Everybody leads with today’s oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court concerning whether or not manual recounts may proceed and be included in the state’s final presidential election tally. The papers explain that the Gore position is yes, the Bush position no.
The papers explain that after the past weekend’s tabulation of absentee ballots increased George W. Bush’s lead to 930, there is more pressure than ever on the issue of whether of not three large and predominantly Democratic counties may continue to check ballots by hand. The USA Today lead says that the Gore position is focused on the “established legal principle” that if a hand inspection detects a vote missed by a machine, that vote counts. The Washington Post lead quotes a Gore brief attributing the same idea to “settled Florida law.” Both the USAT and the Post leads say the Bush lawyers are arguing that it would be “highly inequitable” to delay the state’s official tally “when the responsible officials failed expeditiously even to begin the process.” The Los Angeles Times lead quotes Bush legal papers as saying that “there is no duty to conduct a manual recount or any right to have one” and indeed that such recounts “necessarily would produce an inaccurate tabulation.”
The leads also depict details of the ongoing ballot recounting. Their consensus is that the biggest ground-level development may have been Broward County’s decision to consider ballots–heretofore disregarded–that still have their chad attached at more than two corners. The New York Times lead says the change came at the request of Democrats “who are clearly discouraged” that hand recounts have yet to produce a huge surge of additional Gore votes.
Several of the papers’ headlines refer to the slowness of the manual recounts. The NYT lead refers to “thousands of challenged ballots piling up.” And the WP says that a Miami-Dade preliminary machine recount conducted yesterday found that one out of every 61 ballots had no discernible vote on it. The WP and NYT point out that the Miami-Dade County re-tally, which involves the most ballots and is getting the latest start, will probably not be over until early December.
The leads also refer to increased friction between Democrats and Republicans involved in the recounts. The NYT lead, reflecting a reporter’s one-hour visit to the Palm Beach County recount center finds not as much tension as Republicans have described but also not the smooth-running process Democrats have portrayed. The story is accompanied (online at least) by a photograph that stands in contrast to the image of recount tension and squabbling: a shot of Palm Beach recount officials bipartisanly laughing together. In a similar counter to the general partisan picture, the LAT quotes the Republican Palm Beach County attorney as saying of the PB manual recount, “I haven’t seen anything that would even be close to fraud.”
The Wall Street Journal Florida front-pager finds some Democrats saying that if the hand recounts in Florida don’t give Al Gore a lead, he should abandon further legal challenges and concede. Most of the Democratic pols quoted are moderates, but the story also has Rep. Charles Rangel saying that Gore shouldn’t, for instance, pursue the butterfly ballots. And the LAT says the Democrats’ top individual donor, Peter Buttenweiser, is disappointed in Gore’s conduct since the election and believes Gore bears responsibility for the stalemate because he failed to give Americans a compelling reason to pick him. “We ran,” the paper quotes Buttenweiser, “a bad campaign at virtually every level.” And then there’s “retired bagel magnate” Marvin Lender, who came on as a big donor after Joe Lieberman joined the Gore ticket. He tells the paper, “I think at some point it has to come to an end, and it needs to be relatively soon.”
The WP, NYT, and LAT off-lead word that Peru’s president, Alberto Fujimori, now in Japan, where he has relatives, has decided to resign. Fujimori had been politically weakened by his inability to arrest the nation’s former intelligence chief in connection with a burgeoning corruption scandal and by suspicions that he himself is implicated in it. The papers report that he may not return to Peru.
The LAT goes inside with one of those this-week-asparagus-is-bad-for-you stories: It seems that some doctors and nutritionists doubt that you really need to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. For one thing, it looks as if coffee and sodas do count as helpful hydration. And solid food alone contains plenty of water. The paper says most experts don’t even have any idea where the eight-glasses rule came from.