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The Florida Recount: State Supreme Court Orders Election Officials to Accept Manual Recounts; Bush Campaign Denounces RulingAired November 21, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: A Florida...
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Good evening...
WOODRUFF: Go ahead.
GREENFIELD: Sorry, Judy. Go ahead.
WOODRUFF: I was just going to say hello, Jeff, and we want to say that the Florida Supreme Court has, as now know, handed a significant victory to Vice President Al Gore in the race for the White House, a ruling just moments ago that the hand recount of ballots in three South Florida counties will go forward and will be continued in the official vote tally for the state of Florida. The ruling came down in an announcement at 9:45 Eastern Time by Supreme Court clerk Craig Waters.
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG WATERS, CLERK, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT: "The court has issued a 42-page opinion this evening under presidential election cases. In its opinion, the court has reversed the two orders of the trial court. It did so based on longstanding rules that govern how to interpret a general statute containing conflicting provisions, as is the case with Florida's election code.
In dealing with similar conflicts in the past, the court has consistently held that the right of the people to cast their vote is the paramount concern overriding all others.
To achieve this goal, the court holds that amended certifications from the county canvassing boards must be accepted by the Election Canvassing Commission through 5:00 p.m. on November 26th if the secretary of state's office is open for the special purpose of receiving amended certifications. If that office is not open for this purpose on that date, then the Elections Canvassing Commission must accept amended certifications until 9:00 a.m. on November 27.
The opinion of the court is unanimous.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: Once again, Florida's Supreme Court clerk Craig Waters announcing a decision of the court, a unanimous ruling that the hand recount will continue, that those totals, whatever they are, will be included in the final certified tally for the state of Florida.
Let's go now to CNN's Bill Hemmer in Tallahassee outside the Florida state Supreme Court building -- Bill.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Judy, here's the ruling, 43 pages in length, and I can tell you it is quite detailed: the justices outlining the argument step by step, really from the virtually beginning point when this case became an issue in Florida. They talk about very specific things, about Volusia County and Broward County and Palm Beach County. But again, as you heard Craig Waters a short time ago, he indicated Sunday 5 o'clock local time here in Tallahassee the certification should be handed in, the new counts should be handed into the secretary of state's office.
There's a provision that if indeed the office cannot handle that at that time -- in other words, a holiday weekend this weekend -- that 9:00 a.m. Monday morning, the 27th, is the absolute deadline.
There's a number of things talked in this report here, Judy, a couple of things I want to point out though. The justices talk about this conflict of time, this deadline. If you remember in court yesterday, there was a lot of attention given in part by the justices, well, what's equitable for a large population with a large number of people to go ahead and recount their votes and get it in with that seven-day deadline that Katherine Harris set up a week ago today.
They also cite a court case 25 years ago here in Florida, and just to give you an indication of the what justices believe they thought was important, part of that case reads -- and it's underlined actually in the opinion of the court. It says: "The right to vote is the right to participate. It is also the right to speak, but more importantly, the right to be heard."
Clearly, again, the justices saying the will of the people based on the vote is the paramount, the paramount issue in this case here in Florida.
They also talked about the word shall and may. We've heard so much talk about that over the past two weeks. That's a statute in state law here in Florida that the secretary of state says guided her through this process, between shall and may depending on when they can take in votes from different counties past the deadline.
Now, there seems to be also a clear signal from the court that they're saying to the counties, look, you're getting extra time to go ahead and count, but do it as quickly as you can. Sunday is your deadline, 9:00 a.m. Monday morning at the absolute latest.
Some may suggest this is Solomon-ic. You know, it's almost like a divided opinion, where they're saying the votes do count, but only up to a certain date. And again, we know that that this is this weekend. Again, 43 pages in length, very detailed. We'll try to get through more of it shortly here in Tallahassee.
Back now to you, Judy, in Washington.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Hemmer, thanks very much. We want to go directly to Austin, Texas, to our Candy Crowley, who's been covering the Bush campaign throughout this year.
Candy, what is their reaction to what they must consider a setback?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, they obviously consider it a setback, Judy. We have no reaction right now. I'm told there are meetings going on at headquarters. They are no doubt talking to the lawyers in Florida as they go through this very lengthy document.
What we've seen in the past when there have been adverse court rulings in the past, two weeks or so, is the Bush people always found sort of, you know, the pony in it, saying, well, this wasn't on the merits or -- and here's what was favorable to us. So I'm sure they're pouring over it for, you know, any sort of thing in there which they can seize on.
But there's hardly any way to gussy this up at this point. What the Bush camp wanted was the recounts stopped, what they wanted was the right of the secretary of state of Florida to be able to certify this election as it stood on Saturday. They have lost on both those counts, and not only can the recounts go on, but this court opinion clearly says they must be counted.
So you know, as we await this reaction to the court ruling, you can only assume that this is not a good day for the Bush campaign, and that on all counts they basically lost the core of what they wanted to have out of this court -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Candy, I know we've been asking you this question all day long. What is -- what are they saying to you about what their plans are after an unfavorable ruling?
CROWLEY: Well, they really didn't -- one assumes they must have some template. If this happens, we can do the following four things. If this happens, we can do the following three things.
But what they have said all along is when we don't know what the court is going to rule on, much less how they're going to rule, it's almost impossible for us to tell you what we might do next or what we won't do next.
They do have what they called in past days a placemarker in the federal appeals court, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. I don't know how that fits into the grand scheme of things in the way courts work, but that is still out there. But they never sort of tipped their hand one way or the other as to whether they would pursue this beyond the Florida Supreme Court. I will tell you that they, as of, you know, the moments before this court ruling, that they felt very strongly that they did have the support of Republicans on Capitol Hill, of Republicans across the nation to pursue this in whatever legal manner there was as long as they wanted to.
Now, that doesn't mean necessarily that George Bush will do that, but that he has the support of the Republicans to pursue this is a legal manner if he wants to -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Candy Crowley in Austin. Thanks a lot, Candy.
And now to CNN's John King here in Washington. John, you've been covering the Gore campaign for lo these many months. They must be very happy right now.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are indeed, Judy, quite encouraged. The vice president as we speak is on a telephone conference call with his senior legal advisers, led by David Boies, the attorney who presented the case to the Florida state Supreme Court, and his senior political advisers, led by Bill Daley, the former commerce secretary, also the Gore campaign chairman.
One senior official involved in this discussion telling CNN a few moments ago we view this as a very positive, encouraging development. Obviously, the court believes the will of the people should be honored in Florida.
One concern there are raising is the fact that the court is saying this should be done in five days, by the 26th of November. The Gore team saying that that concerns them a little bit, because several of the officials in the three counties where the counts are under way have said it could perhaps take into the first week of December to complete the counts.
So obviously, they are bit a concerned about the timetable, but they'll take that tonight.
This was a key decision they needed: not only a legal decision that keeps the recount effort going, but a legal decision that helps them politically make the case that the vice president is right to stay in and fight and contest this election.
We are told that the conclusion of this strategy call tonight, where they are reading a 42-page decision and looking into the fine details, that it is quite possible that we will hear from the vice president himself. If not, we are told we will hear from senior campaign officials, perhaps the legal team. But right now, the vice president quite encouraged by this ruling, and again, we could hear from him shortly.
WOODRUFF: And John, one must also assume that they are bracing themselves to challenges, appeals and so forth from the Bush camp. We just heard from Candy that the Bush people feeling supported by Republicans all over the country to do just that, to keep this going. KING: And the Gore people will feel supported by the Democrats now that the state's highest court has said this is a process the secretary of state should consider. So yes, we will have a very difficult, very contested legal and political battle in the days ahead.
We will look at the numbers later in the show, of course, I'm sure. The vice president making up numbers in the manual recount. But everyone expects this will come down to the contested ballots, those with little dimples or marks in them, but not punched all the way through.
The Gore campaign was hoping the state Supreme Court would set a clear standard on how the counties should count those. Lacking that, they will go to each county and push for them to count those dimpled ballots. The Gore campaign believes that is the way -- and the only way, they concede -- the vice president will make up enough votes.
And in cases where this has happened -- some of Governor Bush's lawyers have been involved in similar cases in congressional races -- there are opportunities sometimes when these ballots, one by one, are brought before either county officials, sometimes even before judges, and they have a fight before the local official or the judge over whether an individual ballot should be counted.
We could well be heading down that path as a result of tonight's decision.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King here in Washington. I want to go quickly now to New York, my colleague, CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, surely the Bush people were hoping this would all be over tonight, the ruling would be favorable to them. It is not favorable to them. We're now looking for at least in the near term a protracted, dragged-out fight, further dragged-out fight between these two candidates.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: That's right. I think one thing we can say is well, we know what the Supreme Court has said. If I may use an old legal cliche, it raises a lot more questions than it answers in the days ahead.
I just want to point out a couple of things. Why the deadline? You will remember in the oral argument, the judges kept coming back to that date of December 12th, December 12th. That is the date that Florida has to list who the electors are. The justices were saying if this goes beyond that, we may lose all our electoral votes.
So, it seems to me, at first blush, they gave these counties a relatively short amount of time to count to permit whatever else had to happen to be concluded before December 12. A contested election, a contest -- I'm sorry -- once the final certification is made.
The second thing is we have been hearing as John King and Candy Crowley both told us, some very tough language on the part of the Bush campaign ever since the election, about their notions that Democrats were trying to steal votes. If the local canvassing boards, the county canvassing boards in Democratic counties count all those disputed ballots,
I think you could be at least looking down the road at the possibility of the Republican state legislature coming in and saying, we're not going to accept those ballots as valid. That's not how we're going to pick electors and if you think we've seen a confused and difficult terrain so far, if I may quote the vice president, it may be that you ain't seen nothing yet.
All we know right now is that these county canvassing boards have until Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend to count, and we know Miami-Dade said it would take them a couple of weeks longer than that to count all the votes. And one last point, what happens if Miami-Dade is halfway through its count on Sunday evening? We don't know.
WOODRUFF: Jeff, on the point -- your second point about the very tough language coming out from both sides here, particularly in the last few days from the Republicans, we can expect them to challenge this in every conceivable way where they think can make some headway here?
GREENFIELD: Yes, but what I'm suggesting is that the normal way you might expect a court decision to be challenge, namely by taking it to the next step, even the Republican lawyers think that taking this into federal court is very, very problematic because courts in general have said when it comes to elections, the Constitution and the federal law is clear. It gives the states virtually full power.
But the challenge that could come from the state legislature, which the federal election law and the Constitution both point to as the ultimate authority over election, that's where the challenge could really raise all kinds of questions that we literally have not seen in 125 years.
Just very quickly, imagine if the hand counts come in and they are counted expansively, that is those so-called dimpled ballots, and they give Gore a razor-thin margin and fearing a contempt citation the secretary of state and the state canvassing board certifies Al Gore the winner, the state legislature still may try to do something to change that.
I realize we're speaking in hypotheticals, but we can't ignore the possibility that what this court may have set in motion is further political and constitutional challenges that none of us have ever lived through.
WOODRUFF: All right. In other words, suggesting that this whole thing may end up right back in the political arena where it began.
GREENFIELD: In fact. Yes, sir -- yes, ma'am.
WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much and I know we're going to be coming back to you shortly. We're going to take a break. When we come back, we're going to talk to our correspondents in those three south Florida counties where the hand recount continues. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Just quickly recapping, within the hour, the Florida state Supreme Court ruling in favor of Vice President Al Gore, in effect saying that the hand recounting of votes in three south Florida counties must go forward, will go forward and that those totals will be included in the state vote tally.
