Disputed ballots headed to Tallahassee court in police cars
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- Attorneys for Al Gore argued in vain Tuesday to convince Florida Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls to immediately order a recount of disputed ballots in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, even before the judge rules on whether the recount tallies should be added to Florida's certified election results.
Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls
"From our perspective, to say that you are going to wait until after the trial to have the examination of the ballots, is backwards, because here the witnesses are primarily the ballots," argued attorney David Boies.
Gore believes that if the disputed ballots were counted, he would be the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes and therefore the presidency. Florida's current certified vote tally gives George W. Bush a thin lead of 537 votes.
Boies said the counting needed to be started as soon as Thursday to meet the December 12 deadline for the state to choose its electors. And he said if Sauls did not order the counting to start immediately, the Gore campaign would appeal that decision.
Hearings Thursday, Saturday
But the judge said he would hold a limited hearing Thursday on what the standards might be if the ballots were to be counted.
In a blow to the Bush legal team, Sauls scheduled the hearing at 9 a.m. EST Saturday to "get all chairs arranged on deck" to determine exactly what issues would be argued in this civil trial. Bush attorneys had said they needed more time for discovery, interviews and gathering of evidence.
He set an earlier deadline of the end of the business day Thursday for both sides to file responses to previous legal briefs in the case.
Bush attorneys blamed Gore's legal team for the tight deadline, saying the plaintiffs would have had plenty of time to contest the results if they had not spent so much time protesting before the certification.
In the Miami-Dade case, Gore's attorneys said the canvassing board abused its power by deciding not to conduct a manual recount of ballots because the count could not be completed by the deadline set by the Florida Supreme Court.
But Bush's team argued that it was up to the canvassing board and not a court to decide whether a recount was to be conducted.
Hanging chad, dimpled chad debated
Election officials in both counties spoke to the judge by speaker phone during the Tuesday hearing and agreed to send the disputed ballots to the Tallahassee courthouse in police cars by noon Friday. Arrangements will be made to put 10,750 Miami-Dade and 3,300 Palm Beach ballots into the custody of the court clerk.
The county officials also agreed to send sample ballots, voting instructions and a sample voting machine to be used as evidence in the case after lawyers argued about what may have caused the ballots to be perforated only partially, resulting in the much-talked about hanging chad and dimpled chad.
Palm Beach County also agreed to send two different kinds of machines that they used on Election Day.