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Election 2000: Florida's Vote Recount Could Take Days, but Bush Believes he's Already Won

Aired November 8, 2000 - 10:35 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Again, we want to stress the fact that we are waiting, now, on the results out of Florida; the entire election hinges, now, on the 25 electoral votes that will come out of Florida once, indeed, that state is taken off the "too close to call" list and put into a victory column for either George W. Bush or Al Gore.

Clay Roberts is with the division of elections director. He was speaking to reporters just a short time ago in Tallahassee. We have some videotape -- again, it just came to us here. We're going to listen to some portions of this videotape and hopefully gain a little more insight into what's happening now in Florida.

Clay Roberts, now, again, from Tallahassee.


CLAY ROBERTS, FLORIDA ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: It forms a hardship for all of them. They're working themselves to death, but they knew that signing up; you know, we don't expect recounts as a normal course of it but we understand that, under the statute, there's a procedure for it, and...

QUESTION: Do you have any...

QUESTION: I guessed the new vote was going to be critical, but I guess not quite this critical, is your response to that.

ROBERTS: Well, I read the same newspapers and watch the same television as you all and they were reporting it was going to be close, and I guess they were right.

QUESTION: Do you like being in the center of the political universe right now?

ROBERTS: No, not really.

QUESTION: This being so important, how long could all of this take? I mean, you guys are going to be really careful, obviously?

ROBERTS: Yes, we're going to be very careful, that's why we didn't want to press the supervisors to finish up today. You know, we understood that, you know, while the people of the state of Florida deserve a quick resolution to this issue, they more, certainly, deserve a methodical, a diligent and an accurate resolution.

QUESTION: So it could be a couple of days?


QUESTION: They were still adding absentees during the night, right? I mean, you're still adding absentees? I heard that on CNN at like 4:00 in the morning, talking about some counties...

ROBERTS: Yes, the issue with those absentees is what had happened, is the supervisors had gotten the absentees and they had tabulated, but we have a report that they do on our Web site and one of the blocks is all absentees included in this total. And many of the supervisors, you know, reported all their absentees, but they didn't check "yes," and they went home and we had to call them and say, hey, you know, in most elections if they do that, you know, we can call them the next day and say, hey, you know, is this all right? But on this one, you know, people didn't want to wait until 9:00 and 10:00 the next morning for some reason.

QUESTION: Is that why you revised the numbers for Sumter County? You came out here and gave us some numbers about 4:00 this morning and then you came out a half hour later and suddenly it pushed up from a 700 lead to a 1,700 lead.

ROBERTS: Yes, those were the absentee ballots in Sumter. They had counted the absentees and had not reported them to us.

QUESTION: I have a question about the different kinds of technology. You've got at least three different kinds of voting machines.


HEMMER: All right, that's Clay Roberts, the division of elections director. We'll continue to monitor that videotape. He described the situation right now as critical. A lot of folks might think it's more like on life support right now. But, again, Florida holds the key. We're going to check in shortly with Mark Potter and gain more information from there in just a bit.

First, though, here's more news with Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And nobody will be more interested in those results from Florida than George W. Bush who currently -- by the current tally does hold the lead in the state of Florida.

For the latest from the Bush camp let's bring in our Jeanne Meserve, who is standing by in Austin, Texas.

Jeanne, good morning once again.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. I just spoke to a spokesman for the Bush campaign who says this race has been determined, we are up. By state law, there must be a recount and that is proper, but we see nothing that is going to change this result. Right now, with 100 percent of the votes counted, they are up by 1,785 votes. Absentee ballots have been counted, too. The only thing missing are those overseas absentee ballots. They had to be postmarked yesterday, but they'll be coming in over the next ten days.

The Bush campaign says this: In 1996 there were 2,300 of those overseas absentee ballots. Bob Dole got 54 percent of those in a year in which he lost Florida by 43 percent. In other words, a large number of those absentee ballots went for him, they think the same will be true this year, in part because many of those ballots are coming from overseas military personnel. They believe here that it's just a matter of time until George W. Bush is declared the president- elect of the United States.

George W. Bush remaining out of sight this morning. A press conference he had scheduled for today, which has been canceled. He is meeting with advisers at the mansion now. Nothing on his schedule, no press comments expected from anybody here in Austin, but brother Jeb Bush is on his way back to Tallahassee, may even be there by now. He, of course, wants to watch over that recount that's going to be conducted in that state. They say he will be meeting with the press at about 1:15 Eastern time.

Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: Jeanne, if the recount goes as the first count has gone, that's all that George W. Bush would need to become the president- elect in terms of the Electoral College. Any comments, though, from the Bush camp, any concern that he would become president without winning the popular vote?

MESERVE: I haven't heard any expressed thus far. They are saying he is the president-elect. This is the system, this is how it's done, in their view. He will be the winner here.

KAGAN: Jeanne, standby, we have your partner Frank Sesno standing by in Washington, he also has a question for you -- Frank, go ahead.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Jeanne, I'd just like to jump in: Are you hearing anything from, either privately or publicly, from the Bush campaign staff there as to what they think the appropriate thing for the vice president at this stage would be?

MESERVE: No, Frank, I haven't. I haven't heard anything about that whatsoever. They have said that it's appropriate for the recount to go forward, that that is proper. From the sound of that, I would guess they wouldn't expect the vice president to say anything until that recount is completed.

SESNO: And anything more on these conversations the two men had last night?

MESERVE: No; I asked specifically, what was the governor's reaction when he got that second phone call from Al Gore, that second phone call in which he said, never mind, I am not conceding this race to you. The spokesman said I'd have to talk to the governor about that, I have nothing to tell you -- Frank.

SESNO: All right; Jeanne Meserve in Austin, thanks very much.

And Bill and Daryn and I will be right back with more on these extraordinary election returns right after this.



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