Head of Democratic Party urges Gore to concede


WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Rendell on Tuesday urged Vice President Al Gore to concede the U.S. presidential election after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for Republican George W. Bush.

"He (Gore) should act now and concede," Rendell told MSNBC.

The nation's highest court voted 7-2 to reverse a Florida Supreme Court ruling ordering recounts of ballots in the state, holding that the decision violates the U.S. Constitution's protections of equal protection under the law. The decision dealt a crushing blow to Gore's hopes of winning the U.S. presidency.

((Washington newsroom, fax 202 898 8383, email Washington.bureau.newsroom@reuters.com))

22:58 12-12-00


Supreme Court Rules for George W. Bush

By RON FOURNIER
.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (Dec. 12) - A U.S. Supreme Court as divided as the nation's voters ruled for George W. Bush in the Florida presidential election case Tuesday night, reversing a state court decision that had ordered new recounts sought by Al Gore.

In an extraordinary late-night decision that unfolded on national television, the justices said the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court violated equal rights and there was not enough time to conduct a new effort that would meet constitutional muster.

''Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the Dec. 12 date will be unconstitutional ... we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering the recount to proceed,'' the court said.

The campaigns, Bush and Gore alike, were poring over the complex and detailed ruling, which came five weeks to the day after the presidential election. Florida's 25 electoral votes would decide the winner.

On Monday, Gore's Democratic running mate, Joseph Lieberman, had said that if the Supreme Court ''basically overrules the Florida Supreme Court ... that's probably the end of it.''

Gore lawyer Laurence Tribe told NBC-TV he disagreed with the decision, but ''I think the courts' place in our lives is such that we all should rally around even if we disagree with the results.''

The court's unsigned opinion said seven justices agreed that there were constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida court, but that they disagreed on the remedy.

''It is obvious that the recount cannot be conducted in compliance with the requirements of equal protection and due process without substantial additional work,'' the court said.

But the majority said that because Florida lawmakers intended in effect to complete the choosing of electors by Dec. 12 an order requiring a new recount ''could not be part of an appropriate'' remedy.

The court issued its ruling in an unsigned opinion. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas went further in a separate opinion, saying the Florida Supreme Court also violated the Constitution and federal law in ordering the recount.

In a blistering dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens called the Bush legal appeal a ''federal assault'' on the laws of the state of Florida.

''Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law,'' Stevens wrote in a dissent joined by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Also dissenting was Justice David Souter.

Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy did not sign any separate opinion, but their votes were counted in the main unsigned opinion.

Without a recount, the certification of Bush as the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes - and thus the presidency - would stand.

In Florida, meanwhile, the state House approved a resolution that would send the Bush electors to the Electoral College if he lost in the high court.

''The 2000 presidential election is spiraling out of control and we must stop it now,'' Republican Rep. Paula Dockery said during a heated debate in Tallahassee over GOP plans to select electors loyal to Bush. The Florida House passed the resolution, 79-41, and the Senate moved toward a possible vote on Wednesday.

A few blocks away, Gore's options were reduced further when the Florida Supreme Court refused to disqualify thousands of absentee votes, many of them for Bush. Democratic attorneys had challenged the ballot applications, and Gore had expressed sympathy with the case.

The ruling meant the U.S. Supreme Court was Gore's last stand.

''It's down to game, set and perhaps match,'' said Bush ally Bill Owens, the Republican governor of Colorado.

About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the nation's high court in Washington, carrying signs and often arguing among themselves. Even the Man of Steel didn't think the wait was so super; Scott LoBaido of New York, dressed as Superman, lugged a two-sided sign proclaiming this was ''The End'' and it was time to say ''Good Night, Al. The Party Is Over.''

Tuesday was a deadline of sorts for states to certify their presidential electors, but both sides were focused on Dec. 18, when the Electoral College will cast its presidential votes, and on an early January deadline for Congress to count them. Florida's 25 votes would put either man over 270, the total needed to become America's 43rd president.

Bush was in Texas and Gore in Washington as the justices considered the vice president's appeal to restart the manual recounts that had been ordered last Friday by the Florida Supreme Court. In a split decision, the nation's high court had stopped the counting Saturday pending arguments and a ruling this week.

