Bush Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ George W. Bush asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to bar the use of hand-counted ballots in Florida’s fiercely contested presidential election.
Bush’s lawyers filed two appeals with the nation’s highest court and asked the justices to grant quick review. However, they did not file any emergency request for an immediate halt to the recount.
``This is a case of the utmost national importance, involving the Constitution’s most fundamental rights as exercised in the nation’s most important election,″ the lawyers said in court papers. ``The outcome of the election for the presidency of the United States may hang in the balance.″
Bush’s lawyers asked the justices to review Tuesday’s Florida Supreme Court ruling that allowed the recount in three Democratic-leaning counties to continue until Sunday, and to bypass a federal appeals court and review a federal judge’s decision last week not to block the recount.
The appeal of the federal judge’s ruling asked the justices to decide ``whether the use of selective, arbitrary and standardless recounts that threaten to overturn the results of the election for president of the United States violates the equal protection clause, the due process clause and the First Amendment″ of the Constitution.
``This case is extraordinary,″ Bush’s lawyers said. ``It raises issues of imperative public importance seen only once in a generation.″
Without a decision by the Supreme Court, ``the consequences may well include the ascension of a president of questionable legitimacy, or a constitutional crisis,″ the appeal said.
Bush’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to hear the case and issue a decision before Dec. 18, when electors from the states are scheduled to make the final vote for president.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that hand recounts of ballots could continue in three Democratic-leaning counties until Sunday, which could cut Bush’s 930-vote lead in the official tally.
Earlier, Bush took to the airwaves to say he thought the court had overreached its authority and was trying to rewrite state election law.
``Make no mistake, the court rewrote the law. It changed the rules, and it did so after the election was over,″ Bush said.
In a day of fast moving developments, at least one of the recounts stopped without any intervention from Bush.
The election canvassing board members in vast Miami-Dade County announced they were shutting down because the chore was too overwhelming. They said there was no way they could finish in time.
The Gore campaign quickly filed an appeal in a Florida appeals court to restart the counting.
A member of the Gore legal team said briefs had been filed by both sides and they were hoping the court of appeals in Miami would consider the case Wednesday night.
The Gore appeal said the decision to stop counting ``flies in the face of an unambiguous unanimous Supreme Court decision.″
Broward County’s three-member canvassing commission planned to reconvene Thanksgiving Day to continue going through the remaining absentee and questionable ballots.
In other developments:
-A Palm Beach County circuit judge ordered election officials on Wednesday to consider so-called dimpled ballots in their manual recount.
Circuit Judge Jorge Labarga’s ruling means the three-member county canvassing board must consider some 10,000 questionable ballots _ ones that have no punch through, but perhaps show an indentation _ that had been set aside while Labarga considered the case.
-Florida House Speaker Tom Feeney said he had summoned a law professor to advise the legislature on its ``constitutional prerogatives″ to enter the controversy. He denounced the Supreme Court decision and said, ``The judicial branch has clearly overstepped its powers.″
-Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, whose earlier rulings on the statewide vote were reversed by the Florida Supreme Court, held a hearing on the Bush request to order counting of disputed military and overseas ballots in 14 counties. Lewis ordered the ballots in question be preserved. But he denied a Bush request to copy all the ballots so the review could begin immediately.Gore was not represented at the hearing.
In absentee ballots coming from residents living overseas _ which are accepted up to 10 days after Election Day in Florida _ Republican Bush gained 1,380 votes to 750 for Democrat Gore.
But more than 1,500 overseas absentee ballots were rejected, many of them because of problems with their postmarks.
Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway suggested it was ironic that Bush lawyers wanted to force counting of military ballots but stop the counting of ballots in south Florida which is heavily Democratic.
As for a Bush supreme court appeal, Hattaway said, ``The Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected their argument and we certainly hope the U.S. Supreme Court will see this appeal has no merit. There’s no way that counting people’s votes can be unconstitutional.″
State Democratic chairman Bob Poe said of Bush, ``I find it very odd that he condemns the Florida Supreme Court but then wants to go to the United States Supreme Court. ... You’re not supposed to be able to shop for judges and shop for rulings.
Most legal experts said it was unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would intervene in a state case without compelling evidence of a federal issue.
Jim Rossi, a law professor at Florida State University, said the most legally challenging issue might be any decision by the Florida Legislature to step into in the election controversy.
``The question is whether the Legislature is permitted to do this under the separation of powers statutes,″ Rossi said.