Though a U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not necessarily end the political wrangling that has enveloped Florida and the nation for the past three weeks, it would bring a much-needed, and presumably nonpartisan, finality to this post-election melee. The justices must have been aware of the closure only they could bring when at least four of the nine voted on Friday to hear Gov. George W. Bush’s appeal to an earlier ruling by Florida’s Supreme Court. Amid the rank partisanship in Florida, with everybody apparently adhering to strict party lines, the highest court in the land should be able to end this dispute once for all.
Challenging the Florida Supreme Court decision to allow manual recounts, Bush petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday after weeks of failed attempts to end the election in his favor. While refusing to hear the Texas governor’s broad constitutional attack on the manual recounts as violations of equal protection and due process laws, the court instead chose to hear arguments relating to the powers Florida’s legislature and its supreme court have regarding how the state’s electors are chosen. The governor’s concern is that the Florida Supreme Court overreached its constitutional jurisdiction and wrongfully enacted legislation when it overruled the Florida secretary of state and permitted manual recounts, pushing the deadline to have the tallies submitted from Nov. 14 to Nov. 26.
Possible action by Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature could further polarize the political contest in the Sunshine State. Meanwhile, an authoritative decision — either supporting or rejecting the manual recounts — from a well-respected body of justices, many of whom are known for boldly defying the wills of their appointers, carries a likely end to this ongoing drama that has both enthralled and frustrated the populace. Though both Bush and Vice President Al Gore have more or less vowed that no result other than their ultimate victory would satisfy them, their respect for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling might override their obvious political ambitions.
But while we expect the candidates whose careers have been in limbo for weeks to be highly partisan, we would like to expect less of that from the other bodies trying to resolve Florida’s disputed election. The Republican secretary of state, the Democrat-dominated canvassing boards, the state’s Supreme Court and the Republican legislature have all made decisions that happen to follow in their parties’ wake.
Republicans want Bush elected and Democrats want Gore, and each camp has found plenty of justification for its fight to continue. Much will rest on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision expected to follow closely after the hearing scheduled this Friday. Though the nine justices have a great weight on their shoulders, they alone are adequately — but not entirely — removed from politics to be able to decide the case on its merits.