In this short piece, Derek Mueller makes an important point: the Supreme Court did not hold, in Bush v. Gore, that the Electoral Count Act mandates that all state counting or recounting processes in the presidential election must end by the so-called “safe harbor” date in the Act. Instead, the Court (rightly or wrongly) interpreted Florida law, as construed by the Florida Supreme Court, as reflecting a state policy that such processes end in Florida by that date.
Derek points out that lower federal courts are mistakenly taking Bush v. Gore as holding that the federal Act mandates the state voting process to be complete by the “safe harbor” date (this year, Dec. 14th). Given the likely volume of absentee ballots this fall and the delay in counting them, it’s possible that in some states the process will bump up against this date. I’ve urged, along with others, that Congress move back this date in light of that. But especially if Congress does not do that, it’s important that Derek has clarified this point well in advance of any context in which it might become significant.