Just to give you word that we just learn from our John King Vice President Al Gore will have a statement to make at 11:00, Eastern time. CNN will carry that as we get it.
Joining us now from Tallahassee, Bob Crawford, who is a state agriculture commissioner in Florida. Bob Crawford, you are a Democrat, but you took Governor Jeb Bush's place in the Florida state canvassing committee. You have been supportive of Secretary of State Katherine Harris throughout these arguments over the last few weeks. What is your reaction by this ruling by state's highest court?
ROBERT CRAWFORD, FLORIDA STATE CANVASSING COMMISSION: It's a very interesting ruling. I'm pleased that it was an unanimous ruling. I think that's good for the credibility of the court and the moral authority of the court.
I do have some concerns about the fact that this is going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the local canvassing commissions and counters of these votes at the county level. We're now into the Thanksgiving holidays, and I just hope that those counties don't get into a vote-counting frenzy and overlook procedures that should be followed to make sure we get a true and accurate account of the votes.
WOODRUFF: What is to stop them from putting people on say overtime, extra shifts of people to get this done and to get it done in an orderly way as no doubt the court, the Supreme Court, would have done.
CRAWFORD: I think that's what they need to do. They probably should have been doing that a lot earlier. One of the problems three is that you can't add to the official canvassing boards of each county who have to make a decision on the disputed ballots. So, they're Going to be working overtime. They're not going to enjoy much of the Thanksgiving dinner.
But if they do it in orderly fashion, we can get to a reasonable conclusion. If it's not orderly, my concern is that it will open up the process to more challenges, more contesting of the elections after certification is done. If you drag that out too long, we so bump into the December 12th deadline, where it's important to meet that deadline to get our 25 electoral votes certified for the count for the nation.
WOODRUFF: Are you in a position -- I know you had been on the other side of this argument. You were, again, supporting the secretary of state, Katherine Harris and saying that these votes should be certified as is, without the hand recounts. But in your position with the state canvassing committee, are you now in a position to support these three counties to see that this process is done in an orderly and timely manner?
CRAWFORD: Absolutely. I've always said we'll do everything we can to help the counties get their work done, get their votes counted. That's our job and that's part of the integrity of the system. Now, the legislature laid out an orderly process that said you have the election and it's seven days later, the election is over, except for the overseas ballots. Now, the court has said they think it's a better idea if you extend that for two more weeks, maybe you can have a more orderly process. That's going to a peril now the court has undertaken because it could be more disorderly and cause more confusion. I'm hoping that it does not, that we can get to the end of the election with a true and accurate count of the vote and we're going to be doing everything we can to do that.
WOODRUFF: Just last question, Bob Crawford, are you disappointed?
CRAWFORD: I'm disappointed that we can't come to a conclusion that I think the legislature intended us to. But I will not be disappointed if we can come to an accurate vote count that clearly reflects the will of the people of this state. That's the most important thing. The voters are the number one party in this whole issue and we're going to make sure that their rights are respected.
All right. Bob Crawford with the Florida State Canvassing Commission. You are also the state agriculture commissioner. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.
And now we want to go to CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti in Broward County, one of those three counties where the hand recounts are very much underway.
Susan, are you beginning to get a reaction there to this momentous ruling by the state Supreme Court?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Judy, we are.
All the key participants, however, that were participating in all of this, including the members of the canvassing board and other attorneys, partisan attorneys, have now bolted from this building. But earlier they were glued to the TV set and when announcement was made we saw a fist pump in the air, we saw a slap on the back between a couple of the Democratic attorneys here. No comment at all from the Republicans.
But we did receive this reaction from one of the Democratic members of the canvassing board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wanted to make a difference and the 43rd president of the United States voice will be heard. We will be continuing to count tomorrow at 8:00 in the morning. The people's voice will count and it will be a fair decision made by everyone in the state of Florida, at least in Broward County.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: Attorneys representing Florida's Democratic Party said they would let the spokesman for the Gore campaign do all the talking for them. However, I did ask one of the lawyers if he thought this board will be able to meet the court's deadline and he said, quote, I would be stunned if we don't.
There is a lot of work to do here, though. Earlier this day on the seventh day of counting 588,000 ballots, all 609 precincts have now been reexamined and there is a net gain of 106 votes for Vice President Gore.
Now, they've also completed going through 12,000 of about 50,000 absentee ballots. After that board will convene over at the Broward County Courthouse in the judge's courtroom, one of the members of the board here, and review those, begin to consider the so-called dimpled and partially punctured ballots. There are about 1,00 to 2,000 of those.
The canvassing board had been planning to take off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but now a spokesperson said it appears they may be working through the holiday in order to make their deadline.
Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Plantation.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: I would guess there's no doubt about it. They are going to be working through the holidays.
Susan, thanks very much.
And now I want to skip north to Palm Beach County, CNN's Mark Potter.
Mark, what are they saying there about the ruling and about whether they can get this done in an orderly and accurate fashion, about the deadline?
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just heard from Judge Charles Burton who runs the canvassing board here and he says that they can make that Sunday deadline even if they have to bring some workers back in on Saturday. They had not planned to have them here, but if they need to do it they will. And he says they can make that deadline, no doubt.
He says that the court's ruling is -- the deadline established by the court is reasonable. He said they can make that Sunday deadline. He said he believes that everyone associated with this process is relieved. A quote from the judge, we started this process and we would like to finish it.
So, this important announcement has caused a lot of excitement here at the emergency operations center in Palm Beach County. They've been counting here since Thursday and the count now continues. They've counted about 78 percent of the ballot we're told. And again, the point that they are making is that they will -- they had always been saying that they would make the Sunday deadline, but now they say they have every reason and absolute reason to do it and they can.
When the announcement was made, the people inside who were counting the ballots, the volunteers didn't hear it because in that big room that we've seen pictures so many times, there is no television set. But off to the side in an anteroom, Judge Burton was able to watch this on television and then he walked back in and addressed the gathering and told them what the announcement was and then he urged them to keep on counting. And that's what they're doing now.
The schedule is that they will count tomorrow. They'll have Thursday off. The plan was for the counters to have Friday and Saturday off. They may have to bring the counters back in Sunday.
We do know that the canvassing board will be here through the holiday because they have a big job ahead of them. There are more than 10,000 contested ballots that they have to go through and that's going to be their biggest challenge, to get that done by Sunday. But again, the judge says that they will make that deadline established by the Supreme Court.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Mark Potter.
And Mark, just to clarify, you're saying the canvassing board may be meeting on Thanksgiving Day.
POTTER: I don't know if they're going to meet on Thanksgiving Day. They may have to now. They hadn't planned on it. They certainly were going to be here Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We don't know about Thanksgiving, but with this order facing them, I wouldn't be surprised.
WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Mark Potter, Palm Beach County, thanks very much.
More in our ongoing coverage of the decision by the Florida Supreme Court, a decision saying that those hand recounts will go forward. They will be included, those totals in the Florida overall vote tally.
Once again, we are expecting Vice President Gore to make a statement at 11:00 Eastern.
When we come back, Greta Van Susteren, our legal analyst, Jeff Greenfield, senior analyst. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: Live pictures of the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., the residence of Vice President Al Gore, presumably a very pleased Al Gore tonight, just about 45 minutes after he got a pretty favorable ruling from the state Supreme Court of Florida, saying and I'm quoting here, the right of suffrage is the preeminent right contained in the declaration of rights and without this basic freedom, all others would be diminished.
One of many statements made by the court in this 42, 43-page statement. We are watching developments tonight. As we said, Vice President Gore expected to make a statement at 11 Eastern.
Right now, we're going to bring in our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield in New York -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Judy, and in turn, I'm going bring in our legal analyst, Greta Van Susteren, who is in Washington, D.C. What I'd like to do, Greta, is get a couple of, you know, short answers and then we'll go to the essay question. OK, you've read the opinion?
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have.
GREENFIELD: Is there anything in the opinion that tells the local boards what standards to use in looking at contested ballots?
VAN SUSTEREN: No, not even in the footnotes.
GREENFIELD: OK, so it's up to them. Second, I guess we can get to the essay part now. A lot of people who are unhappy with this opinion are going to say, where does the state Supreme Court get off in effect creating this deadline in this system? Where do they get this power, Greta?
VAN SUSTEREN: What they claim is they have equitable relief under the laws of the state of Florida. Let me just briefly do the essay and summarize what the arguments are. The secretary of state had said that hand counts were not permitted. They were only permitted when you had an act of God or an equipment failure. The Supreme Court said, no, she's wrong -- that she's adding words to the statute. There are no limitations of when you can have hand counts when they're requested.
Secondly, the secretary of state said she would not accept ballots after 5 p.m. on November 14th. The Supreme Court said she abused her discretion when she said that because she should accept them up until the point that it would interfere with selecting -- interfere with the candidate's right to contest an election and for electors to be chosen on December 12th and so that they could vote on December 18th for president of the United State.
The overriding theme of the opinion is the right to vote of every person in the state of Florida. Now, the other interesting aspect of this is in a footnote, of all places. We oftentimes find interesting things in footnotes and it's footnote No. 56 where it says that neither party took the bait. Those are my words, not the Supreme Court.
What the Supreme Court said: "In oral argument, we inquired as to whether the presidential candidates were interested in our consideration of reopening the opportunity to request recounts in any additional counties. Neither candidate requested such an opportunity," which seems to me to say, Jeff, that they tossed out the bait -- did any candidates wants recounts in anyplace else in the state? No one took the bait.
GREENFIELD: And what that means, I think, is they were in effect inviting the Bush campaign to say, OK, if you're worried that these are three Democratic counties and you ask for a statewide hand count, we'll give it to you. That could have been advantageous to the Bush campaign. I would surmise -- and you're the legal expert -- that the Bush campaign didn't want to concede that ground. You know, didn't want to admit that any hand counts are appropriate and they may wind up regretting that decision, yes?
VAN SUSTEREN: And that's right, and that's your grounds. That's the political decision that may have been an unwise decision, but anyway it appears in a footnote in the legal decision, but they didn't take the bait.
GREENFIELD: Well, sometimes footnotes contain mountains of legal stuff. We know that. Judy, back to you. Thanks, Greta.
WOODRUFF: All right, Greta. All right, Jeff. We're going to take a short break now. When we come back, another live report from Tallahassee, Florida on tonight's momentous ruling.
WOODRUFF: In a ruling handed down just about 50 minutes ago, the Supreme Court of the state of Florida has in effect kept Al Gore's hopes for being elected president alive. The court ruling in a 42- page opinion that the hand recount of ballots in three south Florida counties will go forward and that whatever those totals are, they will be added to the overall state tally that will then go toward deciding where Florida's 25 electoral votes vote.
Let's go quickly back down to Tallahassee, the state capitol there, where Bill Hemmer was on hand when the opinion was handed down. Bill, before I ask you again about what the justices did, describe the scene in the hour since it happened, almost outside the court building.
HEMMER: I can tell you, Judy, about 5:00 local time, which now is about 5 1/2 hours ago, the rumors really started to swirl about town here in Tallahassee. We thought it could come down about 5:30, 6:00, but again it was delayed for several hours today. As to why, we really can't say. At one point, they said some of the copy machines were jammed. But indeed it's quite a scene here, again, here tonight, not only from the media perspective but the public who have come out today to watch history being made tonight.
