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Monday, 20 November, 2000, 12:01 GMT
Have the lawyers hijacked the US election?

The US judiciary is being dragged deeper and deeper into the battle for the White House.

As the Gore and Bush camps squabble over every single vote in the state of Florida, lawsuits and counter lawsuits have already made it to the state Supreme Court and a federal appeals court.

In the absence of a clear result and with the stakes so high, the process could, in theory, go all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

But is it right that the choice of president should come down to the courts? Have the lawyers hijacked the political process?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Lawyers ad infinitum are nothing new as per this quote by Robert Burton 1576-1640 "Our wrangling lawyers.. are so litigious and busy here on earth that I think that they will plead their clients causes hereafter, some of them in hell."
Stephen Block Jr.,US

The system is designed to make sure that everyone's voice is at least taken into account. Without the Electoral College, a candidate could win by only campaigning to voters in Texas, California, Florida, and a few other large states. No one would even bother to hear the concerns of rural Americans in Iowa, Wyoming, and other low-population states. No one can win the election without winning some of the small states, thus the concerns of ALL states' citizens are considered, not just big ones.
Our problem isn't our system. It's not even the lawyers. Thank God we fight in the courts and not with tanks rolling through our streets. Our problem is that too many people don't vote. THAT'S what makes me ashamed. People all over the world have died fighting for the right to vote, and we have it, and half our citizens can't be bothered to do it even once every four years. But boy you'll hear them whine about the results!
Suzanne, USA

The lawyers are the messengers of the modern crisis of legitimacy

D McCarthy,(UK in) Australia
Why talk about the lawyers - it's far more interesting that over 50% of the US voting population voted with their feet and rejected the most powerful political and economic system we have ever known. The lawyers are the messengers of the modern crisis of legitimacy.
D McCarthy,(UK in) Australia

I am inclined to disagree that the lawyers have taken over the political process in the US. What counts is that the right person is being elected and not the wrong one. Although I would probably vote Republican if I were an American the deadline imposed by the state of Florida is not fair. What matters is that democracy prevails which means that the votes which are being counted manually should be included in deciding who becomes the president of the US. If they are not included that would mean a major blow to American democracy. It would also mean the Americans have to be more modest in telling what other countries should do in order to call themselves democracies.
Marcus van der Voorn, The Netherlands

The behaviour of the candidates and their legal teams is not acceptable. Neither party really cares about "the will of the people" as they each seek to massage the outcome of the Florida vote in their favour by introducing legal actions to protect any tiny advantages they perceive will result in a win. This is no longer a free election but an obscene and manipulative scramble for the White House: America and its leaders should be ashamed of this embarrassing advertisement for democracy.
Mark Green, Guernsey, CI

The process has not been hijacked but is following standard procedures. The U.S. and Great Britain both have "due process" and I'm confident when all avenues have been taken in the system according to "due process" that we will have a U.S. President according to "due process of the law." That's as it should be in a democracy.
John Ashcraft, US

It's not rocket science! Count the votes. Whoever has the most wins. End of story.
Mark Newton, UK

Every vote should be counted - I would hate to think that my vote wasn't counted during any election!
A Cripps, UK

It is the lawyers' job to increase the level of confusion and throw the election in doubt. The Clinton administration spent most of its time in court and it appears that Gore of cut from the same material.
George Milton, USA

C'mon guys! Haven't you ever been to the US? We invented fine print! Everything has fine print attached to it!

Steve Woodruff, California
The lawyers have not hijacked the election, the left-wing liberal news media and the Gore camp have done that all on their own.
Sarah B. Golabiewaki, USA

This election is nothing more than a quest for power. American citizen's right to vote is rhetoric, at best.
Lance, USA

The rejection of some 1,400 ballots primarily from US military service people because there is no postmark is highway robbery. The US Post Office is run by the US government as is the US Military. These votes must be counted.
Susan Martin, USA

We'll know Monday or Tuesday if lawyers have hijacked the US presidential election. If the Democrat controlled Florida Supreme Court supersedes the law by extending deadlines, we'll know that the United States Supreme Court or Congress will decide the election.
Andrew Hoover, California, USA

C'mon guys! Haven't you ever been to the US? We invented fine print! Everything has fine print attached to it!
Steve Woodruff, The country of California

I am very happy that lawyers are going to resolve this rather than the military

Andrew Simpkins, USA
In many countries the generals would have taken over instead of the lawyers. American democracy is so strong that we can wait patiently for this to play out in the way the Constitution lays down. We know the Electoral College will select a new President on Dec 18 and that he will be inaugurated on Jan 20. I am very happy that lawyers are going to resolve this rather than the military. What is even better is that the American people will accept the outcome, whatever that is. Does anyone think there will be rioting in the streets when the results become final?
Andrew Simpkins, USA

The involvement of the courts raises two important questions:
1. Can the Executive tell the Judiciary what to do? If so can the Judiciary force the Legislature what to legislate?
2. How impartial is the Florida Supreme Court? Its members were chosen by the Democratic Party and they are seen to be carrying out Gore's - Democratic Party's - bidding. It seems that in the US the McCoys are being asked to judge the Hatfields and the Hatfields are being asked to judge the McCoys.
Bassam Sulaiman, Kuwait

The funniest comments I have read on this tiresome, distressing dilemma, have been: "How many lawyers does take to elect the president?" Answer: "All of them". The second funny commentary is easily found on the net, and has to do with the Brits revoking America's independence from England due to our inability to run an election. This fiasco will make us laugh or weep, and, as a by-product, give us a new chief.
Colin Butts, USA

