|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Florida Recount: Legal Clouds Hang Over Sunshine StateAired November 14, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the people have spoken, but the courts may decide. The presidential election winds its way through Florida's judicial system. A crucial deadline survives a legal challenge, but the final counting may not be over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I find that the county canvassing boards must certify and file what election returns they have by the statutory deadline of 5:00 p.m. of November 14, 2000.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN CHRISTOPHER, GORE CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: We certainly hope that she'll conclude that the lawful votes of the citizens of Florida should be included in any final tabulation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Legal clouds over the Sunshine State: a complete rundown of the day's court decisions, along with the planned appeals. The latest vote totals from across the state, and perspective on how the day's events may affect the outcome of Election 2000. All ahead on this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY: THE FLORIDA RECOUNT.
Good evening, I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting tonight from the nation's capital overlooking the White House. One week after Americans went to the polls to elect a new president, we still don't know who won. And a flurry of legal briefs and courtroom standoffs threaten to overshadow the electoral process.
The Florida courts are now heavily involved in this race, and will play a major role interpreting the laws and legal maneuvers which will decide who moves into the mansion right behind me. Today's events are a complicated legal web.
We start with a Florida state court judge's refusal to extend today's 5:00 p.m. deadline, requiring all counties to certify their final vote totals. The judge noted, however, that manual recount results could be considered later.
Gore campaign attorneys advised the handful of counties where those manual recounts are underway to keep working, and those attorneys prepared to appeal the judge's decision, possibly to the Florida Supreme Court. The Bush campaign was also in court today, appealing yesterday's refusal by a federal judge to block the manual recounts.
Here's where the race stands at this hour: George W. Bush officially holds his lead over Al Gore by, get this, 300 votes. That number includes a gain of 98 votes for Gore after the manual recount in Volusia County. A little while ago, Florida's secretary of state made her first public comments since the 5:00 p.m. deadline passed.
And for the latest on what she said and all the day's events in Tallahassee, the state capital, we join CNN National Correspondent Mike Boettcher. Mike, what a dramatic day.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. And we've got past one deadline and we're moving into one other deadline that was created today in her press conference. Secretary of State Harris said she received all 67 counties and she sent out representatives at morning around 8:00 all over the state to the 14 counties who had not reported back with certified results.
She got those results, and at the same time, said that there is 2:00 p.m. deadline tomorrow for three counties who are considering a hand recount or have decided to go ahead with recounts. Two o'clock tomorrow for those counties to give her reason why they should be able to amend their results when they finish those hand recounts.
Here is Secretary of State Harris.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHERINE HARRIS, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: In accordance with today's court ruling confirming my discretion in these matters, I'm requiring a written statement of the facts and circumstances that will cause these counties to believe that a change should be made before the final certification of the statewide vote.
This written statement is due in our office by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. Unless I determine in the exercise of my discretion that these facts and circumstances contained within these written statements justify an amendment to today's official returns, the state elections canvassing commission in manner consistent with its usual and normal practice, will certify statewide results to -- reported to this office today.
Subsequently, the overseas ballots that are due by midnight, Friday will also be certified and the final results of the election for president of the United States of America in the state of Florida will be announced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOETTCHER: The secretary of state was able to proceed with that 5:00 p.m. deadline today and collect all those certifications because of ruling across the street by Judge Terry Lewis of the Circuit Court of Appeals.
He would not move that deadline, but he said, and this is why she's set that deadline for the explanations, he said she must consider what those counties who want to have hand recounts, what they have to say, why they want those and she must give it a fair decision and should not be arbitrary.
What the Democratic Party in the counties wanted really was a shot into the bow of the secretary of state and basically, Wolf, what they got was a shot across the bow, not everything they wanted at all.
BLITZER: Mike, so we're going to wait to hear by 2:00 tomorrow what these three counties, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County, what their arguments are. Why they should be allowed to supplement the totals that the secretary of state certified today.
In addition, there will be some overseas absentee ballots. The deadline for opening up those ballots, tallying those, are midnight Friday night. We know that four years ago there were about 2,400 such overseas absentee ballots. Are any officials over there at Tallahassee giving us any idea how many such ballots will be at play this time around?
BOETTCHER: You know, Wolf, we've been trying to get that figure for six days now and gave not been able to because state election officials have said the county vote counters are too busy with this certification process.
