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Supreme Court now a special interest group

By · January 11th, 2001 · Phoenix
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Now that the illustrious U.S. Supreme Court has decided ... Wait a minute, it didn't decide anything except the election result.

If the court had stipulated every state's counting methods must be up to date and consistent, then rejecting a hand count in Florida would make some sense. Instead, the court stated a hand count wouldn't ensure enough accuracy -- or, in the court's esteemed wisdom, once it delayed the count, there wouldn't be enough time for accuracy. So there!

Unfortunately, the justices didn't address the flip side of the coin: The current situation is apparently more inaccurate than a correction, and is certainly more divisive. We even have the fact that -- Surprise! -- a predominantly African-American county had the highest amount of machine-rejected votes in Florida.

Rationally, the problem is quite simple, because it has to do with justice. First, determine the most accurate count, the best way possible. This would reveal the accuracy or inaccuracy of the machine count. In order to deny this process, the Supreme Court shouldn't tell lies -- assuming, in other words, that attempts at accurate counting would necessarily be more inaccurate than what we have now.

The high court could pursue constitutional development and find that a 30-year-old system in one state isn't acceptable next to updated and more accurate systems in others. Given the weighting of Electoral College votes from state to state, logically, there's no way for ballot-system discrepancies to cancel each other out. In a very close election, such a canceling-out effect wouldn't be valid, regardless of theories to the contrary.

Therefore, if the majority justices had put reason and logic into their mouths and pens, they would have indicated, through rule of law or recommendations to Congress, that a federal requirement on ballot accuracy and consistency be implemented. Such an indication might support the interruption of Florida's current process, but wouldn't resolve current deficiencies.

Of even wider implication is the lack of intellectual synthesis on the part of the high court. An indication of this is the vehement polarity between assenting and dissenting opinions, which mirrors the election itself and implies court action under the influence of partisanship. By not synthesizing opposing arguments, statements justifying the decision sound and look false because they're one-sided, coming from political action, which doesn't necessarily probe the depths of legal thought.

To say it another way, it appears, given the lack of legal scholarship surrounding this decision, our Supreme Court is either incompetent or, through partisanship, willfully unethical.

All of this will continue to affect the American people. More and more people appear to assume the court is a partisan body, reaching its conclusions based on party affiliation. The media, as well, points out the popular concern that a Republican president might appoint more "right wing" justices to an already unbalanced situation.

The Supreme Court decision also says something about the parties. All of the deciding judges were indeed from the right of center. The problem isn't that a Republican majority in the court made a decision, but that the decision was made without a sound legal motif.

The concern of an imbalance in the court thus leads to concerns about conservative integrity in general. The pattern of Supreme Court decisions affronting civil liberty, beginning prominently during the Reagan years, now rears its head as an affront to the rights of the electorate at large.

Florida voters still face one more potential embarrassment. Sunshine laws might allow an accurate vote count, unless a partisan judge figures out how to seal the votes from scrutiny, which isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. If Gore won the popular vote and the original Florida vote, a sore thumb will continue to stick us in our collective political neck.

The electorate should realize an inaccurate and unfair count has led to something worse. Federalism has been only partially invoked, to play politics, while a golden opportunity to use appropriate influence has been thrown away.

Whether we can establish a true winner or not, the Supreme Court usurped a state process attempting fairness and replaced it with an even more ill-begotten situation, open to even more partisan manipulation, even as the opportunity for constitutional development loomed large, clear and as plain as day.

Contact Phoenix: letters@citybeat.com

 
 
 
 

 

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