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DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS | Gore Sues Over Florida

He Asks Public for Patience; Bush Considers Cabinet Picks

Election: Citing need for 'full and accurate' count, vice president contests tabulation in 3 counties. Cheney outlines transition plans as administration withholds cooperation.


Taking his case directly to the people, Al Gore asked Americans on Monday night to be patient and suspend judgment as his lawyers went to court to formally contest Florida election results giving the White House to George W. Bush.

The vice president said all he has sought since election day three weeks ago is "a complete count of all the votes cast in Florida. Not recount after recount, as some have charged. But a single full and accurate count. We haven't had that yet."

Speaking from the living room of his home in Washington, standing before a backdrop of American flags, Gore portrayed his quest for the presidency in patriotic, even selfless terms.

"I believe our Constitution matters more than convenience," Gore said in his five-minute prime-time address, intended both to justify his continued legal fight and dispel any assumption the race is over. "So, as provided under Florida law, I have decided to contest this inaccurate and incomplete count in order to ensure the greatest possible credibility for the outcome."

Gore's speech capped a day in which the two rivals worked furiously on both the legal and public-relations fronts to advance their distinct--and contradictory--claims.

While the Democratic candidate Gore vowed to fight on, Republican nominee Bush proceeded as if the election was over, meeting with aides in Austin, Texas, to discuss his intentions for his Cabinet and White House staff.

In Washington, running mate Dick Cheney outlined his plans for running the transition from the Clinton to the Bush administration.

But in Florida, matters seemed far from settled.

Gov. Jeb Bush signed the paperwork officially certifying his older brother the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes, putting him one vote over the 270 needed to win the White House.

But shortly after noon, attorneys for Gore filed a lawsuit contesting the election and Bush's scant 537-vote margin.

Specifically, the vice president challenged the tabulations in three counties--Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Nassau--flatly stating, "The vote totals reported in the election canvassing commission's certification of Nov. 26, 2000, are wrong.

"They include illegal votes and do not include legal votes that were improperly rejected," the suit alleges.

At the same time, the GOP-run state Legislature prepared to hold its first hearing today on the prospect of unilaterally awarding the state's 25 electoral votes to Bush, regardless of whether Gore prevails in his legal fight.

"If this controversy is . . . unresolved by Dec. 12"--the federal deadline for appointing the state's electors--"the Legislature has the authority and may have the responsibility to step in," Senate President John McKay said.

Both sides, meantime, plan to file written arguments today with the U.S. Supreme Court, which takes up the unprecedented legal battle for the White House on Friday. Bush is contesting the Florida Supreme Court ruling that allowed the hand counting of presidential ballots to continue past the state's usual seven-day postelection deadline.

Gore Reschedules His Address to Nation

Gore rescheduled his address for the evening from 9 a.m. PST to reach the widest audience.

He spoke of his years-long quest for the White House in dispassionate, almost impersonal terms. "A vote is not just a piece of paper," he said. "A vote is a human voice, a statement of human principles. And we must not let those voices be silenced. . . . If the people, in the end, do not choose me, so be it. The outcome will be fair and the people will have spoken."

Alternatively, Gore said, "if they choose me, so be it. I would then commit and do commit to bringing this country together. But whatever the outcome, let the people have their say."

Bush himself mostly stayed out of sight Monday, offering no response to Gore's remarks. "We don't believe that Vice President Gore said anything new," said Dan Bartlett, a Bush campaign spokesman. "He wants recount after recount in selected Democratic counties until he gets the result he likes."

A day after using his own nationally televised address to declare himself the next president, the Texas governor worked on a mix of transition issues and state business, including signing the papers to certify the presidential results in Texas, which Bush won handily with 59% of the vote.

Arriving at his statehouse office, Bush ignored reporters' shouted questions, including one that asked, "Mr. Bush, what are we supposed to call you?"

Cheney was not so coy. As designated head of transition efforts, he called a Washington news conference to outline his plans, even as the Clinton administration continued to withhold its cooperation.

"We believe it is time to get on with the business of organizing the new administration," Cheney said, looking hale after suffering what was described by doctors as a mild heart attack last week.

Private Funds to Be Used for Transition

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