Tags: 'Butterfly | Ballot' | Complainers | Face | 'High | Burden'

'Butterfly Ballot' Complainers Face 'High Burden'

Friday, 17 November 2000 12:00 AM

Judge Jorge Labarga heard arguments from attorneys who claimed that "thousands" of voters inadvertently voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Vice President Al Gore because of the confusing layout of the butterfly ballot, which a Democrat elections supervisor had approved.

The hearing Friday was held to determine if Labarga had the authority to order a new vote in the county even if he wanted to.

Gore won about 125,000 votes in the county. Lawyers seeking a revote claim that 14,000 people might have accidentally voted for Buchanan. Republicans dispute that number as ridiculous.

Gary Farmer is the Fort Lauderdale attorney who argued Friday that state law clearly provides for the judge to call for a revote across the county.

Florida law section 102.168 "gives a judge great discretion and provides that in an election contest the court can order any relief considered appropriate under the circumstances," Farmer said.

Farmer said state law section 101.11 gives the judge "flexibility in setting special elections to resolve or deal with unforeseen or unpredictable circumstances."

"I don't think that anyone in this courtroom would disagree that we are facing an unforeseen or unpredictable circumstance in Palm Beach County," he said.

But from the dais, Labarga pulled out a copy of the U.S. Constitution. Labarga said the Constitution dictated clearly that the presidential election will be the same day throughout the nation.

"The framers of our Constitution, who were a lot smarter than a lot of us in this courtroom, said that the election should be held on one day," Labarga said.

"What authority do I have to order a new election in one county in the entire nation?"

Labarga said that if revotes were continually called, there could be no end.

"Where is it going to stop?" Labarga asked. "We could still be deciding the 1960 election."

University of Southern California law professor Erwin Cherminsky argued, however, that the Constitution did not specifically rule out holding another election.

"That does not speak to the remedies available under the Constitution," he said.

Cherminsky said while state law did not specifically say that revotes could be called for, it did not preclude them either. "No legislature could have ever imagined the circumstances we are under."

But Texas Gov. George Bush's outside counsel, Tallahassee lawyer Barry Richard, said Labarga was right with respect to the Constitution. "Your honor is right smack on the point," Richard said.

He disagreed with Farmer's characterization of state law.

"I see nothing in the Florida statutes that said that this or any other court can fashion a remedy like this."

Richard called the case to hold a revote in Palm Beach County "nothing more than a public showpiece."

Labarga said he would not immediately make a decision with respect to the court's authority on the issue, and one could come next week. Labarga said he did not want to issue a decision on such an "emotional" issue too quickly.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International.

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Judge Jorge Labarga heard arguments from attorneys who claimed that thousands of voters inadvertently voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Vice President Al Gore because of the confusing layout of the butterfly ballot, which a Democrat elections...
'Butterfly,Ballot',Complainers,Face,'High,Burden'
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2000-00-17
Friday, 17 November 2000 12:00 AM
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