- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

Meet the leaders of the Florida legislature. You know the ones: the man who belongs to the legislature's "God Squad," the abortion foe, the "unbending" one who "took positions as unyielding as his tightly curled gelled hair." Then there's the one who had marital problems and business setbacks. That's the way The Washington Post thoughtfully characterized the two men Florida House Speaker Tom Feeney and Senate President John McKay, respectively who have called a special session of the legislature to consider appointing Florida's presidential electors. With reporting like that, who needs opposition research?

Notwithstanding these and other ad hominem attacks, it's important for the Florida legislature and for Americans in general to understand what's at stake for the special session. The Florida secretary of state, Katherine Harris, has certified the state's slate of electors for George W. Bush. Given that he won, after as many as four recounts in key counties, she was on firm ground to do so. But the Gore campaign is contesting the results of the election, apparently until it runs out of trees and paper to file more legal briefs.

The danger for Florida's 6 million voters is that at this rate, the delays may effectively disenfranchise them. Federal law requires that the state's slate of electors be in place by Dec. 12, all challenges to the election results having been resolved in the meantime. Another federal law sets Dec. 18 as the day the Electoral College meets and casts its votes for president. Those dates may come and go without resolution to the Florida court fights. Alternatively, Florida's Democrat-controlled courts may insist on recounting votes in Gore-leaning counties or tossing out absentee ballots from Bush-leaning counties, effectively substituting a Gore slate of electors for those the voters chose.

The present circumstances make legislative action particularly appealing, but state lawmakers have broad authority under any circumstances. Article II Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution says, "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors." The U.S. Supreme Court itself ruled in an 1892 case that "whatever provisions may be made by statute, or by the state constitution, to choose electors by the people, there is no doubt of the right of the legislature to resume the power at any time, for it can neither be taken away or abdicated."

Democrats complain that this session is the partisan work of a Republican-controlled assembly. Unfortunately for Democrats, Florida voters trusted the GOP majority to make such decisions. Whatever the pressure, whatever the name-calling, Florida lawmakers should proceed with the session, less for Mr. Bush than for the voters who gave him his narrow victory.

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