Eileen O'Connor says the Democrats are 'energized'
CNN Correspondent Eileen O'Connor
CNN Correspondent Eileen O'Connor is in Washington, covering the Gore campaign's perspective on the latest twists in the election standoff.
Q: Any reaction from Vice President Al Gore on the U.S. Supreme Court's stay on the counting of undervotes Saturday, a day after the Florida Supreme Court ordered the counting to begin?
O'CONNOR: Generally the vice president goes to church on Sunday with his family. So we may see him, but we don't expect him to talk to us. A lot of other Democrats, however, are out talking about the U.S. Supreme Court decision. Some Democratic lawmakers, like Sen. Patrick Leahy (of Vermont), were really bitterly complaining about the decision. They're saying that it's interfering with the democratic process. Emotions are running high. There's a lot of disappointment and bitterness.
Q: It seemed that support for Gore's drive for manual recounts was flagging even among Democrats until the Florida Supreme Court on Friday ruled in favor of counting the undervotes. Now they seem more vocal in their support of Gore.
O'CONNOR: The Florida Supreme Court ruling definitely energized the Democrats. They felt that the court had vindicated them. It wasn't that they didn't support Gore earlier in his quest, but they were discouraged. The support had dwindled because they were running out of avenues. Now they feel like they have to press on. They feel that they really won a moral victory in the Florida Supreme Court. This is the highest court in the state saying that these undervotes need a person to interpret them and that there may be votes that have not been counted. They also felt that it was a public relations victory that would help them in the court of public opinion.
Q: How many votes did Gore gain through the partial counting of the undervotes?
O'CONNOR: Obviously, both men gained votes through this process, but the net gain, according to Gore's attorneys, was 58 votes for Gore. If you think of the Bush lead having dwindled to 154, that put it to under 100, which is amazing. And they were only halfway through counting the undervotes from Miami-Dade County, according to the canvassing board there. Gore's attorneys felt that as the counting progressed they were going to be showing that the vice president had picked up enough votes to overcome Bush's lead. That would have put them in an incredibly strong position to argue their case.
Q: Some Democratic voters are appealing a Florida court decision that is allowing some disputed absentee ballots to be included in the vote total. What's the difference between that case and the case for counting undervotes?
O'CONNOR: In the case of the absentee ballots, the ballots themselves were not in question, but the applications for the ballots. Voter identification numbers in some cases were filled in by Republican Party officials. The argument was that the Democrats were not allowed to do the same thing. While the lower court found that there were irregularities, they didn't find enough reason to throw out the ballots. The law on altering applications for ballots is very unclear.
Q: What is the basic argument of the two sides?
O'CONNOR: What's interesting to me is both sides are arguing for the same thing: That this is about the legitimacy of the presidency. The Gore camp says that until you count the undervotes by hand to determine if there was voter intent, you don't know the legitimate winner. The Bush camp, on the other hand, argues that the lack of standards from county to county and the fact that this is a human process where interpretation comes in means that counting votes manually brings into question the legitimacy of the presidency. The bottom-line argument is the same.