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Florida Legislature Calls Special Session As Court Battles Continue

December 7, 2000

The Florida Legislature has called a special session for Friday to appoint the state's 25 electors to the Electoral College. The sitting of the two houses comes as decisions are pending in a number of legal contests.

John McKay, the President of the state Senate, has said that the decision is necessary to avoid disenfranchising Florida voters in the presidential election.

Bush has been certified the winner in Florida by 537 votes, but Gore is challenging that certification in the courts, and seeking additional manual recounts. The vice president's claim was rejected in the trial court by Judge N. Sanders Sauls on Monday, and the state Supreme Court will hear Gore's appeal tomorrow.

The legislature's decision is based on the wording of the second paragraph of Article II of the US Constitution, which states:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but not Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

Federal law requires that electors be chosen by December 12, prior to the meeting of the Electoral College on December 18.

The decision by the Legislature is a pre-emptive move that will spark heated opposition from Democrats, given that judgements in several court cases have not yet been delivered.

Judge Terry Lewis in Martin County and Judge Nikki Ann Clark in Seminole County are currently hearing a contest to the acceptance of absentee ballots which, if ultimately thrown out, would tip the election to Gore by several thousand votes. There are 15,000 votes at stake in Seminole County and 10,000 in Martin County.

The appeal by Gore to the Florida Supreme Court will be under consideration at the same time as the Legislature is meeting. A move by the Bush team to have the appeal thrown out before it was heard was rejected by the state's 7 justices earlier today.

Sidelined in this legal quagmire is the decision by the US Supreme Court to seek clarification from the Florida Supreme Court on its decision to extend the deadline for the submission of manual recounts. However, this decision could be crucial if the Florida Supreme Court overturns Judge Sauls' decision. In this event, a decision would have to be made on the admission of recounts, but this cannot happen until the US Court has delivered its decision.

Meanwhile, a US District Judge in Pensacola, Lacey Collier, is considering an application from the Republicans that hundreds of rejected overseas ballots, mostly from military personnel, be counted. Collier has promised a quick decision.

In yet another court action, Corrine Brown, a Florida Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, is suing the Duval County canvassing board on the grounds that the county used a confusing ballot paper and denied ballots to blacks who did not have a voter-ID card or photo ID with them when they went to vote. She is joined in the application with local politicians and and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

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