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Jewish World Review Nov. 30, 2000 / 3 Kislev, 5761

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez
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End it, already! -- WHEN THE SUPREME COURT meets tomorrow it faces one of the most daunting challenges in its history: How best to preserve American democracy as we have known it for the last 200 years. Make no mistake, what we are now witnessing on the part of the Gore-Lieberman campaign is a direct assault on the democratic process. It is an attempt to overturn an election and undermine the rule of law.

Al Gore and Joe Lieberman have made it clear that they will not voluntarily concede defeat under any circumstances. Despite two, three, and in some jurisdictions, four vote counts to the contrary, both Gore and Lieberman insist that they have won a majority of the vote in Florida. Now they have embarked on an unprecedented effort to use the state courts to overturn the decisions of election officials in three counties in Florida.

The only endgame that Messrs. Gore and Lieberman will accept is their installation as president and vice president -- and they are willing to trash the electoral process, manipulate the courts, and thwart the U.S. Constitution to accomplish their aim.

The Supreme Court must give some finality to this election. The best way it can do so is to preemptively assert the constitutional right -- indeed, the requirement -- that the Florida state legislature choose the state's presidential electors. By giving its imprimatur to prospective action by the state legislature, the Court can once and for all put an end to the Gore-Lieberman team's relentless litigation, which cannot possibly be completed before Dec. 12, the deadline by which electors must be chosen.

Both the U.S. Constitution and Florida laws provide that the state legislature is the ultimate arbiter in the selection of presidential electors. Florida law, moreover, says that the legislature shall appoint the electors by Dec. 12, if failure to do so would deprive the state of its opportunity to participate in the election of the president in the Electoral College.

Clearly, the Gore-Lieberman campaign's interminable legal challenges present just such a threat.

There is nothing undemocratic in having the state legislature select electors. We live in a republic, after all, in which the "will of the people" routinely expresses itself not directly but through the votes of elected representatives. The Democrats insist on attacking both the process and the outcome of the election Nov. 7, and refuse to accept the tallies compiled first by machines and then by mostly partisan Democrat officials in selected counties over the last week. The Court should therefore direct the state legislature to undertake its constitutional duty to settle this matter once and for all. Anything less invites the endless legal maneuvers of sore losers, not just in this contest but in future elections as well.

The Gore-Lieberman campaign has already demonstrated its willingness to file false affidavits in court, asserting before the Florida supreme court that an Illinois court ruled that so-called dimpled chads must be counted, even though the court said exactly the opposite. It has demanded manual vote recounts, and then challenged the results when not enough votes materialized to proclaim the Democrats the victors. Gore-Lieberman lawyers have insisted that counties reject the easily readable and duly executed ballots of soldiers and sailors, while insisting that those same counties and others divine the intentions of voters who were too careless or deliberately chose not to punch their ballots. Who knows what other unscrupulous actions they will take to prevent Florida electors from casting their votes for Gov. Bush on Dec. 18.

I can't say I'm surprised that Al "No-Controlling-Legal-Authority" Gore has sanctioned this scorched-earth strategy. But I am deeply disappointed that Joe Lieberman, who was once regarded as the "conscience of the Senate" has followed suit. On the day that Gore picked Lieberman as his running mate I wrote that one of the unfortunate outcomes of this election might be that Joe Lieberman could end up "diminished as a moral leader in the U.S. Senate." Unfortunately, he has diminished not only himself but the democratic process as well. It is now left to the U.S. Supreme Court to restore legitimacy to an election that has been hopelessly tainted by such unfortunate behavior.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate