- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. State legislative committees will convene today to consider reappointment of Republican electors with one question in the air: Is this session necessary?
Given the resolve of the 102 Republican lawmakers, only a rapid decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to end the manual recounts of more than 45,000 disputed ballots likely would assure them that they do not need to protect the state's 25 electoral votes.
The Republican-led Legislature met Friday on the first day of a special session to select a slate of electors supporting George W. Bush the same 25 originally certified by the state last month.
"We're in the posture of being ready to take action if necessary," Sen. Locke Burt said yesterday.
If the justices were to overrule a state Supreme Court's order for a recount of "undervotes" ballots that show no vote for a presidential candidate it would be a "very real possibility that we would do nothing," he said.
The federal deadline for states to appoint electors is tomorrow, and members of the Electoral College meet in the District of Columbia and the 50 state capitals Dec. 18. The winner of Florida's electoral votes will win the presidency.
Saturday's U.S. Supreme Court decision to rule on the manual recounts may have prevented serious political damage to the hopes of Mr. Bush.
State lawmakers favoring the special session say that previous certification of the Republican electors could have been denied legality under the Electoral Count Act of 1887 if the recount had succeeded in giving the lead to Al Gore by tomorrow.
The law says the original electors are valid if a state's election choice is "deemed conclusive" by tomorrow. Republican legislators believe that with the legal entanglements the result is not yet conclusive and that they have until Dec. 18 to confirm the electors certified last month.
"Members," said Rep. Dudley Goodlette, "I think it's safe to assume that if we still have the litigation pending on Dec. 12, we have failed to make a choice that's sufficient" to withstand legal scrutiny.
The pending cases will not go away, even if the federal court decides that the recount should be abandoned, said Sen. John Laurent.
"The court ruling would resolve only one case," the senator said yesterday. "We still have other cases on appeal, and the Gore team is not a party to all of them."
Prevailing wisdom is that the states' houses will choose a slate of electors that will favor Mr. Bush, although Senate President John McKay said he would support the selection of Al Gore electors if the state's vote showed the vice president to be the winner.
In the 50-minute House session Friday, Republican lawmakers appeared determined to select their own set of electors in light of the four dozen lawsuits that have been filed over the Nov. 7 election.
To halt the Legislature's resolution would take a pyramid of improbable events, he said.
Mr. Laurent explained that Republican lawmakers would probably end the session, "If the Supreme Court quashed what the Florida Supreme Court was doing, and if Gore conceded and we could get a bye in on all parties doing litigation by Tuesday. We don't want to sit back and have something come back in a week or two weeks that could undo the electors."
House and Senate Democrats have decried the special session as a partisan gathering to carry water for the Bush campaign.
And the state Supreme Court's action Friday may harden the resolve of the state Republicans in their effort to secure a Bush victory.
There have been meetings over the weekend to consider possible reworkings of the simply worded resolution. But if nothing changes or, as some legislators said, regardless of change committees from both chambers meet today for a scheduled eight hours.
They will hear legal testimony as well as witness statements on the resolution.
Tomorrow, the House will meet for debate and a vote is expected. The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday.

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