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Election 2000: Federal Judges to Decide on Constitutional Matters in Florida Hand Recounting

Aired November 16, 2000 - 2:25 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: This Florida recount has also involved a federal court, the appellate court in Atlanta

CNN's Bob Franken is outside the 11th district court here in Atlanta where there's been some action today.

Bob, what's it all about?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of paper shuffling is the action that we've had today. The two sides filed their arguments overnight, and the two sides being the Republicans and the Democrats, surrogates for the various Florida officials. Now the papers are in the hands of the 12 appellate judges. Twelve, not three. Normally, it's a three-judge panel that hears these matters, but the entire 12- judge court has decided to take this on.

This is the appeal of rulings in Florida in two courts, in Miami and Orlando, that the federal courts should not get involved in the Republican request to stop the hand recounts in Florida. The appeals court has decided to hear this matter, and the fundamental question is should the federal courts get involved in what the Constitution normally sets aside as a state matter.

The reason the federal courts would get involved: if there was some Constitutional violation. And the Republicans are claiming that, in fact, the uneven nature of the hand count in Florida deprives the rest of the people in Florida the 14th Amendment protection for equal protection under the law. They also say that it inhibits the First Amendment, the free expression in the First Amendment, as manifested in the vote.

Those are the arguments. It is unlikely that there's going to be any action today because tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. -- 7:00 Eastern -- there is a request that the responses to the briefs that were filed today be submitted. They keep on saying a factual and concise summary -- they're hoping the judges are -- to get these briefs and then decide whether they're going to hold a hearing and what their rulings are going to be on stopping the hand count, or if they even want to get involved.

And of course, if the appeals court does decide to get involved, it could ultimately mean that is the path to the supreme court. Right now, this is all being decided in the state courts. There are conflicting Constitutional points being made by the two sides. The circuit judges are trying to decide which one they will choose -- Lou.

WATERS: And because we're hearing today of all these legal tangles within the state courts, some are suggesting that the federal court considering this is like putting the cart before the horse.

FRANKEN: Well, if the federal court would decide it did have an interest in that -- of course, the federal constitution trumps, though, the state constitutions -- you get into the whole argument about whether the states prevail or whether the federal government should get involved, the type of stuff that preoccupied the Founding Fathers back there in the late 1700s.

But that is precisely the kind of debate they are having right now. And at the moment, the prevailing view is that the power to conduct an election is reserved to the states. That is what the judges here have to decide, if that has to be overcome.

WATER: All right, Bob Franken, over at federal court.

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