Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Bd., 531 U.S. 70 (2000) (per curiam)

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certiorari to the supreme court of florida

No. 00-836. Argued December 1, 2000—Decided December 4, 2000

The day after the November 7, 2000, Presidential election, the Florida

Division of Elections reported that petitioner, Governor George W. Bush, had received 1,784 more votes than respondent Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. Under the Florida Election Code, an automatic machine recount occurred, resulting in a much smaller margin of victory for Bush. Gore then exercised his statutory right to submit written requests for manual recounts to the canvassing boards of four Florida counties, see Fla. Stat. 102.166, and subsequently joined in this suit to require manual recounts and the certification of the recount results. Among other things, the Florida Circuit Court held that 102.111's 7-day recount deadline was mandatory, but that the Volusia County board could amend its returns at a later date, and ruled that the Secretary of State (Secretary), after considering all attendant facts and circumstances, could exercise her discretion in deciding whether to include the late amended returns in the statewide certification. After the Secretary rejected the four counties' requests to make late filings, the Circuit Court denied an emergency motion by the Florida Democratic Party and Gore, ruling that the Secretary had not acted arbitrarily and had exercised her discretion in a reasonable manner consistent with the court's earlier ruling. The First District Court of Appeal certified the matter to the Florida Supreme Court, which, inter alia, enjoined the Secretary and the Elections Canvassing Commission from certifying the election results and declaring a winner until further order; held that a discrepancy between the machine returns and a sample manual recount was sufficient to trigger the statutory provisions for a full manual recount; and ruled that 102.112, which provides that the Secretary "may . . . ignor[e]" late election returns, controlled over the conflicting provision in 102.111, which specifies that the Secretary "shall . . . ignor[e]" such returns. Relying in part on the right to vote set forth in the State Constitution, the court concluded that the Secretary may reject late manual recounts only under limited circumstances. Invoking its equitable powers, the court imposed a November 26 deadline for a return of ballot counts, thereby effectively extending by 12 days 102.111's 7-day deadline, and directed the Secretary to accept manual counts submitted prior to that deadline.

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