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Profile: N. Saunders Sauls

N. Saunders Sauls was a participant or observer in the following events:

Refusing to accept the certification of George W. Bush as the winner of the Florida presidential election (see 7:30 p.m. November 26, 2000), Vice President Al Gore’s campaign files an election contest action challenging the election results in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Nassau Counties. Gore campaign officials believe Gore was denied a net gain of over 1,100 uncounted votes in Palm Beach and 750 in Miami-Dade (see November 7, 2000). In Nassau, Gore officials believe Bush was wrongly credited with 51 votes. “The vote totals reported in the election canvassing commission’s certification of November 26, 2000, are wrong,” Gore lawyers allege in court filings. It is the first formal contest challenge in the history of US presidential elections. The case is assigned by random computer selection to Judge N. Saunders Sauls. Gore lawyers also challenge vote totals in three Florida counties, and ask a state judge to order a manual recount of some 13,000 ballots in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties that showed no votes for president on machine runs (so-called “undervotes”). Gore lawyers also file an emergency motion to accelerate the contest proceedings, a motion that Bush lawyers will challenge the next day. Bush campaign lawyers file an appeals court motion seeking to delay oral arguments in a pending federal case challenging Florida’s hand recounts. A Seminole County lawsuit seeking to throw out some 4,700 absentee ballots for technical reasons (see November 12, 2000, November 15-17, 2000, and November 17, 2000) is moved to a state court in Leon County, which is also hearing the Gore campaign’s certification challenges. And a lawsuit challenging the validity of Palm Beach County’s “butterfly ballot” (see 10:46 a.m. November 20 - November 22, 2000) goes to the Florida Supreme Court, which will reject the suit on December 1. [Guardian, 11/28/2000; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008]

Entity Tags: County of Seminole (Florida), County of Leon (Florida), Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Miami-Dade (Florida), County of Palm Beach (Florida), George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, N. Saunders Sauls, George W. Bush, County of Nassau (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

The Gore presidential campaign asks Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Saunders Sauls to authorize an immediate recount of about 14,000 disputed “undervote” ballots. Instead of ordering an immediate recount, Sauls orders the disputed ballots, sample voting booths, and voting machines from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties brought to his courtroom in Tallahassee by Friday, December 1—a total of 1.1 million ballots, posing a tremendous logistical challenge to election boards in the two counties. On November 30, a truck carrying more than 460,000 presidential ballots from Palm Beach County leaves on its way to Tallahassee as ordered by Sauls. On December 1, two more trucks carrying over 654,000 ballots begin the long drive to Tallahassee from Miami. On December 1, the Bush campaign asks Sauls to have another 1.2 million ballots trucked in from Volusia, Broward, and Pinellas Counties; Bush campaign spokesman Scott McClellan says, “We believe there were a number of illegal votes for Gore in those counties.” Sauls does not grant this request. The trial begins on December 2, with Gore’s lawyers arguing, “There is no reason to delay counting ballots even one day.” Bush’s lawyers advance a number of arguments against expediting or even conducting the recounts, including the position that the dispute is not between Bush and Gore, but between two disparate groups of Florida electors. Bush lawyers also say that Gore’s lawyers missed a 10-day deadline to file such challenges; manually recounting only some ballots is illegal; and the recounts the Gore campaign wants are “illegal, inappropriate, and manifestly unfair.” On December 4, Sauls rules against the Gore campaign (see 4:43 p.m. December 4, 2000). [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008; Guardian, 11/30/2008; Guardian, 12/1/2008]