Now we were talking earlier about that 43-page decision. Two points I'm going to relay to you right now. We found what we believe is the harshest language in this decision directed at Katherine Harris, the secretary of state. Reading from page 38, now, it says, quote: "To allow the secretary to summarily disenfranchise innocent electors in an effort to punish board members, as she proposes in the present case, misses the constitutional mark." It continues with the next paragraph, the issue of shall and may. We've heard so much talk about that language in the past two weeks. It says, according to the court: "The secretary shall ignore late returns conflicts with another part of the state statute that provides the secretary may ignore late returns."
The Court concluded here; "We decline to rule more expansively, for to do so would result in this court substantially rewriting the code. We leave that matter to the sound discretion of the body best equipped to address it." That's the legislature.
At this point, again, as you mentioned, in the short term, it appears that the Gore campaign has won a short-term victory, but as Greta pointed out a short time ago, in this decision here, we found no evidence just yet to indicate that there is a ruling regarding standards and I sense -- and I'm no lawyer in all this -- but I sense another fight sometime in the next few days about those dimpled ballots that have been set aside in Broward, in Palm Beach and now in Miami-Dade.
We'll keep an eye on that. But again, the message tonight to the counties that are still adding up the votes there in southeastern Florida, to keep counting. Count as fast as you can. Again, the deadline here in Tallahassee, Sunday at 5:00.
At the very latest, they say if the office isn't open given the holiday weekend and the weekend, being Sunday, 9 a.m. Monday morning in Tallahassee. We'll track it for you, Judy. That's about what we have right now and Again, a lot of folks out here in Florida tonight, at the state capitol. Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Hemmer, and as you say, this may be a ruling favorable to Al Gore, but it's clear that the Bush-Cheney people are not slinking away quietly in the aftermath.
Let's go back now to New York to my colleague, Jeff Greenfield -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Thank you, Judy, I'm joined now by Ken Gross, who I think has become a familiar figure to all of you at CNN, our election law expert, and Ken, I think we want to start by mentioning something that Bob Crawford said because I want to direct your attention to it, that no matter how many counters these county boards may put on, if there are disputes, it's that one canvassing board that has to rule on them and they can't expand the size of that.
Doesn't this suggest at least in terms of the mechanics of what might happen over the next couple of days, that massive numbers of ballots will be contested and that the Republicans could do, you know, the old four-corner offense, drag this out as long as possible, force those local canvassing boards to rule on every ballot so that the deadline passes before all the votes are counted.
Is that possible under this law, under this ruling? KENNETH GROSS, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, I suppose that these -- you could have endless disputes going on at these boards and I think at some point the judge and the three-panel canvassing board would say, look, we have to move on. It's up to their discretion to rule and they will rule so they don't moot the opinion. As a matter of fact, the court, in its opinion, recognizes that there still may be some disputes and leaves time for the canvassing board to -- leaves time for a contest to be filed after certification under the 160-A procedures.
GREENFIELD: OK, let me translate those numbers if I can. In other words, the reason for this November 26th deadline is to say, we had need time to hear all appeals, let them all get settled by December 12th when Florida has to name its electors. That's the key to this timing.
GROSS: That's the key to this timing. They built into the statute -- they were reluctant to build a whole statutory scheme into it. They said that's for the legislature. But because of the extraordinary circumstances, they did set these deadlines, sort of a compressed deadline, for getting it done by Monday and then still allowing time for contesting.
And interestingly enough, while they were ruling, upholding the ability to count these votes, not part of the holding, but part of the analysis, they cited to a case called Pullen versus Milligan, which is an Illinois case which allowed the dimple ballots to count. So it's not part of the holding of the case, but they recognize that merely dimpling a ballot is part of giving voters rights. And I think the Democrats in reviewing this opinion are going put a lot of credence into that citation of that case.
GREENFIELD: Ken, thank you.
I have a feeling, Judy, that by the time this is over there are going to be more lawyers in Florida than oranges, back to you.
WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much. Jeff, we want to go back down to south Florida now to the one county that we missed a moment ago, Miami-Dade, our own Frank Buckley is there.
Frank, please tell us about reaction and what they are saying about whether they can get all those ballots counted and recorded by the deadline Monday morning.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's it, Judy.
Bob Crawford mentioned that a lot of pressure may be put on some of the local canvassing boards and that pressure will be felt acutely here in Miami-Dade County. They have 654,000 individual ballots to examine. The local board believed that it would need until December 1st to complete the process of going through all 614 precincts.
To date, they have, in two days of vote counting, they've gone through 135 of the 614 precincts. Based on those precincts, Al Gore has a net gain of 157 votes. Their rate was that they hoped to get through 60 precincts per day. So, if you do the math, it looks like they may come up short of the 614 precincts by perhaps as many as 200 precincts if they continue the way, the rate that they have been going at to this point.
One person who is here to join us to talk about this is Kendall Coffey, who is representing the Democrats here in Florida.
What's your sense -- first let's ask for your reaction. What is your sense of this decision?
KENDALL COFFEY, ATTORNEY FOR GORE CAMPAIGN: I think this is just the news that the people of this community, this state and this nation wanted to hear. The manual counts are going to continue. The votes are going to be counted as accurately as possible, that as many votes as possible will be validated and as many voters as possible enfranchised.
At the same time, the Supreme Court of Florida has said they want this process resolved promptly. Those two themes, enfranchising the voters with the most reliable possible count and getting this resolved are just the right message, I think, that this entire country was waiting for.
BUCKLEY: Are you disappointed about the deadline that's been given, considering that this canvassing board was hoping, or it believed that it needed until December 1st to complete its job?
COFFEY: Well, this canvassing board and one of the most dedicated staffs of professionals anywhere in the state or nation are going to be equal to the task. It's certainly a substantial hardship for some, but these are dedicated people and this is a community that is equal to the challenge. So we can get it done. It will get done.
The only concern we have at this point is because there is a deadline is whether or not there will continue to be the unrelenting succession of obstructive tactics that Republicans have filed in the courts and everywhere else to try to stop or slow down the manual recount. That becomes an even more critical concern now that there is a court-imposed deadline because our concern is that every hour that Republicans may be able to use to stop or disrupt or slow things down is a very precious hour.
So, we would call upon all people, whatever the political affiliation may be, now that the Supreme Court of Florida has spoken, let the votes be counted, no more stalls, no more delays. This community, this canvassing board, these dedicated public officials and servants will get the job done on time as long as there is nothing that is done to stop them from doing their work.
BUCKLEY: What, if anything, can you do legally at this point to try to prod the canvassing board to complete its job, to speed up the process?
COFFEY: I think this canvassing board has great dedication. They have a real sense of the historic importance of their work and I'm confident that they and their staff will take the extra steps that are needed. If more counters are needed at the tables, they will bring them there. If the already arduous hours needed to be lengthened, they will work longer hours. They are equal to the task. They want to get it done. They don't need to be prodded by either side. Our great hope is they will be allowed to do their work.
BUCKLEY: All right, Kendall Coffey, attorney for the Democrats, thanks very much for joining us.
That's the latest here from Miami-Dade. Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: All right, Frank Buckley, by my very rough count, it looks like they have got a little under 500 precincts to count in five days. That is almost 100 precincts a day. It is going to be a busy canvassing board there down in Miami-Dade County.
We are going to take another break right now, a very short one. When we come back, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, will join us. Frank Sesno, who has been talking to Republicans and Democrats with particularly a sense of Republican reaction to this ruling and we are going at 11:00 Eastern time hear from Vice President Gore.
We will be back.
WOODRUFF: A ruling from the Florida Supreme Court favorable to Al Gore, a ruling which must have tied at least some senior Republicans across the country in knots, if you will, at least for the time being. We are awaiting a statement from Vice President Al Gore at just about 11 o'clock Eastern Time, any moment now. A statement from Jim Baker representing the Bush camp in Florida.
Right now, let's go to our own Frank Sesno, our Washington bureau chief.
Frank, you've been talking to senior Republicans about their reaction. What are they saying?
FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, obviously, the hour is early in terms of absorbing this thing, but they are taking this as a disappointment, a setback for George W. Bush, but also expressing some real caution here. In the words of one Republican strategist, it would be a mistake for Republicans to go nuts. They should lay down their rhetoric, said one strategist.
I talked to Senator Robert Bennett. He's from Utah. I spoke to him. He's out in Utah. He says it might not be a bad idea for the folks in the Bush campaign to just sort of sleep on this and let this settle in.
Now, that's not likely to happen. In fact, as you mentioned, we're going to hear from James Baker shortly. But Senator Bennett said that if this is perceived as something that's going to allow the Democrats to include, to get the benefit of these dimpled ballots -- and remember, this does not address directly the standards as requested by at least one county -- but he said, if this allows them to get these dimpled ballots, it may be seen as a political document and Republicans will stand behind George W. Bush for further action, further challenge. Specifically what is very much up in the air at this hour.
If, however, he says that the sum and substance of this document is to permit those people who punched the ballots but whose -- the chads didn't fall out, that they were legitimately cast votes, then he says it's going to be very difficult for Bush to pursue this. Those are going to be seen as votes that needed to be counted or were legitimately cast and could be counted and that Republicans probably would start to feel that the limits of this challenging this are at- hand.
WOODRUFF: All right, Frank, this is some of the reaction you're picking up since the announcement.
SESNO: That's correct.
WOODRUFF: Before this, it seems to me the majority of the view coming out was that the Bush people were set to challenge, to appeal, to keep pushing, to keep fighting, not to give up?
SESNO: That's right, and it's very interesting. I mean, again, these are very early days, but I think that -- I think that the Supreme Court decision -- again, as one Republican pointed out, he said: Look, the questions were fairly balanced from the justices yesterday, and this is after all a unanimous decision.
But you're right, Judy, earlier we were hearing from the Republicans forcefully and firmly behind George W. Bush, that if this did not go well for him in the Florida state Supreme Court, that he would have the political backing to push this farther. They expected that fight. They were prepared to back that fight.
But tonight, what I'm beginning to hear is a little bit of waffle there, although again it's very provisional, because people have not had a chance to read this document yet.
WOODRUFF: Frank, to what extent are the people around George Bush, do we presume they're listening to people like Senator Bennett and other Republicans, either in Washington or around the country? We know a number of governors have been right there by George W. Bush's side in the days since the election.
SESNO: Well, a lot of these senators who are -- and others -- who are offering their advice frankly aren't in the inner circle and they aren't talking to the campaign. And so whether they're listening to them from afar and for signals is rather problematic.
What most will tell you -- and I did speak with some in the last few days who have been talking to George W. Bush -- is that he believes he's won this race, Republicans believe that he's won this race.
But coming back to Senator Bennett this evening, he said, look, if you step off this pier, you better have a boat. These are tough waters to get into. And the degree to which now that we've heard from the Supreme Court that viewpoint, that very careful, considered and somewhat nervous viewpoint takes hold, that's something we're just going to have to get a sense of as we go forward.
Remember, these are very early moments, these are very the first reactions, Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Frank Sesno, Washington bureau chief for CNN, joining us here tonight in the studio.
A correction: We are now told that Jim Baker, a spokesman for the Bush camp down in Tallahassee, will speak after Vice President Gore makes a statement. Again, we are expecting the vice president to speak at around 11 o'clock Eastern Time. Of course, we'll bring that to you just as soon as it begins.
Right now, let's go back to New York to our Jeff Greenfield -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Thank you, Judy. I feel a bit like a master of ceremonies, because now I'm bringing in our next guest, and he is our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
Bill, we were talking just, I don't know, a couple of hours ago about your conversations with some Democrats earlier today, and you -- it seemed that you were getting a sense that they were a bit disheartened, felt they've been put on the defensive by the Republican attack with military ballots. Try to now factor in this decision based on what you were being told earlier today.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What they were earlier today was very simply depressed and frustrated. Democrats believe -- they know they've won the national vote, because Gore's ahead in the nationwide count, and they believe that more people came to vote for Al Gore in Florida but they simply couldn't prove it. They were deeply frustrated and they were beginning to get angry.
