- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. House and Senate committees yesterday approved a slate of 25 electors pledged to George W. Bush after hearing testimony on the latest move in the Republican-dominated Legislature's efforts to ensure the state has Electoral College representation.
The vote followed party lines in the Senate panel, 4-3, as expected. But the House committee's vote was 5-2 with one Democrat breaking ranks in what has been described as a fiercely partisan battle.
"I represent a good district, good people, and I listen to them," said Democratic Rep. Dwight Stansel, whose district voted for Mr. Bush. "If you don't listen to them, you'll be home."
The House meets today and the Senate tomorrow, with passage expected of the resolution affirming a slate of 25 Republican electors that were certified last month, although a comprehensive ruling in the Bush vs. Gore case that was argued before the Supreme Court yesterday could stay the Legislature's hand.
But key state legislators said yesterday they intend to continue their pursuit as long as there are any lawsuits with life to them.
"It would be rather extraordinary to get a decision too quick," House Speaker Tom Feeney said yesterday after the committee votes. "But these are extraordinary times. If we haven't heard anything by 10 a.m. tomorrow, we will proceed."
He also said that the House would proceed if "there were any controversies or contest proceedings."
Mr. Feeney added that when a decision is handed down, he will call a quick recess.
"We've told our attorneys that we would like to have them available. But at this point, it is our preference to move ahead."
In testimony before the panels yesterday, legal scholars differed on the need for the Legislature's special session.
"Once the Legislature puts the Bush slate in there and the courts put the Gore slate in there, neither will be accepted by both houses," said Yale Law School professor Bruce Ackerman in testimony before the committees.
He described a scenario that would end in Congress with Vice President Al Gore voting on a slate of electors signed in by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
"The mind boggles," Mr. Ackerman said, punching the air to emphasize his points.
State Republicans say electors that were certified last month after Mr. Bush won the state are now open to congressional scrutiny down the road because of the numerous lawsuits surrounding the presidential election in Florida.
The 160-member Legislature is meeting in a special session that has been condemned by Democratic lawmakers, who continued expressing their discontent yesterday.
They said that if a recount goes forward and Mr. Gore wins, the certification of the Democratic electors would conflict with the Legislature's Bush electors, creating a political mess that Congress would have to sort out.
"The Senate has had an opinion from people who understand constitutional law," said Sen. Tom Rossin. "And we don't think we need to send two slates of electors."
The House committee heard from U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, who called the resolution a "thoughtful approach to the controversy. Your authority is clear."
The Arkansas Republican added that with its foresight, the Legislature is guarding itself against potential legal decisions usurping its electoral authority.
"All it takes is one case," Mr. Hutchinson said. "It's a trip to the jungle that we'd just as soon avoid."
Also testifying in support of the resolution was Einer Elhauge, a Harvard law professor, who said that the entire Florida election was in danger of being invalidated as a result of the Florida Supreme Court's actions.
"The Florida Supreme Court has promulgated new rules [different from] those in place and [the election] will ultimately be found unconstitutional, therefore Florida would have no voice," he said.
Mr. Elhauge was hired by Republican legislative leaders to represent the Legislature in filing briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court on the presidential recount.
The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering a ruling on a state Supreme Court-ordered manual recount of more than 45,000 ballots. If the ruling kills the recount, the election likely will belong to Mr. Bush.
Much of the testimony repeated that given last month to a committee that recommended the Legislature go into special session to take up the issue.
Committee members listened to three-minute speeches from a long line of state residents. On and on, they told of their voting tales and their views: an 83-year-old grandmother, a unionized electrician, three college students, a constitutional lawyer.
"Stay the course," Chip Collette, the constitutional lawyer, said simply.

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