Bush hand-count hypocrisy shot down

Florida's rule of really bad law

Updated A Miami federal judge ruled Monday that the Bush campaign is not entitled to a federal injunction which it had sought preventing a manual re-count of ballots in four Florida counties.

The Bush people have been whingeing about the manual re-counts, claiming that they will be less accurate than machine counts.

We're at a loss, then, to explain why Texas Governor Dubya signed into law an amendment to the election code which clearly states that manual re-counts are to be preferred over machine re-counts.

Difficult though it may be to reconcile with Bush's current line of reasoning, sure enough, section 65 of Texas bill HB-331, signed by Governor Dubya in June 1997, amends Section 212.005 of the election code, by, among other things, adding a subsection "d" (for Dubya?), authorising only one method in a recount, and privileging the manual variety.

Quoting directly the entire subsection: "(d) If different counting methods are chosen under Section 214.042 (a) among multiple requests for a recount of electronic voting system results, only one method may be used in the recount. A manual recount shall be conducted in preference to an electronic recount and an electronic recount using a corrected program shall be conducted in preference to an electronic recount using the same program as the original count."

Evidently manual re-counts are good for Texas, but bad for Florida. While the Bush people whinged about losing their first round in federal court Monday, they have more manoeuvring in the works. Hypocrisy may have failed, but nepotism might yet carry the day.

Bush's secret weapon is Florida Secretary of State and Dubya campaign sock puppet Katherine Harris, who has decided to exercise her discretion -- or obligation, depending on which chapter of the election statute you read -- to stop all the manual re-counts at five o'clock p.m. Tuesday, which means that the results will be either incomplete or completely unavailable. Harris campaigned for Dubya in New Hampshire and remains on quite friendly terms with Florida Governor (and Dubya's brother) Jeb Bush, which is a red flag if we ever saw one.

There are, however, several problems with the Florida statute on elections, and Harris could be acting in good faith, though we're inclined to doubt it.

Title IX, Section 102.166 "Protest of election returns; procedure" (4)(c) states: "the county canvassing board may authorize a manual recount. If a manual recount is authorized, the county canvassing board shall make a reasonable effort to notify each candidate whose race is being recounted of the time and place of such recount."

Thus it would stand to reason that the Secretary of State should give the counties time to complete their business.

The Democrats are no doubt thinking of Section 102.112 (1) which states in part: "If the returns are not received by the department by the time specified, such returns may be ignored and the results on file at that time may be certified by the department."

However, Section 102.111 (1) states in part: "If the county returns are not received by the Department of State by 5 p.m. of the seventh day following an election, all missing counties shall be ignored, and the results shown by the returns on file shall be certified," which implies that the Secretary is actually obligated to ignore returns filed after the deadline.

The courts will have to reconcile the madness. The entire relevant chapter, with its many internal inconsistencies and contradictions, is located here.

Meanwhile, Volusia, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are in court attempting to get the deadline extended, though no decision is expected until Tuesday. ®

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