<i>Gore v. Bush</i> Survival Guide

Bush, Gore, Gavel, RKF, 001114
At this stage in the battle for the White House, a legal road map is not only handy - it's a necessity.

Lawyers for both Al Gore and George W. Bush have their hands full on multiple fronts. The crown jewel, of course, is the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Friday will hear oral arguments on Bush's appeal of Florida's hand recounts. Both sides filed written briefs with the high court on Tuesday. Bush's lawyers asked the nine justices to bring "legal finality" to Florida's election by overturning the state courts and halting any further recounts. Gore's lawyers countered that the nation's highest court should stay out of what the Gore side considers a state matter.

Besides the highest court in the land, here's a guide to the rest of the legal maneuvering over the closest and most disputed race for the White House in more than a century:

Gore Campaign

As allowed by Florida law, the vice president's lawyers are challenging Harris' certification of Bush as the state's winner, as well as the outcomes in three counties:

  • In Miami-Dade, Gore's legal eagles want a count of the 10,000 disputed votes that they say could not be read by machine and were never hand-counted. Last week, the county's canvassing board said they couldn't meet the Florida Supreme Court's Sunday deadline, so they quit counting.
  • In Palm Beach, the vice president's lawyers want to include hand-recounted votes - at least 180 for Gore - that Harris refused to accept becausr the recounting wasn't completed by the deadline. Instead, Harris stuck to the county's machine recount totals in her certified tally.
  • In Nassau County, Democrats are seeking to add a recounted total that would give Gore 51 more votes. In this case, the county reverted to reporting its initial post-election total instead of a machine recount, because some 200 ballots were inadvertently left out of the recount.
On Tuesday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls in Tallahassee turned down Gore's request for speedy hearings on his legal challenge - and ordered some 14,000 disputed ballots, sample voting booths and, voting machines from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties brought to his court by Friday for a hearing set for Saturday. Bush's lawyers said the ballots have already been counted and it's time to wrap up the election.

Bush Campaign

  • While Bush has dropped a lawsuit over rejected overseas absentee ballots, he is still targeting five individual counties on the issue: Hillsborough, Okaloosa, Orange, Pasco, and Polk. Lawyers for the Texas governor are challenging those counties' exclusion of overseas and military ballots eliminated for such things as missing postmarks.
  • Bush's legal team is seeking to delay the oral arguments in its suit against manual recounts before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Why? The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Bush camp's appeal on those hand cunts on Friday. On Tuesday, the Florida Democratic Party asked the circuit court to dismiss Bush's suit.

Butterfly Ballot

Some Democrats in Palm Beach County are seeking a countywide revote in the presidential race. They say the county's so-called "butterfly ballot" was so confusing that votes were mistakenly cast for Reform Party candidate Buchanan instead of Gore. This legal challenge, which Gore's team may yet join, has been sent to Florida's Supreme Court on Monday. That court extended briefing time until Wednesday afternoon on the issue of whether it should consider the case.

Also, a judge on Wednesday barred the conservative legal group Judicial Watch from examining thousands of disputed ballots, clearing the way for the punchcards to be sent to the state capital as part of the Gore campaign's legal challenge.

Absentee Ballots

A circuit court judge has set a Dec. 6 trial date for Democratic challenges to results in Seminole County, near Orlando Democrats - though not the Gore campaign itself - are asking that some 4,800 disputed absentee ballots be thrown out, claiming the county's Republican elections chief allowed two GOP workers to tamper with absentee ballot applications. If this suit is successful, it would wipe out Bush's 537-vote margin in the official certification.

And, A Civil Rights Suit?

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume announced Wednesdsay that the civil rights group will file lawsuits - perhaps as soon as next week - alleging extensive voting irregularities in Florida. Mfume said his group has collected 300 pages of testimony from citizens who say polls were closed without notice and voters were intimidated and turned away on Election Day. The NAACP suits will target the state of Florida and several of its counties, but Mfume didn't specify which counties would be named as defendants.

Also, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a coalition of civil rights groups are asking Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate allegations of voter disenfranchisement.