Light bulbs on parade

As the U.S. Supreme Court once again prepares to hear arguments about the legal disputes over vote recounts, the post-election melee’s energy seems to finally be spent. Though neither Vice President Al Gore or Texas Gov. George W. Bush has promised to concede if the high court rules against his efforts, the palpable air of inevitability surrounding the presumably climactic hearing today should overcome both candidates’ personal ambition as they realize the country’s need and desire for a final resolution. The U.S. Supreme Court must be the final arbiter of this election, and both candidates ought to curtail all legal entanglements and accept whatever ruling the majority makes regardless of how the court divides its vote.
The high court’s most recent involvement follows the Florida Supreme Court’s surprise 4-to-3 decision to allow the recounting of about 45,000 “undervotes” and include the 383 counted but uncertified votes in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. As expected, Bush’s lawyers immediately appealed, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Saturday afternnon by a narrow 5-to-4 margin to rule in the matter and halted all vote recounts that had begun. The court’s five conservative justices were in the majority.
Given the Supreme Court’s obvious reluctance to involve itself in this conflict so rank with partisanship, it is unfortunate that the nine justices must now intercede in not only a political feud, but also a state one as well. But they are perhaps the only still-respected neutral body capable of deciding the matter. The justices managed to shirk their duty last week when they first weighed in on vote recounting and gave the Florida Supreme Court clear guidelines to follow in making its most recent ruling. The justices are probably well aware that the case would inevitably return to their respective laps.
Importantly for the Bush team, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Wells strongly dissented from the majority and issued his own opinion declaring that “the prolonging of judicial process in this counting contest propels this country and this state into an unprecedented and unnecessary constitutional crisis.” Wells’ words certainly bolster Bush’s arguments against the Gore team’s selective recounts and inclusion of partial recount totals. Though it is easy to dismiss the opinions of conservative justices who rule in Bush’s favor, ignoring the viewpoints of three liberal justices is much more difficult.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s apparent leaning toward the Bush argument has probably kept Gore from indicating that the court will have the final word and he will thereafter concede. But with the Supreme Court comes finality, and all parties must accept that. Most of the citizenry already has.