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Making My Vote Count - The Election Case

Canvassing Boards v. Sectary of State

TEACHER PACKET: The Election Case - includes petitioner, respondent, justices, marshal & clerk script and materials.

WORD File / PDF File


After the election for President of the United States, the vote count in four large Florida counties was very close. To make sure the vote count in these four counties was correct; the canvassing boards (the group of people in each county in charge of counting the votes) recounted the votes to double-check the results. The first count and the second count were both done by machines and the results of the two machine counts were different.

Because of the difference, one of the parties running for the presidency asked to have a small number of ballots counted by hand to compare the results to make sure every vote was counted correctly.  Again there was a difference.

Because of the differences in vote count results, the canvassing boards decided that there was a problem with the machine vote counts. So now, under Florida law, the canvassing boards in these counties must recount all the ballots by hand. Each of these four counties had thousands of ballots to count and counting them by hand could take a long time.

Additionally, another Florida law says all voting results must be officially delivered to the Florida Secretary of State by 5 p.m. on the seventh (7th) day after the election. The Secretary of State told the canvassing boards that the hand recount results had to be completed within the seven-day deadline or else they would not be included in the final vote count for Florida to determine who won the election.

Because of the Florida law that required counting all the ballots by hand, the county canvassing boards in these counties felt they could not finish the hand recount within the seven-day deadline. The county canvassing boards filed a lawsuit in the trial court asking for an extension of the seven-day deadline.

TRIAL COURT RULING: The trial court ruled that the Secretary of State had the authority to apply the seven-day deadline. This meant that the Secretary of State could ignore the votes in the counties that did not turn in their results within seven days.

THE APPEAL: The canvassing boards filed an appeal asking the District Court of Appeal to order the Secretary of State to accept the vote counts after the seven-day deadline. The District Court of Appeal, without even hearing the case, immediately sent the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court to resolve because it was so important.

Now, the Florida Supreme Court agrees to hear the case and is ready for oral arguments.

Legal Question

If there is an error in the vote count, which law should the County Canvassing Boards follow? Should they follow the law that says all votes must be counted by hand or should they follow the law that says all election results must be turned in within seven day deadline?


Based on the Florida Supreme Court Case Numbers, SC00-2346, SC00-2348 & SC00-2349, Palm Beach County Canvassing Board v. Katherine Harris, etc., et. al., Volusia County Canvassing Board, et. al, v. Katherince Harris, etc., et. al, & Florida Democratic Party v. Katherince Harris, etc., et. al,