Election deadline looms

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2000

The Associated Press

The election long over but the winner unknown, presidential rivals Al Gore and George W.

Saturday, November 18, 2000

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The election long over but the winner unknown, presidential rivals Al Gore and George W. Bush are both reaching for victory in Florida, where there’s a combustible blend of overseas ballots, hand recounts, legal skirmishing and a midnight deadline for certifying votes that may or may not stand.

”Let the will of the people be done,” Gore campaign chairman William Daley said Thursday, welcoming a Florida Supreme Court ruling that allowed manual recounts to continue. Other Democrats warned of legal action if the state’s top elections official refuses to accept the results of the hand recanvasses.

Bush’s campaign chairman said a midnight Friday deadline for vote certification set by Secretary of State Katherine Harris was fixed by state law and ”must be honored.” Only the tally of the estimated 2,600 absentee ballots from overseas remain to be rolled into previously certified vote totals showing Bush with a 300-vote margin, Don Evans insisted.

And then, he said, ”Win or lose, this election will be over.”

Possible, but not likely as a 10-day postelection struggle in the state that stands to make either Bush or Gore the nation’s 43rd president.

Officials in the state’s 67 counties said they would begin tallying their overseas ballots as soon as they received Friday morning mail delivery.

At the same time, officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties – heavily Democratic areas around Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach – were working their way by hand through hundreds of thousands of ballots cast on Nov. 7. The Gore campaign is hoping the results of those recounts, as well as one the vice president’s aides are seeking in Miami-Dade County, will let him vault ahead of Bush by enough votes to offset his lead.

Still, they conceded the recounts wouldn’t be completed before Harris’ deadline, adding to the prospect of more legal action in a case that has generated plenty.

The controversy’s lengthening docket ran to a federal appeals court in Atlanta, where judges are considering the Bush campaign’s bid to shut down the recounts.

The federal court also agreed to consider a related case filed by three Bush supporters from Brevard County. They claim their rights are being violated because their counties are not recanvassing votes by hand.