With numerous lawsuits waiting resolution in several Florida courts as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, it appears all but certain that the Sunshine State’s Republican-dominated legislature will call a special session and name its own set of 25 electors, presumably loyal only to Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Hoping to avoid a Florida court ruling that might help Vice President Al Gore win the presidency, lawyers representing the Republican leadership in Florida’s House and Senate told a select committee Tuesday that a special legislative session is necessary under the United States Constitution to ensure that voters there are represented when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 18. Florida voters will be best served, however, if the state’s legislature does not involve itself in this outright partisan dispute, and instead let the courts decide the merits of the lawsuits.
The idea to call a special session of the legislature and assign the state’s electors has been brewing among lawmakers in Florida for weeks now. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — the Republican contender’s brother — has even discussed the possibility with Republican House speaker Tom Feeney and Republican Senate president John McKay. Besides the obvious bias the governor has in this matter, Republican intentions to guarantee a Bush victory are troubling and appear as an attempt to undermine the electoral process.
During the committee’s discussions about the special session Tuesday, nearly every constitutional expert who advised the assembled lawmakers represented a conservative ideology, leading some Democrats there to criticize the process. Indeed, only partisan politics is fueling the legislature’s drive to select its own electoral slate. Though it may have the constitutional authority to control Florida’s 25 electoral votes, the state legislature there should not exercise it.
Meanwhile, the White House wisely decided Wednesday to assist both “president-elects” and their transition teams as they prepare for a possible presidency. Though this only minimally affects Gore, who already receives most of the privileges a president-elect would receive, it provides the Bush team with intelligence and assistance indispensable to preparing them to take the country’s helm.
Withholding federal funds from both transition teams was also a commendable decision, as disputes about the election remain unresolved. Taxpayer dollars should not fund the transition efforts of a possible president.