Boost for Gore as court says Florida recount can go ahead

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The Independent US

In a new twist to the extraordinary legal wrangling that will determine who will be the next United States President, the Florida supreme court last night gave fresh advantage to Al Gore by ruling that the largely Democratic Palm Beach County could to begin a hand count of the votes cast on 7 November.

In a new twist to the extraordinary legal wrangling that will determine who will be the next United States President, the Florida supreme court last night gave fresh advantage to Al Gore by ruling that the largely Democratic Palm Beach County could to begin a hand count of the votes cast on 7 November.

Although the manual count would be likely to favour the Vice-President, Florida's Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, has ruled she will not accept any further recounts in the ballot, which currently gives George W Bush a 300-vote lead and thus, in theory, the presidency.

Last night's ruling means that all eyes this morning will be on Judge Terry Lewis of the circuit court in Tallahassee,due to rule on a Democrat motion that Ms Harris must take account of the results of hand recounts now due in three Florida counties.

Ms Harris raised the ire of Democrats on Wednesday when she vowed to consider only the numbers submitted by counties in time for a deadline on Tuesday that she had set. To those, she said, she wouldbe willing only to add whatever emerged from foreign absentee ballots due in by midnight tonight.

Without relief from the courts, who have so far largely ruled in his favour, Mr Gore is likely to lose everything. The foreign ballots are widely expected to tilt towards Mr Bush. In all likelihood, however, results from manual recounts would give final victory to Mr Gore.

Last night's crucial decision was taken unanimously by the supreme court, composed of the seven most senior justices of the state. It is unlikely that Judge Lewis, who will make his own ruling this morning, will directly contradict the higher court.

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