A couple of Democratic activists from different parts of the country mentioned to me an interesting column written by Tom Friedman in "The New York Times" where he expressed the anger that a lot of Democrats were feeling over what they regard as the Bush campaign and the Republicans' attempt to demonize Al Gore, to treat him as an illegitimate candidate, essentially to argue that Gore was trying to steal the election.
Friedman wrote -- quote -- "The Bush campaign is out to create an impression in the public's mind that if Mr. Gore wins by a hand count, then by definition he stole the election."
Just a little while ago we heard on "LARRY KING LIVE" Ed Rollins say precisely that. He said partisan Republicans feel the election is being stolen, and Democrats were beginning to get very angry about that -- that demonization of Gore.
GREENFIELD: And that's what I want to follow up on, because now you have a unanimous state Supreme Court, all appointed by Democrat governors, who -- that have said in so many words to these local canvassing boards in Democratic counties, go ahead, use the hand count, we're not going to tell you what standards to apply.
So it sounds as if the Florida Supreme Court is permitting these counties to continue with a process that Republicans are fully prepared to call illegitimate. And the political...
SCHNEIDER: That's right, and...
GREENFIELD: Go ahead.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats now believe, look, we've had a court judgment that says, we are playing by the rules. The rules say we -- that a hand count of these ballots is fair, it's reasonable, it's constitutional under the law. And what the court effectively said was the vice president is right to contest this election.
The court has given the Democrats some powerful ammunition to refute the charge that was getting bigger and bigger out there that Vice President Gore, by insisting on a hand count, was attempting to steal the election.
GREENFIELD: OK. Very short answer to what I hope is a short question: Given the current political climate and the ratcheting up tensions, do you think this court decisions is going to mellow the Republican rhetoric that has been escalating in the last couple of days?
SCHNEIDER: No, I do not.
GREENFIELD: Can't beat that.
KING: ... indented next to Al Gore's name the Florida state Supreme Court you should count it. The Gore camp believes if they count those, the vice president will pull ahead by several hundred votes, if not a little more, as these recounts continue.
WOODRUFF: But John, it's one thing for the court of Florida -- the Supreme Court of Florida to cite a ruling by the Supreme Court of Illinois. It's another thing altogether, is it not, for them to say themselves what the standard should be for what ballots are acceptable?
KING: It certainly is. The Gore campaign, if there is disappointment tonight, it is that the state Supreme Court did not set a standard of its own. The Gore camp will make the case in its public arguments that this was a direction to the counties, but certainly they had hoped that the justices said, we believe the counties should do this. We direct the counties to do this.
That is their one source of disappointment, and frankly, they're a little concerned about the deadline because some of the counties have said they need a little longer than five days, but they believe ultimately the counties will now rush and get about the business of doing this.
So, tonight, with a few caveats of disappointment, they are very encouraged in the Gore campaign. We will here from the vice president shortly and then after him, we're told, his chief legal adviser, David Boies.
WOODRUFF: Yes, as John said, once again, we are waiting to hear from Al Gore. We were told that he would be speaking at 11:00 Eastern. By my clock here in the studio in Washington, it's a little over one minute past 11 Eastern time. John, what are they, as we wait for the vice president to come out -- here he is and let's look and listen.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening.
The Florida Supreme Court has now spoken and we will move forward now with a full, fair and accurate count of the ballots in question.
I don't know what those ballots will show. I don't know whether Governor Bush or I will prevail, but we do know that our democracy is the winner tonight.
I firmly believe that the will of the people should prevail and I am gratified that the court's decision will allow us to honor that simple constitutional principle.
The court wisely set a deadline for the conclusion of this counting in order to preserve a reasonable period to resolve any remaining questions.
I want to thank the citizen volunteers, no matter their political party, also the public officials involved in the canvass, all these people who have given enormous amounts of time in an extraordinary effort. They're doing their jobs diligently and seriously, under difficult conditions, as Americans always do. They are rising to the occasion.
Now that we know the process will continue, I once again urge that Governor Bush and I meet to demonstrate the essential unity that keeps America strong and free.
Together let us testify to the truth that our country is more important than victory.
Both Governor Bush and I should also continue to urge our supporters to tone down their rhetoric and lift up our common respect for democracy. Some of my own supporters have emphasized the fact that we won the national popular vote, but our Constitution requires victory in the Electoral College.
I completely disavow any effort to persuade electors to switch their support from the candidate to whom they are pledged. I will not accept the support of any elector pledged to Governor Bush.
Both Governor Bush and I should urge all our supporters to refrain from any comments, including comments on this evening's decision by the Florida Supreme Court, that could make it harder for us to come together as one nation when the process is completed.
Finally, because we now know that this process is going to take more time, I believe it's now appropriate for both of us to focus on the transition, to ensure that the new administration, whoever leads it, will be fully in place and fully prepared to lead.
Our guiding principle must be what it is good for our country. That means we ought to move forward with a process that respects our democracy. For in the end, what is important is not just to ensure a victory for one candidate, but to ensure our unity as one people, to honor our self-government and to respect and accept the freely expressed will of the people.
As Americans, we all share the same hopes in the same land. We all have a stake in the strength of our union. And in that endeavor, there can be no losers, no matter what the outcome.
May God bless you and may God bless our country in this Thanksgiving week.
WOODRUFF: In a succinct statement that lasted I think just about three minutes, Vice President Al Gore reacting, clearly pleased by the decision of the Florida Supreme Court tonight, saying that those hand recounts will go forward in three south Florida counties. On several occasions, Mr. Gore said the will of the people have prevailed. He also said, I think we should note, he's urging once again Governor Bush to meet with him to demonstrate unity.
He said, "Our country," and I'm quoting, "Our country is more important than any victory." He also called on his own supporters and those of Governor Bush to tone down the rhetoric, which I think most would acknowledge has gotten more inflammatory in the last few days and in a notable comment the vice president said that he would not accept the electoral vote of any elector pledged to Governor Bush, and finally, he stressed, he said that as for the transition, he thought that both candidates, both the Bush and the Gore teams should, together focus on the transition.
Let's go quickly now to Austin, Texas to Candy Crowley, who's been following the Bush camp -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Judy, beginning to sound like a bit of a broken record here, but the Bush campaign in Austin is going to leave any reaction either to the vice president or to the Supreme Court ruling this evening to James Baker, who is their point man on the ground in Florida who is expected to speak fairly shortly. He was waiting for the vice president's remarks to go off.
One thing I will say, the notion of a meeting between the two of them, the vice president proposed that before, I believe probably in his last public statement if I'm not mistaken, and that was turned down by Governor Bush, who said there will be a time for us to meet, but not while this is ongoing. So I don't think that the conditions are yet ripe for a Bush acceptance of that kind of meeting. In terms of the rhetoric, obviously this all depends on which camp you're in. The Bush camp feels that the Gore camp has been very harsh in it's rhetoric, so you'll get no disagreement that the rhetoric is to be toned down, it's just on who think whose rhetoric is bad.
So, again, we await reaction from James Baker. I think probably the bright spot for them in the Supreme Court ruling may be that there's no ruling on what you accept within these -- what the commissioners should accept as a valid vote. The whole idea of the pregnant chads and the hanging chads, et cetera. So I imagine there will be some discussion of that from James Baker on that, but basically, we're going to have to wait and see -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All Right, Candy Crowley there in Austin. And we will be continuing to wait for Jim Baker. We were told he would come out any moment, and we will, of course, pick that up just as soon as it gets underway in Tallahassee.
In the meantime, let's go back to John King, who has been covering the Gore camp. John, a couple notable comments from the vice president. As Candy said, the rhetoric depends on in the eyes of which beholder you're talking. Neither camp wants to acknowledge that its rhetoric has gotten out of hand.
KING: No, but with the legal victory the vice president clearly also trying to mount a public relations offensive and get ahead in the court of public opinion as well. Asking for a meeting, he knows that's not going to happen. Governor Bush is not prepared to meet with him right now, but it makes him in the view of his advisers, appear to be magnanimous in trying to keep this above the fray and saying that maybe Governor Bush will win in the end, so we should meet.
I think it's interesting he publicly said let the transition planning go forward. Democrats had criticized Governor Bush for calling in his running mate, Dick Cheney, his presumed chief of staff, if he wins, Andy Card, and doing public transition planning. The vice president clearly saying now given that time is running short before the inaugural, that he had no problem with such planning.
We should note for our viewers, we know the vice president has had discussions with the current commerce secretary, Norm Mineta, with the current treasury secretary, Larry Summers, about possibly, no firm commitments, we're told, but about possibly staying on in a new administration. So he is about the business of transition planning as well.
Also thought it notable that he applauded those public servants, as he put them, in both parties doing the counting. The Republicans have criticized this process is open to mischief, saying there is potential fraud going on, suggesting people are trying to steal the elections. The vice president clearly in the court of public opinion, again, trying to make the case these are honest government workers trying to count votes and who could be against that?
WOODRUFF: All right, John, I'm told that our colleague Jeff Greenfield has a question -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: John, I want to underline that point. This is the first time I think that the vice president has publicly referred to let the transition begin. Those sort I quasi-Oval Office shots from Austin drew some criticism. if you were trying to, as they say in colleges, deconstructed the statement, would I be wrong in hearing for the first time a real hint that what the vice president is really telling us is I think I'm going the win this thing now?
KING: I think it's fair to say that they have believe all along, the vice president has believed all along, especially if you count those contested ballots, that he will win the state of Florida.
Now, some in this Gore camp still believe that ultimately, here, if these ballots are counted and if we are seeing, as the deadline approaches, that the vice president has indeed pulled ahead, some sort of a legal offensive from the Bush campaign saying this is not fair that only three counties recounted votes.
Now the Gore team will say Bush had that right, he missed the deadline, but they do not rule out if the count shows the vice president pulling ahead, that someone on the Republican side will say we should have a statewide recount, and no one knows how long that would take.
But certainly they believe this was the critical hurdle, that if you could have those recounts continue, that they would ultimately pull ahead. Although they do acknowledge that it may come down to those dimpled ballots and the judgment calls of the local canvassing officials, because as the count is coming in now from the results of the counties, they are making up ground but not quite enough. There is still counting to be done, but the statisticians say he's not making up ground at a rate that will get him there and he will need those dimpled, contested ballots.
WOODRUFF: It didn't escape notice, John King, that among other things the vice president said some of my supporters have noticed that I won the popular vote nationwide. Now, I don't think that was put in there by accident.
KING: No, it has not. That has been their rationale for demanding the recount, that this race doesn't have a winner or a loser. Now, because we and other networks declared Governor Bush the winner on election night, they believe they started off at a deficit, again, in the court of public opinion because people had the impression that Bush won and Gore was somehow a sore loser trying to take this back into the courts.
What they are trying to say now is, look, we are ahead in the popular vote, we are ahead in the electoral count, let's count Florida. Well, the court tonight said we are going to count Florida, so they don't believe that have to make that case anymore. Now they believe they strap in and wait for the recount and they are voicing confidence. Even though the vice president said, I don't know who will win in the end, his legal team and the lawyers on the ground especially who have been in the room when they have been looking at those contested ballots, those lawyers believe you count them, the vice president wins.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King, I like the image, let's strap in and wait for recount. All right, John, thanks very much.
