Actually, the decision of the US Supreme Court could be quite vital.
The Court (as I understand it, based on news reports, since I have not seen the actual writ of certiorari) is ruling on the narrow issue of whether the decision of the Florida Supreme Court violated the federal law governing selection of presidential electors passed in the late 1880’s after the 1876 Hayes-Tilden fiasco. Specifically, one provision of that federal law says that the process for selecting electors cannot be changed after the date of the election (a provision, by the way, that finds some support in the language of the US Constitution itself at Article II, Section 1). I have also seen and heard it reported that the Court will be hearing a challenge to the decision on the basis that it violates the US Constitution’s provision in Art. II, Sec. 1 that the state’s legislature gets to determine the method of ‘chusing’ (I love quaint old spellings) the electors.
Now, if the Court rules that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision either was unconstitutional because it arrogated to the FSC the method of ‘chusing’ electors, or was illegal as a violation of federal law, then the question of remedy arises. Theoretically, the USSC would simply mandate that the decision be vacated and return the matter to Florida’s Supreme Court for further action consistent with their opinion. However, it has also been reported that the USSC specifically asked the parties to brief for them the consequences of ruling either for or against Mr. Bush. This raises the possibility that the Court intends to impose some additional remedy, either by further restricting what the FSC can do in response to the reversal of its decision, or by directly imposing some remedy (which I have trouble conceiving because the USSC rarely does such a thing).
In any event, if the FSC’s opinion is overturned, and the part of the opinion that is overturned is the setting of a deadline on 11/26, then the result probably wouldn’t affect much of anything; the basic ruling of the FSC that the election laws allowed, even required the acceptance of the manual recount totals up to some indeterminate point would remain intact, and even if Ms. Harris then decided not to accept any recount total reported before, say, 11/22, only Broward County would be affected. But if the USSC says that the FSC’s entire opinion is incorrect, THEN a real problem crops up for the Gore campaign: it might be that only the challenges actually on file within 72 hours of the certifications sent to Ms. Harris by the counties on 11/14 would be valid under Florida law. That would totally wipe out many of the filings. Support for this approach can be found in Florida’s Section 102.166 (4) (b) which reads as follows:
Keep in mind, the Florida Supreme Court’s injunction was directed at the Secretary of State and the state’s Elections Canvassing Commission, not at the county canvassing boards which had already certified results to the Secretary some three days prior.
So, the USSC could potentially wipe out a large number of the current court challenges, including any filed yesterday, by totally overturning the FSC. I suspect that this exact point has been made by Mr. Bush in his filing, and that this is exactly the remedy he and his team envision.
On the other hand, assuming that the USSC upholds most or all of the opinion of the FSC, then Mr. Gore is free to pursue his challenges (none of which, by the way, IMHO, will result in the result for the state of Florida being changed) to conclusion. Assuming that one or more of such challenges were to succede, then the fact the USSC upheld the FSC would be quite important.
Thus, the issue before the USSC is not really mooted by subsequent events in Florida, even if it DOES appear to be just one of a number of significantly less important hoops we have left to suffer the jumping through of before we as a nation can finally say “we have a winner!”