certified totals from each county to determine the winner of the hotly contested presidential contest. Whoever wins Florida's 25 electoral votes would most likely become the 43rd president.
The 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee had not, by 4 p.m. received an appeal challenging the 5 p.m. deadline from either the Gore campaign or Volusia County, an official in the clerk's office said. The Florida Supreme Court also did not receive an appeal, according to court spokesman Craig Waters.
Gerald Kogan, former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, said Gore and Volusia County officials could seek temporary injunctions from either the appeals or the supreme court suspending the 5 p.m. deadline until the merits of extending the deadline are heard by either court. The logical place for the appeal to be filed is the Tallahassee appeals court because Lewis' court is there, Kogan said.
Because the matter involves Florida law, an appeal to the federal courts would not be possible, Kogan said.
"I don't see any federal constitutional question," Kogan said. "Their place to go is to the Florida Supreme Court."
In the latest developments on the legal front:
The Palm Beach County Canvassing Board headed to court after Harris, co-chairwoman of Bush Florida campaign, issued an advisory opinion that the county could not hand recount its votes unless its "vote tabulation system" -- the counting machines -- had malfunctioned.
Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat and Vice President Al Gore's Florida campaign chairman, ruled Harris was in error. That sent the canvassing board to court to find out who is right.
A Broward County circuit court judge granted an emergency hearing to the Broward County Democratic Party, which is 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.
The Florida Democratic Party sued in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in a bid to force the county's canvassing board to count dimpled ballots, those with a slight indentation, where the paper were not punched through completely.
Five Palm Beach County judges recused themselves from having to hear a combined lawsuit filed by a number of voters seeking redress for what they described as a misleading "butterfly" ballot used by the county.
A hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon on at least seven suits which challenge the legality of the county's "butterfly" ballot, criticized as illegally so confusing it caused them to vote for the wrong presidential candidate.
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
With Florida court action reaching critical mass, a compromise may be in works
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