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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."

U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Bush v. Gore (FindLaw) *

* FindLaw documents requiring (Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Simultaneous audio and transcript of the hearing in Bush v. Gore
(Courtesy Northwestern's Oyez Project and FindLaw)
• Official court transcript of oral arguments in Bush v. Gore PDF | HTML
graphic QUOTES
graphic AUDIO
Listen to the audio from the Supreme Court hearing (December 11)
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)
graphic IN-DEPTH
graphic GALLERY
Scenes of protest and patience as Supreme Court weighs Bush v. Gore
graphic TIMELINE
Key events in the Gore election contest

Read the timeline
Read the Bush brief *

Read the Gore brief *

U.S. Supreme Court order granting a stay of recounts *

More related documents

* FindLaw documents requiring (Adobe Acrobat Reader)
graphic RESOURCE
How the U.S. Supreme Court voted on the recount stay
graphic ALSO
Bush, Gore briefs preview oral arguments at U.S. Supreme Court

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 right to vote is protected by more than the initial allocation of the franchise. Equal protection applies as well to the manner of its exercise. Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another. '

- Excerpts from U.S. Supreme Court

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. Correspondent Raju Chebium and Reuters contributed to this report.

U.S. Supreme Court hears Florida election case -- again
December 10, 2000
Scalia and Stevens clash over recount stay in Bush v. Gore
December 10, 2000
Possibility of Electoral College defections raised
December 10, 2000

Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of Florida

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