Is the Democratic Party inconsistent in challenging California’s recall election? (No, Gurr)

By and

The California fiasco is too messy and too complicated to blame on either party: A skewed budget, poor leadership, a ballooning population and shifting political sentiment have combined to create an unprecedented theatrical free-for all. It wasn’t the Democratic Party.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is notoriously extreme and hardly a reflection of national liberal ideology with one of the highest turnover rates in the country. The Oct. 7 date for the recall election has been reinstated. To point partisan fingers about results of a convoluted, exceptional election that hasn’t even happened yet is both senseless and bizarre.

As for other state races, unfortunately, neither party is above acting in its own interest-that’s just politics. No state race is as far reaching as the presidential election. Democrats may have their problems, but if you want to talk about partisan assaults on democracy, let’s take a look at the blatant abuse of judicial power that took place in the 2000 election.

First of all, Al Gore was not trying to illegally count votes. Arguing that Gore tried to invalidate absentee ballots of soldiers overseas is purposefully deceptive. The absentee ballots came in question because Republican workers had been allowed to fix Republican ballot applications, violating state law. Florida’s election involved extraordinary conflicts of interest, including Jeb Bush as governor and Secretary of State Katherine Harris as co chairwoman of Bush’s campaign committee in Florida. With a razor-thin margin and the obvious biases of state leaders, any candidate would be warranted in examining lawbreaking voting practices.

Nationwide, the presidential election was incredibly close, and it came down to Florida’s 25 electoral votes. The Florida Supreme Court did not “void the election”-since state law didn’t cover the situation at hand, state judges authorized recounts in four particularly close counties at Gore’s request. To prevent prolonging the controversy indefinitely, the Florida Supreme Court set a date by which the recount needed to be completed.

That’s when Justice Scalia stepped in, issuing a stay which halted the counting abruptly. The country held its collective breath as constitutional scholars watched, appalled by such unprecedented, unforeseen action. The decision: The court narrowly ruled five to four (and yes, all five were appointed by Republicans) to stop the recount from continuing. The recount wouldn’t be accurate, they argued, unless it occurred in every county in the state. The logical extension of that argument is to require a full state recount to get the most accurate results possible, but instead the court argued there was not enough time. The irony is devastating-officials had their valuable recounting time arbitrarily stopped in its tracks, only to be told days later that time had run out.

There was no federal question. The matter was purely about Florida state law, so the court should (and normally would) have deferred to the highest court in Florida. Instead, they disregarded the will of the people, refused to count every legal vote, and handed Bush the presidency.

The Supreme Court acted without precedent and without setting precedent. In the decision, several justices argued that their “consideration is limited to the present circumstances” because they knew there was no excuse and no defense for their partisan reasoning. It was not the court’s place to act. Such a barefaced misuse of power offends the very nature of law.

Nobody should be proud of the 2000 election, but members of the GOP should be humiliated by the unashamed misuse of power that gave them the presidency. If the recount had been allowed to proceed, would Bush have still won? Perhaps. But to halt the recount and thwart the people’s right to choose with such a biased, unconstitutional decision is undemocratic and inexcusable.

In his dissent, Justice Breyer wrote that “What it does today, the court should have left undone.” There is no justification. The court was wrong in 2000 and Republicans grossly abused their power. For Republicans to blame Democrats when talking about assaulting democracy is so ridiculous it might be laughable if it weren’t so obviously false and offensive.

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