Again, we are waiting for Jim Baker the primary spokesman for the Bush camp in Tallahassee. We will bring that to you when it gets underway.
In the meantime, let's go to CNN's Bill Hemmer.
Bill, you also are Tallahassee, near the court building.
HEMMER: Indeed, just outside the state Supreme Court building here, Judy. The building behind me here is where the decision came down just about an hour and 25 minutes ago from now.
Just to recap, give you the hard facts of what the court has decided. Basically, they're giving the counties that want to keep on counting the ability to amend their certifications with the secretary of state up to a period of five days. In other words, by 5:00 on Sunday, they have to get those amended certifications into the state office in Tallahassee. If the office is closed, given a holiday weekend, they may get them in by Monday morning at 9 a.m.
Now, there's a lot of consideration, a lot of detail given throughout this 43-page brief. And what they talked a lot is the concern for time, the conflict of time, given the deadlines. And again, think back to the hearing, the oral arguments we heard yesterday, Judy, when there was a lot of questions given about population shifts and sizes of counties, you know, is it proper for a county to be able to do a manual recount within days as the secretary of state here in Florida issued a week ago today?
The court clearly says right now that they have to step beyond that statute and allow more time to keep on counting. That's the basic message that we find throughout this.
What we don't find though, again, is no clarity given anyway to the issue of standards and where we proceed from there. It appears again that could be left up to the local level, the local canvassing commission down at the county level.
The other thing that I wanted to point out in this brief here, again, we said it's 43 pages long. But on page nine it says, and quoting now, we consistently have adhered to the principle that the will of the people is the paramount consideration. You heard Craig Waters, the public information officer say that exact same word when he was at the podium a short time ago. He mentioned the word paramount, that the will of the people has to be considered here.
Now, as we race toward Sunday night, as these counties that continue, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, the question is, how much more can they get done and completed. We know Broward is just about finished. We also know Miami-Dade is just about 10 or 15 percent through their process, having just started the hand recount yesterday. We were also given indication yesterday in Palm Beach that they were going allow the election workers to go home tomorrow at 5:00 and take a long Thanksgiving holiday break and come back not any sooner than Sunday. Now, may that change, quite possibly, and indeed if the county commission down in Palm Beach wants to get things done, we can probably look to see that that indeed may be the case or those workers reporting to work over the long Thanksgiving break.
But again, what we know right now, based on this 43-page brief, it's a short-term victory for the Gore campaign. The votes will continue to be tabulated and then again, hand barring any more legal challenges, Sunday, 5:00, Monday morning 9:00 a.m., no later, we may be able to move forward in the progress and the count and the recount and the recount here in the state of Florida.
So, we will track it for you.
Judy, back to you now in Washington.
WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Bill Hemmer before a largely vacated Florida Supreme Court, a place that was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people just until about an hour and a half ago when the ruling came down. I wanted to go -- I want to alert you to what we are expecting in the minutes to came, David Boies, who was the primary lawyer for the Gore camp speaking before the Florida Supreme Court yesterday. He is expected to make a statement. We are also expecting to hear from James Baker who is the primary spokesman, former Secretary of State Baker, for Texas Governor George W. Bush.
Both of those events coming up and we will bring them to you when they begin.
Right now I want to bring in from New York, Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst here in Washington, Bill Schneider our political analyst.
And Bill, you've been dying to make a comment for the last 20 or 30 minutes about what we've been talking about.
SCHNEIDER: Well, just this: If Gore wins this election on the recount, it will be most likely because of dimpled ballots, because it doesn't look like he's going to be able to surpasses Bush's current lead on basis of the counted ballots, most statisticians believe.
So, look at what we are saying that he will be elected by dimples, by a dimpled ballot, that the will of the people, which the court said must by paramount in judging the results of this presidential election, will be really expressed in the form of a dimple on a ballot.
The question is, will that be regarded, will it be regarded politically, not just legally, but politically, as a legitimate election of a president on the basis of those kinds of ballots? It's hard to prejudge it, but I think that's going to be an issue of a great deal of contention. WOODRUFF: And yet, Jeff Greenfield, in the state of Texas and I believe, well, in the state of Illinois, where a Supreme Court ruling is cited in tonight's Florida court ruling, and I believe I'm told in the state of Massachusetts, standards for acceptable ballots include those very indented or dimpled ballots that we're talking about here.
GREENFIELD: This is true, and I'll tell you something: You know the old discussion of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I think one of the things that Bill is marveling about -- and it's I think it's going to occur to a lot of us -- is that we are now going to have political if not theological division in this country based on whether a dimpled ballot can count, because everybody knows the consequences of making that decision.
I think it also demonstrates once again, when you have an election that is essentially a tie, the normal uncertainty, the normal margin of error when you count ballots in any election, suddenly becomes, if not a life-and-death matter, as big a political matter as you can get. And part of what I think Senator Bennett was telling Frank Sesno, what former Congressman Weber was talking about the other day when he had a pessimistic attitude is that an election this close where so much rests on this kind of an argument, should this ballot count, should these 300 ballots that are going to determine an election where a hundred million people started out -- it is going, I think, to cause even greater ratcheting up of the emotions than we've seen so far.
WOODRUFF: Why do you say that, Jeff? Are you saying that because we're focusing on the fine details?
WOODRUFF: Something that practically every American can understand. They may not be able to understand the legal fine print here, but they can understand whether a ballot is clearly punched through or dimpled.
GREENFIELD: Well, yes, but the point is that in normal elections, we never get to that level of detail.
GREENFIELD: And an election is normally, OK, the country wanted a smaller government. The country wanted a more aggressive foreign policy. The country wanted economic change.
But when everything comes down to this matter and the emotions are riding on both sides so high when the mutual charges of cheating and theft and stealing elections all get roiled up and it then comes down to a handful of people, local officials literally holding up a cardboard piece of paper and trying to figure out whether that's a vote or not, no matter who is right, no matter that many courts do say yes, that's how you judge it, the anger, the emotion of those people whose candidate loses is going to be far higher -- when it's a normal election, where you say the people didn't know what they were doing they elected the wrong guy. I think we are heading in for a very difficult time. I am not talking about riots in the streets or anything apocalyptic. But in terms of political emotions, I think that one of the consequences of this decision further attenuating the process, further extending the post election period, it's going to be a very difficult time for everybody.
WOODRUFF: All right, well, Jeff. you and Bill and Greta and all the others are at least helping us understand more easily what is going on.
We are going to take a break. When we come back, we are still waiting to hear from David Boies and Jim Baker. We will be right back.
WOODRUFF: We are now an hour and a half into the momentous ruling by the state Supreme Court of Florida, in essence saying that the hand counting of ballots in three south Florida counties will continue and that the results of those tallies will be included in the statewide totals so that whoever wins gets Florida's 25 electoral votes. A ruling certainly seen as favorable to Vice President Gore, going against the wishes of Texas Governor George W. Bush.
Just want to let you know that in the midnight hour, Eastern time, we'll be turning to "THE SPIN ROOM," our program here on CNN and we continue to wait for what we're told will be comments from Florida from attorney David Boies, who's been representing the Gore camp and separately comments from Jim Baker, who has been the lead spokesman for the Bush camp there in Tallahassee.
But for right now, we want to bringing you the latest we have on the current vote count in Florida. In Broward County, the recount at this point gives Al Gore a net gain of 106 votes and that is with all 609 precincts counted plus another 477 absentee ballots. Moving to Palm Beach County, Gore has a net gain of three votes with 104 of 531 precincts counted, and we should add that there are a number of ballots there that are in dispute and have yet to be inspected by the county vote canvassing committee.
Finally in Miami-Dade County, Gore has a net gain of 157 votes and that is with 135 of 614 precincts reporting. The final uncertified returns give George W. Bush a 930-vote lead, but the partial tally of the recounts in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties gives Al Gore a net gain of 266. All of these recount figures are coming from canvassing board officials in those three counties.
Joining us now here in Washington to talk not only about this ruling tonight but Frank Sesno, our Washington bureau chief, to also talk about the very tough rhetoric that has been going back and forth between these two campaigns in the last several days and what this ruling may do in terms of the tempers and the attitudes of people on both sides.
SESNO: Well, it's certainly not going to help. Certainly on the Republican side. I've got tell you that for those of us who have been talking with Republicans, people who live and work here in this town over the last several days, there's been a real sense of hostility, especially Republicans to Democrats.
In the last couple of days, I've talked to elected representatives who said such things as no self-respecting Republican, for example, would be in an Al Gore Cabinet if he wanted some kind of government or Cabinets of national reconciliation. Just wouldn't happen. They might get somebody, but not somebody of stature.
I was talking to Dick Armey, yesterday, the House majority leader. He said flatly there'll be some Republicans who'll stay away from an inaugural if it's an Al Gore inaugural. They would feel that the election had been stolen and this kind of decision that we've heard the night and the notion that you would count these disputed ballots in this kind of thing really gets under the craw of a lot of Republicans. Dick Armey said, yes, I'd go to the inaugural, but I wouldn't be smiling.
WOODRUFF: Frank, I'm going to interrupt you, go to David Boies there in Florida.
DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I hope it is. I know that the counties are going to work very hard to get it done. The Supreme Court has done what we asked it to do, which is to provide time for the manual recounts to be finished, and to compel the secretary of state to take those recounts into account in certifying the results.
I can't speak, obviously, for the county boards. I know that Broward County is working very hard. I know Dade County is working very hard. We hope that Palm Beach County will make an effort to complete its work.
I think that now all of the canvassing boards know that they must finish that recounting by Sunday at 5 p.m. or their voters will be disenfranchised. And I am sure they're going to do everything possible to avoid that from happening.
QUESTION: What do you say to those canvassing boards about what standard they ought to employ now in judging what ballots to accept or not to accept?
BOIES: I think that Broward County and Dade County are applying exactly the standard that the Supreme Court referred to when it quoted that Illinois case.
BOIES: Many of you may have seen the Chicago Tribune article earlier today in which it referred to the fact that under Illinois law the indented chads, so-called dimpled chads, are counted under Illinois law. And the Chicago Tribune article referred even to the exact Illinois Supreme Court case that the Supreme Court of Florida referred to and relied on in its decision.
We would hope that the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board would likewise adopt that standard. We think that's the right standard. We think the courts have held that that's the right standard before, and now the Florida Supreme Court has indicated that as well.
QUESTION: Do you have any indication if Gore's picking up any votes in those counties?
BOIES: I'm not really involved in that process. I've been noticing the reports on television, and it indicates that Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman are picking up votes, but you know about as much about that as I do.
QUESTION: What will you do on Sunday at 5 p.m. if (OFF-MIKE)
BOIES: Well, we think that we will have enough votes. I think the court has set that deadline attempting to balance the need to take into account every vote that's been cast and at the same time allow adequate time for the contesting of any issues that remain.
We believe that there is time to get the counting done if the canvassing boards really turn to it. It's too bad that it's over Thanksgiving. I know that it's going to put a lot of people out. But I think everybody realizes how important this is to Florida, to the country, to the world, and particularly to the voters in each of those counties who want to have their votes counted.
QUESTION: Is this opinion what you expected, more than you expected? Are there areas that you wish the court had dealt with that you presented that they did not?
BOIES: I think we're very pleased with the opinion. It is what we asked the court for. We think it's the right opinion. So I think we're very gratified with it. We're very pleased with it.
We think it does reflect the law. This is what we believe the law was. I came out here and spoke to you last Friday, and I told you at that time that this is what we thought the law was, and we were going to take it to the Florida Supreme Court and hope that they agreed with us.
