Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GOP Sees Legislative Action as Option in Recount Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GOP Sees Legislative Action as Option in Recount Issue

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- Even as Republicans celebrated Miami-Dade County's decision yesterday to stop its manual recount of presidential ballots, state GOP leaders were looking back to the 1800s for a legislative response to Tuesday's decision by the Florida Supreme Court that allowed the hand recounts.

The Republicans, who control state legislative chambers by wide margins, were enraged when the Supreme Court ruled that three heavily Democratic counties could perform manual recounts, which may benefit Democrat Al Gore.

Less than a day after the ruling, the Republicans were looking back to a federal law not used since the late 1800s that allows a state Legislature to decide which presidential candidate will receive that state's Electoral College votes when the election procedures have broken down.

Florida's 25 electoral college votes will decide whether Gore or Republican George W. Bush will win the presidency. GOP leaders in Florida said yesterday they may need to enact the federal rule and could call a special session of the Legislature to award the votes.

"The steps they [Supreme Court justices] have taken are clearly unconstitutional and it may now be up to the Legislature to determine how we should determine our own electors," said Sen. Jim Horne, R-Orange Park, who could assume a leadership position in the Senate this term. "The U.S. Constitution is clear: If in fact the primary method of election has been circumvented, then it's up to the Legislature to step in and establish that process."

If the Legislature took that action, Horne said, then the state would revert to the results of the first computer-assisted ballot recount that showed Bush the winner in Florida by 930 votes.

Republican lawmakers were angry that the Supreme Court -- all justices appointed by Democratic governors -- allowed the hand counts to continue.

"Our power has been challenged, not just for this election," said Sen. Daniel Webster, the former speaker of the Florida House who now represents Orlando in the Senate. "If they can make this arbitrary ruling on this statute, they can make it for anything. They have clearly gone beyond their power and by doing that have jeopardized all laws."

A special session of the Legislature can be called only by the governor or by a joint action of the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House. House Speaker Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, said he met with a constitutional lawyer yesterday and was exploring the options to respond to the court's ruling.

Senate President John McKay, R-Bradenton, also was meeting with his staff and had spoken with several Republican leaders to plot a course of action, said Karen Chandler, a spokeswoman in McKay's office. However, the two leaders had not met to discuss convening a special session, she said. …

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