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Election 2000: William Daley and Warren Christopher Hold News Conference on Florida RecountAired November 9, 2000 - 1:32 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: William Daley and Warren Christopher are about to speak in Tallahassee.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Most notably, it appears that more than 20,000 voters in the Palm Beach County, who in all likelihood thought they were voting for Al Gore, had their votes counted for Pat Buchanan or not counted at all.
Because this disenfranchisement of these Floridians is so much larger than the reported gap between Governor Bush and Vice President Gore, we believe this requires the full attention of the courts in Florida and concerned citizens all around our country.
More than 100 million Americans voted on Tuesday and more voted for Al Gore than Governor Bush. Here in Florida, it also seems very likely that more voters when to the polls believing that they were voting for Al Gore than for George Bush.
If the will of the people is to prevail, Al Gore should be awarded a victory in Florida and be our next president.
Let me focus on the problem of Palm Beach County. There, due to the confusing ballot, many voters who believe they were voting for Al Gore had their votes counted for Pat Buchanan. No other explanation for his 3,400 vote total, a sum three times larger than what he did in any other county, and 10 times the number of registered Reform voters as listed. This seems implausible. I am told that even Mr. Buchanan recognizes as much.
Based on the totals from other counties, there seems every reason to believe that well over 2,000 of these votes were votes for Vice President Al Gore, more than enough to make him the winner here in Florida.
In addition, there were more than 19,000 ballots cast in Palm Beach County that were not tabulated at all because voters, faced with this confusing ballot, apparently punched two holes instead of one.
These logical conclusions are reinforced by the phone calls, faxes and other reports from over 1,000 residents of Palm Beach County that have poured into us saying that they believe they were victims of this ballot confusion.
In response to this clear injustice, what does the Bush campaign say? They blithely dismiss the disenfranchisement of thousands of Floridians as being the usual sort of mistake made in elections; they cite legal provisions about published ballots and technical notice; they put a demand for finality ahead of the pursuit of fairness.
As for the substance of these responses, let me say that they are in doubt. It remains unclear if the sample ballot published really contained all the elements, including the alignment of the punch- holes, that the actual ballot reflected.
More importantly, let me be clear at what is at stake here. Technicalities should not determine the presidency of the United States; the will of the people should. Demanding an end to this election is not the same as demanding that the person who the people want as president takes office.
Here's what we intend to do about this. Today, the appropriate Florida Democratic officials will be requesting a hand-count of ballots in Palm Beach County as well as three other counties: Volusia, Dade and Broward.
In addition, today I'm announcing that we will be working with voters from Florida in support of legal actions to demand some redress for the disenfranchisement of more than 20,000 voters in Palm Beach County.
We believe that with so much at stake, steps should be taken to make sure that the people's choice becomes our president.
In addition, we are still collecting accounts of other irregularities, voter intimidation and other oddities in other parts of the state. And if substantiated and appropriate, they, too, will become part of legal actions.
Now let me address the concerns of those who say that these actions will delay the conclusion of this election or somehow we are seeking to drag this out.
All we are seeking is this: that the candidate who the voters preferred become our president. That is what our constitutional principles demand. That is what true fidelity to our Constitution suggests. That is what the American people truly deserve.
Moreover, we will move this matter ahead as quickly as is possible. We do not want delay. What we want, however, is democracy fulfilled.
Finally, let me address some remarks to the Bush campaign. I believe that their actions to try to presumptively crown themselves the victors, to try to put in place a transition, run the risk of dividing the American people and creating a sense of confusion.
Let the legal system run its course. Let the true and accurate rule of the people prevail. And if at the end of the process, George Bush is the victor, we will honor and, obviously, respect those results. But we would expect the same adherence to the rule of law and democratic process from their campaign in return.
Bold claims not based on the rule of the people endanger the orderly transition of power. Taking the time to ensure that the people's choice is our president is the best way to respect our democratic values and honor our Constitution.
At this time, let me ask former Secretary of State Warren Christopher to make a few brief remarks.
FORMER SECRETARY WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER, GORE CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Thank you, Bill.
To shorten this up and to enable you to get to your questions, let me just associate myself with Chairman Daley's comments.
If I could put it in a single sentence, we've come to believe that there are serious and substantial irregularities resulting from the ballot used only in one county, that that ballot was confusing and illegal, and that rising out of this is the need for redress in order to make sure that the will of the people can be properly honored in this situation.
Now, I think Secretary Daley and I, as well as Mr. Coffey, will be glad to take your questions.
DALEY: I think that's to be determined as we move forward. There are possible several different options that lawyers and others will be looking at, so we wouldn't want to presume today to determine what that redress should be.
DALEY: Well, if you look at the results of the about 19,000 -- over 19,000 people voted twice and their votes were uncounted. Those are official statistics that I've been given.
DALEY: We believe, based on the vote in that county, if you were just to take, I mean simply speaking, if you were take a percent that Al Gore got on the votes that were counted, and put that into the 19,000 that were -- that punched two holes, that he would clearly have the votes.