Both presidents-in-waiting tinkered with contingency plans, not knowing whether best- or worst-case scenarios would be needed.

Affirming the state Supreme Court would jeopardize Bush's razor-thin lead in Florida. Without recounts, Gore's presidential campaign would end, advisers said.

If Bush won in the Supreme Court, aides said, the Texas governor would keep appointments on a slow track, proceeding first with a series of actions to show the country he could heal divisions created by the marathon election.

He would be likely to deliver a high-minded unifying speech, then meet with congressional leaders, including Democrats, and perhaps President Clinton before making public his transition plans, advisers said.

Nerves were frayed on both sides.

Gore's advisers heard rumors at midmorning that a ruling was imminent. The gossip was reported as fact to the vice president before aides realized it was wrong. A senior Bush adviser said Tuesday was the longest day of his life; it was not quite noon at the time.

AP-NY-12-12-00 2248EST

Recount Court Excerpts

.c The Associated Press


Here are excerpts from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore:

From the per curiam opinion of seven justices:

``The Supreme Court of Florida has said that the legislature intended the State's electors to 'participate fully in the federal electoral process' ... as provided in 3 U.S.C. 5.

``That statute, in turn, requires that any controversy or contest that is designed to lead to a conclusive selection of electors be completed by December 12. That date is upon us, and there is no recount procedure in place under the State Supreme Court's order that comports with minimal constitutional standards.

``Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the December 12 date will be unconstitutional for the reasons we have discussed, we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering a recount to proceed. Seven Justices of the Court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that demand a remedy. .... The only disagreement is as to the remedy.

``Because the Florida Supreme Court has said that the Florida Legislature intended to obtain the safe-harbor benefits of 3 U. S. C. 5, Justice Breyer's proposed remedy remanding to the Florida Supreme Court for its ordering of a constitutionally proper contest until December 18 - contemplates action in violation of the Florida election code, and hence could not be part of an 'appropriate' order .

``None are more conscious of the vital limits on judicial authority than are the members of this Court, and none stand more in admiration of the Constitution's design to leave the selection of the President to the people, through their legislatures, and to the political sphere.

From Chief Justice Rehnquist, with whom Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas join, concurring:

``We join the per curiam opinion. We write separately because we believe there are additional grounds that require us to reverse the Florida Supreme Court s decision. We deal here not with an ordinary election, but with an election for the President of the United States .

``In most cases, comity and respect for federalism compel us to defer to the decisions of state courts on issues of state law. That practice reflects our understanding that the decisions of state courts are definitive pronouncements of the will of the States as sovereigns ... Of course, in ordinary cases, the distribution of powers among the branches of a State's government raises no questions of federal constitutional law, subject to the requirement that the government be republican in character.... But there are a few exceptional cases in which the Constitution imposes a duty or confers a power on a particular branch of a State s government. This is one of them.''

From Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer join, dissenting:

``When questions arise about the meaning of state laws, including election laws, it is our settled practice to accept the opinions of the highest courts of the States as providing the final answers. On rare occasions, however, either federal statutes or the Federal Constitution may require federal judicial intervention in state elections. This is not such an occasion. The federal questions that ultimately emerged in this case are not substantial.

``Nor are petitioners correct in asserting that the failure of the Florida Supreme Court to specify in detail the precise manner in which the ``intent of the voter,'' Fla. Stat. 101.5614(5) (Supp. 2001), is to be determined rises to the level of a constitutional violation.'

``The Florida statutory standard is consistent with the practice of the majority of States, which apply either an 'intent of the voter' standard or an ``impossible to determine the elector' s choice'' standard in ballot recounts.'

``Admittedly, the use of differing substandards for determining voter intent in different counties employing similar voting systems may raise serious concerns. Those concerns are alleviated, if not eliminated, by the fact that a single impartial magistrate will ultimately adjudicate all objections arising from the recount process.'

``In the interest of finality, however, the majority effectively orders the disenfranchisement of an unknown number of voters whose ballots reveal their intent, and are therefore legal votes under state law, but were for some reason rejected by ballot-counting machines.