QUESTION: Do you not anticipate any further legal action for clarification about what constitutes a valid vote, in terms of these dimpled chads?
BOIES: I don't think there's any additional clarification that's required. I think the court has made that pretty clear.
You'll note in the opinion, pages 34 and 35, they quote the Illinois Supreme Court that we had offered to the Florida Supreme Court as an indication of the kind of standard that was the right standard.
We think that was the standard under Florida law. Florida law talked about the voter's intent, regardless of how that intent was manifested.
BOIES: Florida had never specifically dealt with the question of chads and indented chads. And what we said was, "Other jurisdictions have," and we pointed the court to the Illinois case and the Massachusetts case and to the Texas statute.
And I think that the Florida Supreme Court, in its quotation and in reliance on the Illinois standard, has confirmed what we thought was the law of Florida, which is that any indication of the intent of the voter, whether it is pricked through, or whether it is completely dislodged, or whether it is indented, that is what counts. It is the intent of the voter, not how the voter manifests his or her intent.
QUESTION: ... the expectation that that would be the standard and that is the standard you expect?
BOIES: Yes. And that is the standard that is already being applied, as many of you know, in Broward and Dade Counties, and we hope that that is the standard that Palm Beach County would promptly employ.
QUESTION: In the matter of the counts, when you get to the end of process, if you're not done at the deadline, do you have to revert to the previous total or can the canvassing board just certify the amount they've counted up to that point?
BOIES: They can certify the amount that they've counted up to that point. In other words, they must provide certified results. You'll recall that some of the counties had conducted actually some recounting before the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline in terms of those sample precincts. And so those were included.
QUESTION: They don't need to recount all the precincts if they get all but two or three or a dozen done right at the deadline, they can certify those.
BOIES: They can. But obviously we would urge them to try to get all of them done. We think it's very important that every vote be counted.
QUESTION: The Bush team has long contended that you folks have never had a deadline, an end game in this process. Is 5 p.m. Sunday night -- is that the end of it? If the vice president is behind in the vote total at that juncture, is that the end of it? BOIES: That is the end of the certification process. The court has made that, I think, absolutely clear. I think that what the court has done, is it set up an absolute end game. And you will recall that in the argument, one of the things the court was concerned about is saying, "We've got to have this all done by December 12." If we let this certification and counting process go on until December 11, nobody has time for a contest. And that's unfair to any party who wants to contest any part of the certified results.
And what the court has done, is they've said -- and this is what we had suggested to the court, is that you set a time limit -- we had said a week; they picked five days -- and said at the end of that period of time, that is the end of the counting process and then either party has a right to bring a contest if they feel that there's anything to contest.
QUESTION: Excuse me, if I could follow-up.
QUESTION: What I hear there is not an absolute answer but a lawyer's answer.
BOIES: I'm a lawyer.
QUESTION: I appreciate that. What I'm asking you is, will the Gore team brief and at the end of 5 p.m. Sunday that if you're still behind that you will not contest this election? If the vice president is still trailing in the votes Sunday, 5 p.m. does he concede this election?
BOIES: I think that one of the things that Vice President Gore did tonight, as he did before, is suggest that he sit down with Governor Bush and talk about those kinds of things. I would hope that Governor Bush now would accept that proposal, and that may be very well one of the things they talked about. I'm not going to prejudge what Governor Bush and Vice President Gore decide on those kinds of issues.
The Supreme Court of Florida has set up a procedure, a procedure that is absolutely certain to bring this process to an end on or before December 12 of this year. And they've set up two steps, as everybody has said there are two steps. There is the counting step and then there is the protest step. And I would hope that all of this would be resolved by Sunday. I know that that is something that Vice President Gore and Governor Bush would talk about if they meet.
QUESTION: Have you started, Mr. Boies, preparing, talking with other lawyers on the team about how to handle the appeal that's almost certain to come with this from Governor Bush's side, given the issue of the dimpled ballots, and given that they will probably feel like this is a partisan ruling?
BOIES: Appeal to where?
QUESTION: Appeal, ultimately, to the Supreme Court, perhaps.
BOIES: No, I have not started talking to lawyers about that.
We don't believe that there's any meaningful appeal to the United States Supreme Court on this issue. This is, as I've been saying for a week now, a matter of Florida law. I said it was a matter of Florida law when the decision was not in our favor, and I say it is a matter of Florida law now when the decision is in our favor.
Regardless of whether you're winning or losing it's a matter of Florida law. That's what the federal courts have repeatedly held. That's what the statutes provide. There is simply no basis to appeal this to the United States Supreme Court.
QUESTION: Do you honest believe that this is not going to go any further in court? I mean, we haven't heard from Governor Bush yet, but right now don't think that he's going to fight this?
BOIES: I would never underestimate the willingness of somebody else to take an appeal. Anybody can file an appeal. What I'm telling you is that there's no basis for an appeal and any appeal to the United States Supreme Court is going to get denied.
QUESTION: Mr. Boies, is there anything in this ruling that you think compels the secretary of state not to still have discretion once she accepts those votes? Because it said that she shall accept them. It doesn't say that she can't still use her discretion.
BOIES: Well, she has to accept them. I think she has to accept them. The court, on page 39 of the opinion, says that what the secretary of state was doing was summarily disenfranchising innocent electors. And the court says she can't do that.
I think that when the court says she must accept those returns, the court means she must accept those returns.
QUESTION: But there's some talk in the Florida legislature of calling a special session, I understand, to somehow supersede this opinion. What's your view of the constitutionality of that?
BOIES: I don't have a view that I want to express on that. Mr. Douglass here is much more expert on Florida law and he may be able to tell you whether he knows of any precedent of that. I don't know of any precedent for that.
DEXTER DOUGLASS, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: There is no precedent, but that's not to say they won't do it, and I certainly wouldn't say they won't. But I would say that we would certainly consider challenging it if they did.
QUESTION: Did you expect the ruling to come today or had you, sort of, steeled yourself for a longer wait, or...
BOIES: As I said before, there was no way to predict when they were going to act. They were obviously working very hard on this opinion and on the consideration of this issue. I think they moved with great expedition. Whether it was going to be today, tonight, tomorrow, or even later, I don't think anyone had a way of knowing.
QUESTION: The court was very hard on the secretary of state. Were you surprised or gratified that they were so strong in their verbiage in regard to her actions?
BOIES: Let me let Mr. Douglass respond to that.
DOUGLASS: I didn't think that the court was hard on her personally. I think they were dealing with her in her official duties. And I might say that people don't like to face the fact that we like individuals as individuals such as the secretary. She happens to be a good personal friend of mine. On the other hand, I opposed her official actions. Nothing we have done or in any way have we tried to belittle her as a person. We have dealt only with her performance of her duties under law. And we want to make that clear because there's been too much personal attacks in all of our political process.
DOUGLASS: And certainly we don't want to be characterized in any way as putting any personal burden on her. And we really think, if you stop and analyze it a little bit, she had a great deal of pressure on her to perform in this matter. And as her friend, I hope that she will take this in the manner in which the law says it should be taken. I feel sure she will and continue to do a good job. And we will certainly not be attacking her in any way.
Any way we can bring the country together, including any hard feelings being created by something like that you suggest, let's quit it and I think that's -- David will agree with me -- that that's one of the things this opinion does; it gives us the focal point from a very good court, an independent court, to reach that result.
BOIES: I think that's right. And those of you who were present or watched on television, will recall that at the very beginning of the argument, the representative of the attorney general indicated that this was not a personal disagreement with the secretary of state. This was an issue of law. It was a legal issue for the Florida Supreme Court to decide. It was obviously a legal issue that divided the two sides sharply. We each had our points of view. But now that legal issue has been decided.
And I think both sides have expressed respect for the rule of law. We've both been saying over the last 10 days what we wanted was a final ruling for the Florida Supreme Court, and when we had it we would live with it -- both sides. And now we have it.
QUESTION: Given this decision by the Florida Supreme Court, if the Bush campaign now sought to have other counties around the state conduct manual recounts in the time available to them before Sunday at 5 p.m., would the Gore campaign have any objection to that?
BOIES: We've several times said that we would be open to that. One of the things that the court does say in its opinion, at footnote -- I think it's 56 -- is that they offered that to both sides and nobody took them up on it.
Whether it would be possible for the Bush campaign, at this stage, to take them up and actually get it done by Sunday, I don't have a view.
BOIES: But I do know that one of the things that Vice President Gore has said, and that we've said, and that I said at the argument, is that if they wanted to have a statewide recount they could have it. I think that, given the fact that they said they did not want it, the court set a deadline that probably means you could not have a statewide recount now. QUESTION: I guess what I'm saying is, let's say that they wanted to pick three heavily Republican counties and do manual recounts, would the Gore campaign have any objection to that?
BOIES: Well, we might want to pick three other counties to go along with it. Those could go in parallel.
That's a hypothetical question. It is the kind of thing that maybe Vice President Gore and Governor Bush would speak about if they met.
It's so hypothetical, because we have been offering this alternative for so long. They've constantly rejected it. If they say that's what they want to do, we will seriously consider it very promptly. But I don't want to get into speculation about that.
QUESTION: How important is Dade County at this point? How important is the recount in Dade County specifically?
BOIES: I think the recount in each of the three counties is important. In each of those three counties votes have been cast and it's terribly important that those votes be counted. It's obviously important to the candidates, but it's important, maybe even more so, to the voters themselves.
And I think each of the canvassing boards will recognize that they have a duty to their citizens to make sure they act in such a way so that those votes do get counted by the deadline.
QUESTION: ... decision from being released a little earlier. Was there some kind of technical glitch across the street that prevented the decision from being released earlier?
BOIES: I'm sorry, could you say that again?
DOUGLASS: No. The answer is no. There was no technical glitch. They were working, I expect, right up until the time that it was finalized. We don't know that, but we were not told that there was anything holding it up. They were deliberating right up till they finally reached their decision. That's what we understood from the comment.
QUESTION: ... that you spoke with the vice president. Have you -- can you say a little bit about what his reaction was yesterday after the arguments?
BOIES: That's for the Vice President.
QUESTION: Have you talked to him today?
BOIES: I've spoken to him today, but what we spoke about or his reaction to it is for him to answer, not for me. QUESTION: He called you, though.
BOIES: I spoke to the vice president; any more details get from him.
Thank you very much.
WOODRUFF: David Boies, the lead attorney for Vice President Gore before the Florida supreme court yesterday. He's joined there by Dexter Douglass, a Florida attorney, saying, in essence, the two of them are very pleased by the ruling, very gratified by this ruling. David Boies stressing that he believes the counties, the three counties in question -- Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach -- in his words, will all work hard to get it done. We now know that there is a date certain after which those ballots cannot be accepted.
At one point, David Boies said "These canvassing boards in these counties know that they must finish their work, get these ballots in by 5:00 PM Eastern on Sunday, or their voters are disenfranchised." I don't think you can put it anymore plainly than that.
We're still waiting for comments tonight from Jim Baker, chief spokesman for the Bush campaign there in Florida. We're told he may even be in the same building as we just heard -- as we just saw David Boies.
My colleague, Jeff Greenfield, you were listening to these attorneys and hearing them, in essence, say they were gratified by what the court has done.
GREENFIELD: I want to just point out one thing about David Boies. You will notice that he frequently cites page numbers and footnote numbers in his head. He is the man who beat Microsoft in that antitrust case when he went to work for the government and all during that case was able to come out -- to produce out of his head chapter and verse page numbers. You may remember in oral argument, he would cite without even looking down, "Section 162.168."