Right now, as I understand it, it's under 800, the spread between the two at this point in the recount.
DALEY: First of all, Secretary Baker may be a Floridian election law expert. I'm not. I'll ask Mr. Coffey if he wants to make a comment on it. The fact is, the argument that somehow a political official -- his decision or non-decision should somehow negate the vote of a citizen just doesn't make any sense.
COFFEY: Florida election law is very clear. In fact, I think, as all of you know, this was apparently the only county in Florida that choose to use a confusing butterfly ballot. And the consequences, unfortunately, are apparent to all of us.
Florida law requires a specific sequencing and a specific structure on the ballot, precisely to avoid this sort of extraordinary confusion that resulted in the disenfranchisement of thousands and thousands of voters.
QUESTION: If I could just follow that up, because they're suggesting that if you say 2,000 of the Buchanan votes -- which I think the total was a little more than 3,000 from that particular county should have gone for Al Gore instead of Pat Buchanan. What number is that based upon?
DALEY: That is based upon the percent of voters that went for Al Gore in that county, as opposed to George Bush, and if you took that percent of those votes for Pat Buchanan, they would amount to 2,000 or a little more.
DALEY: I have no opinion as to whether it -- it was obviously deliberately confusing to the people who went in there. I don't whether the person who designed it deliberately did that to confuse people. We're not making that allegation. That doesn't matter at this point.
COFFEY: There are a number of different remedies. We're not prepared to, at this point, limit the selection. Obviously, one of them could be an election; there are other remedies as well. Based upon a sufficiently conclusive showing, the judge might have different options. We're not going to comment more specifically on remedies, but it's important to emphasize there are more than one. And one of those possibilities is a new election in Palm Beach County.
QUESTION: How many lawsuits filed so far? How many are federal, how many are state? Who are the plaintiffs?
DALEY: I have no idea what suits have been filed. No, we have not -- the campaign has not filed anything. As I said in my statement, we are going to support legal actions. I've seen reported by some of your colleagues in other publications that some suits have been filed, but I don't know if they're in state or federal court.
QUESTION: Will Vice President Gore concede this election if the results -- the recount results -- still show he's losing, or is he going to wait for the end of the legal process...
DALEY: I think we will wait until the end of the process that shows who clearly won the election in Florida. And that will show that Al Gore did, if it's based upon a real count.
DALEY: A hand-count of the ballot, I'm not quite sure how long it takes. My impression from people is that it's fairly quick. Maybe Mr. Coffey can comment, based on past experience. But I don't think it's a great delay. We're trying to expedite this process.
QUESTION: Why do you want a hand-count in south Florida?
DALEY: The official in the two counties -- or, the four counties that remain, they thought there was enough evidence of reason for a hand-count to make sure that the most accurate count is given to the public. And therefore this election, which is the closest election in this state -- I would assume, one of the closest -- plus in history.
DALEY: Well, there are different remedies for different irregularities that may have taken place. That's one issue, on the 20,000, then there are issues in these specific counties beyond those 20,000 that should not be ignored.
DALEY: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Does that build your case for calling...
DALEY: Well, I think that another election, as Mr. Coffey has stated, are remedies that will be looked at by the courts further down the road.
QUESTION: Mr. Daley, but you said that you're going to wait until the end of the process. Does that mean that you're going to be asking the state of Florida not to announce the recount today, or that you encourage them to wait until the legal battle plays out?
DALEY: Well, obviously it would be a -- if someone was to announce an official vote when the process isn't over -- there are still, as I understand it, again not an expert in Florida, absentee -- overseas absentee ballots that can be received up until next Friday. And with a vote that's now within 800 votes, a spread of 800 votes or less between the two candidates, it would seem hard to me that -- anybody can call something a certification when it's not obviously a finality in the vote.
DALEY: I have no idea. I have no idea how many are out there. QUESTION: How do you respond to the contention of Florida Governor Bush and other Republicans that there was plenty of time to say something about these Palm Beach County ballots the way they were constructed? They were approved by Democrats and Republicans.
DALEY: Yes, but as was stated, that should not negate the right of the voters when they go to the poll. A party official of either party doesn't have the right to disenfranchise thousands and thousands of voters in a county in Florida. I don't think anyone would believe that.
And there is some question as to the exact comparison between the sample ballot that was published and the actual ballot and the look of the actual ballot that people went into the polling place and used.
QUESTION: Isn't the role of election judges or poll workers to help people if they're confused or have a question about a ballot? And have you looked into whether or not people were being helped to fill these out correctly? How did this get to be so widespread?
DALEY: Well, even the county officials in the middle of the day had realized that there was terrible confusion going on and had to put out a statement to the election workers because of this confusion.
Obviously, election workers are well-taxed and strained on Election Day, especially with the tremendous turnout that was going on.
But there's no question, looking at the numbers of the results, that the confusion was massive in Palm Beach County.
QUESTION: Will you be meeting with the Bush people? Do you think there's such a possibility? When will that occur?
DALEY: Yes. Sometime today. Where you can't find out, hopefully.
