Gore trails Bush by 300 votes in the official vote tally in Florida, pending the count of overseas absentee ballots tomorrow.
Unless the manually recounted ballots are included, Gore is unlikely to
win, many politicians on both sides believe. By most estimates, the
traditionally Republican overseas ballots could add several hundred votes to
Bush's current margin.
Democrats are hopeful that a hand recount of some 1.6 million ballots in
the largely Democratic counties of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade would
turn up enough additional votes for Gore to push him ahead of Bush. The
Florida Supreme Court allowed the hand counts to go forward yesterday, but
Harris, a co-chairwoman of the Bush campaign in the state, said last night
that they would not be included in her final tally.
In addition, officials in Miami-Dade, after conducting a preliminary manual
count, have decided not to recount the entire county. Democrats have
challenged that decision, and Gore's offer may have been intended to put new
pressure on county officials to change their minds.
National polls show that the public is willing to await a fair and complete
count of the votes in Florida to determine the outcome of the presidential
Gore's offer "puts Bush in the box of defending what the American people
think is indefensible, which is shutting off the count before the count is
completed," said Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster.
Both sides have indicated, by their words and actions over the past week,
that they believe Gore might gain from a manual recount of the ballots, which
many states, including Texas, require as a check on machine counts.
The Bush campaign has gone to court to try to block the hand counts. Unless
the courts intervene, Harris could well certify Bush as the victor in Florida
on Saturday, adding to a growing public perception that the Republican will be
the next president, Maslin said.
Gore's offer to resolve the matter with a relatively swift count, with a
promise not to drag out the matter in the courts, could be his best way of
signaling to voters that he shares their desire for finality, the Democratic
Gore said last night that his proposal would "settle this matter with
finality and justice in a period of days, not weeks."
And, in his first public comments on the subject of manual vote counts, he
maintained that "machines can sometimes misread or fail to detect the way
ballots are cast." Gore added that "a careful hand count is accepted far and
wide as the best way to know the true intentions of the voters."
Gore's offer to take the matter out of the legal arena is a sharp reversal
of the position announced by his campaign last week, which was the first to
threaten to back legal action.
Perhaps the main legal action that Gore would abandon, as a result of his
proposal, is the challenges that have been filed to the "butterfly ballot" in
Palm Beach County. Many legal analysts have suggested that those lawsuits are
unlikely to result in any significant change in the count.
The Gore campaign sees the hand counts in Democratic counties as his best
chance to take the lead in the Florida count. By offering to let his
presidential ambitions rise or fall with the results of those hand counts in
three counties, Gore is taking a calculated risk that he will gain enough
votes to wipe out Bush's margin.
"I don't know what the final results will show," Gore said. "But I do know
this is about much more than what happens to me or my opponent. It is about
our democracy. My faith is in the people's will, in our Constitution and in
our system of self-government."
Bush rejects Gore proposal
Florida official won't accept 3 counties' manual tallies; Democrat offered to forgo challenges if recounts proceed; Republican says deals should not determine outcome
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.