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Scalia opinion rejects precedent and state law in Federal overturn of Florida Court

Business interests call for closure and claim further vote-counting will "spoil Christmas."

On December 9, 2000, in a 5 to 4 decision, a reactionary cabal in the US Supreme Court, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, has stopped the counting of Florida "undercount" ballots. Despite the Florida Supreme Court's scrupulous, meticulous, conformity to the standards laid down in the US High Court's Dec. 4th remand of the prior Florida ruling permitting recounts, Justices Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, Conner, and Kennedy said continued counting would "irreparably damage" GW Bush's "probable" presidency and bring into question the legitimacy of his selection. (As if the ballots will not almost inevitably be counted by the press and others under Florida's public access laws.)

The Federal action is nothing more than a partisan power play allowing the clock to run out and preempting attempts to include all votes which conform to the laws of the State of Florida. The Florida Court followed the guidelines of the Federal Court's remand by basing their authorization of recounts on laws enacted by the Florida Legislature. These laws include 1) placing selection of electoral college delegates in the hands of the state's voters; 2) making the Florida Supreme Court responsible for interpreting state election laws (except in the case of state legislators). 3) State law also requires counting all legally cast ballots "where the intent of the voter is clearly discernible." 4) By requiring that all the undervote ballots in all counties in all precincts be counted, the Florida Justices avoided any argument that voters in some areas would not be afforded "equal protection" as required under the US Constitution. 5) Furthermore, by being based precisely on Florida law, the Florida Court's action particularly guarded against being dismissed as a change of the election law after the votes were cast - a violation of the US Constitution.

In view of their abrogation of their judicial responsibility, and for their conspiring to override the will of the voters of Florida and the lawful order of the Florida Supreme Court, we call for the impeachment of Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist.

The corruption of US democracy is starkly revealed in the 5 to 4 decision to halt the manual inspection of ballots with no machine-registered vote for president. The Florida courts had struggled to achieve a logical consistency in Florida election law - to uphold the sanctity of the vote as called for by state law. Coincidentally, on Dec. 8th, a Florida Circuit Court ruled in Bush's favor and declined to throw out several thousand absentee ballots - which were allowed to count despite illegally-altered voter registrations. The lower court's reasoning was to honor the intent of voters even in the face of legal technicalities. Republican partisans loudly cheered this decision - which was subsequently upheld by the FLorida Supreme Court..

Conservatives are now cheering the opposite point of view contained in the US Supreme Court's stay of the vote counting ordered by the Florida High Court. In doing so, they negated the Florida State law honoring the intent of the voters as well as flip-flopping their philosophical stand on "States' Rights". If ever there was an example of a court decision making new law, this ruling stopping the Florida recount is one.

Having it both ways was the order of the day for the US High Court during the hearing of oral arguments on Dec. 12th. One such instance was when Justice Sandra Day O'Conner remarked that the legal standard for counting a vote valid was obviously the letter of the rules: no chads. In other words, if the machine doesn't count it, it doesn't count. According to this, the Florida Legislature must have been drunk when it passed several laws allowing manual recounts. Such strict standards would have disqualified the numerous late military absentee votes for Bush (which were allowed by the FLorida High Court) as well as to the thousands of voter registrations illegally completed by Republican Party workers. Gore would have won by at least 10,000 except for the Florida Court's decisions to protect every vote possible where the clear intent of the voter could be determined.

The 2000 Presidential election fiasco in FLorida has revealed the hypocrisy of the US's sanctimonious parading of American capitalist-tainted democracy as a standard and model for the world. The unprincipled struggle over the Florida vote count and the numerous flagrant errors in casting and counting votes has picked a scab on a long-festering sore in our political process. But this one sore is only a single symptom of the systemic problem. The US democratic process has been corrupted by money. propaganda, and ignorance. The ultimate disgrace of having barely 50% voter turnout has been papered over for generations. Candidates are selected on the basis of the volume of media sound-bytes, photo-ops, and lawn-sign slogans. As a prime example in the 2000 campaign, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader was barred from national debates because of his clearly superior policies for protecting working-class interests.

Impeaching Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist will not restore our democracy to health. BUT IT WILL BE A GOOD START!