I think maybe now we'll see some movement towards that, but we are told that a great proportion of those overseas ballots have already been counted and are already in this vote total that gives Governor Bush a 300-vote lead over Vice President Gore.
Also we expect, some -- also Wolf, I do want to mention. This 2:00 p.m. deadline tomorrow will probably set off a whole new round of court challenges because we're told by legal experts here that that ruling has cracked the door for more legal challenges for the Democrats.
Vice President Gore's camp and the counties that want to do these recounts can come and say that the secretary of state did act arbitrarily by, if she does make this decision, by not accepting their -- here comes Karen Hughes now for her statement from the Bush camp..
HUGHES: Florida's secretary of state has received from counties the certified results of Florida's election, subject to the final count of overseas absentee ballots. However, today's court ruling apparently gives the secretary of state the option to exercise discretion if a county decides to send in a different vote count after today's supposed deadline.
The votes in Florida have now been counted, and Governor Bush won. They've been recounted, and Governor Bush won. The counties have now certified their votes to the secretary of state, and again Governor Bush won. Yet it appears we now have a deadline that may not be respected as a deadline at all. Several selective counties in Florida, controlled by Democrats, have said they may continue a manual count. Yet if they go forward after tonight's deadline, these Democratic counties are no longer recounting. They are reinventing; attempting to reinterpret the results of the election, and the intentions of voters by subjective, not objective means.
Votes are being counted in different ways in different counties. Votes are even being counted in different ways within counties. In Miami-Dade County, for example, election officials have said they will examine ballots on a case-by-case, evolving basis. This chaotic manual count in selective counties, with no uniform standards cannot produce a fair and accurate count of the votes in Florida.
We reiterate the only reasonable conclusion we see to this process. As Secretary Baker said this morning, Governor Bush is willing to abide by tonight's certified count and the count of overseas absentee ballots on Friday, even though this certified count may include disputed manual recounts, and would cost Governor Bush votes.
We hope Vice President Gore will agree.
QUESTION: Karen, are you saying that believe that the Democrats in these counties are counting these votes manually with the intention -- with the goal of giving this election to Vice President Gore?
HUGHES: I am saying that we do not believe that a manual count that has no uniform standards, that's being conducted in different ways in different counties, can possibly result in a fair and accurate count of votes.
I think any family who watched on television over the last couple of days and saw officials holding up the ballots, seeking a glimmer of light, trying to determine whether a voter intended to vote, or didn't intend to vote, or what the voter may have had in his or her mind, while he or she was voting, realizes that this does not produce a fair and accurate count.
QUESTION: So you think their motive is to, in effect, steal the election for Vice President Gore?
HUGHES: I'm not questioning motives. I'm questioning the accuracy of the count. I do not believe, from what we've all seen on our television screens, that this can possibly produce a count that is fair and accurate.
QUESTION: But this is a Republican secretary of state, your co- chair in Florida, who has the ultimate say on whether they can proceed and whether they will be counted. Why attack the Democratic counties and not the woman who has allowed these to proceed, your co-chairman in Florida, the secretary of state? HUGHES: Well, the secretary of state is independently elected by the voters of Florida and her specific job, the job she was elected to, was to oversee the election process in Florida.
So, she is performing her job. I think that most Americans can look at the statistics in the counties where these manual recounts are under way, and see that they are overwhelmingly Democratic counties. Clearly, Democrats wanted to recount in these overwhelmingly Democratic counties.
QUESTION: How long will this go on though? Would you accept this as a proper count, would you allow the counting to go on, would you then accept it?
HUGHES: Well, I think that's up to the secretary of state to make that determination and our folks would have to look at it at that time.
QUESTION: Did the governor say what he would do tomorrow, what he did today, or did he say?
HUGHES: The governor is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. He is -- I spoke with him not long ago, just a short time ago. He is upbeat, he is enjoying the tranquility of central Texas.
He had a group of state officials from our state office travel up to Crawford to meet with him this morning. They discussed a number of pending state issues including the state budget, some recent task force reports on conservation and electronic government. They discussed some prison capacity issues, some appointment matters, and they discussed several pending executions.
And, so that's what he did during the day today. He is with Mrs. Bush, his wife, Laura, and as I said, I think enjoying the tranquility of the countryside in Crawford, Texas, while he is also keeping in constant touch with those of us in here in Austin and his team in Florida.
