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Supreme Court hears arguments, Florida court rules against Gore

Sauls gestures during a hearing over the election ballot dispute in his courtroom at the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee on Friday  
van Susteren Greta Van Susteren: Justices well prepared for Florida election case

van Susteren Roger Cossack: Justices very interested in recount case

Bierbauer Charles Bierbauer: Recount case should make states take a close look at their own election laws

December 1, 2000
Web posted at: 10:12 p.m. EST (0312 GMT)

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- On a day when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments that may decide who will be president, two rulings by the Florida Supreme Court went against Democrat Al Gore.

For the first time in its history, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed a case involving the election of the president. The nine justices sharply questioned attorneys representing the two presidential candidates, seeking a legal reason why an election case from Florida even belongs in the federal courts. (More on the U.S. Supreme Court hearing)

The case came to the nation's highest court on an appeal by the George W. Bush campaign of a Florida ruling that said the Florida secretary of state abused her discretion in refusing to accept hand recount totals that some counties sought to file after the deadline set by the Florida Legislature. (Hearing transcript: PDF | HTML)

The two men who argued the case before the nation's high court Friday appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" Friday night.

Theodore Olson, the attorney who presented the Bush position, said: "What we were trying to convince the court was that the rules shouldn't be changed in the middle of the counting of the votes in an election; that the rules going in should be the rules coming out."

Gore attorney Laurence Tribe said: "Governor Bush and his lawyers are asking for some pretty sweeping relief ...What they want the court to do is not only reverse the Florida Supreme Court and say that it went off the reservation, but also turn back the clock ..."

In Tallahassee, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that defects in the design of the much-derided Palm Beach County butterfly ballot were not substantial enough to warrant a revote. In another decision, the court dismissed an appeal by Gore to immediately begin a hand count of 14,000 ballots before a Leon County circuit court judge decides whether the count is legal. (More on the Florida Supreme Court rulings)

Reading from the butterfly ballot ruling, the high court said: "As a general rule, a court should not void an election for ballot defects unless such defects cause the ballot to be in substantial non-compliance with the statutory election requirements. ...The Palm Beach County ballot does not constitute substantial non-compliance with the statutory requirements."

Meanwhile, Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls, who is presiding in Leon County, told attorneys that a Saturday trial to determine whether to count 14,000 disputed ballots from two Florida counties will be limited and to the point.

Listen to the Supreme Court hearing (with CNN Radio commentary on who is speaking) (December 1) (part 1)

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CNN's Roger Cossack was in the courtroom during arguments for the Bush team. He says the justices pressed the lawyers on whether the high court should intervene in the Florida case (December 1)

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Watch all up-to-the-minute video of Election 2000
Florida Senate and House Of Representatives motions to U.S. Supreme Court (Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvass Board)

Gore's response filed with U.S. Supreme Court Court filings to the U.S. Supreme Court
(These require Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Per curiam opinion sending butterfly ballot case to Florida Supreme Court

Court filings to the Florida Supreme Court
(These require Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Florida Code Title IX - Laws concerning Florida Electors and Elections (Florida Legislature Web site)

Read more election-related cases in CNN'S Law Library

"Let's get all the fluff off and proceed in this manner," he said, stressing that he wanted to have the trial over in 12 hours, -- an apparent rebuff of the Bush camp's plan to present as many as 95 witnesses in what the Gore camp attacked as a delaying tactic.

"This is a trial contesting a state-wide election," he said. The trial must determine whether "the outcome of the election would be different" with a hand count, the judge said.

Sauls, who has the power to overturn Florida's certified election results, said he would limit presentation of evidence to direct examination, cross examination and redirect examination "and not just back and forth ad infinitum." He said each side would be required to limit its presentation to just one witness on any given subject matter.

Sauls reiterated he would not order the hand count of the Palm Beach and Miami-Dade county ballots until it had been shown to his satisfaction that it could alter the outcome of the election. (More on Judge Sauls' hearing)

Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore are battling for Florida's 25 electoral votes in a certified election that currently has Bush ahead by 537 votes.

Latest developments

•  The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said Friday it will hear two separate but related cases challenging the Florida ballot hand count. The cases, brought by individuals but joined by the Bush campaign, argue that recounts by hand are unfair and unconstitutional.

•  The Florida Supreme Court addressed another pending election case, in essence asking a voter who had challenged the constitutionality of an earlier hand count why the court should hear the case.

•  The leader of Florida's House of Representatives reaffirmed his belief Friday that the state's Republican-controlled legislature has the power to name the state's presidential electors, but held off calling a special session to do so. (More on the Florida Lesiglature)

"As soon as the Florida House and Florida Senate work out the language and schedule, I am prepared to sign a proclamation for a special session to preserve the election results," said House Speaker Tom Feeney.

•  In Leon County, Judge Sauls ordered that ballots from Broward, Pinellas, Nassau and Volusia counties must be immediately sequestered and impounded, but not shipped to Tallahassee, as was requested by the Bush campaign. That order came in response to objections by the counties in question. Sauls ordered that no one should have access to the ballots "in any reason and any manner" until so directed by the court.

•  A caravan carrying about 654,000 ballots from Miami-Dade County arrived in Tallahassee from Miami at approximately 2:45 p.m. Friday.

The caravan consisted of a rental truck carrying 82 boxes of ballots and one voting machine, followed by a backup truck, police cars and vehicles carrying Democratic and Republican observers. Thursday, a similar truck carrying hundreds of thousands of ballots from Palm Beach County arrived in Tallahassee.

The Palm Beach and Miami-Dade ballots are being stored in the vault of the clerk of the court, until Sauls decides whether to grant a Democrat request that they be hand counted.

•  Kweisi Mfume, leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has asked the Justice Department to investigate alleged election irregularities and minority vote dilution on Election Day. Mfume says the alleged irregularities may have violated the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He also called on the federal government to oversee a vote recount.

•  Three Wall Street veterans were said to be on an early list of potential Bush administration Treasury secretaries, CNN has learned. Republican sources say Chase Manhattan Corp. chairman Walter Shipley, PaineWebber chairman Don Marron, and Credit Suisse First Boston chairman John M. Hennessey were on the list.

Gore has discussed the likelihood of asking several Cabinet secretaries in the Clinton administration to stay on temporarily if he wins the presidency, transition sources tell CNN.(More on transition plans)

•  FBI background checks on potential senior White House staffers in a Bush or Gore administration could begin as soon as next week, senior White House officials tell CNN. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta and FBI Director Louis Freeh have agreed to begin background checks when nominees complete FBI questionnaires. (More on background checks)

•  A group of voters from Martin County, Florida, filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to throw out all absentee ballots in the county. Residents filed the suit Friday morning against the Martin County canvassing board. It accuses Republican officials of tampering with absentee ballot request forms. Of the 9,773 absentee ballots cast, 6,294 went to Bush and 3,479 to Gore -- a 2,815 vote advantage for the Texas governor.

•  Retired Gen. Colin Powell is among those urging Bush to consider Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge for the post of defense secretary in a Bush administration, several Republican sources have said. Ridge's office, however, said he is adamant about completing his current term as governor.

While Powell has not received a formal Cabinet offer, "there is more than a clear understanding" that he would be offered the position of secretary of state, a close adviser said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

CNN White House correspondents John King and Major Garrett, Correspondents Gary Tuchman and Mark Potter, and Correspondent Raju Chebium contributed to this report, which was written by writer Jonathan D. Austin.

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Friday, December 1, 2000



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