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Gore campaign turns to Florida Supreme Court

graphic
 

By Raju Chebium
CNN.com Correspondent


In this story:

Impact of the order

Gore camp's legal strategy in the appeals

The Lewis order favoring Harris

The Gore lawsuit

Bush reaction to Lewis' ruling

RELATED STORIES, SITES



graphic WHO'S WHO
Who's who in the election recount
graphic  ALSO
Order that Florida Secretary of State did not abuse discretion by rejecting manual recounts - November 17 (FindLaw)

Challenge to Florida's November 14 deadline for election certification McDermott v. Harris
graphic  ALSO
  LEGAL RESOURCES

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Florida Supreme Court on Friday unanimously blocked Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris from certifying the statewide ballot this weekend as planned.

Responding to an appeal filed by lawyers for Vice President Al Gore, Florida's highest court ruled 7-0 that the final certification should be postponed "until further order of this court."

The justices scheduled oral arguments for 2 p.m. Monday, when lawyers for Gore and Republican candidate George W. Bush will argue over how to resolve the election stalemate and determine who will ascend to the presidency.

Impact of the order

The order from Florida's highest court represented a partial victory for Gore's campaign, which sought to block the possible Saturday certification of the Florida vote.

The order means it will be at least next week before it becomes clear who won the contested Florida presidential election, which will award the winner the crucial 25 electoral votes.

Gore praised the order as "very important" to ensure a fair and accurate ballot tally in the state.

"The citizens of Florida surely want the candidate who receives the most votes in Florida to be declared the winner of that state," he said in brief remarks in Washington.

On Thursday, Florida's highest court allowed manual recounts to continue in South Florida. The court's order Friday expressly allowed those counts to continue.

Many Palm Beach County voters said the ballot confused them into voting for Reform Party candidate Patrick Buchanan when they meant to pick Gore. That led to controversial manual recounts endorsed by Democrats and opposed by the Republicans.

Gore camp's legal strategy in the appeals

Gore lawyer David Boies said the Gore campaign's appeals raised two questions:

• When can Harris certify the statewide ballot?

• Should Harris wait for the manual recount tallies from Palm Beach and Broward counties, two Democratic strongholds, before deciding whether to accept or reject them?

According to Boies, Florida law says a statewide certification can be blocked if Harris rejects "a number of legal votes sufficient to change or place in doubt the outcome of the election."

The Democrats have long argued that the manual recounts could tip the balance for Gore.

The Lewis order favoring Harris

Boies appealed after Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, a Democrat, ruled against Gore earlier Friday.

Lewis ruled that Harris "exercised her reasoned judgment" in deciding to reject manual vote recounts filed after a November 14 deadline.

All 67 counties submitted their vote totals by deadline.

But the counties of Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward were conducting or considering manual recounts of some or all votes cast within their borders and told Harris they would file amended totals.

Lewis on November 14 said Harris has the authority to accept or reject such amended totals filed after the November 14 deadline.

However, he told her to base her decision on proper "discretion," ordering her not to reject any amended total simply because they were filed after the deadline.

On Wednesday, Harris announced that she would reject the amended totals.

The Gore lawsuit

On Thursday, the Gore campaign told Lewis that Harris had violated his order by acting in an arbitrary fashion, asking the Democratic judge to declare the preliminary statewide vote certification "null and void."

Lawyers for Harris and Bush argued that Harris exercised proper discretion.

They said the law requires counties to file by deadline unless natural disasters or malfunctioning balloting equipment prevented vote tallies. The counties did not raise such problems, therefore Harris rejected hand recounts, they said.

Bush reaction to Lewis' ruling

Bush campaign observer and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker praised Lewis' ruling, saying: "The rule of law has prevailed. The court applied the rule of law objectively and fairly."

Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes indicated that the Texas governor awaits the absentee-vote tally to see if he held on to his lead and won the race to the White House.



RELATED STORIES:
Judge rules Florida Secretary of State did not abuse her discretion in denying recount
November 16, 2000
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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