WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 13—Even with the victory in federal district court
this morning, Democrat Al Gore may face an uphill situation in Florida.
A judge nixed a George W. Bush request to bar manual recounts in the
Sunshine State, but the Republicans have promised to appeal court
rulings up through the Supreme Court.
To many observers, a recount by hand seems only fair. But others
point out that Gore is asking for a second tally in a county he already
carried by 140,000 votes. So what he’s arguing is the necessity of a
recount based on alleged inaccuracy of less than 1 percent. If
successful, such a claim would surely be the first in U.S. history.
Faced with this morning’s adverse court ruling, the Republicans are
likely to unleash a “scorched earth” policy of challenging vote counts
around the nation. Since there are 17 states where the election was
decided by a vote of 5 percent or less, and 14 states where it was
decided by less than 4 percent, the door is open for recounts running
far into the future.
A scorched earth attack gets going if the Republicans lose Florida’s
25 electoral votes, putting Gore over the 270 mark needed to win the
White House. The strategy entails demanding recounts in Wisconsin, with
11 electoral votes, and Iowa—maybe even Oregon—with 7 each. If the
Texas governor can somehow end up winning Wisconsin, Oregon, and Iowa,
he’d have 271 votes. Or as some pundits are suggesting, he can try to
cobble together victories in Wisconsin, New Mexico, and either Oregon or
Iowa, plus one vote from a breakaway elector in Maine. That would also
put him over the top.
The Bush camp has sent operatives into the field in Wisconsin to
figure out whether it’s worth challenging Gore’s 6099 vote victory, from
a total 2.5 million votes. This could be an intriquing case, since
Milwaukee’s district attorney is investigating charges by Republicans
that Democrats were buying homeless votes by handing out cigarettes.
In Iowa, where there were 1.3 million votes cast, Gore won by 5069
votes. Republican agents there are looking into votes in 99 counties to
see whether a recount is in order.
In New Mexico, Bush’s lead is down to 17 votes with 600,000 ballots counted. Republicans have asked state election officials to impound all ballots that hairbreadth election. Denise Lamb, state Bureau of Elections director, told the Associated Press that it’s not unusual for local candidates to ask that ballots in a few precincts be impounded, “but not at the magnitude being proposed” by the Republican Party.
In Oregon, Gore is ahead by 5756 votes, with 40,000 absentees votes
now being counted. Oregon election law stipulates there must be a
recount if the difference falls below 2800 votes.