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Susan Candiotti: Election 2000 not over yet for Florida Supreme Court

Susan Candiotti  

CNN Correspondent Susan Candiotti says Florida's high court is not finished yet with Election 2000

Q: Will there be appeals of Tuesday's decision rejecting Democratic voters' requests to throw out absentee ballots because of irregularities?

CANDIOTTI: Harry Jacobs, who is the appellant in the Seminole County case, says he's not sure yet whether they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. His attorneys, Gerald Richman and Alan Greer, say they disagree with the ruling and are disappointed by it. However they've got to do some leg work now and also acknowledge that their decision on whether to appeal depends -- to a large degree -- on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Bush v. Gore. If the high court rules in favor of Governor Bush (and stops all manual recounts), it would be highly unlikely for the U.S. Supreme Court to view their appeal favorably, or an appeal of the Martin County case for that matter.

Q: What was the effect of this case?

CANDIOTTI: Richman said he hopes this case, at the very least, sends a message to all Floridians that it is wrong to use an election supervisor's office to assist operatives of either party. Richman says he respects the decisions of Florida's high court but continues to be troubled by what he maintains is intentional wrongdoing by election supervisors who allowed GOP operatives to make adjustments to some of the 25,000 absentee ballot applications in Seminole and Martin counties.

The Florida Supreme Court said in its unanimous 6-0 decision that it found no evidence of gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing. However, in the case of Seminole County, the court said, "We find the supervisor's conduct in this case troubling."

One of the Justices, Leander Shaw, recused himself in both cases. No reason was given by the court.

Q: What do Republicans say about the outcome?

CANDIOTTI: Barry Richard, who argued on behalf of Martin and Seminole county canvassing boards, continues to insist that there was no evidence of intentional wrongdoing on anyone's part. He adds that the integrity of the ballot itself was never in question and that it would have been wholly unfair to disenfranchise thousands of voters in those two counties.

Q: Is there a chance of criminal charges?

CANDIOTTI: Gerald Richman doubts it, adding, sort of ruefully, not when you have a GOP state attorney in Seminole County. Harry Jacobs said he never brought the case as a vendetta against any public servant or public employee or in an effort to get criminal charges against them. Jacobs said the case was about fairness and not using an election office to give an unfair advantage to one party over another, as he alleges happened in this case.

Q: Are there any other election-related cases before Florida Supreme Court?

CANDIOTTI: This is not the end of the road for Florida's Supreme Court in Election 2000 because if the U.S. Supreme Court should remand the Bush v. Gore case back to the seven state Supreme Court justices, it might ask the state court to clarify once again why it ordered the counting of 42,000 undervotes. Or the nation's high court might ask the Florida Supreme Court to set a standard for reviewing the undervotes, in which case the state court might elect to set oral arguments on that matter.

There is one other election-related case pending. That is the appeal of Naples, Florida, resident Matt Butler. He is a registered Republican who voted for Bush in Collier County, Florida. Butler is challenging the constitutionality of manual recounts in Florida. He maintains that he, as a private citizen, should be able to demand a manual recount just as a political candidate or political party can do. Butler claims that if Vice President Al Gore can demand recounts in select counties in Florida, it is unfair if a private citizen cannot do the same in counties that are not Democratic strongholds. The court received briefs on this case on December 4, but has yet to decide whether to reject Butler's appeal or to schedule oral arguments in his case.


Tuesday, December 12, 2000



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