Associated Press
November 13, 2000

Recount Battle To Play Out in Court

By Will Lester

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Democrats argue George W. Bush's legal effort to block a manual recount in four Florida counties is not a matter for the federal courts and note that the tradition of counting by hand started with the nation's founding.

The motion for an injunction should be denied because the Bush campaign has not been able to ''justify the extraordinary interference with state electoral processes they seek,'' the legal response said.

Lawyers for the Florida Democratic Party filed their response Sunday evening to the Bush campaign's request the day before for a federal injunction halting the hand recount requested in four counties -- Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Volusia.

Bush has a 288-vote lead over Democrat Al Gore in the count for Florida and its 25 electoral votes that are likely to decide the presidential election.

The recount has already started in Volusia and Palm Beach counties, while Broward was about to start recounting sample precincts Monday and Miami-Dade has a hearing on the question Tuesday.

Gore adviser Warren Christopher and William Daley, who was his campaign chairman, were scheduled to meet Monday morning with Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to determine her position on a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline to get certified vote results from counties.

Returns that come in after the deadline may be ignored, which would nullify the results of manual recounts certain to be incomplete by then.

She plans to announce her position on it Monday, but two counties -- Volusia and Palm Beach -- are prepared to go to court in an effort to get that deadline extended so the manual recounts can be completed.

A Gore legal adviser said Sunday the case does not belong in federal court and that the standards for manual recounts are the same in Florida as in Texas -- to determine the voter's intent. And he said a manual recount is clearly constitutional, supporting the basic principle of one man, one-vote and not diluting the vote as the Bush campaign claimed.

The legal response said the Bush campaign's argument against the hand recount appears to suggest ''that any human involvement in the tabulation of ballots violates the U.S. Constitution -- an extraordinary and radical contention that they cannot mean to advance seriously.''

The Democratic pleading notes:

-- News reports of a manual recount in Seminole County in north-central Florida that gave 98 more votes to Bush. That was a manual recount ''the plaintiffs do not challenge,'' the pleading said.

-- A statute signed into law by Texas Gov. Bush that says when recounts are requested ''a manual recount shall be conducted in preference to an electronic recount.''

-- Florida law allows for a manual recount when requested by a candidate or political party ''to determine whether anomalies in the vote tabulation could have affected the outcome of the election.''

''We want a full, fair and accurate count to go forward,'' said Jenny Backus, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee.

Bush's lead representative in the Florida recount, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, said Sunday that the hand recount has no standards and leaves the process open to ''mischief.'' The GOP maintains a hand count is more subject to error than a machine count, and Republicans maintain that it's not fair for Gore to pick selected counties -- strongly Democratic -- for a manual recount, saying it dilutes the vote of those in other counties.

''It does not dilute the vote of a citizen of one county to ensure that all all properly cast votes in another county are included in the final vote tally,'' the Democratic response said, ''any more than counting absentee ballots dilutes the votes of those who voted at the polling booth on Election Day.''

Gore's legal adviser, speaking on background, said the federal government should not be telling states how to handle their own elections.

He said the Bush campaign's case lacks merit and fails to establish how counting the vote does serious harm to the Bush campaign.

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