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U.S. Supreme Court finds Florida court-ordered recount unconstitutional
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision late Tuesday, reversed a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering the hand recounts of thousands of votes, a ruling apparently benefiting Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush in the razor-thin election that remains undecided more than a month after Election Day.
"Seven justices of this Court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court," according to a 7-2 "per curiam," or unsigned, opinion. "The only disagreement is as to the remedy."
The nation's highest court also remanded Bush v. Gore to the Florida Supreme Court for further proceedings, but effectively ended the manual recounts as unconstitutional.
The Bush campaign had argued that different Florida counties would use different methods for hand counting votes, and the lack of a uniform standard means votes would be treated differently, a violation of the 14th Amendment.
Bush lawyer Theodore Olson had also argued that the Florida court violated Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which empowers legislatures to decide how electors will be chosen, and the Title III federal law, which sets a Tuesday deadline for electors to be chosen.
Democrat Al Gore's lawyer David Boies argued that the Florida court only interpreted Florida law and did not violate the U.S. Constitution or any federal laws.
The Gore campaign has said the differing recount standards are normal across the country, and the Florida court was relying on existing laws in asking the recounts to proceed to determine "voter intent" in rejected ballots.
The ruling also said the manual recounts would be impossible to complete before a federally imposed Tuesday deadline for states to choose electors.
"That date is upon us, and there is no recount procedure in place under the State Supreme Court's orders that comports with minimal constitutional standards," the ruling said. "Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the December 12 date will be unconstitutional ... we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering a recount to proceed."
The justices also seemed to indicate that they were uncomfortable with having to resolve a presidential election, which more properly must be decided by the voters and the political process.
"When contending parties invoke the process of the courts, however, it becomes our unsought responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront," according to the 13-page ruling.
CNN.com Correspondent Raju Chebium and Reuters contributed to this report.
U.S. Supreme Court hears Florida election case -- again
Supreme Court of the United States
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