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Archive for Friday, November 10, 2000

Sunshine State casts shadow here

November 10, 2000

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In Lawrence and around the nation, people began asking Thursday whether the unfinished presidential election is leading the nation into an unprecedented crisis.

For Lawrence activist Delores Tolar, a former teacher, the answer is yes.

Lingering concerns about voting irregularities in Florida weigh
heavily on Lawrence resident Delores Tolar. On Thursday, she called
a news conference at city hall to urge other concerned citizens to
contact their congressional representatives and demand an
investigation into Florida's voting.

Lingering concerns about voting irregularities in Florida weigh heavily on Lawrence resident Delores Tolar. On Thursday, she called a news conference at city hall to urge other concerned citizens to contact their congressional representatives and demand an investigation into Florida's voting.

She hastily called a news conference Thursday afternoon to urge people to call or write their congressmen and senators demanding a congressional investigation into the Florida election.

"I am faxing Representative Dennis Moore and Senator Pat Roberts and asking them to contact the Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress and for them to issue some kind of congressional resolution to put a moratorium on the presidential decision until a bipartisan group has had a chance to investigate the issues in Florida," said Tolar, 58.

Acknowledging that Congress cannot stop the election of a president, she said Congress must act to assure that whoever becomes president is legitimately elected.

"This is a crisis of democracy," Tolar said. "The legitimacy of the election process is at stake and the trust of the American people is at stake.

"I'm trying to do what some real smart national people should be doing."

One of those smart people, Kansas University law professor Richard Levy, has been fielding questions for two days about whether this is a crisis.

"Are we in a position where we don't know what's going to happen?" Levy said. "I agree we're in a crisis in that sense.

"We differ from lots of countries, where, if the vote was so divided, there would be bloodshed in the streets. I'm still pretty optimistic it won't come down to that point. It may be a messy legal battle, but I think, in the end, the principals will do the right thing.

"But, do I think the future president will be in dispute at the time of the inauguration, with both men claiming to be the lawful president? I think that's unlikely."






Electoral College votes are allotted to each state according to its number of representatives and senators in Congress. Each presidential campaign selects its slate of electors from that state.After Election Day, the Electoral College works like this:Each state's top election officer or body certifies which slate of electors have been chosen. Florida will do this on Nov. 17. Kansas will do it the last week of November.On Dec. 18 the first Monday following the second Wednesday in December, as established in federal law the electors will gather in their state capitals to cast their votes. In all but two states, the winner of the popular vote gets all the state's Electoral College votes. The electors send their vote totals to Congress.On Jan. 6, the Electoral College votes are recorded before a joint session of Congress. Whoever receives a majority of the 538 electoral votes (half plus one vote) wins the presidency. Congress cannot change the vote when a candidate has won a majority.

The unexpectedly long election might lead to changes or elimination of the Electoral College.

"If a crisis is a turning point, then there might be a crisis or groundswell for changing the Electoral College," Levy said

But that would take time to play out and will only happen with a constitutional amendment eliminating the college or each of the states changing how their electoral votes are distributed. In Nebraska, for example, electoral votes are distributed by congressional district, which Levy said may be more representative of the popular vote than the winner-take-all system that most states, including Kansas, have.

In Topeka, at the Washburn University School of Law, professor William Rich has also been fielding questions from students.

"I don't think there is a constitutional crisis," Rich said. "There are systems for resolving the problems that exist."

"However, one can anticipate problems down the line," he said. "The most obvious would be if both parties continue to disagree."

If that becomes a legal battle, the country could once again see how fast the courts can move.

"I think a comparison would be to the Pentagon Papers" case in 1971, involving the Defense Department's top-secret study of the growth of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, Rich said. "The New York Times wanted to publish information that the president and the administration did not want published. The case went from the trial court to the (U.S.) Supreme Court in two weeks."

The resolution to the election must be timely but not hasty, he said.

"Not so quickly that we have perpetual doubts about the legitimacy of the person who holds the office," Rich said.

"There turns out to be real wisdom, there is significant wisdom for the period of time between the popular vote (in November) and the electoral vote (in December)," he said. "It allows for an orderly process to work out these problems."

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