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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"With both camps turning to the courts, this battle could drag on for weeks"
 real 56k

Bob Crawford, Florida election official
"We have to review the votes that are submitted by 5pm on Tuesday"
 real 28k

Joe Lieberman, Democrat vice presidential candidate
"Turning the constitution on its head"
 real 28k

Monday, 13 November, 2000, 15:54 GMT
Anger over US poll deadline
Democratic and Republican supporters argue
Bush supporters say hand counting is inaccurate
The Tuesday deadline to certify votes in the US presidential election from Florida's 67 counties will be enforced, the Florida state government has said.

The decision by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has angered the Democratic camp, which says the deadline will not leave enough time to finish the recount.

The party is reportedly taking steps to challenge the decision in court, believing that it reflects political bias within the Republican state government.

An automatic recount was ordered in Florida after Republican candidate George W Bush won a slim victory - a result which would have assured him the presidency.

Democratic candidate Al Gore demanded a hand recount in four Florida counties over what he claimed were anomalies in the voting.

But Ms Harris's decision to stick to the 1700 local time (2200GMT) deadline brought an immediate response from Gore spokesman Warren Christopher who said: "We regard the action of the secretary of state to be arbitrary and unreasonable, and seeks to nullify and frustrate the whole hand count vote provided by statute."

Mr Christopher said Ms Harris was a long-standing supporter of George W Bush, adding: "I think her statement has to be taken in that context."

A Democratic source told Reuters news agency that a party lawyer was on his way to court to challenge the decision.

Ballot challenge

However the situation was further confused by a separate court appeal.

A federal judge hearing a complaint by Democrat voters, who objected to an allegedly confusing ballot paper known as the butterfly ballot, has already ruled that the state cannot certify the results until this case has been heard.

Earlier, the Republicans had asked a federal judge to rule against the hand-counting, saying it will only produce more delay and confusion. The hearing was due to start on Monday afternoon.

Hand counting is still taking place in Palm Beach and Volusia, and is under consideration in Dade and Broward counties.

Uncertainty grows

The impasse in Florida means that six days after last Tuesday's vote, the world is no closer to knowing who will succeed Bill Clinton in January.

In the split of decisive electoral votes awarded by each state, Mr Gore held a 262-246 lead over Mr Bush, so Florida's 25 could put either man in the White House.

Gore supporter
Some Gore supporters are demanding a new vote
Unofficial voting figures in Florida gave Mr Bush a 288-vote margin out of some 6 million votes cast last Tuesday.

But there will be no final result while questions remain over the manual recounts and the counting of overseas ballots that are due on Friday.

Meanwhile, black rights groups are calling for the FBI to investigate allegations of electoral fraud in Florida.

Some voters claim they were given pre-punched ballot papers at polling stations in Miami and north-west Florida, in what the Democrats allege was an attempt to fix the election.

While the world's attention was focused on Florida, other electoral dramas were quietly being played out elsewhere in the United States that could have just as large a bearing on the US presidency.

Other election battlegrounds
Wisconsin (11 electoral votes)
Iowa (seven electoral votes)
Oregon (seven electoral votes)
New Mexico (Five electoral votes)
Most dramatically, a recount in the south-western state of New Mexico, which Mr Gore won narrowly in the first vote, gave Mr Bush the lead by a mere 21 votes out of some 570,000 cast, according to the CBS network.

The Republicans were also threatening to challenge apparent victories by Mr Gore in the mid-western states of Wisconsin (11 electoral college votes) and Iowa (seven), and the north-western state of Oregon (seven). Mr Gore led in all by some 6,000 votes or less.

So, although Florida is a must-win for Mr Gore, who had a 200,000 vote lead nationwide out of 101 million ballots cast, Mr Bush knows that legal challenges in other states may still deliver him the presidency.

Two votes cast for the US presidential elections have turned up in a family's letterbox- in Denmark. They opened one of the envelopes to find a vote in favour of Mr Bush.

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See also:

13 Nov 00 | Americas
Stalemate bears out poll predictions
13 Nov 00 | Americas
Q and A: What's taking so long?
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