WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court of the United States, as expected, refused Monday to review the controversial process under which Sen. Robert Torricelli was replaced on the New Jersey ballot in November.
The New Jersey Supreme Court had allowed Democrats to replace Torricelli with former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, despite a statutory deadline for such replacements that had already been passed.
The U.S. Supreme Court was expected to formally reject review of the case after refusing to intervene before the election at the request of Torricelli's Republican opponent, Douglas Forrester.
As the November 2000 election approached, a variety of public surveys showed Torricelli was losing support because of an ongoing gift-giving scandal. Convinced that Torricelli could not win, Democratic leaders persuaded him to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race on Sept. 30.
However, state law says unexpected vacancies on the ballot can be filled "not later than the 48th day" before the general election, which was set for Nov. 5. Torricelli withdrew on the 36th day before the election, well after the statutory deadline.
However, he New Jersey Supreme Court, on Oct. 2, approved the replacement of Torricelli with Lautenberg, who won the Senate seat in the general election.
Before the election, Forrester unsuccessfully asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling. He also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear argument on the New Jersey court decision.
In asking the high court to hear the case, Forrester's petition said the "New Jersey Supreme Court has ignored the plain text of its state's own duly enacted statute," changing the rules of the game as prescribed by the state Legislature.
The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the sole responsibility for setting the election rules, but legislative intent is supposed to be interpreted by state supreme courts.
The New Jersey Supreme Court said in its ruling that state law did not preclude the possibility of a vacancy occurring within the deadline, and allowing Lautenberg to replace Torricelli was "in the public interest and the general intent of the election laws ..."
Forrester's petition to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied Monday without comment.
(02-555, Forrester et al vs. N.J. Democratic Party et al.)
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