Tuesday Florida Deadline Passes as Impasse Persists
Democrats reject Bush compromise proposal as vote differential drops to 286; official says Saturday will yield final result.
BY: Ron Fournier
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (AP) -- One week into America's election limbo, Florida counties officially reported their presidential votes after a Tuesday deadline was upheld by a state judge, even as thousands of disputed ballots were counted by hand into the night. Democrats rejected George W. Bush's potential compromise to cease the ballot-by-ballot fight for the White House.
"When is it going to end?" asked Bush aide James A. Baker III. There was no answer in sight.
With lawyers and judges front and center in the presidential election, nerves began to fray and adjectives failed to serve.
"It's like the seventh day of being held hostage," stammered Jeb Bush, governor of Florida and the harried brother of the GOP presidential hopeful.
The latest margin for Bush was 286 votes, according to an informal AP tally.
Judge Terry Lewis ruled that counties could file new vote totals after the state's 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline to certify ballots. He gave Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Bush supporter, authority to reject or approve them using "the proper exercise and discretion."
It was a setback for the vice president, who wanted a clear order lifting the Tuesday deadline, but his lawyers found solace in ruling language urging Harris to consider "all appropriate facts and circumstances."
Gore decided to hold off an appeal and press forward with recounts in four Democratic-leaning counties. He hopes Harris will approve the hand-counted ballots and is prepared to appeal if she does not.
Officials in Volusia County pledged an appeal, saying they needed more time to complete their hand recount.
"If the secretary of state arbitrarily refuses to accept the amended returns based on the recount and violates what this court has ruled ... which is to accept those results unless she has good reason not to, then we will be back in court," said a new member of Gore's massive legal team, David Boies.
A lawyer for Harris said if updated totals are submitted after Tuesday's deadline, "It is then in her discretion to consider all the facts and circumstances and she will certainly do that." The spokeswoman, Donna Blanton, said the outcome of the statewide election should be known on Saturday, when all overseas absentee ballots have been counted.