Archive: Jonathan Turley

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Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante is the host of's Smoke-Filled Room. Each week, Bill invites a top political expert into the Smoke-Filled Room to answer your questions. Today’s guest is CBS News Consultant Jonathan Turley in a special post-election edition of S.F.R. Turley is an expert in Constitutional law.

Plante: ”Is there any provision in the election laws that would allow either Nader or Buchanan to "throw" the votes they received into either the Gore or Bush column, thus changing a state's electoral outcome?” Richard Sedlisky is curious.

Turley: No. No candidate can essentially award a popular vote to another candidate. It is possible for them to throw Electoral votes – if they got any. The funny thing is, Ralph Nader could become President under one bizarre scenario. If one of the Electors in Oregon decided to switch their vote and give it to Nader, and you had a deadlock in the Electoral College, Nader would go to the floor of the House of Representatives with Gore and Bush. The top three candidates go to the House floor. So even if he has just one vote he would be one vote away from being President of the United States.

Plante: Our next viewer, Pat Fitzgerald writes, “ Why doesn’t the FEC oversee the elections?”

Turley: The Federal Election Commission doesn’t oversee this election because it’s a state election. Now, they can have a stronger role if Congress gave them that role. That may be one of the things that happens in the aftermath of all of this. Congress may go to a uniform national ballot and try to impose greater federal regulations on these elections.

Plante: Did anyone in any other counties across the country challenge/revise a ballot before the election in 2000? or 1996? or 1992? etc? Does that mean individual voters do not have the right to challenge the ballot on their own accord? Bradley Kauwe is curious.

Turley: There’s certainly a great number of cases involving challenges to ballots, including ballots in Florida. The courts have been largely unsympathetic. They are loathe to call for new elections. Even when there’s a serious problem they’re inclined to do sort of a Solomen-esque. In Florida, for example, when there’s a question about absentee ballots the court simply threw out all the absentee ballots – good and bad.

Plante: Pamela Lloyd asks, “Why isn’t there one national ballot for the Presidential election and another for each state/city issues? Is this possible?”

Turley: There’s no constitutional problem with having a national election with just the President. It’s a logistical problem. It’s very difficult to have a national election and require people to come back a different day or or them to vote on a separate ballot for the state. I think this will be resolved – I think that Congress is going to offer states a lot of money if they yield and adopt a national ballot and a national election process.

Plante: Is this considered a constitutional crisis?

Turley: Well it’s certainly going from a constitutional controversy to a constitutional crisis. Time will tell. This weekend is going to be critical. Either one of these men can send us into a significant crisis.

E-mail questions to The Smoke-Filled Room.

About Bill Plante
Bill Plante is a three-time Emmy Award winner who joined the CBS News Washington Bureau in 1976. He has been covering national elections since 1968. In 1984, he was part of a CBS News teamthat captured an Emmy for coverage of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Plante is one of the most knowledgeable and respected political correspondents in Washington. (He'll do just about anything, including bungee jumping, to get a good story.)