HUGHES: Well, I can certainly understand that the people of Florida -- this is a difficult time for everyone, and probably especially the people and the voters of Florida.
But what I would say is that we are a nation of laws and of rules, and we have a Constitution. And it prescribes procedures. And in Florida, the votes have been counted, the votes have been recounted, and the counties in Florida have now certified those results to the secretary of state. All three times, as the results show, the governor won. Thank you all very much.
BLITZER: Karen Hughes, the communications director for the Bush campaign, expressing the position of her campaign on the decision by the Florida secretary of state to certify this election pending the overseas absentee ballots and potentially pending some hand recount of ballots in three Florida counties. Let's bring in our correspondents covering these two campaigns. John King is here in Washington. He's covering the Gore campaign. Candy Crowley, she's in Austin, Texas, covering the Bush campaign.
First to you, John, we do anticipate shortly to hear from the Gore campaign. Talk to us briefly about the strategy at this point. What can we expect Gore campaign officials to be plotting?
KING: The public line, Wolf, from the Gore campaign is that this latest count is not the last count, that even the secretary of state tonight left open the possibility that she would consider the results from the three hand recounts underway. And the new rallying cry of the Gore campaign is, look at Volusia. Volusia, one of the four counties where the vice president requested a hand recount. That was completed today and when those results were turned in to the secretary of state it showed a net gain for the vice president of 98 votes.
The Gore campaign is confident when the recount resumes tomorrow morning in Palm Beach County, that if it goes on in Miami-Dade County and Broward County, that at the end of that process the vice president will more than close that 300-vote gap we see there in the state of Florida. They are saying, you heard Karen Hughes say, we are a country of rules and laws. They would say the law of the state of Florida clearly allows them to ask for this recount and that's what they are going to do.
A bit concerned that with every declaration that Governor Bush is ahead the public will grow tired of all this. But again, they will point to the recounts still under way and urge everyone, not only in Florida, but in the country, to withhold judgment until they're completed.
BLITZER: And Candy, as far as the strategy of the Bush campaign is concerned, what if anything can they do to prevent those hand recounts in those three Florida counties from being counted when all is said and done, when the final certification of who won the Florida election comes forward?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, first of all, what we're seeing here is there's sort of a battle for the heart and mind of the secretary of state of Florida. You know, the Bush campaign arguing vociferously that there was a deadline and that these are the certified results or should be the certified results.
They argue that these hand counts in heavily Democratic counties aren't uniform. You heard Karen talk about that a little bit, talking about how there was absolutely no standard procedure even within a county as to how you should look at these ballots when you're hand counting them.
So they're pressuring the Florida secretary of state very hard publicly to keep all of those things in mind even as the Gore campaign is pressuring her to take into account all of the hand-counted ballots.
I mean, I think there's one very clear line here. The Bush campaign clearly wants none of the hand-counted ballots to come in after the 5:00 deadline: that is in any of the three counties now apparently about to go undergo or are undergoing a hand count. The bush campaign doesn't want any of those to count and the Gore campaign wants all of those to count.
So you know, we at least can understand that. In all the legalese, that's what's going on here.
In addition to just publicly pushing the secretary of state, there's the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the Bush campaign has taken its argument against these hand-counted ballots as being unfair and diluting the votes of others in Florida whose ballots did not undergo the same scrutiny. So there is that legal option out there as well.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley reporting from Austin on the Bush campaign and John King reporting from Washington on the Gore campaign.
This note to our viewers: We do anticipate that within about 15 minutes or so, at the bottom of the hour, we will hear from representatives of the Gore campaign. When they come out to make their case, CNN, of course, will bring that to you live as well.
Let's go get some more insight into the legal maneuvering now under way in Florida. We're joined from Miami by David Cardwell. He's Florida's former state elections director.
Mr. Cardwell, thanks for joining us.
When the secretary of state says that she is going to take a look at these arguments made by these three Florida counties, the facts and circumstances, why they may want to go ahead with a hand recount, what are those facts and circumstances that could convince her potentially to allow the hand count to play in this election?
DAVID CARDWELL, FORMER FLORIDA STATE ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Well, it's going to be very interesting, Wolf, because when the canvassing boards decided to go with a full manual recount after they did their three, or in the case of Palm Beach County, four precincts, they had to determine that there was a reasonable basis for them to proceed, that they had found enough errors or that there were enough concerns raised that they needed to proceed to a recount of the entire county.