This is why a lot of lawyers regard David Boies as perhaps the best litigator, best courtroom arguer of anybody, because he has a photographic memory that is absolutely astonishing. And you just saw a small sample of it tonight. I just wanted to add that in, just in terms of his ability to summon this stuff up. If you're in a courtroom against David Boies, you are up against some pretty formidable competition.
WOODRUFF: I thought it was interesting, Jeff, that at one point -- in fact, I thought it was unusual that at one point, David Boies weighed in on a somewhat political question and said he thought it would be a good thing if Vice President Gore's suggestion that he and Governor Bush get together -- that Governor Bush take him up on that.
Typically, he has confined himself to legal questions. This was one instance when we saw him move out and comment on an area that's clearly political. GREENFIELD: Absolutely. And I think what you're getting there is the sense -- I don't know that there are talking points sent out already, but the sense of "We are going to be magnanimous" was I think the tone set both by the vice president and by David Boies. "Yes, let's meet, and if George W. Bush wants to raise a statewide hand count" -- clearly not in the interest of the Gore campaign at this point -- "yeah, we can seriously consider it."
I think they are at pains to present themselves as meeting the governor half-way, trying to be fair, because the last thing they want is to be painted as people who have cheated their way into this election, should they win the majority or the plurality of Florida votes, so that the Republicans can stage later political challenges. I think you're absolutely right, very unusual for David Boies, but clearly part of the theme of the night for the Gore folks.
All right, Jeff Greenfield. joining me here in Washington.
CNN Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno.
We were talking to you before David Boies came out. You were talking about the reaction among others. You've been listening to what he said. You've been talking to a lot of people.
SESNO: Well, you know, one of the things that Jeff was just talking about, about this issue of magnanimity -- it ties right into legitimacy. And it's one of the reasons I would point to one particular passage from David Boies right now. He said, "We think it's very important that every vote be counted." That is the core of their case to the court. It is the core of their case to the American public.
And it's interesting because what we're hearing tonight from some Republicans is that it's also the core, perhaps, of the great strategic mistake of the Bush camp and that it could well be that, in hindsight -- and we don't have the benefit of hindsight, do we, as we're going through it -- is that the Bush camp should have stood earlier and said, "All right, if we're going to recount in some of these places by hand, this manual recount, do it in all 67 counties."
WOODRUFF: Frank, what is our understanding of why they did not do that? I mean, there's been a lot of comment about the differences in the way the Gore camp handled this, Gore bearing in right away, Gore very closely involved in the day-to-day strategy, what's been going on, Bush somewhat more hands-off, delegating to Jim Baker and others, Karl Rove. Where did that -- if it was a mistake, where did it happen? At what point?
SESNO: Well, I think that some of this is going to have to come out after the fact because, to be honest, a lot of folks aren't talking about the -- all the thought and the strategy that went into all of these decisions. But clearly, there are questions of where the concentrations of questionable ballots took place, in largely Democratic areas, where the recount may bear more fruit, in these three counties that are very much at play right now. Still, there are a number of statistical models that suggest that no matter where you go, there are some number of uncounted ballots. And I will tell you that there are a number of Republicans now who say, "Gee, you know, this may -- may be the fall-out," or the fall- back, rather, "and maybe it should have been the springboard some days ago."
WOODRUFF: That they should have been more aggressive.
SESNO: Yeah. Right.
WOODRUFF: Frank, we've just been given a minute or two-minute warning that Jim Baker -- and I'm told he's very -- he's at the lectern in Tallahassee. Jim Baker. Let's listen.
JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: ... before the Florida Supreme Court, Justice Harding asked a key question about Florida's electoral laws and standards. He said, "Is it right to change the rules in the middle of the game?"
The Florida Supreme Court and some Democratic county electoral boards have decided to do just that. In keeping with Section 4 of Article II of the United States Constitution, Florida's legislature enacted a detailed statutory system for voting, for recounting, and for certifying results of elections. This statutory system reflects careful decisions about the separation of powers among various branches of government. It also strikes a balance between Florida's interests in achieving finality, and in permitting multiple recounts by various methods.
Today, Florida's Supreme Court rewrote the legislature's statutory system, assumed the responsibilities of the executive branch, and side-stepped the opinion of the trial court as the finder of fact.
Two weeks after the election, that court has changed the rules, and has invented a new system for counting the election results. So one should not now be surprised if the Florida legislature seeks to affirm the original rules.
In addition, the Gore campaign is working to try to change the counting rules and standards in the three counties that are still manually recounting so as to overcome Governor Bush's continuing lead after all of the counts and recounts.
Statistical experts have indicated that, based on the results so far, unless the counting standards are changed, there won't be enough votes to overcome Governor Bush's lead. So they now argue that a punch card vote should count even if there appears to be only an indentation.
This is, of course, is the famous dimpled chad.
And at least one of the Democratic-controlled county election boards has already decided to use this new standard and the others are considering it. No hole in the ballot is necessary, not even one loose corner is necessary, not even seeing any light through the ballot is necessary. Even if a voter decided not to make a choice because he or she could not decide between two closely competitive candidates, the Democratic county election boards can divine a choice based on an apparent indentation.
BAKER: This new standard for manual recounts directly contradicts a guideline issued on November 2, 1990 by Theresa LePore, the Democratic supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County. In that statement, Ms. LePore wrote, and I quote, "but a chad that is fully attached, bearing only an indention, should not be counted as a vote," close quote.
All of this is unfair and unacceptable. It is not fair to change the election laws of Florida by judicial fiat after the election has been held. It is the not fair to change the rules and standards governing the counting or recounting of votes after it appears that one side has concluded that is the only way to get the votes it needs. And it is also not fair to refuse the count even once the ballots of many of our servicemen and -women overseas. It is simply not fair, ladies and gentlemen, to change the rules, either in the middle of the game, or after the game has been played.
Therefore we intend to examine and consider whatever remedies we may have to correct this unjust result.
QUESTION: Secretary Baker, first of all, can you be more specific about what the Bush team might do now in the way of an appeal or some other challenge? And second of all, when you alluded to the Florida legislature, what relief would you seek from the Florida legislature?
BAKER: Well, I'm not suggesting that we are seeking relief -- we've made a decision to seek relief from the Florida legislature. But it does occur to me that the Supreme Court has pretty well rewritten the Florida electoral code even though they disclaim, in the opinion, that they intend to do so. And so I would not be surprised to see the legislature want to, perhaps, take action to get back to the original statutory provisions that were in place initially.
I cannot tell you specifically tonight what additional actions Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney might authorize.
BAKER: There are some actions that we can take. And as I indicated in my statement, I think it's incumbent upon us to consider and examine whatever remedies are available to us to reverse what we consider to be an unjust result.
QUESTION: If the legislature...
BAKER: Just a minute; I've got a question right here. QUESTION: If the legislature takes this up, would the Bush campaign support that, condone it?
BAKER: Depends on what they take up.
QUESTION: But if they take up a remedy as -- I guess, I've heard some members talk about setting the standard. Earlier a state senator said that he felt the Supreme Court was essentially trying to undo what the legislature did.
BAKER: I think that...
QUESTION: And that's what you're saying.
BAKER: I think the legislature -- some people in the legislature probably feel that the court has undone the statutory provisions that were laid out in compliance with the U.S. Constitution for the conduct of the election in Florida.
QUESTION: So if the Republican-controlled legislature then writes a bill that would redo it, would the Bush campaign support and endorse that?
BAKER: Well, I think we'd have to see what the bill said before I could answer that question for you. We'd have to see what it said. I can't give you a carte blanche answer here today.
QUESTION: If you're behind on Sunday at 5 p.m. -- if the vote total puts you behind, would you not accept those results?
BAKER: Well, I don't know. I'm going to give you the same answer that you've been getting from the Gore campaign for -- since the 8th of November: All options have to remain on the table. We have to see what the situation is at that time.
QUESTION: As (inaudible) pointed out, you've been involved in many presidential campaigns; this one looks like it's ending in a court room. I wonder, you think that's a sign of the times, and is that troubling to you?
BAKER: Yes, it does a little bit; it troubles me as I indicated right here in this room on November the 8th. But I've never been involved in any that were quite as much of a dead heat as this one. But I think it is -- I think it is troubling.
On the other hand, we are a resilient nation and our Constitution and laws provide for remedies and actions and procedures in the event that a very close election like this happens. And therefore, I think it's important that we look at those and examine them and consider whether or not to move on any one or more of them.
Yes, sir? QUESTION: Is the governor prepared to meet with the vice president now?
BAKER: You know I've talked to Governor Bush today probably three times, maybe four, but I have not talked to him since the vice president appeared on television and that's a decision that Governor Bush will make.
QUESTION: You said, Secretary Baker, that this is unfair and unacceptable. Would you assign political motives to the justices?
BAKER: I haven't done that. I think that I have said here that I believe that they have, in effect, rewritten the electoral laws of Florida after the contest, after the election has been held.
BAKER: And I have said that they have taken over, I believe, the functions of the executive branch in Florida. I believe that they have disregarded the principle of separation of powers.
They are, in effect, telling the secretary of state that she must accept certain returns and eliminating the discretion that the Florida statutes give her.
I'm not assigning political motives, but I saying what I said in my statement. I think that they're -- I think that the opinion, in those two respects, clearly overreaches and I'm sorry I have to say that, but that's my view.
QUESTION: If I may follow-up, if I may follow-up. So are you saying that you don't believe that they're politically motivated, just that you disagree with their interpretation of the law?
BAKER: Well, I think they've done more than interpret the law, and I suppose we disagree with the actions that they've taken which go beyond interpreting the law, in our opinion.
QUESTION: The opinion clearly states how they've come to their ruling...
BAKER: Clearly states what? I didn't hear you.
QUESTION: It clearly states how they reached their decision, and they lay out that certain laws supersede others, that it must be written -- that it must be taken in its entirety. It's not a rewriting of the law at all.
BAKER: I think that the opinion is written is a manner that it gives great -- it gives great lip service to the principle that they are just interpreting the laws. They say in a number of places there: "We must leave this to the legislature to determine."
But no one can deny that they change the statutory scheme for the conduct of Florida's elections, and no one can deny that they usurp the executive branch's functions as far as the secretary of state is concerned.
I don't think many people would really argue that forcefully. Yes?
QUESTION: Have the campaign, or Governor George W. Bush, consulted at all with Florida legislative leaders about that...
BAKER: The legislative -- I haven't. I certainly haven't and I don't know -- and I'm sure Governor Bush has not.
I can't tell you about everybody at the campaign. And -- nor can I tell you -- nor could I answer the other question here: Would we support action that the legislature takes carte blanche?
We would have to know what the action was.
QUESTION: Mr. Boies was here earlier. He stated that he felt there was no basis for an appeal in this evening's decision. Would you like to comment on that?
BAKER: Well, I suppose if we -- if we determined to perfect an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, a decision that we have not as yet made, we would disagree with that, or we wouldn't perfect the appeal.
I thought I also heard Mr. Boies say that they court relied upon an Illinois case which, in effect, blessed the standards -- blessed the idea of using -- of counting dimpled chads. I thought I heard that; maybe I misinterpreted that.
But if that's what he said, I would disagree with that. The Illinois case cited on page 36 or 39 -- I don't know which it is, but it was the Hartke case -- didn't talk about dimpled chads at all. It involved hanging chads, the standard that these three counties or four counties, began using and the standard that they're not seeking to change. They're seeking to move from that standard to a more restrictive one -- I mean, sorry, more liberal one, being the dimpled chad.
