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Gore team asks Florida Supreme Court to speed recount

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- The legal team for Al Gore filed a 50-page brief with the Florida Supreme Court Thursday morning, asking the justices to order a lower court to begin counting disputed ballots immediately.

The appeal is a two-step process. The Gore legal team went first to the First District Court of Appeals to secure permission to file "an original petition" with the state Supreme Court asking it to order the immediate counting of the disputed ballots.

The Gore legal team wants the count to go forward to make sure that its contest of election results in several counties and any appeals would be completed before the December 12 deadline for selecting Florida's delegation to the Electoral College.

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Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls on Tuesday denied a Gore motion to start the count and said he would not rule on whether to count those ballots until after a hearing Saturday.

Sauls did order election officials in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to transport the disputed ballots to Tallahassee by Friday, so they would be ready if he did order a new recount. In a hearing Wednesday afternoon, Sauls granted a motion by the Bush campaign to have all of the ballots cast in the two counties sent to Tallahassee.

In Miami-Dade County Wednesday, officials began packing the ballots so that a caravan of police vehicles can deliver them to the court.

Election officials in Palm Beach County had to wait for a court there to approve moving the ballots before they could comply with Sauls' order.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jorge Labarga had to issue an order allowing the 3,300 disputed ballots to be moved because he had agreed to let the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch inspect the ballots. He also ordered election officials to be prepared to send all 400,000 ballots cast in the county to the Leon County courthouse, if they are requested.

In other legal developments:

The Florida Supreme Court set Wednesday as the deadline for submission of legal briefs on a challenge in Palm Beach County of the so-called "butterfly ballot." Voters there complained the ballot was illegally confusing. The Bush campaign says the ballot was designed by a Democrat and that Florida law requires any challenge to the ballot be made in advance of the election.

Another Leon County judge held a hearing in a lawsuit challenging about 15,000 absentee ballots filed in Seminole County. The lawsuit, filed by a local Democratic activist, alleges that the Seminole County supervisor of elections allowed Republican Party volunteers to fill in information on 4,700 incomplete absentee ballot requests. It seeks to have all of the absentee ballots filed in the county thrown out. Arguments are scheduled for December 5.

Attorneys for Bush asked the judge to consolidate the Seminole County suit with the Gore campaign's election contest, but that motion was denied. Bush's legal team appealed that decision to the First District Court of Appeals.



RESOURCES:
U.S. Constitution, Article II
14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
United States Code, Title 3, Section 5

RELATED STORIES:
Campaign attorneys face multiple deadlines in election disputes
November 28, 2000
Vote certification does not stop legal fight
November 27, 2000
Constitutional scholars surprised by U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear Florida election case
November 24, 2000
Bush, Harris urge end to Florida recount; Gore seeks uniform standard
November 19, 2000
Gore asks Florida high court to set standards for recount
November 19, 2000
Presidential vote recounts yield few changes so far, officials say
November 19, 2000
Democrats protest exclusion of ballots in Palm Beach County
November 19, 2000
Lieberman says Dems not trying to block absentee ballots
November 19, 2000
Congress studying electoral college scenarios
November 19, 2000
Bush camp blasts 'flawed' count
November 18, 2000
Candidates' lawyers head for court showdown in Florida
November 18, 2000
Manual recounts continue as court refuses Republican request for a halt
November 18, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Florida State Courts
Florida Southern District Court
Electoral College
Volusia County government
Palm Beach County government


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