Florida 2000 presidential election recount judge says court fight could be coming

Former chief justice says election protocol facing first 'stress test'

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Wells is convinced Florida’s 2018 recount cases will end up in the courts “in some form" despite the elimination of the punch card ballots and "hanging chads" of the famous 2000 presidential election between former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore.

“The Legislature, I think, made progress in the revision of the statutes," Wells said. "New issues are likely to arise.”

Wells served for more than 14 years as a justice on the Florida Supreme Court and was the chief justice when the Bush v. Gore case took center stage in Tallahassee 18 years ago.

In an exclusive interview with News 6 on Thursday, Wells said the U.S. Supreme Court decision to reverse the state Supreme Court’s ruling that a statewide recount take place was the right thing to do.

"We didn’t have any rules in which that recount would be accomplished," Wells said. "The margin of error in the count was always going to be greater than the margin of victory. We had to move on.”

Wells said the review of Florida’s 2018 midterm ballots for the U.S Senate and governor’s races is certain to bring up issues no one has anticipated.

“The same type of problem we had with Bush v. Gore, I’m confident will not happen because we did away with punch card ballots,” Wells said. "But, just like any other procedure, you never know until its stress test, you have to have a stress test.”

Just hours after that interview, attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott filed lawsuits against Broward and Palm Beach counties arguing both “have failed in their duty to follow Florida law" in terms of filing vote by mail and absentee ballots in the time required by law.

Wells said he has been following Florida politics all of his life, calling Orange County home “before the mouse.”

“Florida politics is always exciting because of the nature of our electorate," he said. “We’re so diverse, we bring to it a lot of different experiences from all over the world.”

Because his law firm is representing Scott in the recount controversy, he is not commenting on any of the specific recount cases.  

Wells said the positive lesson that came out of his experience in the Bush vs. Gore case was that in the end it was understood the country's most powerful job would be "peacefully passed.”

Wells encouraged all voters to respect the final decision without violence or anger, no matter what their political stance.

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