Sunday, December 10, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Florida SC orders recount
Bush goes in appeal

WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (PTI) —In a stunning order, the Florida Supreme Court today brought Democrat Vice-President Al Gore back into the reckoning in the presidential race by directing recount of thousands of disputed votes, dashing hopes of Republican rival George W Bush whose lead has now been slashed to a mere 150 votes.

Put on the defensive, Mr Bush immediately appealed against the 4-3 decision of the Florida High Court in the us Supreme Court seeking blocking of the recount in his bid to end the month-long legal battle.

Shortly after the ruling, Florida officials were set to start counting tens of thousands of ballots which the Gore campaign believes would take him past Mr Bush who had already started acting presidential.

On the brink of a defeat after Mr Bush was certified winner of Florida’s 25 electoral votes, Mr Gore’s chances were virtually sealed this morning when a lower court rejected his appeal for immediate handcount of disputed votes.

But the Florida Supreme Court revived his hopes with a ruling which overturned an earlier rejection of Mr Gore’s petition.

Today’s decision of the Florida Supreme Court has raised fears of a constitutional crisis should the Republican dominated Florida legislature choose its 25 members of the electoral college, both contestants need to enter the White House even when the counting would be on.

Mr Bush lead, which was once more than 1,780 votes, was slashed to 150 votes after the judges ordered the inclusion of previous recounts that were rejected or incomplete.

At the time of certification of his election by Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris a fortnight ago, Mr Bush was leading by 537 votes.

In a minor relief for Mr Bush, a us district court judge ordered that hundreds of rejected overseas absentee military ballots be included in the tally which Republicans complained had been rejected by Democrat officials during the counting.

AFP adds: Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Wells filed a scathing dissent in the ruling, arguing the recounts would result in “confusion and disorder” and could trigger “an unprecedented and unnecessary constitutional crisis.”

“I have to conclude that there is a real and present likelihood that this constitutional crisis will do substantial damage to our country, our state and to this court,” he said.

Gore campaign manager William Daley hailed the judgement as a “victory for fairness, accountability and democracy”.

Bush campaign spokesman James Baker called the ruling a “disappointment”. “It is sad for Florida, it is sad for the nation and sad for democracy,” he told a press conference in Florida’s capital Tallahassee.

The Bush campaign also filed a motion with us Federal Appeals Court in Atlanta asking for an injunction of any ballot recount pending a decision by the us Supreme Court. 

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