December 12th May Not Be Deadline

Mon. December 11, 2000 12:00 AM by Newstream

Washington DC - Not everybody agrees that Tuesday's deadline for states to pick their representatives to the Electoral College is hard and fast.

In fact, as George W. Bush and Al Gore fight for Florida's 25 electoral votes and the White House, some election experts are questioning the finality associated with Dec. 12 — when federal law says Electoral College representatives should be chosen without ``any controversy or contest.''
What does that mean? The answers vary.

``I think it's a cautious date,'' said Georgetown law professor Robert Drinan, a former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts. ``It's like a professor saying you have to get your paper in by Dec. 12, but the drop-dead date is the 18th.''

If the Nov. 7 election had gone off without a hitch, these dates would pass without a headline.
Most states would choose their representatives to the Electoral College and submit their slate to the National Archives by Dec. 12, the college's official record-keeper.

Electors are to meet in state capitals across the country on Dec. 18 to choose the president and vice president. Finally, Congress would count the votes during the first week of January.

Michael White, the Electoral College expert at the National Archives, said Dec. 12 is ``the deadline for states to make final determinations of any controversies or contests. ... But missing the deadline does not disqualify the electors or their votes.''

``A post-contest certification must be sent to the archivist as soon as practicable on or after Dec. 12,'' White added.

Supporters for Bush say states are obligated to choose electors by Dec. 12 to avoid any conflicts in Congress.

Gore supporters view the date as an obstacle because, if Florida doesn't choose a slate by then, its Republican-controlled Legislature can select them — a power granted by the U.S. Constitution.

With the wiggle room created by the federal laws, George Washington University's Mary Cheh believes Bush and Gore may have until January to argue over who rightfully deserves the electors from Florida, where Bush leads Gore by less than 200 votes.

``The real drop-dead date is when Congress has to count the ballots,'' said Cheh, a constitutional law professor. ``The Dec. 12 date is an opportunity for electors to meet, and not have Congress mess around with the slate.''

As of the end of last week, just 16 states had sent their electors' names to the archives. Slates submitted Monday hadn't been fully processed and posted to the archives' Web site. Additional slates were expected to be in by the close of business Tuesday.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, George W.'s brother, sent his state's GOP electors to the archives on Nov. 26.

Federal law says electors are to meet in each state ``on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December'' — this year, Dec. 18.
It also says that if a state has made a final determination of any controversy or contest at least six days before the electors meet then that determination ``shall be conclusive.''

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