Bush leads by 300 as recount battle goes to Supreme Court

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The Independent US

The legal battle over manual counting of votes in Palm Beach moved to Florida's Supreme Court, with judges being asked to rule on whether the hand counted votes can be fed into the totals already announced.

The legal battle over manual counting of votes in Palm Beach moved to Florida's Supreme Court, with judges being asked to rule on whether the hand counted votes can be fed into the totals already announced.

Results after all 67 counties submitted their voting totals to state officials in Tallahassee - revealed a lead for George W Bush of 300 votes - but the door remained ajar for further manual recounts.

Katherine Harris, the Secretary of State for Florida, announced that the provisional counts showed Mr Bush scored 2,910,492 against 2,910,192 votes for Al Gore - a difference of 300 votes out of six million cast in the state over a week ago.

Meanwhile another county in Florida decided today to to hold a recount of more than half a million votes cast in the presidential election. Broward county heavily backed Mr Gore in the initial count and a recount is likely to add to his total.

The Gore campaign urged the Supreme Court to decide urgently on whether Ms Harris should be obliged to add in to the final tally, the results of the hand counts either under way or planned.

"We will be asking the Supreme Court of Florida itself to resolve critical questions." said former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who is Mr Gore's representative in the recount battle.

He was responding to a petition to the court by Ms Harris earlier today to suspend all outstanding hand counts in the state and consolidate all pending legal appeals over the Nov. 7 election into a single court case.

In a victory for the Bush camp, a judge earlier upheld an order from Ms Harris that all counties should submit their results by 5pm yesterday. But the same ruling cautioned her not to ignore subsequent changes produced by manual recounts. Also outstanding are absentee ballots from Floridians abroad, which will be added to the tally on Friday.

A manual count of all 460,000 votes cast in Palm Beach has been suspended, awaiting the Supreme Court decision. Ms Harris, in turn, served notice to those counties involved in manual recounts to submit written reports to her by 2pm today explaining why they think they are justified.

A partial hand count was under way in Miami-Dade County, which also has a heavily Democratic population.

Volusia County revealed that it had barely managed to complete its own manual recount by the deadline and that it had produced a net gain of 98 votes for Mr Gore. That helped to explain why Mr Bush's margin of advantage had fallen to just 300 votes by last night.

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