QUESTION: Mr. Baker, there was some talk earlier when Mr. Boies was speaking about the possibility of the Republicans -- your team -- asking certain counties in Florida to go back and do a manual recount, just try to crank it out and get it done by Sunday.
Do you support that? Have you talked about that as a possibility? BAKER: I can't answer for you tonight whether that would be one of the remedies that I mentioned in my remarks.
QUESTION: Can you rule it out?
BAKER: Well, I don't think could -- I wouldn't want to rule anything out. But I certainly can't rule it in either. It's something that we would have to simply give some consideration to.
Let me just say one final word and then I've got -- really have got to go. There has been a lot of talk about the Texas manual recount provision. If we were in Texas this would all be over because Texas only allows one manual recount. And it has some very, very clear and objective standards.
BAKER: And the first of those is when you see light coming through, and the second of those is where you have two corners or where you have a hanging chad. And it's only in the third instance that the statute in Texas speaks about any consideration of a dimpled chad, and it doesn't say that a dimpled chad can be considered standing alone. It says it can be considered only where it also is accompanied by a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote.
So there's a lot of difference between that statute and what's taking place here. And I think it's important that I point that out.
Thank you all very much.
WOODRUFF: Former Secretary of State Jim Baker now in a very different role as a spokesman for the George W. Bush campaign, telling reporters there in Tallahassee he believes the Florida Supreme Court -- in very strong language -- the court has changed the rules in the middle of the game, reinvented the system for counting votes in the state of Florida.
He said at the outset we wouldn't -- we shouldn't be surprised, meaning we in the Bush campaign, if the Florida legislature gets involved.
He went onto say the court has rewritten the election laws of Florida and "taken over" -- I'm quoting here -- "taken over functions of the executive branch, disregarded the principle of separation of powers Between the legislative and the judicial branch in the state of Florida."
He said this opinion, in his view, he says: "I'm sorry to say, but I think it clearly overreaches." Again, very strong words from Jim Baker, representing the reaction, not surprised, disappointed reaction on the part of the Bush campaign.
Joining me here in our Washington studio, Frank Sesno. Frank, I want you to pick up on what he said about the Florida state legislature and its potential role next, what comes next.
SESNO: Judy, these are fighting words, and talk about uncharted waters, this is way out. We're out in the deep ocean right here.
Our correspondent, Mike Boettcher, in Tallahassee has been talking to Republican leaders of the Florida state legislature, and they have not wanted to comment or have their thinking get out in front of the Supreme Court decision. They wanted to hear what the Florida state Supreme Court said. They've now heard that.
And Mike Boettcher is saying that these leaders of the Florida state legislature are looking at the strong possibility now of calling a special session of the legislature to come in, and what they want is they are very angry at the way this has gone. And their sentiments clearly reflect what Baker's saying: to come in and recognize the vote recount mandated by Florida law that the secretary of state was prepared to certify. That's the current official tally that has George W. Bush up by 930 votes.
The state legislature has the power to name a slate of electors for George W. Bush.
WOODRUFF: We should say, Frank -- and you just suggested it -- that the Florida state legislature dominated by Republicans...
SESNO: Dominated by Republicans.
WOODRUFF: Bill Schneider has just giving me the numbers: The Florida State Senate is 25 to 15, a Republican majority. The state House, 77 to 43, a Republican majority.
We should also point out that the legislature has been at odds with the state Supreme Court. They've seen differently on a number of important critical issues that have come up in the state. Members of the state Supreme Court also appointed -- all appointed, that is, by Democratic governors.
Bill Schneider, you've been talking to people in the last few days about what happens in just this situation where you have the Supreme Court going one way, and what if the state legislature goes another way.
SCHNEIDER: There is a federal statute that says if there's a dispute regarding the electors and they are not certified by December 12th, which is -- remember who has the power here after the Supreme Court: a Republican governor, a Republican secretary of state, and Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature.
If they do not certify because of legal challenges, the state legislature under an obscure federal law passed in the 1880s has the power to name its own slate of electors. Presumably, it's a Republican legislature, they would name the Republican electors. And then, of course, it all goes up to the Congress, which has the ultimate authority in January, January 5th. They have the authority of counting the ballots.
If Gore is somehow certified, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives can try to reject the Gore electors as tainted, as irregular under federal law. They can do that. And let me add one more point. It has to be -- they would have to be rejected also by the United States Senate. The Senate now could end up being 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, because Mary Cantwell, the Democratic candidate in Washington, has just pulled ahead in the final count in Washington state for the Senate.
So if she were to win -- and we don't know what's going to happen in Washington -- the Senate would have 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. And no one knows quite whether Al Gore as the sitting vice president would be able to cast a vote, but presumably they would be deadlocked.
SESNO: And Joe Lieberman...
SCHNEIDER: Joe Lieberman...
SESNO: Joe Lieberman would be one of those -- would be one of those senators in a 50-50 situation conceivably.
SCHNEIDER: This is a nightmare. It's what some people call the nuclear scenario for just ratcheting this up all the way to the Congress and all the way to January.
WOODRUFF: As Frank Sesno said, we're out in the beep blue sea part of this, if you want to bring an ocean scenario.
Let's go quickly to Jeff Greenfield in New York -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Oh, as long as we're going into now -- beneath the 12-mile reef, let me just put one other thing on the table. If the Florida legislature appoints a set of electors and the Supreme Court has told the secretary of state to do the hand counts and they show Gore ahead, there will be a Gore slate of electors that will also show up in Tallahassee on December 18th.
And what we may well have -- do you remember two hours ago I mentioned 18 -- 125 years ago? That's the last time that two sets of electors were sent by states to Congress. So you would have the legislature sending a Republican slate, perhaps the attorney general sending a Democratic slate. The Congress would have to choose between those two slates, and as Bill Schneider said, with a 50-50 Senate and a narrowly Republican House, good luck.
We are actually -- I know this sounds like the plots of, you know, movies and novels, we are so much closer to the possibility of a genuine constitutional train wreck than I ever thought we could be two weeks ago. It is truly astonishing how this is beginning to play out.
WOODRUFF: And Jeff, and yet, there, toward the end of Jim Baker's remarks at the press conference, we heard him say, you know, we are a strong nation. Our constitution provides for remedies. Now clearly he was suggesting remedies favorable to George W. Bush. But he was saying within the law, there are remedies. But you're right. I mean, we're talking about legislative remedies here. Congressional remedies there. Supreme Court, state Supreme Court rulings here and there and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court under some scenarios could get involved here.
SCHNEIDER: If you want to go back 125 years to that last disputed election where there were two slates electors and four undecided state, one of which was Florida, that was solved by a commission appointed by Congress, and they eventually resolved it by giving all the vote to the Republicans and the decision was made strictly on partisan lines. The Republicans outvoted the Democrats and they decided to make the Republican president.
WOODRUFF: And there's no reason to believe that it would be different in the year 2000. CNN's Candy Crowley there in Austin, Texas. candy, I know you've been listening to all of this.
CROWLEY: I have, Judy. I mean, I think here's where we are as this sort of ends tonight and everyone we assume in Florida is going to bed or writing another legal brief. What we have here is obviously a Bush campaign that is very unhappy, that finds this a monumentally unfair decision.
But also, we don't really know where they're going with this. Despite, you know, our need to sort of move it forward and look at the possibilities. When he was finishing up his statement before he took questions, James Baker said we're going to examine and consider any remedies to rectify this unjust result.
What they have to do once the lawyers look at this is to call back here to Austin and say, OK, here's what we can do. And so, you know, what we know tonight is that they're very unhappy and they are looking at remedies, but we don't know if or what remedies they would take.
WOODRUFF: Candy Crowley, and I can presume that we may not know until there's daylight there in Austin. Is it fair to say that?
CROWLEY: Well, absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, there is some need here to sleep on this and to absorb it and to let the lawyers really sit down and say, OK what can we do next because they clearly think there are two unfair things going on. One is they think the Supreme Court overstepped its bounds, you know, into the, you know, into this legislative, into the executive.
And they also think that these canvassing boards and these three Democratic countries are also changing the rules, as James Baker said, in the middle of the game. So there are sort of two places they can go. They can attack the larger picture, that is the Supreme Court ruling out of Florida or the smaller picture and say, OK, what can we do about these canvassing boards and the now famous dimpled ballots.
WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley in Austin. Here in Washington, CNN's John King, who's been talking with people involved in the Gore camp.
KING: Two quick reactions, Judy. And not only talking about -- we have these new fancy devices where we can get our e-mails. As Secretary Baker, an e-mail from a top Gore adviser that says, so he couldn't get father's secretary of state to save him in the courts, so now he's going to ask his brother, the governor, to help him in Florida.
Politically, Governor Bush, if he goes to the legislature, faces a difficult public argument since his brother is the governor of the state. The Democrats would obviously try to tee the up as something unfair to them.
Earlier in the day, speaking to both Democrats and Republicans in the United States Congress, many anticipating this ruling, saying they thought after this it would be critical that both sides tone back the rhetoric and that perhaps the best thing would be, if not a meeting between Bush and Gore, conversations between Secretary Baker and Secretary Christopher, an agreement between the two campaigns to maybe push for a statewide recount and then say we will accept that result. That yes, the Republicans are angry, you are counting only in three Democratic counties.
The adults in both parties worried about this, what Frank called heading out into the deep blue sea. The grownups, as we call them in both parties, worried that this is going to go on and on and on. Their solution would be for both campaigns to say, OK, let's have a statewide recount in Florida, whoever wins, we will accept that result. But obviously, from the words of Secretary Baker tonight, unclear whether the Bush people would accept that and the court, even, in its decision, said, perhaps that would have been the best way to go, but it took note that nobody asked for that.
WOODRUFF: John, just quickly, any talk from the Gore people on what plan they have if the Bush people decide they are going to turn to the state legislature for remedy? or if the legislature, on it's own, decides it wants to step in and sweep aside what the Supreme Court has done here?
KING: No substantive discussion from the Gore camp on that. They, earlier in the day, when the new legislature was sworn in and this was discussed in the back halls in Tallahassee, if you will, Gore campaign people just saying flatly they did not believe that American public opinion nationally would stand for such a thing, that these judges may be appointed by a Democratic governor, but it's the state supreme court and now tonight, you note, in every time they mention this decision, the Gore people saying a unanimous decision of the courts.
They believe and they will cite Secretary Baker quickly saying that we have recourses. We have remedies under the law. They believe the American people will respect the process decided by judges and if now we go back to the politicians, that then public support for continuing this will crumble. That is there bet. We will have to see how it unfolds.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King, Bill Schneider, Frank Sesno and to our many, many other colleagues, Candy Crowley, who have been involved with us in our extensive coverage tonight of this ruling from the Florida state Supreme Court.
I would just remind our viewers, Jeff Greenfield you are joining me in New York. It was just two weeks ago tonight that we were sitting around a table in Atlanta, CNN headquarters, waiting for the ballots to be counted and for us to call some races, some of which we called, the state of Florida and then had to take it back for Al Gore. I think it was about this time we had taken it back from Mr. Gore. A lot has happened in those two weeks. And we will just continue to watch. The story doesn't get dull.
GREENFIELD: And Judy, I have a feeling that those of us who thought this would just be a few days to resolution, are now seeing Thanksgiving which will come and go and frankly I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we are counting chads under our Christmas tree and drinking them in our egg nog on New Year's. this is unbelievable. You are seeing history.
WOODRUFF: What will we find in our turkeys. Let's wait for Thursday.
Jeff Greenfield in New York. I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. Stay tuned for "THE SPIN ROOM"
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