Lawyers for Democrat Al Gore said Thursday the vice president will contest the close presidential election results in at least one Florida county, and that he will not concede the election, even after the final state vote tally is certified on Sunday.
The announcement followed bad news for Gore from the Florida Supreme Court, which conferred by conference call on the Thanksgiving holiday, and unanimously denied Gore’s request to order the Miami-Dade County to resume hand counting of presidential ballots it abandoned on Wednesday.
Also late Thursday, the lawyers filed papers in the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the nation’s highest court to deny a request by Republican George W. Bush to bar any use of hand-counted presidential election ballots in the state.
The lawyers called Bush’s request a “bald attempt to federalize a state court dispute” and interfering in the Florida election.The Democratic filing claimed that Bush’s court brief contained false and “partisan accusations regarding the manner in which the Florida recount is proceeding.”
Gore, who spent Thanksgiving Day at home in Washington, had asked the state’s highest court in an emergency appeal to restart ballot counting in the county, which they said was “being frustrated by a deliberate campaign of delay and intimidation of local officials.”
The Florida Supreme Court ruling upholds the decision by an appeals court, which late Wednesday denied the Democrats’ bid to force the resumption of hand recounts. Earlier Wednesday, the Miami-Dade canvassing board voted 3-0 to call off its manual recount, saying it could not meet the Sunday deadline imposed by the Florida Supreme Court.
In Tallahassee, Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker insists Gore had been trying to extend the deadline so he could get enough votes to change the election result. Tucker calls the Gore’s tactics “a little questionable.”
Tucker said the Bush camp still opposes including results from any hand recounts, and that is why the Bush legal team is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
Bush spent the holiday with friends in Texas, while his running mate, Dick Cheney, enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with his family at a hospital in Washington, where is recovering from a mild heart attack.
Can Gore Still Win?
A senior Democrat said that the party was confident Gore could still win the White House despite the recent court ruling.
Ron Klain, a member of the Democratic National Committee, told reporters in a telephone conference call that the Gore campaign believed it could win enough extra votes in two other counties — Broward and Palm Beach — to overtake Republican George W. Bush’s 930-vote lead in the state.
“I believe that if we have a full and fair, accurate count in Broward and Palm Beach counties, those two counties will be enough to put us over the top,” Klain said.
The Gore camp appealed the appeals court’s decision Thursday to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled earlier this week that the state must recognize the results of manual recounts in three heavily Democratic counties in its final, certified tally and set a deadline of 5 p.m. Sunday for the new tallies.
“We believe the Supreme Court didn’t want its deadline used as an excuse not to count the vote,” Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said prior to Thursday afternoon’s Florida Supreme Court ruling.
The Bush camp Thursday afternoon filed a “motion to intervene” in the Gore lawsuit.
Bush leads by 930 votes in the latest official statewide tally. An unofficial ABCNEWS tally through Wednesday night shows Gore has a net gain of 123 votes, putting the difference at 807 votes. Both campaigns assume the recount will heavily favor Gore.
Bush Goes to U.S. Supreme Court
For their part, Republicans pressed on with their opposition to any hand counting.
Bush campaign attorneys filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to overturn the Florida high court’s ruling. In a pair of petitions, the Bush campaign argues the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority and that permitting recounts to go forward in selective counties violates Florida voters’ constitutional right to due process by changing the way their votes are counted after they were cast.
The appeal marks the first time the nation’s highest court has become embroiled in the raging legal battle between Bush and Gore in one of the closest and most contested presidential elections in U.S. history.
Urging the court to consider the dispute quickly, with oral arguments on Dec. 5, the lawyers for Bush argued, “This is a case of the utmost national importance … The outcome of the election for the presidency of the United States may hang in the balance.”
There’s no guarantee the court will accept the case, but if it does, the justices will face an array of unprecedented questions critical to the outcome of the presidential election.
Bush’s first obstacle is getting the court to hear arguments in the case. Four of the nine Supreme Court justices must agree to grant oral arguments. At issue is whether the justices will identify a pertinent question in the appeals pertaining to federal law or the Constitution.
Also on Wednesday, Bush filed suit in a Florida court asking 13 counties with heavy military populations to count overseas ballots. Hundreds of ballots, many from military outposts, were rejected last week when Democratic lawyers urged county boards to scrutinize them. Both sides believe Bush lost more votes than Gore in the rejected ballots.