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Last night, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris followed the word--but not the spirit--of the Florida Supreme Court's decision by certifying the election results available to her. The political nature of her actions, however, were paramount once again, as she certified the results without even a partial recount from Palm Beach County.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, the work of the Palm Beach County canvassing board--three elected individuals who probably expected an honorific rather than horrific job--worked tirelessly to count the votes of the county's citizens. Thousands of the ballots had not shown a vote for president due to a combination of imperfect ballots and imperfect machines. The canvassing board has already faced allegations of improper action over the butterfly ballot and an unusual number of votes for Pat Buchanan that Buchanan himself says were intended for Vice President Al Gore '69.
These three individuals--the only officials allowed to judge the ballots in the county--worked through the night and could not finish. After this good-faith effort, they asked yesterday for an extension, which was denied by Harris. Whatever her motivations, this action was despicable and demonstrated more of the poor judgement she has exercised in managing this contentious election.
In the week ahead, two issues remain to determine the next President of the United States. One is the Gore case against the Miami-Dade County canvassing board--a group who, it seems, felt intimidated by the actions of Republican protesters crowding the halls of their offices Wednesday and decided to call off a count of the thousands of "no vote" ballots in their county. The actions of Republican partisans--taking to the radio to encourage angry citizens to descend on the canvassing board office and prevent them from doing their work--erode any credibility Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his supporters may have had in claiming Gore is "doing anything he can" to win the election. Apparently, Bush's supporters feel the ends justify the means--even when it comes to preventing election officials from doing their jobs.
The answer for Miami-Dade County, and all of Florida, is for all ballots which show clear voter intent to be counted. Only then can the winner of Florida's electoral votes be decided with certainty. We have suffered for Bush's miscalculation not to support a full recount. Only when the correct decision of manually counting votes was made did the Bush team understand they had missed the opportunity to recount heavily Republican counties and took to protesting Gore's legal actions through a public-relations smear campaign.
The Bush campaign does have serious concerns about the legality of the recounts--and those concerns will be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court Friday. Though the decision to hear the case was a surprise, it will help to reassure the American public that the appropriate decisions will be made. The Court is being looked to for guidance in political matters, which for them is an uncomfortable but necessary position in this election.
The election has continued through the long weekend; despite the certification of results in Florida, no president has yet been chosen. Again, this week the courts will play a pivotal role in deciding how to proceed into murky, unexplored territory, of how to determine a result of minute proportions in a system built for landslides. We must still wait and see.
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