The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs the state of
Florida, has agreed to expedite an appeal filed Wednesday by three
Florida residents who claim the hand counting of ballots in selected
Florida counties — all of which have canvassing boards controlled by
Democrats — is unconstitutional. The appeal asks the court to
immediately halt the manual recounts of ballots.
The appeals court directed the counties of Palm Beach, Broward,
Miami-Dade and Volusia, along with the secretary of elections, to file
briefs by 7:00 a.m. Thursday. Only Miami-Dade did not do so.
The appeals court also agreed to impanel the entire court — which
means that the full twelve members of the court will hear the case,
rather than the typical three-judge panel. Unlike the federal case
filed by the Bush campaign late last week, this case is on the fast
track for a final ruling. The Bush campaign has intervened in this
case, asking that it be made a party to the lawsuit, due to the fact
that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear this case on
an expedited basis. Attorneys General for Iowa, Oregon, New Mexico and
Connecticut have also filed amicus briefs.
On Wednesday, a judge, appointed to the federal bench by President
Clinton within the past six months, denied a request for a temporary
restraining order on the hand counting procedures. Liberty Counsel
immediately appealed that decision to the 1lth Circuit Court of
Appeals. (Jim Bopp, an Indiana attorney, is assisting Liberty Counsel
in this appeal.)
The three Florida residents bringing this appeal are represented by
Liberty Counsel, the religious freedom law firm that recently became
affiliated with Jerry Falwell Ministries. Mat Staver, founder of
Liberty Counsel, and my son, Jerry Falwell Jr., serve as co-counsel of
the organization. While Liberty Counsel has been involved in some
crucial religious freedom cases in recent months, this appeal could very
well be the most significant one it ever presents in court. In fact,
this case could make history as a determining factor in the final
decision of who will sit in the Oval Office as our nation’s president.
The manner in which the manual recount is being handled violates the
equal protection of the voters in counties where there is no manual
recount. In a statewide election, it is patently unfair to select only
those counties for a manual recount where the county popular vote sided
with one candidate. Mat Staver noted that the probability of having
that candidate receive more votes is great. If there is a manual
recount on a statewide election, he noted, it should be done statewide
and objective standards for recounting should be applied statewide.
The appeal comes as Democrats are ferociously demanding that hand
counts are the only way to ensure accuracy in the Florida
presidential vote. They insist that the Florida ballots, designed to be
read by machines, should be counted by hand. Evidence, however, shows
that the hand counts require people doing the counting to make
potentially biased decisions.
Haley Barbour, a Bush adviser, accurately stated that the hand
counting can almost certainly result in skewed accounts of the vote.
“The machines are not Republican or Democrat,” said Mr. Barbour.
“Every person who is hand counting the ballots voted for somebody —
Gore or Bush or Nader or Buchanan or whomever — and that introduces
subjectivity. But worse than that, it introduces speculation. What did
a person intend if there is a dent in the ballot? The machine count is
fair, while a hand count is much less fair and much less accurate.”
Mr. Barbour is correct. In fact, the rules for counting the ballots
in Palm Beach changed in mid-stream of the hand counting.
Palm Beach County’s website advised voters to punch through the
ballot in order to have their votes counted and further advised the
voters not to leave any hanging chads because those votes would not be
counted. That was the standard Palm Beach officials utilized to begin
the recount, but that standard was later changed to count those ballots
where one corner of the ballot had been broken.
“Either the voter intended to vote for the candidate and didn’t
complete the process, or the voter started to vote for the candidate and
changed their mind,” said Mat Staver. “Both are equally valid
assumptions. Palm Beach officials are counting hanging chads as a vote
for the candidate, contrary to their own advice on their website.”
The way the recount has been handled in Florida underscores how
unfair this process is to voters in Florida’s other counties.
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has stated that she will,
after consulting Florida law, reject the manual counts. Democratic
apologists have (of course) launched well-choreographed and brutal
attacks (Clintonian-style) on Mrs. Harris, calling her a political
“hack” and far worse.
Judge Terry Lewis earlier ruled that Mrs. Harris “cannot act in an
arbitrary or unreasonable manner” in deciding whether to include ballots
recounted by hand. Earlier today (Thursday), Democrats went to court to
challenge Mrs. Harris’ decision to ignore the late, hand-counted returns
from Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Harris stated that she planned to announce the
certified result of the election on Saturday after overseas mail-in
ballots (presumed to largely favor Mr. Bush) have been counted.
Attempting to reverse the election results in Florida, Al Gore and
his team filed a motion claiming that Mrs. Harris has “violated this
court’s order to determine upon receipt of late-filed, corrective or
supplemental returns submitted after completion of a manual recount,
whether such corrected or supplemental returns should be accepted.”
Now, because of the Friday ruling by the Florida Supreme Court,
Harris will not be able to certify the vote this weekend. A new hearing
is scheduled for Monday.
The fact is that the Democrats are desperate to propel Al Gore into
the White House (under the guise of “the will of the people”), even
though the Florida machine recounts have confirmed that George W. Bush
is the winner in the state — and the winner of the race for the
presidency of the United States.
We at Jerry Falwell Ministries and Liberty Counsel are also desperate
— desperate to ensure that the law is enforced even when those on the
left want to manipulate, influence, control and alter the meaning of
I urge my friends from across this nation to remain in prayer
regarding this momentous state of affairs.