Bush, Gore Prepare for U.S. High Court Showdown

December 12, 2000 - 0:0
WASHINGTON -- Lawyers for Republican George W.
Bush and Democrat Al Gore prepared for a historic U.S. Supreme Court showdown on Monday that could finally decide who will be the 43rd president of the United States.
After five weeks of legal battles, one of the closest presidential elections in history could turn on the nine votes of the highest court in the land, whose justices appear to be as deeply divided on the issue as the rest of the country.
At precisely 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT), the justices hold a special 90-minute session to question lawyers for Bush and Gore on whether hand counting of ballots should resume in Florida's bitterly contested presidential election.
Both Bush and Gore need Florida's 25 electoral votes to put them over the 270 mark to win the presidency. The deadline for selecting the electors is Dec. 12, and the Electoral College meets on Dec.
18 to select the president.
At issue before the justices in the case entitled "Bush V. Gore" was a Florida Supreme Court ruling on Friday that gave the vice president new hope by ordering the immediate hand recounts of tens of thousands of ballots in Florida.
But the U.S. Supreme Court, splitting by a 5-4 vote along conservative and liberal lines, on Saturday halted the recounts until it hears oral arguments and then decides Bush's appeal.
A ruling could come at any time after the arguments.
Previewing their arguments, Bush's lawyers said on Sunday the state high court created new rules after the Nov. 7 election, violating the 1887 electoral count act and part of the U.S. Constitution which grants power over the selection of presidential electors to state legislatures.
Theodore Olson, arguing for the Texas governor, denounced the state court for its "crazy-quilt" ruling that has incited "controversy, suspicion and lack of confidence" in the electoral process.
Lawyers for Gore, who needs the recounts to resume to have any chance of overcoming Bush's razor-thin lead in Florida and of winning the presidency, strongly disagreed, saying the state court simply wanted to count every vote.
They said there was little doubt that a final tally of the still uncounted ballots will occur at some time.
"The only question is whether these votes will be counted before the electoral college meets to select the next president or whether this court will instead relegate them to be counted only by scholars and researchers ... after the next president is elected," Gore's lawyers said.
Gore's lawyers added, "this case raises the most fundamental questions about the legitimacy of political power in our democracy." A ruling for Bush that the Florida Supreme Court overstepped its authority would end the recounts and leave him with the 537-vote lead -- out of six million ballots cast -- that state officials certified last month.
A ruling for Gore would allow the recounts to be finished. It then would be determined whether Gore picked up enough votes to overtake Bush in the final tally.
No official tallies were released under orders of the judge directing the recount, but unofficial results indicated that Gore was making up little ground in his bid for overtake Bush's slim lead.