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Charles Bierbauer: Recount case should make states take a close look at their own election laws

Charles Bierbauer
CNN's Charles Bierbauer covers the U.S. Supreme Court  

CNN Senior Washington Correspondent Charles Bierbauer is covering Bush v. Palm Beach Canvassing Board, the first presidential case the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear in its 210-year history. Here he answers a few questions for CNN.Com about the significance and issues behind the case.

Q: Is this case likely to determine either directly or indirectly who will be the next president of the United States?

Charles Bierbauer: Not directly. Voters still do that. But indirectly it can have an impact on the choice of Florida's electors if it determines at what point the counting in Florida should have stopped and the now ongoing "contest" of several counties' tabulations should have started.

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graphic Reviewing the Vote: The U.S. Supreme Court reviews the Florida election case
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The U.S. Supreme Court has never allowed cameras inside, and worries about editing of its audio. CNN's Charles Bierbauer reports (November 30)

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Q: Does this case have any impact on the contest action filed by Gore?

CB: Bush lawyers say it does if the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule that the Florida Supreme Court was out of line. That would shift the official results back to the automatic recount completed by November 14. Bush's lawyers say because Miami-Dade had not started a hand recount by then, it cannot start one now.

Q: Could this case redefine states' rights with respect to the selection of electors or other parts of federal election law? If so, how?

CB: This case should make states take a close look at their own election laws and seek clarity starting with the way ballots are laid out and the way votes may be counted and recounted.

This case does not, and should not, alter the rights of the states to select their electors. It should make states find the surest pattern to have the electors determined by the vote and not by state legislatures as a result of the kind of impasse we may be seeing in Florida.

Q: How unusual is the decision by the court to take this case and what makes it different from most oral arguments before the Supreme court (time allotted, press access, et cetera.)

CB: When the best court watchers in Washington almost uniformly say the justices won't take the case, but they do, it's unusual. The justices recognize the uniqueness of what is before them and, presumably, felt they needed to assess it.

It's also unusual in a number of procedural ways. The expedited hearing -- and surely quick opinion -- are unusual, but not unprecedented. The extended time for arguments beyond the usual hour is unusual, but not unprecedented. And though there are still no cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court, the release of an audio recording and transcript shortly after the arguments is unprecedented.

Q: In your years covering politics and courts, have you ever covered a case that compares to this one?

CB:Nope!



RELATED STORIES:
U.S. Supreme Court to hear historic presidential election case at 10 a.m. EST
December 1, 2000
Gore camp says time is running out for ballot recounts
November 30, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Supreme Court of the United States
FindLaw Supreme Court Center
Legal Information Institute: Supreme Court Collection - Cornell University
On the Docket 2000-2001
The Supreme Court Historical Society
Jurist Guide to the Supreme Court - University of Pittsburgh
History of the Federal Judiciary


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