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Democrats challenge certification of Florida Bush-Gore election results

 

In this story:

Democrats seek to void certification

Harris asserts jurisdiction over recounts

Appeals court sets deadline for responses

RELATED STORIES, SITES



TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Florida Democrats and Al Gore presidential campaign filed a motion Thursday challenging the certification of election results in the tightly contested state.

In a separate action, Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris told the Florida Supreme Court that she, not it, had the power to determine if Palm Beach County can conduct a hand recount.

And in Atlanta, Georgia, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals accepted pleadings on lawsuits filed by Republican voters and the George W. Bush campaign seeking to block manual recounts in Florida. The court gave Republicans and their Democratic opponents until Friday morning to respond to each other.

graphic WHO'S WHO
Who's who in the election recount
graphic DOCUMENTS
Florida Supreme Court order allowing Palm Beach County manual recount - November 16, 2000 (FindLaw)

Emergency Motion of Democratic Party of Florida and Vice President Al Gore to Compel Compliance With and For Enforcement of Injunction - McDermott v. Harris - November 16, 2000 (FindLaw)

Order of Judge Terry Lewis granting in part, and denying in part motion for temporary injunction - November 14, 2000 (FindLaw)

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks' ruling denying injunction - November 13, 2000 (Findlaw)

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At issue: Florida's 25 electoral votes, which will likely determine which candidate wins the presidency. Bush leads Gore by only 300 votes, according to the certified state tally, and partial recounts have found gains for Gore. Since election night, when Bush held an unofficial lead of 1,784 votes, Gore has gained votes with each subsequent recount.

Heavily Democratic Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, started a hand recount of its more than half-million votes Wednesday and resumed it Thursday, saying it would continue until the state Supreme Court told it to stop. Another potentially pivotal county, Palm Beach, was waiting for a Supreme Court ruling.

Democrats seek to void certification

On Tuesday, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis issued a ruling that counties could submit amended returns and said Harris, co-chairwoman of Bush's Florida campaign, "cannot decide ahead of time what later returns should or should not be ignored."

The Democrats' motion contends Harris is in violation of that court order. They say she issued an arbitrary deadline of 2 p.m. Wednesday for counties to justify the need to amend their results "while failing to give the (canvassing) boards any guidance in advance of the rules the secretary would use to analyze those facts and circumstances."

Then, says the motion, Harris asked the Florida Supreme Court stop the manual counting of ballots, which it refused to do.

Next, say the Democrats, Harris rejected the requests by four counties to amend their returns and "in violation of Florida law, caused the State Elections Canvassing Commission to certify the results of the Florida Presidential election excluding the certification of overseas absentee ballots.... "

The motion asks the court to declare the vote certification null and void, rule that the secretary "has abused her discretion in rejecting the amended and supplemental elections returns before having received them" and to declare that the counties may continue their recounts and submit the results to Harris.

It also asks that Harris be prohibited from certifying the final results of the Florida presidential election until the recounts are submitted and Harris considers them.

Harris asserts jurisdiction over recounts

In the separate action before the Florida Supreme Court, Palm Beach County's Canvassing Board had asked for a ruling on whether it could conduct a hand recount of the county's ballots.

The county said Harris and Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat and chairman of Gore's Florida campaign, had issued conflicting opinions.

In her response, Harris said, the Florida Supreme Court "has no jurisdiction" to allow Palm Beach County to begin a recount.

She said there was no need to decide between her opinion and Butterworth's because Florida law provides her opinion "is binding upon the board" and the court must defer to her opinion.

Further, Harris said her staff has correctly construed the Florida law, while Butterworth's interpretation is "erroneous."

The latest court action came after Gore proposed that he and Bush accept the manual recounts in three counties or hold a statewide manual recount, drop all legal action, and hold a meeting to "calm the rhetoric" between them.

"If this happens, I will take no legal action to challenge the result," Gore said.

Bush rejected the proposals. He said manual recounts "introduce error and politics into the voting process" and said he would not meet with Gore until the election was decided.

Appeals court sets deadline for responses

 

In Atlanta, Republicans argued that the federal appeals court should get involved and block manual recounts to protect voters under the 14th Amendment, providing due process. Republicans earlier had lost in a district court in Miami when a federal district judge ruled they had not shown why he should interfere with the state recount.

Democrats argued the federal appeals court should not interfere, that the matter is being handled under Florida law, and for the federal court to step in would be a violation of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution on separation of powers.

The full 12-judge panel will consider the appeal, but no hearing has yet been set.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which received written arguments from both the Bush and Gore camps, gave them until 7 a.m. Friday to respond, in writing, to what the other side said.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is made up of Democrat and Republican judges with ties to both Gore and Bush camps. Seven of the 12 judges are Republicans and five are Democrats.

Of the seven Republicans, four were appointed by President Bush, the father of Republican candidate George W. Bush.

Four of the judges were appointed by President Bill Clinton, whose vice president is Al Gore.

Five of the judges -- two Republicans and three Democrats -- live in Florida.

The federal judiciary claims to be above politics, but because of their political connections and life-time appointments, many in the legal community consider that a fiction.

CNN Correspondent Bob Franken contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Florida Supreme Court asked to wade into presidential contest
November 15, 2000
Vote recount must continue past deadline, Gore camp says
November 14, 2000
With Florida court action reaching critical mass, a compromise may be in works
November 14, 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:
Florida State Courts
Opinions of the Supreme Court of Florida - Provided by the University of Florida Levin College of Law
Florida Attorney General Web site
Florida law: Electors and elections
Florida law: Conducting elections and ascertaining the results


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