So at that point, they made those determinations. They should communicate those concerns and determinations to the secretary of state. And now what's going to be interesting is that she's then second-guessed the county canvassing boards when she made those decisions.
BLITZER: She's in an enormously difficult position, because if she allows the hand recount to be considered, it could tip the scales in favor of Vice President Gore, but she is a Republican and the Democrats in the Gore campaign keep pointing out that she was a co- chair of the Bush campaign in Florida, and she's even thought at one point, according to press reports, of being a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida in 2002. How does that factor into her very, very pivotal decision-making process?
CARDWELL: Well, the secretary of state has historically been the chief election officer, but has really relied upon the Division of Elections as an almost autonomous division to carry out that responsibility. This election, as we know, is so unprecedented that it really has thrust the secretary, in addition to the division, into the forefront really of many of these issues.
Let me also remind you that when we say the secretary of state accepts the returns, the process for the statewide certification is that the secretary of state's office through the division of elections receives the reports from the counties, and when they get those returns, it's up to the division to then compile those. And those are then submitted to the so-called Election Canvassing Commission, which consists of the secretary, the director of the division elections and the governor. In this instance, the governor recused himself, and Bob Crawford, the Democratic commissioner of agriculture but a Bush supporter, is sitting on the commission instead.
So it's actually that commission that will certify the returns.
BLITZER: All right. We only have time for your bottom-line assessment right now. No one knows the Florida election law as well as you do. Tell us what your best estimate is, your best assessment, what is going to play out over the next few days.
CARDWELL: Oh, Wolf, after the last few days, every idea I may have had in the past of what should be happening has gone by the wayside. This is totally unpredictable, but I would assume what will have is we'll have a certified count as of 5 o'clock this afternoon, and only when there is a county that shows a significant change in votes, if they complete their manual recount, will those returns be accepted.
If a manual recount is done and there is an indication that it was done correctly and there was a change in the vote totals, I don't see how the secretary, even if she's, you know, a strong supporter of one candidate or the other, is going to be able to resist the fact that the recount resulted in a very different total.
BLITZER: All right, David Cardwell, thank you so much for joining us from Miami.
We want to go to New York now to speak with Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor. He's also been a lawyer for some of the Florida Democratic voters who have not been happy with this process that's unfolded so far.
Alan Dershowitz, you just heard from the secretary of state of Florida say she's willing to listen the facts and circumstances, the arguments by these three Florida counties whether or not she will allow the hand count to go forward. And you just heard David Cardwell say that the pressure on her will be enormous to allow that hand recount if in fact there are some discrepancies. You have a vested interest. You represent some of those Democratic voters. What's your sense now? How is this developing? ALAN DERSHOWITZ, ATTORNEY FOR FLORIDA VOTERS: Well, I also represent a Republican voter and some independent voters. Look, who's kidding who? The secretary of state works for George Bush. She will exercise her discretion to assure that George Bush wins the election. She will look to see what the recount is. If the recount in Palm Beach County favors Bush, she'll say, gee. we're going to accept those votes. If the recount favors Gore, she's going to find reasons not to accept it.
I was in court yesterday, in the federal court where the Republicans were arguing against the exercise of human discretion. Who knows? Somebody might actually count one or two votes wrongly because they were unconsciously a Democrat and that should throw out all the hand vote.
But here we have the entire election of the president of the United States in the hand of a Bush functionary. It would make the Bolsheviks proud. The Americans will not accept an election determined by a functionary of the Republican Party who is the co- chair of the Bush campaign. It simply isn't acceptable.
BLITZER: But she was the duly elected secretary of state of Florida and as you heard David Cardwell say, that traditionally has been the chief elections officer in that state. Should she recuse herself from this?
DERSHOWITZ: Of course she should, if she's the chairman of the Bush campaign. Remember too, she's corrupt. She's the woman who has had all kinds of problems. She's had to pay back $20,000 of laundered money. She's had all kind of corruption allegations about expenditures of money. She's a crook. She's a crook and an operative of the Bush campaign and she's the person who's going to decide the election for president of the United States. Of course it's going to end up in the courts. Nobody is going to accept this as legitimate.
