(submitted in response to The New York Times' December 11, 2000 editorials on Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision)
December 11, 2000
No matter what the decision of the United States Supreme Court today in Bush v Gore, two deeply troubling aspects of conservative thinking have been revealed and will most certainly endanger any possibility of “working across the aisle.”
The first can be seen in Justice Antonin Scalia’s unprecedented opinion in granting the stay on Saturday. He said, “Count first, and rule upon legality legality afterwards, is not a recipe for producing election results that have the public acceptance democratic stability requires.” This is contrary to the view expressed by Bush attorneys James Baker and Barry Richard who have repeatedly claimed that these votes have already been counted (and recounted and recounted). How else can one rule on the legality of votes without counting them? Is one to divine the legality of votes beforehand? If so, based on what criteria?
The second is the conservatives’ constitutional claim to “equal protection.” In arguing against recounts in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, Bush attorneys insisted that the problem of undervotes were not due to voting machines, but the voters themselves. The fact that the districts with the highest percentages of undervotes were in poorer and largely African-American communities did not suggest to them that these areas were using antiquated equipment. Instead, the implication was that the electors in these communities were too dumb to vote and their selections do not deserve to be examined (much less counted).
The disenfranchisement of all Florida citizens, not just the residents of more affluent communities, should be the true concern of the high court and all Americans. However, conservatives seem only to be interested in the protection of privilege.
Milton Alan Turner