Tags: GOP's | Ace | the | Hole | Legislature | Could | Pick

GOP's Ace in the Hole – Legislature Could Pick Electors

Saturday, 18 November 2000 12:00 AM

If the Florida courts continue to ignore the law and fail to resolve the question of who won the state’s 25 electors by Dec. 12, the law allows the Republican-controlled Florida legislature to step in and appoint the electors themselves.

Election officials in Miami and Dade County have estimated that the hand recount of their ballots could take a month, which would take the matter beyond Dec. 12 and perhaps trigger the state legislature’s assuming the responsibility of choosing the electors.

"We're going to potentially ignore the state Supreme Court," Tom Feeney, the Republican lawyer who will take over as House speaker on Tuesday, told the Washington Post.

"It is the state legislature that determines the method of selecting electors. ... The question is whether or not the Supreme Court of Florida has any role whatsoever. If they try to interfere with our responsibilities, then we still have to fulfill them," he said defiantly.

And the move would be perfectly legal.

According to federal law, choosing the method for selecting members of the Electoral College is up to individual states. If the election fails to produce a slate of electors, "the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such a manner as the legislature of such state may direct." The electors are scheduled to meet on Dec. 18 to cast their votes for president.

"Our lawyers tell me ... that the legislature has a direct authority and power granted to it under the U.S. Constitution that no state court could interfere with, negate or abrogate," Feeney said.

"The bottom line is if we had to act because of the failure of this election to be certified on Saturday or the near future ... we think we have a constitutional obligation and we'd have to get good legal advice about what our options are."

Feeney added that he had not discussed the matter with the Bush campaign or Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Feeney’s statement was issued late last week in the wake of the ruling by the Florida Supreme Court blocking Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris from certifying the final results of the election last Saturday, as she had planned and as Florida law requires.

The court's decision was "premature" and "regrettable," he said, pointing to the federal law that allows state legislatures to choose their own rules for picking electors.

"It is my intention to monitor the discord between the judicial and executive branches, and the Florida legislature will play a role should it become necessary," the statement said.

A lawyer for the state's Democrat party, Ronald G. Meyer, told the Post the question of electors was "something we'll be looking at." But he believes the Supreme Court will resolve the question and thinks it "highly unlikely" that the Florida election will remain unresolved in mid-December.

Bill L. Bryant Jr., another Florida attorney, told the Post that in the event the case did drag on, the legislature could say, "We're going to pick 25 people, and they're going to Washington and vote for whomever." "In normal times, that would be a very far-out idea. It would be unthinkable," said Bryant, who represents the chairman of the Florida canvassing board. "To look at the context, it's not so far out. It's an option."

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If the Florida courts continue to ignore the law andfail to resolve the question of who won the state's 25 electors by Dec. 12, the law allows the Republican-controlled Florida legislature to step in and appoint the electors themselves. Election officials in Miami and Dade...
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Saturday, 18 November 2000 12:00 AM
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