BLITZER: But you heard the circuit court judge in Tallahassee today say that she does have this discretion. She can decide whether or not to allow a hand recount to go forward.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, but the statute says very clearly that hand recounts are appropriate. She didn't in any event stop the hand recount until she saw which way it was going. The secretary of state may have discretion but not this secretary of state. She's a functionary of the Republican Party. Any legal proceeding would have her recuse. Three judges recused themselves. The governor recused himself. The time has come for her to recuse herself.
This should be determined by objective, neutral people. We are willing, as lawyers for the voters, to have all the votes hand counted by neutral, objective people. No Democrats, no Republicans, scientists, but surely the secretary of state who's a Republican functionary, co-chair, should not be the one to exercise discretion. I promise you that she will exercise discretion so as to make George Bush president.
And I ask your viewers, would any of you put the lives of your families, the wealth of your families in the hand of somebody who is on the other side and you would trust to exercise discretion properly? That is not the American way.
BLITZER: All right, Alan Dershowitz, unfortunately we are all out of time. I just want to point out some of the things you were saying were allegations, not necessarily proven facts involving the secretary of state of Florida.
DERSHOWITZ: Some of them were proven. Some of them were proven. She returned the $20,000 after it was proven she laundered it. That was proof.
BLITZER: Well, we'll have to leave a lot of that for another time. Unfortunately, we are all out of time. Alan Dershowitz, thanks for joining us.
We have to take a quick break. We have a lot more on this developing story. Stay with us on this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to conclusively resolve the obvious contradiction between the total we had from the hand-held count, hand count, and what the computer tells us. I think if we had had one or two more days we would have said, oh, here it is, and it would have been perfectly resolvable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special edition of THE WORLD TODAY. We are standing by, awaiting remarks from representatives of the Gore campaign. When they make those remarks, we will of course bring them to you live.
In the meantime, a few minutes now on where the manual recount stands in four disputed Florida counties. Yesterday a federal court refused to stop the tally by hand. Today, the Bush campaign appealed that ruling, moving that matter to the 11th U.S. circuit court of appeals in Atlanta.
In the meantime, the Associated Press says manual recount in Volusia County, certified just before the 5:00 p.m. deadline gave Al Gore a net gain of some 98 votes. Bush's overall lead, according to the Florida secretary of state, is now 300 votes out of nearly six million cast.
In Broward County, a state said Broward officials could wait for guidance from the state supreme court before deciding whether to move ahead with a manual recount. In Miami-Dade County, a recount by hand got underway today in three precincts where the Democrats have asked for another tally.
The legal wrangling in Palm Beach County is perhaps the trickiest. The county attorney says a hand recount will begin tomorrow morning unless a court order stops it. Separate from that are lawsuits by voters who say they were confused by the ballot, and complicating matters, the effort just to find a judge to hear their case.
For more on that, here's CNN's Mark Potter.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jorge LaBarga was the sixth Palm Beach County circuit court judge asked to rule on the vote cases. The first five recused themselves because of alleged bias or ties to attorneys who filed the lawsuits.
After a brief hearing, Judge LaBarga issued a ruling that enabled the Palm Beach County canvassing board to certify their election results. In doing so, he said it was OK with him if the board also began a county-wide manual ballot recount.
JUSTICE JORGE LABARGA, PALM BEACH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: The canvassing board is hereby permitted pursuant to section 102.166 Florida statutes to conduct a manual count of the ballots if they so feel.
POTTER: Attorneys for Palm Beach County voters who claimed they lost their vote because of confusion over the butterfly ballot applauded the judge's ruling.
GARY FARMER, VOTER'S ATTORNEY: We're very pleased with Judge LaBarga's ruling today. This is the first judge the state of Florida in this election who has ordered that a manual recount may go forward.
POTTER: The judge also denied a motion to move all the Palm Beach County election lawsuits to Tallahassee, the Florida capital. In a hearing scheduled for the morning, he must decide whether to grant a request from the Florida Democratic Party that he order the canvassing board to also count so-called dimpled ballots -- ballots which were not fully punched out by the voters.
BEN KUEHNE, DEMOCRATIC PARTY ATTORNEY: When a person makes a real attempt to vote a ballot, and you can look at any of these questionable ballots and you would decide, wait a minute I know that person intended to vote.
POTTER (on camera): Still to be determined is what happens to the nearly dozen lawsuits filed by Palm Beach County residents, most of whom want a new county-wide presidential election declared because of confusion over the ballot design.