``Finally, neither in this case, nor in its earlier opinion in Palm Beach County Canvassing Bd. v. Harris ... did the Florida Supreme Court make any substantive change in Florida electoral law. Its decisions were rooted in long-established precedent and were consistent with the relevant statutory provisions, taken as a whole. It did what courts do - it decided the case before it in light of the legislature' s intent to leave no legally cast vote uncounted.'

``What must underlie petitioners' entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today' s decision.''

Supreme Court Rejects Fla. Recount
Ruling Makes Bush President-Elect

By RON FOURNIER
.c The Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) - A divided Supreme Court reversed a state court decision for recounts in Florida's contested election Tuesday night, effectively transforming George W. Bush into the president-elect. Some Democrats urged Vice President Al Gore to give up his challenge in America's overtime election.

Gore ``should act now and concede,'' Ed Rendell, the chairman of the Democratic Party said less than an hour after the court issued its 5-4 late night ruling five tumultuous weeks after the nation voted.

The vice president's campaign manager, William Daley, issued a statement saying Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman were reviewing the ruling and ``will address the court's decision in full detail at a time to be determined'' on Wednesday. But even so, as the night wore on, some top advisers privately were telling the vice president he had little choice but to drop his bid. ``That's where every discussion is headed,'' said one.

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, representing Bush, said the Texas governor and running mate Dick Cheney were ``very pleased and gratified'' with the court's ruling. ``This has been a long and arduous process for everyone involved on both sides,'' he added in remarks that stopped well short of either a declaration of victory for Bush or a call for a concession from the vice president.

In an extraordinary late-night decision, the justices said the recount ordered last weekend by the Florida Supreme Court could not be completed by a midnight deadline for selection of presidential electors and still pass constitutional muster.

``It is obvious that the recount cannot be conducted in compliance with the requirements of equal protection and due process without substantial additional work,'' the justices wrote. Its ruling came with exceptional haste for the court, the day after it heard arguments in the case.

In a forceful dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, ``Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the law.''

The ruling was the latest pivot point in the nation's unbearably close election, a saga of counts, recounts, lawsuits by the dozens and two trips to the highest court in the land. For five tumultuous weeks, it has held Gore and Bush in limbo and the nation in thrall, and seared new terms into the nation's consciousness - ``dimpled chad'' most prominent among them.

That was one description for partially punched ballots, thousands of which were at the center of the contested election in Florida, the state that stood to pick the next president.

Without the state's 25 electoral votes, neither Bush nor Gore had the votes in the Electoral College needed to become president. With them, victory was a certainty.

The court's unsigned opinion said seven justices agreed there were constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court on Friday.

The justices said that because Florida lawmakers intended separately to complete their own choosing of electors, perhaps Wednesday under pressure of a deadline for the Electoral College, requiring a new recount ``could not be part of an appropriate'' remedy.

The court agreed 7-2 to reverse the Florida court's order of a state recount and voted 5-4 that there was no acceptable procedure by which a timely new recount could take place. Among the seven, Souter and Breyer said an acceptable remedy might allow for Florida to conduct a new recount with proper standards.

Souter wrote, ``I see no warrant for this court to assume that Florida could not possibly comply with this requirement before the date set for the meeting of electors, Dec. 18.''

But the court majority ruled otherwise: ``Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the Dec. 12 date will be unconstitutional ... we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering the recount to proceed.''

In the majority were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

Dissenting were Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Alongside the unsigned main opinion, Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas went further in a separate opinion, saying the Florida Supreme Court also violated the Constitution and federal law in ordering the recount.

While Rendell went on television to say Gore should concede, another top party official pointedly disagreed.

National chair Joe Andrew, in charge of the party's day-to-day operations, said, ``The Democratic Party does not think Al Gore needs to concede. This is his decision to make. We stand united behind him.''

But Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., said simply, ``Clearly the race for the presidency has come to an end. George Bush is going to be the next president of the United States, he told MSNBC.

