Justices Close the Books on Recount Some Question Decision by U.S. Supreme Court

By Saunders, Jim | The Florida Times Union, December 23, 2000 | Go to article overview

Justices Close the Books on Recount Some Question Decision by U.S. Supreme Court


Saunders, Jim, The Florida Times Union


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw called the situation "surreal." Justice Barbara Pariente cited a poem titled, The Poor Voter on Election Day.

After weeks of getting cheered and vilified, of making landmark rulings and getting rejected, the state Supreme Court yesterday issued a unanimous decision closing the legal battle over who should be the nation's next president.

The decision was largely a formality: By earlier rejecting the state court's rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court had shut down Democrat Al Gore's election hopes and spurred him to concede to Republican George W. Bush.

But Shaw and Pariente tacked on separate opinions yesterday that show how justices have grappled with exasperating legal issues and continued to question the U.S. Supreme Court and Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

Shaw, in part of his opinion titled "Human Failings," said uncounted ballots might tell who won the election. But he said still nobody can agree how -- or if -- to hand count the ballots.

"Admittedly, the present scenario is surreal: All the king's horses and all the king's men could not get a few thousand ballots counted," said Shaw, the court's senior member and a former Jacksonville prosecutor. ". . . We are a nation of men and women and, although we aspire to lofty principles, our methods at times are imperfect."

Pariente pointed to a jumble of election laws and interpretations that she said took away people's rights to have votes counted. In a footnote, she added a John Greenleaf Whittier poem that touts the power of voting and includes the lines, "My palace is the people's hall/The ballot box my throne!"

"What should concern all of us is not whether the uncounted votes were for President-elect Bush or for Vice President Gore, but that thousands of voters in Florida did not have their vote included in this state's presidential election," wrote Pariente, who is from Palm Beach County, a key battleground in the recount fight.

Yesterday's decision stemmed from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 12 that ended Gore's attempts to recount thousands of ballots by hand. Gore hoped the recounts would help him overtake Bush's 537-vote lead in Florida, giving him the state's 25 electoral votes and clinching the presidency. …

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