Sauls Deals Gore Campaign a Major Legal Blow

By Justin Torres | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - There will be no extension of manual recounts in Florida's contested presidential election, ruled Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls on Monday in a case that is heading directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

"The plaintiffs have failed to carry the requisite burden of proof," said Sauls in handing down his decision.

"In order to contest election results . . . the plaintiff must show that but for the irregularity or inaccuracy claim, the result of the election would have been different and he or she would have been the winner," said Sauls. "In this case, there is no credible statistical evidence . . . to establish . . . that the results of the statewide election in in the state of Florida would be different from the results certified by the election canvassing board."

Sauls added that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, fraud, or ballot mishandling in any of the election procedures, and upheld the discretion of local canvassing boards in rejecting overvotes and undervotes - ballots which recorded either no vote for president or two votes for president.

Sauls also ruled that no partial recounts should be counted, and denied all motions to dismiss the ruling.

Sauls also noted, picking up on language from Monday's ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, that the Florida Supreme Court may have violated the U.S. Code and the Constitution by extending the date for certification until November 25th.

At issue in the Gore campaign's contest was the results of ballot counts in Nassau, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties. The vice president asked Sauls to order the inspection of roughly 14,000 ballots from those areas.

In Nassau County, a mandatory recount yielded 218 fewer total votes than the initial tally, and local election officials eventually submitted the first count to the secretary of state.

Palm Beach County officials were unable to complete a hand recount of ballots in time to meet the deadline, resulting in the ultimate inclusion of the vote count from an earlier tabulation.

A planned recount in Miami-Dade County was suspended after local election officials determined it was impossible to conduct a full recount in time to make the November 26 deadline. That decision excluded the hand count of about 9,000 ballots that had been considered 'non-votes' by the automated tabulating equipment there.

Joseph Klock, an attorney for Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, said that Harris had been "completely vindicated. . . . The judge said that she did everything she was supposed to do."

Klock characterized the chances for a successful appeal as "not good. . . . The judge looked at the witnesses and testimony and said [the Gore campaign] had no case."

David Boies, an attorney for Vice President Al Gore, said he hoped the Florida Supreme Court would consider the campaign's appeal promptly, and blasted Sauls for not reviewing the 14,000 ballots that were submitted into evidence.

"The ballots were the best evidence.," said Boies. "The court decided that it was not going to even look at those ballots. . . . You can't resolve [an election] without looking at those ballots."