Laurence Tribe, a Gore lawyer, told NBC-TV he disagreed with the decision, but ``I think the courts' place in our lives is such that we all should rally around even if we disagree with the results.''

Gore's lawyers scoured the opinion for any glimmer of hope, especially passages that identified the steps Florida needed to take to make the recounting constitutional. Some Gore lawyers were arguing the passages might give them some room to convince a Florida court to go beyond the Dec. 12 date and allow more recounts before the Electoral College meets next Monday.

In Florida, meanwhile, the state House approved a resolution that would send the Bush electors to the Electoral College if he lost in the high court.

``The 2000 presidential election is spiraling out of control and we must stop it now,'' Republican Rep. Paula Dockery said during a heated debate in Tallahassee over GOP plans to select electors loyal to Bush. The Florida House passed the resolution, 79-41, and the Senate moved toward a possible vote on Wednesday.

A few blocks away, Gore's options were reduced further when the Florida Supreme Court refused to disqualify thousands of absentee votes, many of them for Bush. Democratic attorneys had challenged the ballot applications, and Gore had expressed sympathy with the case.

The ruling meant the U.S. Supreme Court was Gore's last stand.

``It's down to game, set and perhaps match,'' said Bush ally Bill Owens, the Republican governor of Colorado.

About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the nation's high court in Washington, carrying signs and often arguing among themselves. Even the Man of Steel didn't think the wait was so super; Scott LoBaido of New York, dressed as Superman, lugged a two-sided sign proclaiming this was ``The End'' and it was time to say ``Good Night, Al. The Party Is Over.''

Tuesday was a deadline of sorts for states to certify their presidential electors, but both sides were focused on Dec. 18, when the Electoral College will cast its presidential votes, and on an early January deadline for Congress to count them.

Bush was in Texas and Gore in Washington as the justices considered the vice president's appeal to restart the manual recounts that had been ordered last Friday by the Florida Supreme Court. In a split decision, the nation's high court had stopped the counting Saturday pending its latest ruling.

Both presidents-in-waiting tinkered with contingency plans, not knowing whether best- or worst-case scenarios would be needed.

Affirming the state Supreme Court would jeopardize Bush's razor-thin lead in Florida. Without recounts, Gore's presidential campaign would end, advisers said.

If Bush won in the Supreme Court, aides said, the Texas governor would keep appointments on a slow track, proceeding first with a series of actions to show the country he could heal divisions created by the marathon election.

He would be likely to deliver a high-minded unifying speech, then meet with congressional leaders, including Democrats, and perhaps President Clinton before making public his transition plans, advisers said.

AP-NY-12-13-00 0110EST

Text of Supreme Court ruling in Bush v. Gore



Sources: Gore Is Dropping Out of Race
Vice President To Address Nation Tonight

By DAVID ESPO
.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (Dec. 13) - Al Gore decided today to concede the country's overtime election, aides said, clearing the way for George W. Bush to become 43rd president and leader of a nation sharply divided along political lines. The vice president acted after a split Supreme Court ruled against recounts in contested Florida.

Two senior advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gore would officially drop out in a nationally televised address at 9 p.m. EST. ''The race is over,'' said one official after speaking with the vice president. ''We're done.''

Gore made the decision 12 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court, as divided as the nation, ruled 5-4 against the vice president's bid to recount thousands of ballots in Florida. Gore had sought the recount in hopes he could overturn Bush's 537-vote victory margin in the state whose 25 electoral votes will settle the election.

''The vice president has directed the recount committee to suspend activities,'' campaign chairman William Daley said in a written statement that effectively ended an unbearably close election 36 tumultuous days after the nation voted. Gore topped his Republican rival by more than 300,000 votes out of 103 million ballots cast nationwide. But Florida's electoral votes, to be cast on Dec. 18 and counted on Jan. 6, would give Bush a total of 271 electoral votes to Gore's 267.

Bush was in Texas, savoring his hard-earned triumph in private, as if to give Gore all the room he needed for a graceful exit. The governor waved to reporters as he strode into the Capitol in Austin at midmorning but merely smiled in answer to questions about the developments.

Republican running mate Dick Cheney was in Washington, meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and other GOP lawmakers, part of a transition to power that now could begin in earnest.

