Published on Monday, November 13, 2000 at 9:59AM by the Associated Press
Florida Won't Extend Recount Deadline
by Will Lester
 
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –– Sticking to a firm deadline, Florida's Republican secretary of state ordered all of the states' counties to finish counting votes by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Al Gore's advisers decried the decision as "arbitrary and unreasonable" and vowed court action.

The deadline is a major roadblock for Gore, because some of the manual recounts requested by Democrats in four Florida counties probably cannot be completed by the end of the day on Tuesday.

"The electoral process is a balance between the desire of each individual voter to have his or her intended vote recorded and the right of the public to a clear, final result within a reasonable time," Secretary of State Katherine Harris said, explaining the deadline.

"The process of counting and recounting the votes cast on Election Day must end," she said in a statement.

Warren Christopher, who is overseeing Gore's recount effort, met briefly Monday morning with Harris and said the county election boards or Gore himself will appeal the decision.

Christopher suggested that Harris' ruling was politically motivated. Noting that she campaigned for Gore's rival, George W. Bush, and is a political supporter of Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Christopher said. "Her statement has to be taken into that context."

"We regard the action of the secretary of state to be arbitrary and unreasonable," Christopher said in a hurried-up news conference with Gore campaign chairman William Daley. "It seeks to nullify and frustrate the hand count."

The development came as both sides went to federal court over Bush's petition for a court order shutting down the hand recounts, which have narrowed the Texas governor's lead in all-important Florida.

Gore's huge team of operatives and lawyers geared up for a public relations battle. Democrats said they would dispatch Gore surrogates across the country to allege that Harris' actions are evidence that Jeb Bush is using his influence as Florida governor to help his brother.

Harris campaigned for the Texas governor in New Hampshire and is an ally of the Florida governor.

Two counties – Volusia and Palm Beach – that are involved in manual recounts, had indicated they would legally challenge any deadline that will not allow the completion of their recounts.

Volusia County authorities initially thought it would take them three days to do the hand recount, but they concluded late Sunday they could finish by Monday evening.

The other two counties, Broward and Miami-Dade, had not yet begun recounts, with Broward starting a manual recount of sample precincts Monday and Miami-Dade with a hearing scheduled Tuesday on the question.

Bush has a 288-vote lead in the decisive state, with the manual recounts and the overseas ballots that are due Friday the biggest remaining issues.

Ron Labasky, an attorney representing Florida's supervisors of elections, said Tuesday's deadline is vague.

Florida law states that if the returns are not received by the department by the 5 p.m. Tuesday, "such returns may be ignored and the results may then be certified by the department," he said.

"Why is that sentence in there if this is a drop-dead day?" Labasky asked.

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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