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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday night that the Florida Supreme Court erred in its order for a manual recount of thousands of ballots in the state contested presidential election. In an extraordinary late-night decision that unfolded on national television, the justices said the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court violated equal rights and there was not enough time to conduct a new recount that would meet constitutional muster. “Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the Dec. 12 date will be unconstitutional … we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering the recount to proceed,” the Court said. The Court’s unsigned opinion said seven justices agreed that there were constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida court, but that they disagreed on the remedy. “It is obvious that the recount cannot be conducted in compliance with the requirements of equal protection and due process without substantial additional work,” the Court said. But the Court said that because Florida lawmakers intended in effect to complete the choosing of electors by Dec. 12 an order requiring a new recount “could not be part of an appropriate” remedy. The Court issued its ruling in an unsigned opinion. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas went further in a separate opinion, saying the Florida Supreme Court also violated the Constitution and federal law in ordering the recount. In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said, “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the law.” Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy did not sign any separate opinion, but their votes were counted in the main unsigned opinion. Dissenting were Justices Stevens, David H. Souter., Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen G. Breyer. Gore’s Democratic running mate, Joseph Lieberman, had said on Monday that if the Supreme Court “basically overrules the Florida Supreme Court … that’s probably the end of it.” Without a recount, the certification of Bush as the winner of Florida’s 25 electoral votes — and thus the presidency — would stand. Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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