Thomas Sowell

Now the Florida Supreme Court stepped in and transferred the discretion that the law gave to the Secretary of State to themselves, granting an extension. After the new extended deadline passed and the official election results were certified, the Gore legal team came back again to ask for another manual recount, under the rules for contesting a certification. However, as one of the dissenting justices on the Florida Supreme Court pointed out, "only the 'unsuccessful candidate' may contest an election," so "Vice President Gore's choices of the three particular counties was improper because he was not 'unsuccessful' in those counties."

Not to worry. The 4-3 majority on the Florida Supreme Court now ordered a statewide recount. Based on what? Not on the law, according to the court's own chief justice, who dissented bitterly. That's where the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in. What the Florida Supreme Court did at the eleventh hour might have made some sense as a remedy weeks earlier, when there was plenty of time -- if there had been anything to remedy, which there wasn't.

Nothing had happened in the Florida election that does not happen in other elections. Voter error, voter omission of votes for some offices ("undervotes") and trivial irregularities are commonplace, despite all the hype and hysteria in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court rushed in to solve a non-problem -- and their "solution" created a mess that threatened a constitutional crisis.

Before the U. S. Supreme Court intervened, a team of professors from Harvard, Berkeley, Cornell and Northwestern universities did their own detailed statistical analysis and concluded that Bush might win the latest recount by a larger margin than he won the first time.

The real issue, however, was not whether Bush would have won yet again in the latest in a series of recounts. The real issue was whether this kind of perversion of the law was to be allowed to continue -- and to provide a precedent for chaos after every future close election.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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