Supreme Court finds states, not voters, choose electors

Mike Wereschagin

The U.S. Supreme Court damaged more than Vice President Al Gore’s campaign with its Monday morning ruling in George W. Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board.
The Court’s reiteration of a 108-year-old constitutional interpretation seriously undermined any claims to the power of the individual’s vote.
The decision annuls the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to allow hand recounts which, in itself, does not directly inhibit an individual’s suffrage.
When today’s opinion was rendered, networks, legal and political analysts went to work determining what the ruling meant for Gore’s campaign.
But most overlooked two small sentences at the bottom of the opinion’s fourth page, which state that U.S. citizens do not have any say in voting for their president.
As justification for annulling the Florida court’s decision, the U.S. Supreme Court referred to a decision rendered in McPherson v. Blacker in 1892.
The McPherson opinion states Article II of the U.S. Constitution says citizens do not appoint their state’s electors; each individual state government does.
With that interpretation, the U.S. Supreme Court drove another wedge between U.S. citizens and the presidential election.
The firewall of the Electoral College is now augmented, according to the Court, by 50 state legislatures.
“The way they read (the Constitution) preempts the will of the people,” said Miles Lord, a DFL activist and former federal judge. “If the legislatures can do that, then we don’t have a national election; we have a president chosen by the legislators.”
Lord explained that this is simply a manifestation of the actual nature of law.
“The law is, in truth, the philosophy of the people who are writing and interpreting it,” he said.
In this respect, judges have much more power than most people realize, Lord continued.
“They can interpret the law, in effect changing it as they see fit,” he said. “This should prove to everyone that judges are just people with political leanings just like anyone else. But it’s the way the legal system is set up. All you can do is hope that most decisions don’t hurt things too much.”
In this case, he continued, politics played a major role in the court’s decision.
“You have four people on the Supreme Court who are just anxious to change government,” Lord said of the nine-member court. “When they work together, that’s a pretty solid bloc.”
Following that logic, the U.S. Supreme Court — with a majority of justices often ruling in support of states’ rights — could be seen as simply reacting to the predominantly Democratic Florida Supreme Court.
“It’s very bad news to the liberals,” Lord said. “But to (the justices), it looks like the right thing to do.”
However, the U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and no argument could be made that a lower court has more effect on the nation’s path.
Partisan politics have helped mold the U.S. Congress throughout history and have served a valid purpose within the legislative and executive branches of government.
But the entire purpose of having three branches of government checking each other is to keep one mind set from running away with the country.
The human element of justice might be unavoidable, but that does not mean it should be immune from scrutiny.
Lord, however, said he is confident the court’s current interpretation won’t last and that it is simply politics as usual.
“The Constitution is interpreted on the basis of the current situation,” he said. “That’s how it is set up. This is a one-time thing. Bush needed it, and they gave it to him.”

Mike Wereschagin welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3226. He can also be reached at [email protected]