by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
December 11, 2000
FATE OF THE NATION RESTS IN HANDS OF THE SUPREME COURT
TALLAHASSEE, Dec. 8, 2000 -- In a stunning and solomonic 4-3 decision Friday afternoon that may have rescued Vice President Al Gore's presidential hopes from extinction, a divided Florida Supreme Court ruled for both Mr. Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush in ordering a manual recount of all "undervotes" in any of the state's 67 counties "where such a recount has not occurred."
It was not immediately clear exactly how many votes must be recounted, or whether the recount can be completed by midnight Tuesday, the court's deadline.
Hours later, Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls recused himself from participation in the manual recount because he had been the judge reversed on appeal.
With time "desperately short," court hearings are underway now in Tallahassee to resolve many of the new issues that arose from the high court's decision. Bush team lawyer Phil Beck began those hearings with a demand that the court set a standard for determining voters on the disputed ballots after a new round of hearings. It was unclear what the judge would decide.
But following the 4 p.m. EST decision, officials immediately commandeered the Leon County Public Library and began making preparations to implement the high court's order for a recount of 9,000 votes from Miami-Dade County and 3,300 votes from Palm Beach County by 25 two-man teams using a "clear" voter-intent standard. That probably will be defined by the judge who administers the recount, which is set to begin Saturday morning. Other counties will conduct their recounts in their offices.
The court ruled for Mr. Gore in permitting the inclusion of 215 votes counted in Palm Beach County and some 168 votes counted in Miami-Dade County, and for Bush in restoring 51 votes from Nassau County that were rejected by clerical error in a recount. At the same time, they ruled for Gov. Bush in requiring a statewide recount.
"In addition to the relief requested by appellants to count the Miami-Dade undervote, claims have been made by the various appellees and intervenors that because this is a statewide election, statewide remedies would be called for. As we discussed in this opinion, we agree," said the majority opinion by Justices Harry Lee Anstead, Barbara J. Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince.
"While we recognize that time is desperately short, we cannot in good faith ignore both the appellant's right to relief as to their claims concerning the uncounted votes in Miami-Dade County nor can we ignore the correctness of the assertions that any analysis and ultimate remedy should be made on a statewide basis," the majority said.
Some 388 votes that had been identified by Democratic observers in a partial recount of the 9,000 disputed Miami-Dade ballots that was begun and quickly stopped in late November were not claimed by Mr. Gore and were not addressed by the court.
The 168 votes that were won by the Vice President in another manual recount, also stopped, of about 20 percent of the county's precincts, could be eclipsed by votes from Miami-Dade precincts.