Gore Campaign Suffers Setbacks In Florida

Fri. December 1, 2000 12:00 AM by Brian Decker

Tallahassee, FL - The Florida Supreme Court and a lower state court dealt the Gore campaign a double blow today in their bid to force an immediate recount of thousands of disputed ballots.

In another ruling today, the Florida Supreme Court refused to order a new election in Palm Beach County. This plea had been brought to the high court by voters who felt that the “butterfly ballot” was illegal.

``Courts have generally declined to void an election'' unless defects in the ballot ``clearly operate to prevent a free, fair and open choice,'' the court ruled in an opinion that court spokesman Craig Waters summarized from the courthouse steps.

At least 42 election suits are currently pending in Florida at this time. Among them:

— Democrats sued the Martin County canvassing board asking to throw out all the county's 9,773 absentee ballots because Republicans were allowed to add voter identification numbers to ballot applications. A hearing was scheduled. Bush received 6,294 absentee votes in the county, compared with 3,479 for Gore, or a difference of 2,815 votes.

— A similar incident in Seminole County also resulted in a Democratic lawsuit, which contends election officials violated a state law that says only the voter, an immediate family member or a guardian can fill out an absentee ballot application. That suit seeks to throw out all 15,000 absentee ballots cast in the county. A trial is scheduled for next week.

In another lawsuit, a group of taxpayers filed their own contest to Bush's election, saying that 1,500 absentee ballots were accepted after the Nov. 7 trial date.

The Supreme Court also ordered briefs to be filed on whether it should consider a suit by Matt Butler, a Bush supporter who says manual recounts are unconstitutional because private citizens can't request them. He lost on the same issue in the circuit court.

The Republicans sought dismissal of the lawsuit before Sauls saying Gore's lawyers filed their challenge after the 10-day deadline required by state law. The Republicans also claimed Gore's challenge was baseless because the real election wasn't between the Texas governor and the vice president but between the separate groups of 25 Florida electors.

In Dallas, Texas a judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Bush's victory in Texas on grounds Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, is a resident of Texas rather than Wyoming. The Constitution prohibits the president and vice president from living in the same state, but U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater ruled Cheney has proven he ``has both a physical presence within the state of Wyoming and the intent that Wyoming be his place of habitation.'' Cheney lived in Dallas while he was chairman of Halliburton Co. but changed his voting registration to Teton County, Wyoming, on July 21st, four days before becoming Bush's running mate.