Mark Potter, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.
BLITZER: After the break, we'll get perspective -- further perspective on today's dramatic developments and we're also standing by for a news conference from representatives of Al Gore's campaign. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There should be a statewide hand recount of all the ballots cast in the state of Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. We're standing by awaiting a conference from representatives of the Gore campaign. In the meantime, as we wait, let's go to West Palm Beach. CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren is at ground zero in the legal battle in Florida, which happens to be Palm Beach County.
Greta, tell us what's going on down there.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, what we're waiting for is tomorrow morning to start when we're going to have a manual recount of the votes here in Palm Beach. Actually, just last Saturday it was about 30 feet away from where I'm seated, but now it has been moved to accommodate the larger number of people who are going to be counting ballots.
But there's been a lot of legal action today and I want to take us to Mike Carvin, who's the national legal counsel for the Bush- Cheney campaign. He's up in Tallahassee.
Mike, did you win or lose today in Tallahassee or was it a draw?
MICHAEL CARVIN, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Oh, no, we won very big. It was a very significant victory. The Democratic strategy has been to delay tapped delay until they get a number they like. And the court today said there's a mandatory deadline, not imposed by state officials like Ms. Harris, but by the state legislature and I think that was a very significant victory.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let me ask you, though, about a question. I have the question. The judge's decision today said in his order that he was ordering the secretary of state, he directed to withhold determinations as to whether or not ignore late filed returns.
In other words, tomorrow if the recount in Palm Beach County, the manual recount shows that Vice President Al Gore has more votes than Governor Bush, doesn't that -- isn't that a signal to the secretary of state she's for to count those?
CARVIN: No, no, she doesn't have to count those. The court was quite clear that she has discretion to exclude it and that's there's a mandatory deadline, so it's only in extraordinary circumstances that she would ever have to take a late vote...
VAN SUSTEREN: Let me interrupt for a second to go to Bill Daley in Tallahassee. WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: ... both unfortunate and inexplicable. We continue to believe that a full, and fair and accurate count of votes by the bipartisan county board of canvassers is the best way to determine what was the true will of the people of Florida.
Every Floridian has the right to have his or her vote counted. The Bush campaign and the secretary of state, in our opinion, are trying to cut off that right. We don't support that.
Secretary Harris' new-found requirement that the counties write a memorandum to be submitted to her tomorrow is not supported by the judge's ruling today, that set aside the hard and fast deadline of 5 p.m. set by Secretary Harris. It is another effort in a series of efforts to obstruct the work of these counties to count the votes of the people of Florida.
Let me also respond to the statement by the Bush campaign, the suggestion that the vote counting by the bipartisan county board of canvassers is somehow a partisan effort, is truly unfounded.
Full or partial hand counts have been completed or are under way in 11 counties, some with Republican majorities and some with Democratic majorities, and some very closely divided. This is not about politics. It is about determining the will of the people fully and accurately.
Let me be clear. Our goal is very simple: to have the votes of the people of Florida counted fairly and fully. The Bush campaign and Secretary Harris have engaged in a variety of tactics to block, or to slow this count: lawsuits in federal court, unfounded orders by the secretary of state, and now this new edict. It is time to end these tactics and move ahead with what we all want, and that is a timely count of these votes.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: In this decision earlier today, you folks pointed out that what the judge said Secretary Harris can't do is be arbitrary, but that it's her discretion. So, if she's trying not to be arbitrary, and asking the counties, "Help me understand why you want a manual recount, and why you need the extra time," what's unreasonable about that?
DALEY: But to respond to quickly and put another requirement, as they are trying to gear up, and trying to move forward -- they are very burdened, as you know, by this tremendous job that they have to complete a task, which is very difficult in a short order. She can make that determination as she goes through this week.
But put another burden on these people as they are trying to begin, in some of these counties, the canvass; and try and get from them a requirement by 2 tomorrow afternoon, to then do what with, we don't know, and they don't know, seems to be a burden that was not there, and not required obviously by the court, and is another attempt, in many ways, to try to put a burden on people who are terribly taxed right now, trying to accomplish what the people of Florida want, what the people of America want, and what seems to be required by the courts.
QUESTION: You talk about, so quickly. The court seemed to say that the deadline today at 5 should be upheld, and then she could use her discretion. What is the problem now? For 72 hours, for example, Palm Beach has not counted a single vote.