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, speaking for the Republican camp, had said Tuesday night that Bush and Cheney were ''very pleased and gratified'' by the court's ruling. That was an understatement of historic proportions given the furor since Election Day - a saga of counts, recounts, lawsuits by the dozens and two trips to the highest court in the land.

Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20 would give Republicans greater control over the government than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower sat in the White House. The GOP retained control of the House in the November elections. The Senate is split 50-50, but Cheney's election as vice president will give the GOP at least nominal control there, as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday night triggered a fast-paced series of events.

Members of Gore's own party urged him to concede the race, but the vice president went to bed Tuesday night without telling aides what he would do.

After meeting with his wife Tipper and several advisers, Daley among them, Gore authorized the statement on Wednesday saying he would not press the recount any further for Florida's pivotal electoral votes.

Aides said the vice president intended to telephone Bush, probably before his address.

A Gore confidant said the evening speech will make clear that he has conceded to Bush and that the country should unite behind the next president. Gore also will explain why he fought for five weeks after the election, returning to his theme that every vote should be counted.

Though Gore has told advisers he considers the 5-4 ruling the act of a partisan high court, the confidant said the vice president will not criticize the justices in his speech.

In Tallahassee, the court ruling and the vice president's decision seemed to render moot the action by the Florida Legislature to appoint a slate of electors loyal to Bush. The House approved the measure on Tuesday, and the Senate had been on track to follow suit on Wednesday. Leaders were meeting to discuss whether to proceed.

Democratic leaders who had stood with Gore throughout his recount fight made no attempt to prod him to the exits. ''The Supreme Court has made its decision. We support and respect Vice President Gore's right to respond on his own time schedule. Until he does so, we will have no comment,'' said the party's congressional leaders, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Not all Democrats were as sanguine.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., urged Democrats to abide by the Supreme Court decision, but said that ''with every bone in my body and every ounce of moral strength in my soul'' he disagreed with the high court. He called it ''a willing tool of the Bush campaign'' that ''orchestrated a questionable 'velvet legal coup.'''

The Texan would become the first presidential candidate since Benjamin Harrison 1888 to lose the national popular vote but win the state electoral contest and thus the White House.

The electoral vote split would be the closest electoral since 1876, when Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel J. Tilden by one electoral vote in an election settled in the House of Representatives.

Bush is set to complete the nation's second father-son presidential team after John Adams (1797-1801) and John Quincy Adams (1825-1829). He has relied on his well-to-do family's connections, both to raise money and build the foundations of a new administration.

The high court's ruling Tuesday night fell like a hammer on Gore's chances.

Within an hour, Ed Rendell, the general chairman of the Democratic party, was on television declaring the vice president ''should act now and concede.''

Gore's loyalists moved swiftly to undercut the comment, but within 12 hours, the vice president himself had come to the same conclusion.

His team was divided, with some advisers arguing Wednesday morning that the Supreme Court had left a window open to an appeal. These aides said it was up to the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether Tuesday was a flexible deadline for assigning state electors, and they suggested the state court could order recounts completed by Dec. 18, when the Electoral College meets.

A legal brief had been prepared making that case to the Florida courts, but Gore ruled out using it.

In their extraordinary late night ruling on Tuesday, the court agreed 7-2 to reverse the Florida Supreme Court's weekend decision that ordered a statewide recount of thousands of questionable ballots, finding that such a recount would not provide equal protection because standards for determining a voter's intent would vary by county. A narrower 5-4 majority found there was no constitutionally acceptable procedure by which a new recount could occur before Tuesday's midnight deadline for selection of presidential electors.

''Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the Dec. 12 date will be unconstitutional ... we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering the recount to proceed.'' The Electoral college will meet Dec. 18, and the electoral votes counted in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

In the majority were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

Dissenting were Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

In a forceful dissent, Stevens wrote: ''Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the law.''

Souter and Breyer agreed there were constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida court, but did not rule out the possibility of the state court being able to fix them if allowed to do so and thus did not join the 5-4 majority.

AP-NY-12-13-00 1146EST

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