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Bush v Palm Beach County Canvassing Board

Bush v Palm Beach County Canvassing Board

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Published by Chad Whitehead
One of the Supreme Court cases that Bush was involved in after the 2000 Presidential election.
One of the Supreme Court cases that Bush was involved in after the 2000 Presidential election.

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Published by: Chad Whitehead on Mar 06, 2013
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12/27/2014

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70 OCTOBER TERM, 2000Syllabus
BUSH
v.
PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSINGBOARD
et al.certiorari to the supreme court of florida
No. 00–836. Argued December 1, 2000—Decided December 4, 2000The day after the November 7, 2000, Presidential election, the FloridaDivision of Elections reported that petitioner, Governor George W.Bush, had received 1,784 more votes than respondent Vice PresidentAlbert Gore, Jr. Under the Florida Election Code, an automatic ma-chine recount occurred, resulting in a much smaller margin of victoryfor Bush. Gore then exercised his statutory right to submit writtenrequests for manual recounts to the canvassing boards of four Floridacounties, see Fla. Stat. §102.166, and subsequently joined in this suitto require manual recounts and the certification of the recount results.Among other things, the Florida Circuit Court held that §102.111’s7-day recount deadline was mandatory, but that the Volusia Countyboard could amend its returns at a later date, and ruled that the Secre-tary of State (Secretary), after considering all attendant facts andcircumstances, could exercise her discretion in deciding whether toinclude the late amended returns in the statewide certification. Afterthe Secretary rejected the four counties’ requests to make late filings,the Circuit Court denied an emergency motion by the Florida Demo-cratic Party and Gore, ruling that the Secretary had not acted arbi-trarily and had exercised her discretion in a reasonable manner consist-ent with the court’s earlier ruling. The First District Court of Appealcertified the matter to the Florida Supreme Court, which,
inter alia,
enjoined the Secretary and the Elections Canvassing Commission fromcertifying the election results and declaring a winner until furtherorder; held that a discrepancy between the machine returns and a sam-ple manual recount was sufficient to trigger the statutory provisions fora full manual recount; and ruled that §102.112, which provides that theSecretary “may . . . ignor[e]” late election returns, controlled over theconflicting provision in §102.111, which specifies that the Secretary“shall . . . ignor[e]” such returns. Relying in part on the right to voteset forth in the State Constitution, the court concluded that the Secre-tary may reject late manual recounts only under limited circumstances.Invoking its equitable powers, the court imposed a November 26 dead-line for a return of ballot counts, thereby effectively extending by 12days §102.111’s 7-day deadline, and directed the Secretary to acceptmanual counts submitted prior to that deadline.
 
71Cite as: 531 U. S. 70 (2000)Syllabus
Held:
In light of considerable uncertainty as to the precise grounds fordecision, the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court is vacated, andthe case is remanded. This Court generally defers to a state court’sinterpretation of a state statute. But in the case of a state law ap-plicable not only to elections to state offices, but also to the selectionof Presidential electors, the state legislature is not acting solely underthe authority given it by the State, but by virtue of a direct grantof authority under Art. II, §1, cl. 2, of the United States Constitution,which requires each State to appoint its electors “in such Manner as theLegislature thereof may direct.” Insertion of those words into thatClause, while operating as a limitation upon the State in respect of anyattempt to circumscribe the legislative power, cannot be held to operateas a limitation on that power itself.
McPherson
v.
Blacker,
146 U. S.1, 25. Review of the opinion below reveals considerable uncertainty asto the precise grounds for the decision. See
Minnesota
v.
NationalTea Co.,
309 U. S. 551, 555. Specifically, this Court is unclear both asto the extent to which the Florida Supreme Court saw the Florida Con-stitution as circumscribing the legislature’s authority under Art. II, §1,cl. 2, and as to the consideration the Florida court accorded to 3 U. S. C.§5, which contains a federal-law principle that would assure finality of the State’s determination if made pursuant to a state law in effect beforethe election. That is sufficient reason for this Court to decline at thistime to review the federal questions asserted to be present. See 309U. S., at 555
.
While state courts must be free to interpret their stateconstitutions, it is equally important that ambiguous or obscure state-court adjudications not stand as barriers to a determination by thisCourt of the validity of state action under the Federal Constitution.Intelligent exercise of the Court’s appellate powers compels it to ask forthe elimination of the obscurities and ambiguities from the opinions insuch cases.
Id.,
at 557.772 So. 2d 1220, vacated and remanded.
Theodore B. Olson
argued the cause for petitioner. Withhim on the briefs were
Terence P. Ross, Douglas R. Cox,Thomas G. Hungar, Mark A. Perry, Benjamin L. Ginsberg,Michael A. Carvin, Barry Richard, John F. Manning, Wil-liam K. Kelley, Bradford R. Clark, George J. Terwilliger III, Timothy E. Flanigan,
and
Marcos D. Jime´ nez. JosephP. Klock, Jr.,
argued the cause for Katherine Harris et al.,respondents under this Court’s Rule 12.6, in support of peti-
 
