- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

The legal battle over who won Florida's disputed presidential election did not end yesterday with Secretary of State Katherine Harris' certification that George W. Bush is the winner. In fact, it is just getting started.
What happens next, in what is known as the "contest" period that follows the certification of the vote, is a lengthy legal gauntlet of affidavits, lawsuits, judicial hearings and appeals by an army of attorneys for Al Gore.
As exhaustively outlined yesterday by David Boies, Mr. Gore's lead attorney, this phase envisions the filing of perhaps a dozen or more new legal challenges in key counties throughout the state to force the counting of thousands of votes that Mr. Boies maintains have never been counted.
"Until these votes are counted, this election cannot be over," Mr. Boies told a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., yesterday.
Asked by reporters if there would ever be an end to the widening political and legal warfare that for the past 20 days has kept the nation from knowing who its president-elect will be, Mr. Boies said, "Of course, everything's going to be over by Dec. 12." That is the date on which Florida's 25 elections must be certified by the state.
But it is now clear that the vice president who is expected to lay out his plans to contest the Florida outcome today sees this new litigious phase as an opportunity to win in the courtroom what he could not win among the 67 election canvassing boards around the state.
And it is also likely that the exhaustive list of new legal actions that Mr. Gore's attorneys planned to begin today could keep the presidential election up in the air much longer than anyone has anticipated. Among the actions the Gore team plans to take next include lawsuits to:
Challenge the validity of the state's certification, arguing that tens of thousands of votes the so-called "undercount" votes that were not counted in the machine count were not included in the final tally by Mrs. Harris' department.
Demand that the 388 votes that were part of the hand-count by the Miami-Dade canvassing board be added to the result. The board halted its manual count because it could not finish in time to meet the state Supreme Court's 5 p.m. deadline last evening.
Gore attorneys also will ask a court to order that about 10,000 ballots, which Mr. Boies says "have not been counted once," be counted by Miami-Dade officials and included in the final tally.
Challenge the credentials of a Nassau County canvassing board member and seek to order the board to reinstate votes for Mr. Gore that it decided not to count
Order that the unfinished hand-counting of votes in Palm Beach County which Mrs. Harris would not accept after yesterday's deadline be added to the final results.
Challenge the recounting method used by the Palm Beach canvassing board all Democrats complaining that they used a too stringent standard in their recounts of dimpled ballots to decide what was a valid vote.
Force Seminole County to void some 15,000 absentee overseas ballots amid Gore allegations that Republicans tampered with the ballots on behalf of Republican voters.
Gore attorneys also continue to pursue their legal challenge to the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County, where a number of Democratic voters said the design of the ballot confused them and resulted in their casting votes for Pat Buchanan instead of Mr. Gore. A circuit court threw out the suit, but it is now before the appeals court.
For his part, Mr. Bush's attorneys also will file lawsuits challenging the rejection of overseas ballots in several counties, though most of the counties that had thrown out the ballots have gone back and reconsidered many of them.
But these and other legal maneuvers were in many ways just a warm-up for this week's showdown before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in the dispute Friday.
The high court will examine whether the Florida Supreme Court overstepped its bounds by usurping state elections authority that the U.S. Constitution and federal law places solely in the hands of the states and their respective legislatures.
The justice also will look at whether the state court's action to change the rules of the election process and shift the deadline, which was set in law by the state legislature, violated federal elections law.
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution says that each state will select its electors "in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct." At the same time, Section 5 of Title III of the U.S. Code says that each state's electors will be chosen in accordance with "laws enacted prior to" Election Day.
Mr. Bush has argued that the Florida Supreme Court overreached in its ruling, unconstitutionally rewrote the elections rules by moving the deadline and assumed regulatory powers that can only be exercised by the legislature.
In the decree it issued Friday announcing that it would hear the case, the high court signaled that it was making Mr. Bush's complaint the core of its legal scrutiny. But it also asked both parties in the dispute to tell the court what would be the likely outcome if it struck down the Florida court ruling.
"What would be the consequences of this Court's finding that the decision of the Supreme Court of Florida was unconstitutional?" it asked the participants in the suit.
The answer to the high court's question probably will come sometime after this Friday's hearing.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide