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Presidential Race Too Close to Call: Florida Recount Underway

Aired November 8, 2000 - 1:00 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We still don't know. Gore gets more popular votes, but the election will be decided by Florida's 25 electoral votes, and a recount of those ballots is underway.


CLAY ROBERTS, FLORIDA DIVISION OF ELECTIONS: Well, 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.


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The vote is so close that Florida absentee ballots from overseas may determine who becomes the next president of the United States.

WATERS: You may have thought you cast your ballot directly for president, when in fact you selected an elector, who is the only voter who counts. We'll examine the electoral college.

ALLEN: It is 1:00 on the East Coast, 10:00 out West. Good afternoon and good morning. This is the day after, Wednesday, November 8th.

WATERS: And from CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN TODAY.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen.

WATERS: And this is a fine how-do-you-do. Thirteen hours after the last polling places in America turned out the lights and locked the doors, the presidency now hinges on a few hundred ballots in Florida. And though a statewide recount is underway, we may not get the results until the close of business tomorrow.

After all these hours of gut-wrenching ups and downs, the electoral vote breaks like this: 260 of them for Democratic candidate Al Gore, 246 for Republican candidate George W. Bush.

As you well know, the magic number is 270, and 25 votes in Florida will put somebody over the top. Oregon also is too close to call, but the outcome there, with only seven electoral votes up for grabs, is academic. The popular vote is a different story: Gore is ahead by more than a quarter million votes, and that doesn't seem -- and it does not seem possible that the Florida recount could put Gore behind in this race.

That raises the odd, but not unprecedented prospect that he could win the popular vote but lose the election.

The popular vote in Florida currently favors Bush by some 1,800 ballots out of six million cast.

ALLEN: As if that weren't suspense enough, there are intrigues today in a few Florida counties over potentially mismarked ballots, and ballots that may have fallen through the cracks.

CNN's Mike Boettcher joins us now from Tallahassee with the latest about all of this -- Mike.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, in other places, they would say this is the epicenter of the whole crisis problem, the election count here in Florida -- hurricane country. They're saying this is the eye of the hurricane, because it's here the ballots will be reported, the new count will be made.

But this is how it occurs, and that voting going on right now. We have live pictures from Broward County, where the recount has begun. The precincts will recount the ballots. They go to the counties. The county recounts. They have those counts. They move them upstairs here to the 18th floor of this state capital skyscraper here in Tallahassee, Florida.

There they will be tabulated, but they will release the results as the counties give them. It won't be a -- one total of all the 67 counties. It will be released county by county. So you will be able to keep a running total. It will be on the state of Florida Division of Elections Web site.

And this is all due to happen over the next two days, although most of it should be done by later today. The counties have until around 7:00 tomorrow to get this process done.

Clay Roberts, who's head of Division of Elections here, says he wants to make sure it's done absolutely right.


ROBERTS: We're going to be very careful. That's why we didn't want to press the supervisors to finish up today. We understood that they -- 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.


BOETTCHER: Now, the Florida state Democratic party says it's been receiving many, many calls of people reporting irregularities. I was sitting in the state attorney general's office in the foyer for about 15 minutes waiting to see someone, and call after call came in. The switchboard lit up, and most of the people said they wanted to report some sort of election irregularity.

There was a ballot box found in a school in Palm Beach, and the question then comes, what is then counted? Now, the Division of Elections here in Florida -- and please follow me with this -- says they are doing recounting right now. When it comes to challenges and irregularities, that's not what's going to will happen right now.

They're going to go through, do the recount, count the good solid valid ballots, and then report those to the state, the country, and the world.

Later on, if there are irregularities and people want to challenge that in court and make other sorts of challenges, that could occur.

Also, complicating all of this are probably over -- around -- no one knows exactly sure, but a couple of thousand or more overseas ballots. Now, those ballots, the requirement for them is they only had to be mailed be day of the election.

So let's say you're a voter of Florida who's living in Israel right now. You send in your ballot. It's going to take a few days to get here. They'll have to wait for those.

If the recount puts that division between Gore and Bush even narrower, then those overseas ballots could come into play, and that could take several days.

So we're in the first step now. There could be many steps. But we're trying to keep an eye on all these steps here -- Natalie.

ALLEN: You're doing a good job. It looks like a lot of what-ifs to deal with.

So, Mike, as far as the ballot box that showed up in that lockbox, no one sure what's going to happen about that, or the Palm Beach County question, with the confusion over the ballot, that will be something dealt with at a later time, probably?

BOETTCHER: Yes. I mean -- well -- the ballot box, now, if they can prove on the local level there that that ballot box is -- was part of that precinct's voting, my understanding is that wouldn't be an irregularity -- it would be more of an oversight, and they could possibly count that.

Now, that could be challenged by either party. But that would be the sort of thing that that could happen. There are other things too. For example, talk to Senator-elect Bill Nelson. He said, for an hour and a half this morning, Tuesday morning, on the election, in one particular county, three precincts, he said, there weren't pages to vote for U.S. senators.

He wasn't on the ballot, and neither was his opponent. So that could have skewed the election in the Senate race.

There are all sorts of little things, snafus that happen. I mean, elections aren't the simple, cleanest things. You know, we see that count, but right now, the interesting thing about what's going on is, we're seeing all of the little things that could go wrong because the little thing really will make a difference in the final count here -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And as you said, they plan to post this recount as they come in, so we might start seeing some numbers at any time now?

BOETTCHER: Absolutely. We're keying an eye on that. I just ran up there and ran back down from the 18th floor. Took the elevator, though. And, you know, trying to see if any had come in, and as of, Natalie, about 10 minutes ago, none had come in.

I think some of the people, they were up late, they know they have a day and half now to go on this. I think that once -- I would say in about an hour you could see some results start to roll in, and we'll start to compare those and how that goes county by county.

It will be incredibly interesting, I must say, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Mike Boettcher. Thanks, Mike. We'll be in close contact.



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