CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Dec. 13, 2000
UI law professor comments on U.S. Supreme Court ruling
IOWA CITY -- University
of Iowa constitutional law professor Todd Pettys (Pet-TIS) said that last
night's U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the presidential ballot recount case
was based largely on justices' concerns that a recount would create an equal
protection problem under the U.S. Constitution.
Pettys says the high court also stated that there
was not enough time to allow a manual recount before Florida's Dec. 18 Electoral
College meets to pick the next president.
He says that with the exception of Justices John Paul
Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court's remaining seven members concluded
that the absence of a single, coherent standard for determining the intent
of Florida's voters in a manual recount created an equal protection problem.
"The basic principle underlying the Constitution's
equal protection guarantee is that the government should not treat one person
more favorably than it treats another, unless there is some principled basis
for distinguishing between the two," Pettys said.
"Here, the court's concern was that the ballots were
being examined under different criteria -- a voter who submitted a dimpled
ballot in one county might have her vote counted, for example, while a voter
who submitted a dimpled ballot in another county might have his vote thrown
out. Even though those two voters' ballots may have been identical, then,
only one voter's vote would be counted. The court held that this violated
the equal protection guarantee," Pettys said.
Pettys says Justices Souter and Breyer, two members
of the seven-member majority, concluded that the case should be remanded,
to give Florida courts a chance to come up with a single standard for determining
the intent of the voter in all counties. The other members of the majority,
however, decided that there simply was not enough time for Florida officials
to settle upon a standard, count all of the disputed ballots using that standard,
and then submit any disputes regarding the application of that standard to
the courts for review.
EDITORS: Pettys may be available for interviews
this afternoon. For more information, contact Melvin Shaw at University News
Services, (319) 384-0010.