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Washington Matters

Obama v. McCain?

For a campaign that has had more twists and turns than any in memory, perhaps the only fitting end would be a series of Election Day snafus so ensnarled in legalities that the Supreme Court has to step in and resolve it. If the prospect of an Election 2000 -- the Sequel intrigues or horrifies you, there's a chance to see what it might be like without actually having to live with the results.

In an advisory entitled McCain v. Obama in the Supreme Court of the United States -- a Hypothetical (One Hopes), Georgetown University Law School announced that three retired justices (from a federal appeals court, a U.S. District court and the Texas Supreme Court) would hear arguments by two prominent Washington attorneys. In a "simulated adjudication" of a case stemming from a fierce Election Day snowstorm in Colorado that "led to an extension of polling place hours in Denver, but not the rest of the state." The "Court" has to decide whether counting the  provisional ballots cast in the extended hours -- which will determine the outcome of the election -- is constitutional. To keep things nonpartisan, the two justices picked the chief justice together.

While the exercise will have great appeal to the political junkies out there (a webcast will be available at, it does have a serious purpose. The university says the hypothetical case is actually "an experiment to demonstrate how such a dispute can be resolved in a nonpartisan manner that produces confidence in both the courts and the election system."