Democrat Al Gore pursued his legal battle for the US presidency Tuesday after asking his fellow Americans to be patient as he contested official tallies that gave Republican George W. Bush a key victory in Florida.
"Whatever the outcome, let the people have their say, and let us listen," the vice president said in a brief televised address late Monday, a day after Bush claimed the White House and urged the vice president to concede defeat.
With his popular support eroding and the Texas governor vowing to press ahead with efforts to assemble a cabinet, Gore assailed what he charged were hasty efforts to bring an end to the disputed November 7 presidential vote.
"This is America. When votes are cast, we count them. We don't arbitrarily set them aside because it's too difficult to count them," Gore said from his official residence here, against a backdrop of US flags.
Gore demanded a "complete count" of votes in Florida, where officials late Sunday declared Bush triumphant by just 537 votes, handing him the 25 Electoral College votes that put him over the 270 needed to win the White House.
"Many thousands of votes that were cast on Election Day have not yet been counted at all, not once," insisted Gore, accusing his rivals of using lawsuits and intimidation to stymie the process he believes could still make him the winner.
Gore tried to reassure an increasingly impatient public. In recent polls Americans have said by a two-to-one margin that they want the vice president to admit defeat and abandon efforts to challenge the Florida results.
But Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, suggested the surveys may misrepresent the real feeling of Americans.
"I don't think the American people are out of patience now," he told PBS television. "I think they know that something significant to our democracy is happening, that every vote must be counted."
Gore lawyers earlier Monday filed written briefs to contest election tallies in three Florida counties, saying votes in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Nassau were either not counted, miscounted or incorrectly certified, robbing him of as many as 1,800 votes.
"The vote totals reported in the election canvassing commission certification of November 26, 2000, are wrong," the attorneys said in a brief in circuit court.
Judge Sanders Sauls gave lawyers for Bush until Friday to respond.
The unusual new phase of the election wrangle, officially referred to as the contest, falls under a section of Florida law that allows losing candidates to challenge election results if they think they can show they won.
"We find ourselves in a unique and totally unprecedented position," Bush's running mate Dick Cheney told a news conference.
"Never before in American history has a presidential candidate gone to court to try to change the outcome of an already certified presidential election," he said.
But Gore insisted in a conference call with Senator Tom Daschle and Representative Richard Gephardt -- the top Democrats in their respective chambers of the US Congress -- that the race would not end until the courts had their final say.
"The integrity of our democracy depends upon the consent of the governed, freely expressed in an election in which every vote is counted," he said.
The Bush camp said it will not drop its own challenge, which the US Supreme Court plans to hear Friday, claiming manual vote recounts conducted in parts of Florida were unconstitutional.
Florida's Republican-held legislature joined the high court fray, filing a brief essentially taking the Bush line.
And its House speaker, Tom Feeney, reiterated his warning that should the legal row continue, the state's lawmakers could appoint the 25 Florida members of the Electoral College, a suggestion that drew sharp protests from Democrats.
Individual voters in Palm Beach also stepped into the legal fray, calling for a revote in their county, where they said ballots were confusing. The Florida Supreme Court was weighing the motion.
As Republicans called on Gore to concede defeat, the vice president won key support from top Democratic legislators.
"There's overwhelming support for your effort and a realization that if we completed the count, there is little doubt that you'd be ahead," Daschle told Gore.
Gephardt said that House Democrats "continue to be entirely supportive of going ahead with this contest," the outcome of which will determine who takes the oath of office January 20, 2001.
Cheney, meanwhile, complained that public funds destined for the transition team were not made available to Bush, and that, as a result, the Republicans would turn to private donations "to defray the transition-related expenses."
In a related development, US President Bill Clinton said Monday he was creating a special council to ensure "a smooth transition" to power for whoever wins the fight to succeed him.
"The council will provide the president-elect's team with coordinated services, especially regarding personnel matters," he told reporters -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)