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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 04:48 GMT 05:48 UK
US court accepts Senate case
Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester
Republican Doug Forrester will try to block any change
The New Jersey State Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments from Democrat politicians who want to replace their candidate for the US Senate.

Scandal-hit Senator Robert Torricelli abruptly pulled out of the November election on Monday - after the deadline for candidates to submit their names for the ballot paper.

Robert Torricelli
Mr Torricelli missed the deadline for changing candidates
His Republican opponents argue that he may not be replaced, saying ballot papers have been printed and distributed and some postal votes have already been received.

But the Democrats - who hold a one-seat majority in the US Senate - are keen to offer voters a replacement for Mr Torricelli.

The court issued an order saying it would hear the case directly instead of waiting for a lower court to act, accepting a Democratic submission which stressed the urgency of the matter.

The high court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

New candidate named

The Democrats picked a former Senator, Frank Lautenberg, to replace Mr Torricelli, who ended his campaign in an emotional speech.

Correspondents say Democrats were concerned for Mr Torricelli's re-election chances after allegations from businessman David Chang who said he gave the senator gifts in return for his intervention in business deals in North and South Korea.


The people of New Jersey have had enough of playing politics with the fundamental tenets of democracy

Republican candidate Doug Forrester
Mr Torricelli - who was elected in 1996 - has denied any illegality but was admonished over the summer by the Senate ethics committee.

Mr Lautenberg, who feuded openly with Mr Torricelli who was his Senate colleague until he retired at the elections two years ago, said he was hoping to get his name on the ballot paper.

"I look forward to this campaign, in some ways rather perversely, it will be the shortest campaign I've ever been engaged in, but I sort of like the prospects," he said.

'Potential for chaos'

The Republican candidate for the Senate, Doug Forrester, said: "In 36 days, decency, fairness and the rule of the law will trump this desperate attempt to retain power.

"The people of New Jersey have had enough of playing politics with the fundamental tenets of democracy."


It's all about ensuring that the voters of this state have the opportunity to exercise a choice in a competitive race

Democrat campaign lawyer Angelo Genova
His campaign's lawyer, Bill Baroni, said the case created "a potential for chaos".

"Ballots have been printed in many counties," he said.

"Absentee ballots have been sent, and even more troubling, federal oversees military ballots have been mailed. Votes have been received."

Printing of ballots has now been halted with some analysts saying the case could end up before the US Supreme Court in circumstances reminiscent of the controversial 2000 presidential election in Florida.

'Technicality'

A lawyer for the Democratic Party in New Jersey, Angelo Genova, said the deadline for candidates pulling out was merely a technicality, adding that there was a 1952 precedent for changing names, allowed when a candidate died.

"It's all about ensuring that the voters of this state have the opportunity to exercise a choice in a competitive race," he said.

"The two-party system that affords people such a choice should not be compromised by any legal niceties or other administrative technicalities in our law."

The Democrats currently hold 50 Senate seats, with Republicans controlling 49 Senate seats and Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, formerly a Republican, declared as an independent.

See also:

25 Sep 02 | Americas
12 Apr 02 | Americas
06 Jun 01 | Americas
24 May 01 | Americas
31 Aug 02 | Country profiles
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