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Florida Supreme Court Allows Hand Recounts, Sets Sunday Deadline

November 22, 2000

"Courts must not lose sight of the fundamental purpose of election laws: The laws are intended to facilitate and safeguard the right of each voter to express his or her will in the context of our representative democracy."
- Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the inclusion of manual recounts of votes in three Florida counties, overturning a lower court decision last Friday.

The Supreme Court has set 5pm next Sunday 26 November as the deadline for counties to submit their revised returns to the Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. In the event of Harris's office not being open on Sunday, the Court has decreed that 9am Monday 27 November as the deadline.

The decision is a rebuff to George W. Bush. His lawyers have strenuously opposed manual recounts and their inclusion in the final tally.

The Court did not rule on methods of determining the validity of votes, although it appeared to lean towards a liberal interpretation of dimpled and hanging chads.

Thousands of ballot papers have been set aside during the recounts, awaiting determination of their validity. There has to be some doubt about the ability of the counties to complete their recounts by Sunday.

The Court set the new deadline with a view to allowing sufficient time for either party to contest the final certified result in Court. The certified list of Florida electors has to be finalised by December 12, prior to the formal meeting of the Electoral College on December 18.

It remains now to be seen whether Bush will appeal the decision in the US Supreme Court.

Latest counting indicates that Vice-President Al Gore is failing to pick up enough votes to overturn Bush's 930-vote lead.

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