Cover Story

A judge a day keeps defeat away

"A judge a day keeps defeat away" Continued...

Issue: "Mad Dash," Dec. 16, 2000

Both sides now say such tampering was improper, no matter how well-intentioned. But Republicans on Dec. 6 argued before Judge Nikki Clark that the missing registration numbers were a technicality that should not disenfranchise voters-almost the same reasoning that Al Gore used before the state Supreme Court to win an extension of the certification deadline last month. ("Almost the same reasoning" because addition of voter registration numbers is, strictly speaking, clerical in nature and does not amount to voter error.) To complete the reversal from an "every vote should count" standard, Democrats argued that because there was no way to determine which votes resulted from improper applications, all the absentee ballots should be discarded-15,000 in Seminole County and an additional 10,000 in Martin. Because Mr. Bush won by large margins in both counties, throwing out those votes would be enough to tilt the election to Mr. Gore.

But such a ruling would likely fall faster than a well-trained lawyer could say, "federal voting rights act." Landmark Legal Foundation president Mark Levin pointed out on National Review Online last week that federal law-42 U.S.C. Sec. 1971-does not tolerate disenfranchising voters in such a fashion: "... No person acting under color of law shall ... deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under state law to vote in such election...."

Though the vice president was not technically a party to the Seminole and Martin County suits, he plainly was following them carefully. Speaking to reporters outside the White House after the crushing ruling by Judge Sauls, he spoke approvingly of the effort in Seminole County. "More than enough votes were potentially taken away from Democrats, because they were not given the same access that Republicans were.... Now that doesn't seem fair to me." The Democratic accusation in Seminole County did not provide any evidence of Democratic disenfranchisement in the county, but perhaps Mr. Gore, after his defeats, could be allowed one more leap of fiction.

How many more days would American patience allow him? Significantly, with the third-party cases still pending, he refused to say that the Florida Supreme Court would be his final stop. "When the issues that are now being considered in the Florida Supreme Court are decided, that'll be an important point," he said-notably declining to call it the endpoint of his legal battle.

So, by Dec. 7, no one could say just where the endpoint might be for the vice president. But time clearly was not on his side. With Florida's electors due to be named on Dec. 12, he was quickly running out of legal options-and political capital.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Life with Lyme

    For long-term Lyme patients, treatment is a matter of…