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The BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington
"An increasingly acrimonious war of words"
 real 56k

Katherine Harris's statement
"Three Florida counties may be contemplating amended returns based upon manual recounts"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 15 November, 2000, 10:29 GMT
Bush leads as wrangling goes on
Republican supporters in Florida
Republicans were delighted by the latest announcement
The latest official results declared by Florida's chief election official show George W Bush still ahead in the race for the White House - but only by a whisker.

Mr Bush is now just 300 votes clear of Democrat rival Al Gore - down from nearly 1,800 on election night and 1,000 after the first recount.

Florida vote
Bush - 2,910,492
Gore - 2,910,192
The figures, official though they are, are still anything but final.

More than one county may go on counting by hand beyond the official deadline - and will argue later over whether their amended results can be accepted.

At least 15 separate legal challenges are also under way over different aspects of the way the vote and the count were conducted.

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris
Katherine Harris: Back in the spotlight
And a big unknown factor remains the thousands of postal votes: the deadline for them is still three days away, and reports say the number waiting to be counted is nearly double the total in the last presidential election.

The official figures giving Mr Bush a 300-vote lead were announced by Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris, after a court-backed deadline expired for all Florida's 67 counties to declare their results.

Ms Harris has given three counties until 1400 local time (1900 GMT) on Wednesday to explain why they believe manual recounts are still necessary.

If they go forward, these Democratic counties are no longer recounting, they are reinventing.

Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes
Even if Ms Harris refuses to sanction further recounts, it seems possible that some counties may press ahead, and seek to have the results amended later.

Correspondents say the Democrats will almost certainly go to Florida's Supreme Court if Ms Harris refuses.

The dispute could ultimately be referred to Washington, for a ruling by the federal Supreme Court.

Palm Beach County - centre of some of the most contentious voting and counting - is set to begin a hand recount of all its 460,000 votes at 0700 local time (1200 GMT) on Wednesday.

Democrats believe the hand recounts will nudge their total upwards. They accuse Ms Harris, a Republican, of using her position to favour Mr Bush.

Correspondents say the recounts give Mr Gore a glimmer of hope, after results of a manual recount in Volusia County filed just before the deadline showed a slight swing to the vice-president.

The two teams have continued to trade insults over the election.

I'm requiring a written statement of the facts and circumstances that would cause these counties to believe that a change should be made

Katherine Harris
The Bush team accused counties conducting recounts of "reinventing" the election result, while Mr Gore's supporters said the Republicans were trying to obstruct attempts to determine the will of the people.

Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes said all counts so far had shown a victory for Mr Bush, and questioned how long the recounting could legitimately continue.

"This chaotic manual count in selective counties with no uniform standards cannot produce a fair and accurate count of the votes in Florida."

Al Gore's campaign manager, Bill Daley, said the Bush camp and Ms Harris were engaging in a variety of tactics to block or slow the count.

"It is time to end these tactics and move ahead with what we all want, which is a timely count of their votes," he said.

Florida count
Bush leads by 300
Legal challenges
Republicans will appeal against ruling allowing hand counts
Private Democratic voters appeal over "butterfly" ballots
Counties continuing recounts must justify their actions by 1400 (1900 GMT)
Postal votes must be in by Friday
Electoral college vote 17 December
Inauguration 20 January

The postal votes will keep everyone guessing until after Friday's deadline. They are traditionally thought to favour the Republicans, as many postal voters have military connections.

But the newspaper USA Today says officials have already received more than 4,000 ballots - up from 2,300 in 1996.

Some observers believe the number has been boosted by Americans living in Israel who are keen to keep the Democrats in the White House.

While the world's attention remains focused on Florida, other electoral dramas are being played out in states that could still have a bearing on the result:

  • New Mexico - victory given to Mr Gore, then Mr Bush, then Mr Gore
  • Iowa - Republicans may seek recount after a clerical error shrinks Mr Gore's narrow margin of victory
  • Wisconsin - Gore ahead by less than 5,500 out of 2.5m votes, amid allegations of multiple voting by students.
  • Oregon - Gore's lead is only 4,233 votes out of nearly 1.4m, and shrinking as postal ballots are counted.
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See also:

14 Nov 00 | Americas
Behind the bias claims
14 Nov 00 | Americas
'Royal succession' for president
15 Nov 00 | Vote USA 2000
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