Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls dealt the Al Gore campaign another setback yesterday, ruling against Gore’s contest of the certified Florida electoral totals, which gave Bush a slim margin of victory.
Judge Sauls indicated that the Gore campaign failed to demonstrate that a count of so-called undervotes in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties would swing the results in Gore’s favor.
“In this case, there is no credible statistical evidence and no other competent substantial evidence to establish … that the results of the statewide election in the state of Florida would be different from the result which has been certified by the state elections canvassing commission,” Sauls said in his decision.
The decision was a major setback for the Gore camp who had hoped Sauls would rule in their favor and order Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties to manually count ballots that had not yet registered in either candidate’s total. In closing arguments yesterday David Boies, lead counsel for Gore, argued that if the 9,000 undervotes in Dade County were counted, and the recount of ballots in Palm Beach County were included in the official state total, that Gore would have won the state.
Bush’s attorneys argued Sunday that the county canvassing boards were allowed extreme discretion in filing voting total returns and that there was no cause for further recounts.
“There is no suggestion that the county canvassing boards were not both reasonable and competent in making the decisions they made,” said Barry Richard, lead attorney for Bush.
Lawyers representing Gore suggested that they would appeal Judge Sauls decision to the Florida Supreme Court. Previously, that body ruled in Gore’s favor by extending the state deadline for certification of vote totals until manual recounts could be completed.
Earlier yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the Florida election controversy, ordering the Florida Supreme Court to take a second look at its decision to extend the state electoral certification deadline.
The Court expressed confusion concerning whether or not the Florida court considered the state constitutional power of the legislature in its finding.
“There are expressions in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Florida that may be read to indicate that it construed the Florida Election Code without regard to the extent to which the Florida Constitution could, consistent with Article II, Section 1, clause 2, ‘circumscribe the legislative power,'” the Court’s decision said.
The high court also expressed confusion as to the statue the Florida court’s decision was based on.
“After reviewing the opinion of the Florida Supreme Court, we find that there is considerable uncertainty as to the precise grounds for the decision,” the Court’s decision said.
Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters said that the Justices of the Court would meet on Monday to review their options.
In spite of the legal action, Florida’s electors may be chosen by the state legislature who are considering a special session later this week to consider their appointment. The legislature has the power, under Article II Section 1 of the Constitution, to determine the manner by which the electors are chosen.
Asked about the possible legislative action, Gore said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night, “I can’t imagine they would do that.”
Supporter of legislators have spoken of the necessity for naming a slate of electors prior to the state’s December 12th legal deadline for designating electors to guarantee Florida’s representation in the Electoral College. Republican legislators say they will only approve the group of electors awarded to Bush by virtue of his 537 vote lead in the state’s certified tally.
The Electoral College is scheduled to meet on December 18th with electors from each state casting their vote for President. Neither candidate can win the necessary 270 electors votes to become the next President without the support of Florida’s electors.