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Our Long National Nightmare, Part II

Monday, 20 November 2000 12:00 AM

If the Court affirms Judge Terry Lewis' decision supporting Secretary of State Katherine Harris' authority to certify the Florida election results without reference to the manual recounts, then George W. Bush will be declared the winner in Florida and this (so far) short national nightmare will be over.

If, on the other hand, the Court finds that Secretary Harris cannot certify the Florida winner until the three Democratic-majority counties have completed their manual recounts, then we will have entered an abyss of political and legal warfare that could go on for weeks or months.

As in a previous column, I will present a road map of just a few of the myriad possibilities – ranging from the likely to the seemingly fanciful – that lie before us in the event that the Florida court stops Secretary Harris from certifying the election. (Since events are unfolding so rapidly, the underlying conditions for these scenarios are changing even as I write.)

In effect, the next few weeks become an endless continuation of this past weekend, with the Florida Supreme Court maintaining a specious "status quo" that consists of prohibiting certification while permitting continued recounting. By the time the Court announces that the previously invalidated ballots in a handful of Democratic-majority counties must be included in the final state tally, the public has gotten so accustomed to the idea of Gore as the winner of the presidency that there's no energy left to protest this result.

(Note: Though I wrote the preceding sentences on Sunday afternoon, by Sunday evening this radical turnabout by Broward County had already occurred.) The additional 1,000 dimpled ballots that are re-validated on this basis give Gore the victory.

However, the Republican majority in Congress is terrified of partisan warfare and are loath to repeat the experience of 1876, when a partisan Republican majority on a special commission made Rutherford B. Hayes the victor in an election that was never considered legitimate by the opposition.

Following a more cautious course than their nineteenth century predecessors, the Republicans of 2001 pick a five-person commission of strictly "non-partisan, moderate" Republicans: William Cohen, Warren Rudman, Olympia Snowe, Jim Jeffords, and Constance Morella.

After judiciously considering all the facts, this esteemed commission (which during its long deliberations receives continual kudos from the NewsHour for its nonpartisanship) certifies the Gore electors from Florida, and Gore is elected president.

One week later, two of Bush's electors from states with Democratic governors are killed in automobile accidents. Each of those governors appoints a replacement elector pledged to vote for Gore. The switch of two votes ties the electoral vote at 269 each, sending the election into the House of Representatives.

Because of vote switching of a small number of members in closely divided state delegations, a 25-to-25 tie prevents the election of a president. This impasse lasts from January 6 when the new Congress convenes to January 19, the day before the constitutionally mandated inauguration of the new president.

Lawrence Auster can be reached at

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If the Court affirms Judge Terry Lewis' decision supporting Secretary of State Katherine Harris' authority to certify the Florida election results without reference to the manual recounts, then George W. Bush will be declared the winner in Florida and this (so far) short...
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Monday, 20 November 2000 12:00 AM
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