Supreme Court agrees to hear Bush challenge to Florida vote recount Eds
publiziert: Samstag, 25. Nov 2000 / 08:01 Uhr

Washington - The White House race on Sunday looked likely to remain in limbo until early December after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to a hearing on the bitter dispute late next week.

The country's highest court will on Friday hear a challenge by the camp of George W. Bush against the practice of manually recounting questionable ballots in the crucial state of Florida. The teams of Texas Governor Bush and Vice President Al Gore were told to submit legal briefs by Tuesday and responses by Thursday ahead of 90 minutes of verbal arguments to start at 10 a.m. Friday.

This means that a 5 p.m. Sunday deadline for certification of the ballot will fail to deliver certainty to Americans on who will be their 43rd president. Gore's team had hoped that recounts of contested ballots in several traditionally Democratic-leaning counties would help him overtake Bush's paper-thin lead. At latest count, with thousands of ballots still to be painstakingly assessed, Bush reportedly led Gore by 724 of the Sunshine State's 5.8 million votes. Under the country's indirect voting system, the state's 25 Electoral College votes would push either candidate over the 270- electoral vote line required to win the November 7 election. In their petition to the country's highest court, the Republicans argued that the Florida Supreme Court overstepped its jurisdiction when it extended the ballot certification deadline last week in order to allow continued hand recounts to be included.

Bush's team want the hand tallies to be declared void, arguing that the process is subject to bias and fraud. If the federal Supreme Court accepts these arguments, Bush would be almost certain to become the next president, taking over from Bill Clinton on January 20. Gore's team has consistently pushed for the recounts, in which voter intent is being established in thousands of ballots ignored in earlier machine counts due to a technical flaw. Gore's star lawyer David Boies, the man who led the battle against Microsoft, said he was certain the judges in Washington will not overturn the Florida Supreme Court ruling. He added that, although U.S. elections are usually a state matter, it was appropriate for the Supreme Court to get involved in a dispute on how to elect the nation's commander-in-chief. In other legal developments, the losing side was expected to immediately contest the results to be announced shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday by Florida's Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

In tedious manual recounts in two Florida counties, canvassers continued to scrutinize thousands of ballots for indentations that may show that a voter attempted to perforate the paper next to a candidate's name. Recounting in the largest county, Miami-Dade, was abandoned by overwhelmed canvassers last week, much to the disappointment of Gore, whose lawyers said they would challenge Sunday's official outcome. Gore's vice presidential running mate, Joe Lieberman, on Friday accused the Bush team of stopping the Miami recount through a rowdy, "orchestrated" disturbance by paid demonstrators last Wednesday.

"This is a time to honour the rule of law, not surrender to the rule of the mob," he said. His rival in the Bush team, vice presidential hopeful Dick Cheney, was meanwhile released from a Washington hospital after treatment for a mild heart attack. Doctors said he would be fit for duty, including serving as vice president.

(sda)

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