• 45°

Election drama continues in court

The Associated Press

One tumultuous month after Election Day, Al Gore is asking the Florida Supreme Court to revive his quest for the White House by ordering a new round of manual recounts.

Thursday, December 07, 2000

One tumultuous month after Election Day, Al Gore is asking the Florida Supreme Court to revive his quest for the White House by ordering a new round of manual recounts. George W. Bush looked to the state’s justices to finally count his rival out.

”Now is the last chance for a legal judgment to be rendered in this case,” Gore’s lawyers argued in papers filed Wednesday on the eve of formal arguments before the state’s high court in Tallahassee, Fla.

That was fine with Bush, certified the winner in Florida by 537 votes and eagerly looking forward to a presidential transition and inauguration. ”It seems like all the different court suits are working their way to finality and hopefully we can get this over with quickly,” he said.

There were other subplots in America’s riveting election drama, including an announcement that the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature would meet in special session to appoint its own slate of electors.

But nothing captured the national uncertainty better than a ceremony marking the beginning of work on the stands outside the Capitol in Washington where the next president will deliver his inaugural address.

”Hopefully, we will have the answer of ‘who’ sometime soon,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who chairs the committee in charge of inauguration arrangements.

The Florida Supreme Court set aside an hour for the two legal teams to argue their points – Gore’s attorneys seeking to overturn a trial court ruling that let Bush’s certified statewide victory stand, and the Texas governor hoping to sustain it.

The court set arguments on an unusually condensed timetable, a gesture to the overriding national importance of the issue and a Dec. 12 deadline for picking electors. It was only Monday when Leon County Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls rejected Gore’s challenge to Bush’s certified statewide victory and refused to order any recounts.

Even before Sauls’ courtroom had cleared, Gore’s lawyers rushed to file an appeal, and the state Supreme Court announced on Tuesday it would allow the lawyers to make their cases in public. Florida’s high court will allow television cameras to broadcast the proceedings.

It was not clear when the state’s justices would deal with another case, this one instructions from the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify a ruling last month that allowed manual recounts to proceed beyond a state-mandated deadline. As a result of that ruling, Gore cut Bush’s lead by nearly 400 votes.