Bush wins key court victory

Click to follow
The Independent US

George W. Bush won a key court victory in Florida's presidential election today when a judge backed state Secretary of State Katherine Harris's decision to reject manual recounts underway in two Democratic counties.

George W. Bush won a key court victory in Florida's presidential election today when a judge backed state Secretary of State Katherine Harris's decision to reject manual recounts underway in two Democratic counties.

The recanvassing continued anyway, and Al Gore's advisers said they would appeal against the ruling.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis issued his brief order as officials in all 67 Florida counties were preparing to begin the tabulation of an estimated 2,500 overseas absentee votes.

Mr Bush holds a 300-vote lead in the state that will decide the winner of the presidential election, and Ms Harris is expected to certify a winner - subject to yet another court challenge - once the overseas votes are counted.

Little more than an hour after the ruling, former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III said Mr Bush and running mate Dick Cheney were "understandably pleased." Mr Baker represents the Bush camp in the legal wrangles.

Underscoring the Republican ticket's eagerness to close out Mr Gore's challenge, Mr Baker said Republicans look forward to counting overseas ballots "so that the process of achieveing a final result to the election in Florida is not subject to further delays."

Mr Cheney, appearing last night on ABC television's PrimeTime Live, said he and the Texas governor were prepared to declare victorytomorrow if Florida certifies them as the winner of the state's 25 electoral votes - even if hand counts are continuing.

"That would be a serious mistake to do that," former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, representing Gore, countered yesterday on ABC television 's "Good Morning America." He said: "We'll take all the legal steps we can" if that happens

Both sides in the election contest assume that Mr Bush will benefit when the overseas votes are counted, making the Vice President's attempt to win recounts of more than one million ballots essential to his effort to overtake his rival.

In Broward County, the area around Fort Lauderdale, officials said Mr Gore had a gain of 25 votes, with the recount completed of 102 of 609 precincts. A separate recount was underway in Palm Beach County, and Democrats hoped to launch one later in Miami-Dade.

Together the three counties account for more than one million of Florida's six million votes.

Judge Lewis's court order, read by a court clerk and broadcast live nationally, was succinct.

Based on the "limited evidence presented, it appears that the secretary has exercised her reasoned judgment ... applied them to the facts ... and made her decision. My order requires nothing more," it said.

In a brief statement, Ms Harris said she would "continue to follow the election procedures provided by Florida law. She added: "We anticipate receiving the certifications of the overseas absentee ballots from all counties by noon tomorrow."

Lawyers and political aides said they expected Mr Gore to appeal Ms Lewis's order to the state Supreme Court in Tallahassee. If so, it would be the second election-related case in as many days to come before the state's highest court, a sign that the nation's post-election drama may be nearing a conclusion.

Comments