IN THE NEWS #458 - Presidential Election

By Jerilyn Watson

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

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday gave Al Gore a new chance to win the American presidency. The court rejected a decision made by a lower court judge earlier in the week. The judge had denied a request by the vice president to order a recount of thousands of disputed ballots. On Friday, lawyers for Republican George W. Bush had argued that the state Supreme Court did not have power to judge the case.

The seven justices of Florida's highest court were divided, four-to-three, in their ruling.

The court ordered an immediate recount, by hand, of ballots that were rejected because they did not clearly show a vote for president. The voter may or may not have wanted to choose a candidate. The court ordered each ballot inspected for evidence of the will of the voter. The order covered any county that has not already done so. Florida has sixty-seven counties.

The state Supreme Court also recognized three-hundred-eighty-three additional votes for Mr. Gore. That would sharply reduce Mr. Bush's lead. Florida officials have already declared George W. Bush the state's winner by five-hundred-thirty-seven votes. Six-million Florida citizens voted in the election, which took place on November seventh.

Supporters of Mr. Gore cheered as a Florida Supreme Court spokesman announced the ruling Friday. Less than two hours earlier, supporters of Mr. Bush had cheered rulings by two other judges.

Those cases involved twenty-five-thousand mailed-in ballots in two counties won by the Texas governor. Democrats had sought to have at least some of those ballots rejected. They argued that Republican officials had been permitted, illegally, to fill in information missing from ballot request forms. But the two judges ruled that these ballots must be included in the state's voting total. They said the elections showed "a full and fair expression of the will of the voters." Mr. Gore was not involved in those two cases. After the rulings, his appeal to the Florida Supreme Court appeared to be his last chance.

But, the presidential election dispute is still not over, and it is not just in the courts. On Friday, the Florida Legislature opened a special meeting to consider appointing the state's Electoral College members. Electors are the people who officially choose American presidents.

The Electoral College meets December Eighteenth. Each state must choose its electors by this Tuesday. Florida Republicans say it may be necessary for the Legislature to intervene to meet that time limit. Since Republicans control the Legislature, Democrats accuse them of trying to give the election to Mr. Bush. Florida's twenty-five electoral votes will decide America's next president.

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

Voice of America Special English