TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Nov. 13 (AP) -- Al Gore's advisers Monday denounced as "arbitrary and unreasonable" a decision by Florida's Republican secretary of state to maintain a Tuesday deadline for certifying manual recounts in Democratic-dominated counties.

Emerging from an eight-minute meeting with Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Warren Christopher said the country election boards or Gore himself will appeal the decision.

He 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."

The legal skirmishing quickened Sunday in the overtime race for the White House as Republicans warned that painstaking recounts in Democratic-dominated counties expose Florida to political ``mischief'' and human error. Democrats said they expect America's next president will be determined ``in a matter of days - not weeks, not months.''

Updated voting figures in all-important Florida gave Republican Bush a 288-vote margin out of some 6 million votes cast with recounts under way in four jurisdictions. Democrat Gore leads in the nationwide popular vote but the Electoral College tally is so close that whoever takes Florida almost certainly will win the White House.

Both parties previewed their legal strategies for a federal court hearing Monday on Bush's request to block manual recounts. Top Bush adviser James A. Baker III described the five-day Florida standoff as ``a black mark on our democracy and on our process.''

His rival, Gore adviser Christopher, portrayed vote recounts as a routine necessity of democracy. ``If at the end of the day, George Bush has more votes in Florida than we do, certainly the vice president will concede,'' Christopher said, even while leaving open the prospect of court action if recounting ends with Bush still ahead.

The marshaling of legal forces sets the stage for one of the most dramatic periods in American political history. A climax could come at the end of this week when final overseas mail-in ballots will be counted and the trailing candidate would be forced to concede or push deeper into uncharted waters.

``By next Friday,'' said Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., ``the pressure on someone is going to be enormous to accept whatever results Florida has reached.''

Their public financing drying up, both camps are raising money to pay rafts of lawyers and political operatives sent to every corner of Florida to examine county voting records and wage a campaign-style public relations battle.

The Bush team dispatched an ``urgent message'' by e-mail Sunday asking supporters for up to $5,000 to help finance the recount campaign. Democrats are hoping to raise $3 million, with top Gore aides moving from his headquarters in Tennessee to Democratic offices in Washington.

Among the weekend developments:

  • Palm Beach County, Fla., election officials added three dozen additional votes to Gore early Sunday in a marathon mechanical recount. Leaders of the Democratic stronghold then decided to manually check each of the 425,000 votes cast. One top county official said he will try to block the move.
  • Officials said their manual recount of precincts representing 1 percent of the vote turned up 19 votes for Gore beyond a machine count. Carol Roberts, a county commissioner and a member of the Palm Beach County canvassing commission, argued that a manual recount of 100 percent of the precincts could potentially change as many as 1,900 additional votes - far more than the existing statewide margin between the two candidates.

  • In Deland, Fla., Volusia County officials began a manual recount of all 184,018 ballots, despite Bush's pending request to stop it. With Democratic-laden Daytona Beach included, Gore's team hoped to pick up more votes.
  • Polk County, Fla., officials, rescanning ballots by machine for a third day, found an additional 104 votes for Bush and seven for Gore. Home to Lakeland, the county went for Bush.
  • Democrats added Osceola County to their list of hand recount requests. The Osceola canvassing board meets Monday to weigh it. Gore had a small lead over Bush in the 54,000-plus votes cast in the county just south of Orlando. Hispanic voters alleged they were required to produce two forms of identification when only one was required.
  • Bush had a 17-vote lead in New Mexico, where state police have begun impounding ballots from Tuesday's election. Republican lawyers asked the courts to order protection for early voting and absentee ballots cast statewide.
  • A Gore-requested manual recount in Broward County, Fla., another Democratic bastion with Fort Lauderdale as its hub, was to begin Monday. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Miami-Dade County, site of what Gore hopes will be a fourth manual recount.

    Join the Discussion
    comments powered by Disqus