DALEY: And they're trying to get moving. All these counties are trying to move forward, trying to accomplish something under tremendous burden, tremendous stress by all of us. These are people who are just trying to do a good job, trying to respond day after day to different orders, different requirements.
I think the judge was clear today. Everyone had a clear path in which we could move forward. And now another requirement just seems to be another attempt to slow this thing down.
QUESTION: Do you feel like partisan politics played a role in the secretary's decision-making?
DALEY: Well, I wouldn't want to judge that. It would be left to others to judge. But it just seems to be an attempt to try to, once again, slow down this count, which would be unfortunate, because I think the counties that are in question here are all trying to do the best they can under incredible stress and strain.
QUESTION: Palm Beach County indicated today it will likely take a week for them to finish this manual recount, at least. Are you insisting on a deadline that stretches into or past next week?
DALEY: I'm not insisting on any deadline. But anything that adds an extra requirement on those people, who are under stress and strain, I think is unfortunate. It doesn't accomplish what the court wanted today.
VAN SUSTEREN: We've been listening to Bill Daley of the Gore campaign. He is critical of a new requirement that he says, a new edict set down by the secretary of the state of Florida requiring the counties who are going to do manual counts to submit a memorandum by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow to her.
Mike, let me go back to you. What about this new-found requirement as Bill Daley calls it? Is there any source of this in the statute? Does she have any authority or point to ask for that? CARVIN: No, obviously it's being consistent with the court's opinion from today because the court wanted the secretary to consider all the facts and circumstances. And I've never heard it called a burden when you're simply asking to explain their reasons for this extraordinary activity which is in facial violation of state law. These people have missed a deadline and they need to explain why.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let's go to -- well, let me ask CNN's expert on election law, Ken Gross.
Ken, what do you make of this requirement tomorrow, this 2:00 p.m. deadline.
KEN GROSS, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, it's hard to get too excited about this. This is a procedural thing that she, the secretary of state, is requesting. The court did say she had to exercise discretion and the idea that she's going to require a statement of explanation I don't think is unreasonable. I think she needs to make a reasoned judgment.
Let's face it, as soon as she makes this decision at 2:00 tomorrow, she's going to get sued. There are lawsuits probably by the Bush and the Gore camp that are sitting on some lawyers desk in draft form with her name as the defendant in the lawsuit. So, I think she's going to want to build as much case as she can depending on whatever decision she makes.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ken, let me ask you, though, is 2:00 p.m. a little onerous on the counties in light of the fact that the overseas ballots won't even be counted until midnight on Friday? Do you think that it's a little bit tough to put this burden? At least here in Palm Beach County I know that they are going to be here as early as 7:00 a.m. to be count ballots. What about the deadline -- the actual deadline itself?
GROSS: I was a little surprised at that. I mean, there is still a lot of legal action going and we do have to the end of the week. I think probably a little bit more latitude. The lawyers aren't counting the ballots so the lawyers will be at work trying to prepare this statement by 2:00. I think she could have given a little bit of latitude but in view of what's going on, I don't think this should be the paramount concern.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mike, let me go to the 11th circuit, the United States court of appeals, the 11th circuit in Atlanta, and ask you, is the Bush-Cheney ticket asking for emergency consideration of the decision yesterday by the federal judge in Miami denying the request to stop the manual counting?
CARVIN: They've filed papers and I believe there will be additional papers tomorrow outlining our position and asking for an expeditious briefing schedule.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mike, let me ask you, what is going to be the position of the Bush campaign, hypothetically, if, in this next few days, there is a manual count in these counties, if it does go forward at least as expected now and it turns out that the Gore campaign has votes more than the Bush campaign and they go the secretary of state and ask that they be counted? Will the Bush campaign step in and file an action?
CARVIN: Well, I don't know that we would file an action, but whether Mr. Gore or Mr. Bush comes out on top, all of this activity is facially illegal. The state legislature established a long time ago a very firm deadline. These people have deliberately violated it. And there's simply no reason or excuse for this extraordinary delay. So whatever the outcome of this, everything that goes forward from this point, or after 5:00 today, is completely unauthorized by law and facially illegal.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we are going to take a break. And when we come back, we are going to be joined by one of the key players here in West Palm Beach, Carol Roberts. Stay with us.
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back, Ken, let me go back to you up in Tallahassee. You wanted to respond before we went to break.
