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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Holds Breath In Poll Cliffhanger

WASHINGTON — Democrat Al Gore decided Thursday to fight the results of the presidential election in Florida, with campaign officials announcing a legal challenge and demanding a recount by hand of ballots in four counties.

Without waiting for the result of a recount of the vote in Florida due later Thursday, Gore campaign manager William Daley told reporters in the state’s capital of Tallahassee that the vice president would not accept the outcome or concede the election to Texas Governor George W. Bush, the Republican candidate.

Referring to mounting complaints of voting irregularities, Daley said: "Technicalities should not determine the presidency of the United States; the will of the people should."

The statement took the United States into uncharted constitutional territory, deepening the uncertainty following Tuesday’s election, the closest in U.S. history, which failed to produce a clear winner.

The Texas governor was meeting aides in Austin, Texas, to prepare his transition to power next January while Gore stayed in seclusion in Nashville, Tennessee.

Bush led in Florida in the initial tally on Tuesday night but his margin of less than half of 1 percent triggered an automatic recount.

The recount was helping Gore substantially trim Bush’s lead. The biggest open question was whether Florida officials would officially certify the result once the recount was completed early Friday morning Moscow time.

Both Bush and Gore need to win Florida and its 25 Electoral College votes to put them over the 270 required to win the presidency.

Daley said Democratic officials will request a hand count of ballots in Palm Beach County as well as three other counties.

"In addition today, I am announcing that we will be working with voters from Florida in support on some legal actions to demand some redress for the disenfranchisement of more than 20,000 voters in Palm Beach County," he said.

Voters in Palm Beach County north of Miami said the ballot was confusing and that thousands of Gore supporters had mistakenly voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan.

Such post-election drama had not been seen in the United States since the late 19th century.

In New Mexico, a state carried by Gore, officials launched a recount in some counties. However, even if Gore lost the state, he could still win the election with Florida.

Trading had been normal on financial markets with the indices modestly lower, until Dailey’s announcement when the Dow Jones and the NASDAQ both fell sharply.

Former Secretary of State James Baker, observing the recount on Bush’s behalf, said the nation required a swift resolution or its relations with other countries might begin to suffer.

One of Baker’s successors, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, was representing Gore. He disputed the idea that the Gore challenge would hurt international relations.

Attorney General Janet Reno said she would review a request for an investigation into allegations of Florida voting irregularities in response to a request from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Buchanan told NBC’s "Today" show he believed most of the 3,407 votes he got in Palm Beach County belonged to Gore and that people had voted for him by mistake because of a confusing change in the design of the ballot paper.

"I don’t want any votes that I did not receive and I don’t want to win any votes by mistake," said Buchanan. "It seems to me that these 3,000 votes people are talking about — most of those are probably not my vote and that may be enough to give the margin to Mr. Gore."

All this raised questions about whether Bush would enjoy legitimacy if he eventually entered office or whether his opponents would always maintain he had stolen the election.

Democratic Representative Robert Wexler of Florida said 19,000 votes in Palm Beach County had been disqualified because of the confusing design of the ballot paper.

Wexler said because of the way the ballot was laid out, many people had double-punched their cards, leading to disqualification. They voted twice — once for Gore and then for Buchanan.

"I’m hearing outrage. I’m hearing hysteria, quite frankly. Because they feel that in overwhelming numbers they voted for Al Gore and yet their votes are not being counted," he said.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in West Palm Beach, calling for a fresh election in their county because of the ballot, the only one of its design in the state. A federal judge was set to hold a hearing Thursday afternoon on one voter’s request for a fresh election in the county because of the ballot.

Bush’s brother Jeb Bush is the governor of Florida, but he recused himself from the board that certifies the election.

Gore actually won more total votes than Bush in the overall race, carrying the popular vote by less than 1 percentage point — around 150,000 votes out of almost 100 million cast.