Lawyers lawmakers key in Presidential fight
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DECEMBER 7, 2000

A month after American citizens went to the polls, the fate of the Presidential race now lies in the arguments of lawyers and the votes of lawmakers.

Lawyers for Vice President Al Gore will appear in the Florida Supreme Court today in a last-ditch attempt to have some 14,000 disputed ballots manually recounted. A circuit court judge last on Monday ruled against the recount and said the Gore campaign didn't prove the outcome could have changed.

A negative ruling for Gore would signal the end of his challenges to the race.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Florida are set to hold a special session with the sole intent of choosing the state's 25 electors. The Republican leaders of Florida's House and Senate yesterday announced they will meet on Friday, hoping to guarantee a win for Texas Governor George W. Bush when the Electoral College meets on December 18.

The last time the Florida Legislature got involved in choosing electors was in 1868, when they helped Republican Ulysses S. Grant win the nation's Presidency. This time, lawmakers are worried their entire state will be ignored due to federal law requiring each state to have its slate ready by December 12.

But the lawmakers might not have it so easy. Should the Florida Supreme Court rule in favor of Gore and a recount of the ballots gives him enough votes to overtake Bush's tight lead, it would set up yet another conflict. This time, Congress would settle the dispute and the public wouldn't know the outcome until early January.

Two other lawsuits are also making their way through the Florida court system. Although they may help Gore, he is not involved with them.

In those suits, Democrats are arguing that Republicans invalidated thousands of absentee ballots in two counties by filling in missing voter ID numbers. In testimony yesterday, an elections supervisor from Seminole County admitted she allowed Republicans to fill in the numbers. Another official from Martin County said he took absentee ballots from an elections office in order to let other Republicans fill in the numbers.

Should the ballots be thrown out, Gore could gain additional votes. Bush won the absentee ballot count by 4,797 votes in Seminole and 2,815 votes in Martin.

And although not currently the subject of any lawsuits, the overwhelming number of ignored votes of African-Americans in Florida have also been questioned. The Washington Post earlier this week reported that predominantly African-American and Democratic precincts had a higher rate of invalidated ballots than others.

In precincts in Miami-Dade County with African-American populations of 70 percent or more, about 10 percent of the ballots weren't counted, compared to 3 percent for the county as a whole, reported The Post. The Department of Justice has dispatched representatives to gather testimony on the voting patterns of African-American voters.

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