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2000 Election

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The fourth principle of the rule of law state, "all persons must be given due process, that is, a fair chance to defend themselves against formal charges that they have violated the rules." The premise for this principle is the example that, the official body that hears and renders judgment on the charges may be biased against the defendant instead of impartial. The decision of the United States Supreme Court to discontinue the counting of "undervotes" in the state of Florida was not only a politically biased decision, it was also a decision that violated the rule of law. My argument is based on not so much the dissenting opinion of the minority, but of the concurring opinion of the majority of the Supreme Court.

A political trial is one in which political considerations, not simply the law and the facts, affect the proceedings and verdict. Every human being has a certain set of morals and beliefs that they hold to be an important part of their character. This is no different for the judges of the Supreme Court. They too have a set of morals and beliefs that they live by. The difference is that their job description says that they have to make decisions not based on their morals and beliefs, but their decisions must be based on the rule of law. It is obvious to me that many of the judges on the Supreme Court, did not follow their job description and instead of basing their decision of Bush vs. Gore on the rule of law, they based it on who they voted for. Every conservative on that panel voted to stop the recount which in turn helped Bush win, and every liberal on the panel voted to continue the recount which would have given Gore a chance at winning.

The concurring opinion of the majority seems to make it evident in some of the arguments they make that their opinion was based on politics and not on law. Much of the evidence they bring up only seems to contradict their decision more than support it. In Rehnquist's opinion, with whom Scalia and Thomas join, concurring, he brings up the case of Anderson v. Celebrezze, (1983), in which the court said ''In the context of a Presidential election, state-imposed restrictions implicate a uniquely important national interest. For the President and the Vice President of the United States are the only elected officials who represent all the voters in the Nation.'' Now this is a very good argument if you are arguing to continue the recount so that all of the voters' votes are counted to ensure that the President and Vice-President do actually represent the will of the nation.

In another part of Rehnquist's opinion, he says that "in any election but a Presidential election, the Florida Supreme Court can give as little or as much deference to Florida s executives as it chooses, so far as Article II is concerned, and this Court will have no cause to question the court s actions. But, with respect to a Presidential election, the court must be both mindful of the legislature s role under Article II in choosing the manner of appointing electors and deferential to those bodies expressly empowered by the legislature to carry out its constitutional mandate." To me this says that the Supreme Court feels like they are better educated to interpret the Florida legislature than the members of the Florida Supreme Court. The problem is that Rehnquist gives no reasons as why this is to be true, he only implies that it is. Rehnquist himself is also a justice who has in the past been known to advocate states rights, but in this case dismisses the state courts interpretation of this case.

Also involved in this "judicial" process is the Florida Secretary of State. The Florida legislature has designated the Secretary of State as the ''chief election officer,'' with the responsibility to ''obtain and maintain uniformity in the application, operation, and interpretation of the election laws.'' His interpretation does differ than the one held by the Florida Supreme Court, but on what grounds. Let it be known that the Governor of Florida is Jeb Bush, brother of presidential candidate George Bush. The Secretary of State is directly appointed by the governor, so to me this automatically brings his interpretation under scrutiny. Is he going to be persuaded to uphold the law, or is he going to base his opinion on the fact that the brother of his boss's job is on the line. I think that if Rehnquist was really basing his decision on the rule of law, it would have been smart for him not to use this argument on the basis that there was no way for the Secretary of State in this instance to give an unbiased interpretation of the legislature.

Rehnquist also argues the fact that it would have been impossible for the recount to be finished within the six days that it was required to be done. I think that his wording here is interesting because he exaggerates the number of the votes that need to be counted. He says that, "the Supreme Court of Florida ordered recounts of tens of thousands of so-called



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