George W. Bush gave up his legal fight Saturday to force counties to reconsider overseas military ballots that were rejected for lack of a postmark and other problems.
And Al Gore's camp said it would contest Palm Beach County's recount, extending its list of Florida counties where it plans to challenge vote counts once they are certified.
David Boies, Gore's recount lawyer, said he had decided to add that key county to others where challenges are to be raised -- most important of which is Miami-Dade, where the re-examination of ballots was brought to an unexpected halt earlier this week, a setback for Gore.
In Palm Beach, Gore forces think they have a chance to pick up a majority large enough to be decisive in Florida, and thus in the election.
Bush's decision was signaled in a filing Saturday with the Leon County Circuit Court that said the 14 counties named in the lawsuit are in "substantial agreement" with Republicans and are reconsidering military ballots from overseas, so the suit was not necessary.
"As a result of the filing of this action, it appears that the votes of many servicemen and servicewomen that had been wrongfully excluded will now be counted through voluntary compliance with the law by many defendant canvassing boards," the document said.
Of the 14 counties in the suit, six already have given the rejected ballots a second look, accepting scores of them and adding 67 votes to Bush's previous vote total, the Republican said.
Statewide, some 1,500 overseas ballots were rejected for lack of a postmark or other problems, and Bush said about one-third were military.
On the Democratic front, the Gore challenges will be raised because Gore forces weren't satisfied with the standard elections officials in Palm Beach were using in examining disputed ballots.
The court challenge will be filed Monday, well before the U.S. Supreme Court hears Bush's arguments for rejecting all hand recounts of Florida's ballots. A decision by the high court in favor of Bush potentially could award Florida's 25 electoral votes to the Republican ticket and bring an end to the tumultuous election.
In a telephone interview from Tallahassee, Boies said the extended challenge would be filed as soon as legally possible -- after the county-by-count results' certification by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, expected by 5 p.m. CST Sunday.
"We're preparing contest papers that will be filed Monday, as early in the day Monday as we can get them done," Boies told The Associated Press.
Gore's Palm Beach challenge is to center on the way questionable ballots are handled -- not on the ballot itself, which some voters said led them to vote for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Gore.
In Washington, D.C., pro-Bush and pro-Gore demonstrators gathered across the street from the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory, on embassy row. Initially, their numbers were about even strength -- 20 each side. But hundreds of Bush reinforcements, alerted via e-mail the day before, arrived in the next hour overwhelming the opposition
"Get out of Cheney's house," they chanted, in expectation that GOP Vice Presidential nominee Dick Cheney would be its next occupant.
A sign read "Gore, Milosevic: What is the difference?" -- a reference to the ousted Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
"See how hostile they are?" said Gore supporter, Ellen Frank, visiting from Long Island, N.Y. She carried a sign that said "Mothers Against Drunk Presidents."
At a Tallahassee, Fla. news conference, George Mitchell of Maine, the former Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, argued that the nation's paramount interest is in seeing that the people's will -- even if expressed on flawed ballots -- prevail.
"Up to now in this process, no court -- state or federal -- has accepted the assertion that hand recounts are unfair or unconstitutional," said Mitchell, a Gore supporter. "The courts and the people know better."
Meantime, election officials worked against Sunday's deadline to report their county ballot counts to Tallahassee.
Gore was picking up votes as officials in Broward and Palm Beach Counties pressed ahead with manual recounts triggered by the Democrats.
"I feel we're racing against the clock but I feel we're going to make it," Palm Beach board member Carol Roberts said.
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