72 BUSH
v.
PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BD.Counsel
tioner. With him on the briefs were
John W. Little III,Ricardo M. Martinez-Cid,
and
Bill L. Bryant, Jr.Paul F. Hancock,
Deputy Attorney General of Florida,argued the cause for respondent Butterworth, AttorneyGeneral of Florida. With him on the brief were
Mr. Butter- worth, pro se,
and
Jason Vail
and
Kimberly J. Tucker,
As-sistant Attorneys General.
Laurence H. Tribe
argued thecause for respondents Gore et al. With him on the briefswere
David Boies, Kathleen M. Sullivan, Thomas C. Gold-stein, Teresa Wynn Roseborough, James A. Orr, AndrewJ. Pincus, Kendall Coffey, Jonathan S. Massey,
and
Peter J.Rubin. Samuel S. Goren, Edward A. Dion,
and
Tamara M.Scrudders
filed a brief for respondents Broward County Can-vassing Board et al.
Bruce S. Rogow, Beverly A. Pohl,
and
Denise D. Dytrych
filed a brief for respondent Palm BeachCounty Canvassing Board.*
*Briefs of 
amici curiae
urging reversal were filed for the State of Alabama et al. by
Bill Pryor,
Attorney General of Alabama, and
MargaretL. Fleming, John J. Park, Jr., Charles B. Campbell, Scott L. Rouse, A. Vernon Barnett IV,
and
Richard E. Trewhella, Jr.,
Assistant Attor-neys General; for the Commonwealth of Virginia et al. by
Mark L. Earley,
Attorney General of Virginia,
Randolph A. Beales,
Chief Deputy Attor-ney General,
William Henry Hurd,
Solicitor General,
Judith WilliamsJagdmann,
Deputy Attorney General,
Siran S. Faulders
and
MaureenRiley Matsen,
Senior Assistant Attorneys General,
Eleanor Anne Ches-ney, Anthony P. Meredith,
and
Valerie L. Myers,
Assistant AttorneysGeneral,
Charlie Condon,
Attorney General of South Carolina, and
DonStenberg,
Attorney General of Nebraska; and for William H. Haynes et al.by
Jay Alan Sekulow, Thomas P. Monaghan, Stuart J. Roth, Colby M.May, James M. Henderson, Sr., David A. Cortman, Griffin B. Bell, PaulD. Clement,
and
Jeffrey S. Bucholtz.Steven R. Shapiro, Laughlin McDonald,
and
James K. Green
filed abrief for the American Civil Liberties Union as
amicus curiae
urgingaffirmance.Briefs of 
amici curiae
were filed for the Florida Senate et al. by
CharlesFried, Einer Elhauge,
and
Roger J. Magnuson;
for the State of Iowa et al.by
Thomas J. Miller,
Attorney General of Iowa,
Dennis W. Johnson,
Solic-itor General, and
Tam B. Ormiston,
Deputy Attorney General, and by theAttorneys General for their respective States as follows:
Bill Lockyer 
of 

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