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When Will It End?
Who Will Finally Decide Our Next President?
By John Martin
Nov. 15 - If the legal fighting over Florida's votes is not resolved when the Electoral College meets to vote on Dec. 12, what happens then?
"I'm sure there's some act that will let the president stay in place until a new president is elected," says Illinois voter Cedric Jones.
The Electoral College might vote without Florida. As it stands today, George W. Bush has 246 electoral votes and Al Gore has 255, which means Gore could win without Florida.
"I think [Gore is] going to end up getting it, says Delaware voter Spencer Hill. "He's been whining and complaining enough that I think he's going to get it in the end."
But that's not at all certain. What might happen?
"The worst drafted provisions of the Constitution are those dealing with presidential election," explains Professor Akhil Amar, who teaches constitutional law at Yale University.
Electors from 26 states are not required to vote the same way as the majority in their states. And there is no penalty - or not much of one - in the other states, so they can vote however they choose.
"State law can say who gets to be a presidential elector," says Amar, "but it can't tell that person how to vote."
The Next Deadlines
"Hopefully it will end at some point," says Illinois voter Chris Lukasik, "but I'm glad they are taking their time."
But how much time? The Electoral College meets Dec. 18.
Even if Bush wins Florida (and Gore keeps his lead in other states), Bush could still lose the Electoral College if just three electors switch to Gore. Then, the tally would be Gore 270, Bush 268.
If two of Bush's electors switched to Gore, it would create a tie in the Electoral College: 269-269.
What then? Congress would meet on Jan. 6 to decide. Each state gets one vote. The House chooses the president and the Senate chooses the vice president.
"It's unlikely the House of Representatives would be deadlocked," says Amar, "but if it were deadlocked and the Senate were deadlocked, then Heaven help us."
If There is a Deadlock
If the House does deadlock, the Republican Speaker, Dennis Hastert of Illinois, is in line to take office as president on Jan. 20.
If not Hastert, Senate Pro Tempore Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, is next in line.
"Fifty-two years ago, he ran for president and lost, but in the science fiction world, it's possible," says Amar. "Only in America."
Irish tourist Dun Woody had a suggestion: "It would be much better to put Clinton back in and give him another term."
Sorry, the 22st Amendment wont allow that - presidents are limited to two terms in office. But as you can see, the American Constitution still allows quite a bit of juggling between now and Jan. 20.
-- The (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 16, 2000
Running From the Vote
By BOB HERBERT The situation could hardly be more transparent. The Republican Party is consumed with the fear that somehow a fair count of the votes in Florida will be permitted. It is doing all it can to prevent that from happening.
Do the G.O.P. bigwigs know something? Have they divined that a scrupulous count of the Florida vote would result in the second-most- frightening scenario they could imagine Bill Clinton handing the White House keys to Al Gore?
(The ultimate nightmare would have been Bill handing the White House over to Hillary. The Republicans are having convulsions just thinking about Mrs. Clinton showing up for duty in the Senate. Trent Lott, with his usual lack of both subtlety and taste, said, "I'll tell you one thing: when this Hillary gets to the Senate if she does, maybe lightning will strike and she won't she will be one of 100, and we won't let her forget it.")
Why is the G.O.P. so afraid? Are the votes already there to elect Al Gore? Are they sitting in boxes, just waiting to be counted? There's only one way to find out.
"All that this campaign is attempting to do is to get the votes counted," said David Boies, the newly installed tactical nuclear weapon in the Democrats' arsenal.
Mr. Boies made a public appearance with former Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Tallahassee yesterday. There was no ranting, no hysterics, just an appeal to reason. "Let the votes get counted," he said.
The Florida Supreme Court has been "very protective" of its citizens' right to vote, Mr. Boies said. He said the court had tried to insure, as it said in a recent opinion, that each vote "is not only made, but heard."
Properly registered voters who cast legitimate ballots that are not counted are participating in an exercise in futility, not democracy. Democracy demands that votes not only be cast, but counted. This is a fine point that seems to have conveniently escaped the consciousness of Republicans focused on Florida.
While doing everything possible to thwart a meticulous count of the Florida vote, Governor George W. Bush and his top gun, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, have been crying out for days for "closure," as if the nation were grieving rather than trying to find out who really won the election.
"When is it going to end?" Mr. Baker asked. He never asked whether legitimate voters were being frozen out of the process. He wasn't interested in that. In Mr. Baker's view, and presumably Mr. Bush's as well, too much is at stake to worry about the niceties of the democratic process.
To get a sense of the degree of contempt these two men have for the process, just consider that they are perfectly happy to allow a Bush supporter and Republican Party functionary, Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris, to basically pick the president of the United States by ordering a cutoff of hand counts in various counties at a time when Mr. Bush was barely 300 votes ahead.
Never mind that Ms. Harris was co-chairwoman of the Bush campaign in Florida, or that she dutifully headed north last winter to campaign for the Texas governor in the New Hampshire primary, or that she arranged to spend $30,000 in taxpayer money for a so-called get-out- the- vote commercial that featured retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, a big-time Bush supporter.
No, it apparently never occurred to Mr. Bush or Mr. Baker that it might be a grotesque conflict of interest to have Ms. Harris slam the door on a complete tally of the vote and then, on her own, summarily declare Mr. Bush the winner in Florida and new president of the United States.
I suspect that the possibility of a conflict might have occurred to them if something similar had been perpetrated by the Gore camp.
Yesterday the Florida Supreme Court refused Ms. Harris's request that it block any further hand recounts of election ballots. But this made no impression on Ms. Harris. She promptly announced that she would not accept the results of any additional hand counts.
The Republican Party is attempting to hijack the presidency.
It's not interested in having all of the voters heard, which is the only way to experience the true spirit of democracy.
-- Hijacked (email@example.com), November 16, 2000.
Bush will give in. He can't take the stress, his head will turn into one HUGE boil.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 16, 2000.
new zealand is lookin better every day!!
-- al-d. (email@example.com), November 16, 2000.
You need to start watching the news. Educate yourself a little. The hand counts are anything but fair. Both sides are playing tricks with the ballots. Unfortunately, it looks like Bush is right. The votes have been recounted and the machines are the only method to give us an objective rendering of the vote count.
-- stop your whining (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 16, 2000.
Also see the thread 'N.Y. Times: The House could end up choosing the president.'
-- (email@example.com), November 16, 2000.
new zealand is lookin better every day!!
Thanks -- al-d.
Our political system can be rather uncertain at times, but it does give a result. As for the rest of NZ, I wish that many of you here could come and visit. I'm sure you'd enjoy the experience on this side of the world.
-- Malcolm Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 16, 2000.