- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 18, 2000

It should hardly come as a surprise that the Florida Supreme Court, each of whose seven members was appointed by a Democratic governor and which in recent years has been engaged in intense partisan battles in Florida, ruled unanimously late yesterday afternoon to prohibit Florida's secretary of state and the Elections Canvassing Commission from exercising their constitutional authority to certify the presidential election in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday, declared no certification could take place "until further notice of this Court."

Tomorrow will mark the eleventh day since the Nov. 7 presidential election. In that period, chaos has reigned throughout Florida's electoral and judicial systems, as the Democratic Party and its agents have feverishly sought to undermine the election process in an effort to literally steal the presidency from George W. Bush. The ruling by the state Supreme Court suggests that they may well yet succeed.

The facts are not in doubt. After all of Florida's counties announced their official tallies, Mr. Bush led by a razor-thin margin so thin, in fact, that Florida law required a mandatory recount. After that mandatory recount took place, Mr. Bush continued to lead. With the exception of an estimated 2,200 overseas absentee ballots, which were required to arrive at their appropriate county election offices by midnight last night and were to be counted and certified today, all of Florida's other votes had been counted. Not once. But twice. On Tuesday, a circuit court judge ruled that Secretary of State Katherine Harris could exercise her statutory authority to require all of Florida's counties to submit their voter tallies to her office, as mandated by law, within seven days of the election. They did so, and she certified them, confirming that Mr. Bush led by 300 votes before consideration of the overseas absentee ballots.

Meanwhile, the Gore campaign sent an armada of litigators to Florida. From the moment Mr. Gore dispatched a charter jet carrying 75 campaign operatives from Nashville to Florida at 6 a.m. in the morning following election day, the vice president has made it unmistakably clear that nothing short of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court would stand in his way of the presidency. Not long after, an urgent e-mail circulated among members of the American Trial Lawyers Association requesting that 500 more lawyers descend upon Florida to press Mr. Gore's cause in various courts. Soon super-litigator David Boies arrived. Lawsuits proliferated, with Democrats filing the first eight.

Once it was certain Mr. Gore would not prevail in the mandatory statewide recount, his campaign petitioned heavily Democratic counties and only heavily Democratic counties to conduct yet another recount, this one by hand. Even when Democratic election officers exercised their right to decline to conduct countywide manual recounts after their precinct sampling revealed no need for such recounts, Democrats sued in court to force them to relent. In the wake of Palm Beach County's chaotic manual recount last Saturday of sample precincts, during which standards changed throughout the day, Democrats even sued to establish a standard the so-called "dimpled chad" so subjective as to be meaningless.

Finally, a degree of sanity seemed poised to prevail this afternoon. A Florida circuit court judge ruled yesterday morning that Secretary of State Katherine Harris had exercised due discretion Wednesday evening when she rejected requests from several heavily Democratic counties to submit amended results from manual recounting conducted after Tuesday's certification deadline. After counting the overseas absentee ballots this morning, Mrs. Harris was expected to declare a victor in Florida this afternoon. Finally, it seemed, America would have a president-elect. Regrettably, the Florida Supreme Court's ruling has prevented her from doing so. Mr. Gore the self-appointed expert on what constitutes "controlling legal authority," which he invoked to absolve himself of illegal fund-raising activities during the 1996 election reacted to the state Supreme Court's last-minute ruling by hailing the "rule of law" and "law which has meaning." Meanwhile, without a care for the long-term repercussions of their actions, his agents continue to trash the U.S. Constitution and Florida's judicial process in pursuit of his lifelong goal. It is a stunning display of unprincipled self-interest.

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