Entity Tags: County of Pinellas (Florida), County of Broward (Florida), Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Leon (Florida), County of Palm Beach (Florida), George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, N. Saunders Sauls, Scott McClellan, George W. Bush, County of Volusia (Florida), County of Miami-Dade (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Leon County, Florida, Judge N. Saunders Sauls rules against the Gore campaign in the recount issue (see November 28 - December 2, 2000), saying that manual recounts in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties are not warranted, and the Nassau County vote totals should stand. Sauls also refuses to block Florida’s certification of George W. Bush as the Florida presidential winner (see 7:30 p.m. November 26, 2000). The London Guardian calls the ruling a “crushing blow” to Al Gore’s chances of winning the disputed election. Sauls rules that there is “no credible statistical evidence and no other competent substantial evidence” to establish a reasonable probability that Gore might win if granted a hand recount of the undervotes. “This court… concludes the evidence does not establish any illegality, dishonesty, improper influence, coercion, or fraud in the balloting and counting processes,” Sauls rules. The ruling also restores Bush’s 930-vote lead that existed before recount numbers were taken into account (see November 18, 2000). After Saul’s ruling, Gore’s lead attorney David Boies says the campaign will appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, and that the campaign had always assumed the case would end up in that court. “What has happened today is that we have moved one step closer to having this finally resolved,” he tells reporters, but admits that in this instance, “They won, we lost.” Boies notes that after the incredible effort expended to bring over a million ballots to Sauls’s courtroom, the judge never looked at them. “The ballots were the best evidence of the intents of the voters,” Boies says. “This was the first court in an election contest where the court has refused to look at the ballots.” The Florida high court will hear the appeal on December 7. [Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit, In and For Leon County, Florida, 12/4/2000 pdf file; Guardian, 12/5/2000; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008]

Entity Tags: Florida Supreme Court, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Leon (Florida), County of Palm Beach (Florida), George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, N. Saunders Sauls, George W. Bush, County of Miami-Dade (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

David Boies.David Boies. [Source: BBC]The Florida Supreme Court hears arguments from both the Gore and Bush presidential campaigns in Al Gore’s appeal of a ruling that rejected his campaign’s request to mandate recounts in three Florida counties (see 9:00 a.m. November 30, 2000 and After). Bush campaign lawyer Barry Richard argues that there is no “evidence to show that any voter was denied the right to vote” and calls the Gore campaign’s contest “a garden-variety appeal.” Gore lawyer David Boies contends that while time is running out, “the ballots can be counted” before the December 12 deadline for naming electors. In a 4-3 decision, the Court reverses the decisions of Judge N. Saunders Sauls (see 4:43 p.m. December 4, 2000), ordering recounts of “undervotes” in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties as well as all other Florida counties that have not yet manually recounted undervotes. “Undervotes” are noted on ballots that were not recorded by voting machines as making a choice for president. The Court also directs the lower court to add 168 votes from Miami-Dade and 215 votes from Palm Beach to Gore’s state totals, narrowing the George W. Bush lead to a mere 154 votes. London’s Guardian observes, “That margin could easily be overturned with a recount of the disputed ballots which mainly came from Democratic precincts in Miami-Dade.” Perhaps 45,000 undervotes statewide remain to be counted. Bush campaign attorney James Baker says the Court’s ruling may “disenfranchise Florida’s votes in the Electoral College.” Congressional Democrats Richard Gephardt (D-MO) and Tom Daschle (D-SD) release a joint statement calling for a “full, fair, and accurate vote count,” and saying there is “more than enough time to count ballots cast but never counted.” Within hours, Bush lawyers ask the US Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the decision, which will be granted (see December 8-9, 2000). [Supreme Court of Florida, 12/8/2000 pdf file; Guardian, 12/9/2000; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008] The Court decision is also seen as something of a repudiation of the Supreme Court’s earlier decision for clarification (see 10:00 a.m. December 1 - 4, 2000). Clerks for the Supreme Court justices are now certain that their Court will decide the presidential election. Justice Antonin Scalia, the most implacable of the conservative justices determined to overturn the Florida high court and give the election to Bush, wants to grant the Bush request for a stay even before receiving the Gore lawyers’ response, a highly unusual request that is not granted. He argues that the manual recounts are in and of themselves illegitimate, and says the recounts will cast “a needless and unjustified cloud” over Bush’s legitimacy. It is essential, he says, to shut down the process immediately. Clerks for both the liberal and conservative justices are amazed, and some appalled, at how bluntly Scalia is pushing what appears to be a partisan agenda. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: David Boies, Barry Richard, Antonin Scalia, Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Palm Beach (Florida), US Supreme Court, Richard Gephardt, The Guardian, N. Saunders Sauls, Tom Daschle, James A. Baker, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Florida Supreme Court, County of Miami-Dade (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

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