GROSS: Bush's counsel was saying that under no circumstances should there be any basis -- is there any basis in the law to consider taking these counts after today, and I simply don't see that. In fact, the court's order contemplated possibility. He did set a standard for it that's going to have to be exercised by the secretary of state, but that statement just went too far. I think there is a basis for these too come in, and she's got to consider that basis.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, let me turn to the center of the controversy here in West Palm Beach. Carol, you are the Palm Beach -- you're on the Palm Beach canvassing commission. What are you going to do at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning?
CAROL ROBERTS, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING COMMISSION: We're going to start recounting, hand-counting ballots.
VAN SUSTEREN: And what do you have set up? How many people are coming? What's the drill?
ROBERTS: We have 25 teams set up of two people. We have a Republican observer, a Democratic observer. So there's going to be 100 people in the room. We have set up a Republican and a Democrat to go over the questionable -- quote -- "questionable," ballots with the canvassing team.
We have set up two, seven-hour teams, so that we're going to be canvassing, relooking at this for 14 hours, teams working seven hours at a time, 14 hours a day.
VAN SUSTEREN: Carol, what's your -- why are you passionate? Why are you doing this?
ROBERTS: Greta, I lost an election by one vote in the city commission election. I know how important every vote is. And a vote is the voice of the people, and America ought to have the right to have its voice heard.
VAN SUSTEREN: Looking at these votes, do you worry that you are subjective, that you are trying to get the intent of the voter that could be wrong?
ROBERTS: Machines are subjective. You know, if you don't actually punch the hole through enough, the machine doesn't count it. So the machine, in its own way, is subjective.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's it like to be at the center of this? Two weeks ago there wasn't much media here and now there's a lot of media? What's it like?
ROBERTS: It's scary and it's awesome that three people in Palm Beach County are going to have the impact in American history that we're going to have.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about Theresa LePore, who is the women who's also participating tomorrow, and she's the one who designed the butterfly ballots that's at the center of the controversy? What do you think it's like for her?
ROBERTS: I think it's awesome for her, and I think the pressure and the tension is even greater on her than it is for myself and the judge.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why?
ROBERTS: Because she feels the responsibility. She set out to do a good thing. She wanted to make it easier for the large number of senior citizens to read the small print, so she made it bigger. In order to do that she had to put it on two pages.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, give me as estimate: When are we going to get the final manual count, assuming it goes through? When will it happen here in Palm Beach County?
ROBERTS: I am hopeful it will be finished by Sunday.
VAN SUSTEREN: Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Greta Van Susteren in West Palm Beach, thanks for joining us.
We have to take a quick break. When we come back, some final thoughts. We'll sort out the politics of all of this with one of the best political reporters in Washington, Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times." Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think it's time to call it, who the president is, and let them start to put together their administration and their policy for the future. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back. Joining us now is Ron Brownstein, a political correspondent for "The Los Angeles Times" and a CNN political analyst.
You had a piece this morning in "The L.A. Times" that caused a big stir about a trial balloon, in effect, a proposal to end this politically. Is it still possible for cooler heads in the Gore campaign and the Bush campaign to get together and work this out in some sort of compromise?
RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Boy, it feels like the moment may have passed already with this decision, the state court decision today allowing the secretary of state to certify all the results this afternoon. Some people in the Gore campaign were talking about approaching the Bush people with a deal in which they would say, OK, let's recount the entire state by hand, you give up your objection to the hand recount and we will renounce further litigation on any other issue in the state.
That was shot down officially by the Bush people very quickly. The Gore people didn't seem to close the door to it. But now, it's somewhat moot because you have this process moving forward in the state court. And it seems to be one that is likely to produce an unhappy result, no matter what.
BROWNSTEIN: On the one hand, if the secretary of state goes ahead and cuts off tomorrow the hand recount, Democrats are going to feel aggrieved. They're going to feel that she was, as Alan Dershowitz said, a Republican functionary trying to steal the election.
On the other hand, if either she surprises us by allowing them to go forward or the courts overrule her, you may get hand recounts only in a few counties, most of them Democratic-leaning. And if that produces a Gore lead, Republicans are going to feel that wasn't fair.
BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, final thought from you. Thanks for joining us. Unfortunately, we are all out of time. "LARRY KING LIVE" with Bob Dole is next. I'll be back here tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.