Tags: Florida | Legislature | Moves | Toward | Naming | Electors

Florida Legislature Moves Toward Naming Electors

Thursday, 30 November 2000 12:00 AM

Democrat vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman immediately denounced the move as threatening a "constitutional crisis."

The legislature's action and Lieberman's rhetoric were a sharp escalation in the Democrats' three-week-old refusal to stop contending for the U.S. presidency.

Bush Sunday night was certified the winner of Florida's 25 Electoral College votes, enough to make him the 43rd U.S. president. The Gore campaign, facing a federally mandated Dec. 12 deadline for the appointment of the state's electors, immediately launched a contest to the results, which is being heard in circuit court in Tallahassee.

Meanwhile, Bush met at his ranch near Crawford, Texas, with retired Gen. Colin Powell, widely believed to be Bush's pick for secretary of state, and Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, who is in charge of transition planning.

Bush laughed off as "pretty humorous" suggestions that his appearance was designed to counter two days in which Al Gore dominated the Democrat-friendly airwaves and Cheney seemed to be running the transition from Washington.

"When the counting finally stops," Bush said, "we want to be prepared to lead this nation. That's what we were elected to do."

Gore's lawyers asked the Florida Supreme Court Thursday morning to order a circuit court judge to begin counting disputed ballots immediately rather than await the outcome of a Saturday circuit court hearing.

A truck bearing ballots from Palm Beach County was en route to Tallahassee Thursday. Ballots from Miami-Dade were due to be driven to Tallahassee Friday.

Also Thursday, the special committee of the Republican-dominated state legislature voted to move ahead with a special session to pick the state's electors in case the matter is unresolved by the Dec. 12 deadline – or, Democrats charged, in case court rulings favor Gore.

A date for the session was not set, but it was expected to begin early next week.

The decision set up the possibility that competing slates of electors could vote Dec. 18, followed by a battle in the U.S. Congress over which electors to recognize when their votes are counted Jan. 6.

Republican state Sen. John F. Laurent introduced the motion to call the special session. He said it was clear from two days of expert testimony that the legislature was duty-bound under Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the section that refers to the state legislatures' selection of electors for president, to intervene in what may remain an unresolved presidential election.

"If this is not finally decided by Dec. 12, Florida may not be counted," Laurent said.

Democrats were quick to attack the proposed special session.

"I do think this action by the Florida Legislature really threatens the credibility and legitimacy of the ultimate choice of electors," Lieberman said at a quickly called news conference in Washington.

Lieberman said the legislature should reconsider, because it "threatens to put us into a constitutional crisis." He asked Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of the president-elect, not to agree to the special session.

He disagreed that the U.S. Constitution meant the legislature needed to step in to pick electors.

"I just don't think it contemplated this kind of situation," Lieberman said after looking at Article 2. He said he believed it applied only if no electors have been named by the deadline.

Democrat Sen. Betty S. Holvendorf vowed to boycott the special session, saying she would show up only if subpoenaed. Rossin, however, said he would attend and participate because that was what he was elected to do.

Though the issue is not before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Gore campaign claimed to the court in a brief Thursday that Florida's legislature could not legally name its own slate of presidential electors.

The court will hear arguments Friday on whether the Florida Supreme Court overstepped its bounds in delaying the certification of votes until Sunday to allow manual recounts in select Democrat-ruled counties, requested by the Gore campaign to be included in the final count.

Separately, attorneys for Gore Thursday filed an appeal with Florida Supreme Court seeking an immediate recount of disputed election ballots being transported from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties for use as evidence in Gore's election contest.

The appeal questions whether Bush received "a number of illegal votes" or whether Secretary of State Katherine Harris and county canvassing boards rejected "a number of legal votes" that placed the outcome of the presidential election in doubt.

Gore's lawyers are seeking judicial review of 9,000 ballots from Miami-Dade County that indicated no votes for president, plus 388 votes that were manually counted but not recorded as part of the final state total; 51 ballots in Nassau County that were rejected after a machine-recounted total was withdrawn; and 3,300 rejected votes in Palm Beach County that were not properly punched.

The appeal comes two days after Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls refused to sign a written order forcing the recount of the disputed ballots before the court. Instead he granted a motion by Gore's legal team to transport 13,000 ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties to Tallahassee for a Saturday hearing on whether the votes were improperly excluded from the state's final tally.

On Wednesday the judge granted a Republican request that the order be expanded to include about 1 million ballots from the two counties, expected to arrive in Tallahassee starting Thursday.

Other suits and challenges continued to unfold around the state, including:

Out-of-state agitator Jesse Jackson has called for a federal investigation of whether the Voting Rights Act was violated because some minority voters claim they had difficulty casting their votes.

But Attorney General Janet Reno repeatedly indicated Thursday she would bend over backward to avoid the appearance of political intervention by the Justice Department in Florida's voting, despite calls from National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for an aggressive probe of alleged irregularities.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International.

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Democrat vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman immediately denounced the move as threatening a constitutional crisis. The legislature's action and Lieberman's rhetoric were a sharp escalation in the Democrats' three-week-old refusal to stop contending for the U.S....
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Thursday, 30 November 2000 12:00 AM
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