Yes litigation does hijack the process. But in the U.S. we have an alienating culture that won't encourage and likely discourages coalition governments and I don't see this changing in my generation. We had a multiparty and multi-bloc system "four score and seven years" before it disintegrated. Is my country mature or manageable enough to separate litigation from social policy? I can only tell you that my sympathies lie in a vote for Ralph Nader - a lawyer.
Stephen Nelson, USA

To me this is a gross manipulation by scheming lawyers

Jim Ike, USA
If the situation in Florida was reversed with Gore ahead, and the Republican Party were doing all the litigation that the Democrats are now doing, it would be an uproar. They would be shouted down as poor losers and the press would vilify them. To me this is a gross manipulation by scheming lawyers who want to give the appearance of justice and fairness, when that is far from the truth.
Jim Ike, USA

It is obvious that lawyers have taken over the poll process in the U.S. Things have reached a critical stage when, unfortunately, they are forced to decide who will be the next President. A good number of lawyers, in any part of the world, who are supposed to uphold justice, truth and ensure fair play, rarely fulfil these noble objectives. All that they are truly concerned is the amount of money they can flush out from their clients' pockets. This is not to say all lawyers are notoriously crookish and corrupt as a tribe. Let us hope the lawyers dealing with the U.S. poll suits fight for nothing but the truth and let the truth alone triumph.
Albert Devakaram, India

This election is not being taken from the people of Florida by lawyers but by Al Gore himself

Maxwell Williams, Florida, USA
This election is not being taken from the people of Florida by lawyers but by Al Gore himself. He has directed his staff to employ one of the largest teams of both paid volunteer legal group that this county has ever seen. Over 500 law students and lawyers are expected to have arrived for Gore in Florida by next week. Gore repeatedly states "every vote should count" and "the people's will" however the people have spoken and he refuses to listen.
Maxwell Williams, Florida, USA

There is an old saying, May the best man win. Such a pity that he wasn't a candidate.
Jack, USA

Of course lawyers have hi-jacked the system. I will be sceptical about the result of this election and will always be.
Ben Kinnear, Australia

It is said that in some countries the generals would take over the process when faced with a botched election, but that here in the US the lawyers take over instead. I prefer the latter. Beyond the questions of the current litigation however, there lurks the troubling question of the electoral college, which has subverted not only the result but the process. Neither candidate campaigned in my state, which is heavily Democratic, because the result was forgone from the start. Massachusetts would go for Gore, even if Bush had spent every day of the campaign here, so we were spared a single visit or a single ad or even a single poster for or by either candidate. If the popular vote were all that counted, every vote would matter equally. But as it was, a vote in Florida or in Oregon or in Wisconsin counted more than a vote Massachusetts.
Jim Talin, USA

The ONLY reason this is dragging on is because Gore is a sore loser

Shane Phillips, USA
Lawyers have not hijacked the process, but they are definitely not making things easier. The ONLY reason this is dragging on is because Gore is a sore loser. They have recounted the votes THREE times in some counties and still he comes up the loser. I fear he will use litigation to over turn the election results in Florida. Only then will lawyers have hijacked anything.
Shane Phillips, USA

Of course the Lawyers have taken over the process - s they do with everything else in the US. It's a great shame that the US electoral process can't simply count the votes (automatically or manually) and declare the man with the most votes the winner. What does it matter if it takes 2 hours or 2 weeks to count up the votes? Surely that is what a democratic election is about. This is a travesty of democracy which the American politicians and people should be deeply ashamed of.
Dave, Wales

It does not seem extraordinary to me that the fate of the presidency of the most litigious country on the planet should be decided in court. Whoever wields supreme executive power will be seen to be elected through the minutiae of law rather than through a mandate from the masses.
John Hoar, UK/ Spain

Britain needs to stop knocking American liberty

Andy Mayer, UK
What do you prefer as a method of resolving disputes? The open due process of the law available to all, or the closed arbitrary British process of quangos and appointed cronies dictating outcomes? Britain needs to stop knocking American liberty and start being a little more aware of the deeply undemocratic smug elitism at the heart of our own system.
Andy Mayer, UK

The seemingly unprecedented involvement of lawyers in the US election is the consequence of a poor political process - not visa versa. Perhaps the American legal community should have been more pro-active in updating its crumbling and anarchic electoral process, but the truth is that no amount of forward planning could have prevented desperate actions by self-interested politicians and, perhaps more accurately, their advisors. In any event, changing the constitution would, it seems, be almost impossible. Stop blaming the lawyers and look to the root of the problem.
Iain, UK

I expect this to go all the way to the Supreme Court

Mike H, England
It's a great pity that Mr Gore will not concede that Mr Bush won Florida and therefore the election and conversely that Mr Bush will not yield to the "popular vote" and give Mr Gore the keys to the White House. Neither one seems likely to back down so yes, I expect this to go all the way to the Supreme Court. It's no use the American public complaining their next leader will be decided by the courts when so many of them couldn't even be bothered to vote. The President you get you deserve!
Mike H, England

The US constitution is a "government of laws not men". If it was not decided by law it would be the arbitrary decision of a person, which would not be fairer. If you are going to decide it by law, then lawyers will be involved.
DominiConnor, UK

Let's see: We have a bunch of lawyers running for elected office, who also require their own lawyers, so that they can sit in a building with hundreds of other lawyers to make laws! And we wonder why we have problems!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/ UK

Litigation is part of the culture in the US now and I doubt that US citizens would view this issue as strongly as in the UK. Gore or Bush will be viewed as 'sore losers' if they fail, but since ex-candidates rarely continue in electoral politics, then they would view it as worth the risk. Oh to be an American Lawyer!
Mark B, UK

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