IN THE NEWS #455 - Presidential Election Update

By Jerilyn Watson

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Week Two of America's presidential-election dispute centered on court actions and the votes of Florida citizens outside the state. There were major developments Friday.

In the morning, a judge ruled that the state's top election official could reject hand recounts of ballots. That meant Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris could prepare to announce the final numbers. She told all counties to report in by seventeen hours Universal Time Saturday.

But recounts continued in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Both have large numbers of Democratic voters. The judge, however, said Mizz Harris had wide powers to accept or reject their returns.

The campaign of the Democratic candidate, Vice President Al Gore, immediately appealed to the state's highest court. Mr. Gore was three-hundred votes behind his Republican opponent, George W. Bush. The Texas governor's lead increased Friday in the first results of the mailed-in votes.

Then, late Friday afternoon, the Florida Supreme Court ordered the secretary of state not to declare final results. The court set a hearing to discuss the issue on Monday.

Republicans took court action of their own this week. They opposed the recounts sought by Democrats as inexact, unfair and costly. Democrats say Katherine Harris went against the will of the people by refusing to accept late recounts. They also noted that she is a Republican who helped lead Mr. Bush's campaign in Florida.

On Thursday, Vice President Gore suggested a possible recount of all Florida votes. He said he would accept defeat if he lost the recount. Mr. Bush rejected that offer. Also on Thursday the Bush campaign said it would not ask for a recount in Iowa. Mr. Gore won that state by four-thousand votes.

Republicans in Congress called this week for hearings about how television might have affected the election. The dispute about who won the presidency began early on November Eighth. At that time, television networks declared that Mr. Bush had won. About fifteen minutes later, Al Gore telephoned to congratulate Mr. Bush. But one hour later Mr. Gore called again. He said the situation had changed.

Ten minutes after that, the networks withdrew their announcement that Mr. Bush had won. They said the race was too close to decide.

Mr. Gore won the popular vote nationally. But the forty-third president of the United States will be the candidate who wins the twenty-five electoral votes in Florida.

One candidate knew on Election Day that he had lost in Florida. Ralph Nader of the Green Party finished third. Still, he received more than ninety-seven-thousand votes in the Sunshine State. Many who voted for Mr. Nader said that, had his name not been on the ballot, they would have voted for Al Gore.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English