US-Election Manual count starts in Florida - Bush launches legal moves
publiziert: Samstag, 11. Nov 2000 / 10:10 Uhr

Washington - Two new ballot recounts were to begin Saturday in crucial Palm Beach County, Florida, while the presidential election cliffhanger spread unease to the stock market, disillusionment among American voters, and uncertainty to other states.

Democrat Al Gore and Republican George Bush stood steadfast in their efforts to wrench victory from dwindling numbers that separated them from the 43rd presidency. In Florida, Bush had the upper hand by about 300 votes, out of 5.8 million votes cast in Florida, according to an unofficial tally. His representative James Baker exuded confidence that the Republican would take Florida, the key in the battle for the White House with 25 electoral votes.

Gore held the nationwide popular vote, with about two-tenths of one per cent advantage, or about 200,000 votes out of 100 million. On paper, the popular vote does not secure the presidency because of an electoral college system that gives each state a say in choosing the president. But usually the popular vote getter wins the presidency, and the closeness of the election offered a sobering prospect to observers and analysts who said whichever man is declared president, he will face extreme challenges once in the White House.

"I think there is going to be tremendous rancor after this election no matter which side loses," said historian Alan Brinkley in an interview on CNN on Friday. "Perhaps the new president will be smart enough to know he must reach out beyond party lines. But this will be a very difficult presidency" either way.

Bush moved ahead planning a White House Administration, saying it was a "responsible" step to be prepared. Gore remained out of the spotlight, but news networks showed him playing tag football with teenagers in a yard outside his Washington home. The stalemate contributed to a 2.13 per cent drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, analysts said.

Both parties have pushed for additional recounts beyond those mandated under Florida's election law. The result of that official recount could be announced as early as Tuesday, although there are still absentee ballots that could drag out to next Friday. The "second-round" recounts taking place on Saturday included the ballots in Palm Beach County, where more than 22,000 votes are alleged to have been affected by a confusing ballot layout.

Bush's people have demanded an entire recount by machine. And a more painstaking manual count will take place in just three voting precincts of the county, at the request of Gore's advisors. The Republicans - who have complained that Gore is holding up the process by demanding recounts - were reported to be thinking about asking for a court injunction against the hand-recount. Additional recounts were slated for three other Florida counties.

Elsewhere in the country, uncertainty hung over the outcome of the New Mexico elections, where Republican officials requested that 65,000 uncounted ballots be impounded to ensure a fair count. Gore's previous 6,825-vote lead over Bush dwindled to about 100 votes by day's end, making the winner in the state unclear, a state official said. New Mexico carries five Electoral College votes. In Iowa, where Bush lagged by 5,000 votes, and Wisconsin, where he lagged by 6,000 votes, Republican officials were considering asking for a voter recount. The state of Oregon appeared to be tilting toward Gore.

The experience has opened the eyes of many Americans to the human and mechanical errors that can influence an election outcome. It has become the butt of many jokes, both at home and abroad. And it has also irritated some local Florida officials who would like to carry out their recounts without national interference. One man called for more leadership from Bush and Gore.

"This country expects these two candidates to demonstrate some statesmanship, and believe that we know how to count votes in Florida," said Joel Davies, mayor of the small town of West Palm Beach, in a CNN group interview. For the New York Times, neither candidate has been demonstrating that sort of leadership.

"Neither the prospect of legal warfare nor Mr. Bush's rush to put together a transition team is helpful at this point," the newspaper said in an editorial Friday. "The sad reality is that ballot disputes and imperfections are a feature of every election. It will poison the political atmosphere if presidential elections, in particular, come to be seen as merely a starting point for litigation."

(klei/dpa)

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