QUESTION: Are you saying the results of the recount should not be announced by state officials today? And that the campaign is going to be taking legal action to prevent...
DALEY: Secretary Christopher and I will meet with the secretary of state today. But what we're saying is that any thought that a number that someone could come up with today is the final number is probably not realistic.
DALEY: Well, first of all, it's not going to be a final count, because you've got absentee ballots, as I understand it, overseas absentee ballots that can be accepted up until next Thursday.
DALEY: We're not talking about the integrity of this recount or the accuracy of this number that may be put out, but that's not the final number, and that surely does not reflect the will of the people in Florida when they went to the polls on Tuesday.
DALEY: No. I was watching CNN and sometimes I believe them and sometimes I don't.
DALEY: Am I confident of what?
QUESTION: The recount process?
DALEY: Yes, well this count that's going on right now, we're confident that it's moving along. And I guess will be finished sometime today.
DALEY: I guess that remains to be seen as we move forward.
DALEY: My understanding and if I speak -- if I'm not accurate, Mr. Coffey will correct me. My understanding is the recount is the actual putting the ballots back through the machine and counting them again. And that is what will be brought to completion today.
COFFEY: What has happened in a number of places, the machine recount in some counties where we've had absolutely disastrous statistical aberrations, such as Volusia, without a hand, without a manual recount, the voters of Florida are not going to know what the truth is. So obviously, there is a necessity for a manual recount. That has not been done so far. They have done, in effect, a machine recount.
QUESTION: Who decides if there is a manual recount? What is the process of deciding if there's a manual recount?
COFFEY: Typically, that decision is made by the canvassing board in the specific county.
Now today, even though it had been requested from the beginning that a very thorough, meticulous process that included manual recounts be done, the guidance that the supervisors have received from the secretary of state's office has been to specify only machine counts. But ultimately, that decision is supposed to be made by the individual canvassing board in each of Florida's 67 counties.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) COFFEY: That ballot was completely illegal. It confused voters. It led to an unprecedented under of voters, many of whom are elderly, who waited for hours, who had their votes disqualified because it was very hard looking at it to figure out exactly what to do. The law requires, not that you mix and match and overlap different candidates on either side, which was done with a butterfly ballot, what the law requires is a simple linear listing so that the boxes are punched in the same order and you don't have this massive confusion.
You had 3,400 votes for Buchanan in Palm Beach. In Dade County, which is much bigger, 561. In Broward, 789. Those numbers cry out for justice and for getting to the bottom and getting to the truth.
COFFEY: Well, first of all, typically, supervisors of elections follow the law, as they did in 66 other counties. And, frankly, the reality of this kind of mistake resulting in, as the secretary said, 20,000 voters being disenfranchised in an election where right now there is an 800 vote difference, has simply not arisen before. Obviously, nothing about this matter is precedented.
CHRISTOPHER: Well, he asked for the meeting and so we'll hear him out and try to see if there's some way we that we can cooperate with them, but I must say the cooperation cannot extend to the point of our giving up justified legal challenges that are absolutely necessary to ensure the fairness of the process.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) What kind of timeframe do you give this? And what number be acceptable?
DALEY: Oh, it's not what number is acceptable. The process has got to be completed.
As I stated, and as Governor Jeb Bush said, this is the first step, this recount, and then there's the absentee ballots that will come in. And we're raising some very serious questions and legal actions will be taken. We do not want any delay either, but we want the American people's will, and that is the election of a president who has the most votes in our country, to take place, and the majority of the Electoral College, obviously.
DALEY: I try not to do hypotheticals.
DALEY: Let's wait and see what happens with all the votes today and the absentees and beyond.
QUESTION: Can you give us a sense as to what the vice president is doing to keep track of this? What are his plans for the next couple of days, if it's clear the legal process is going to stretch out for a while?
DALEY: I believe he and Tipper are still in Nashville, taking it easy with their family. He is obviously following this development. He has a day job also as vice president that he's doing. And so he's very busy, as he always is.
QUESTION: You're centering on Florida because it's the key right now. But have you received reports from other states? And would you consider looking at other states, in terms of irregularities in the election process?
DALEY: I personally have not heard of any as egregious as seems to have occurred on Election Day here.
QUESTION: Mr. Baker has said that the presidency is on hold, and because of that, it's affecting the interests of America, especially internationally. I wonder if Mr. Christopher can...
DALEY: Let me, and then I will ask Chris.
I think that's unfortunate to be said. The presidency is not on hold. Our system obviously has an election on the first Tuesday after the second Monday, our electors do not meet until sometime late in December, and the inauguration is not until January. So the transition of power of our government is over three months, and that will take place.
And so any implication that somehow there is a crisis or some difficulty, I think is unfortunate and is clearly a disservice to the American people.
CHRISTOPHER: That's really a very self-serving myth. I've had the ill-fortune to serve in administrations after losing an election, as well as after winning an election. Let me assure you that the presidency goes on until January 20 in a vigorous way, and none of our allies are in any doubt as to who's in charge of the government until January 20. There will be a new president then, but not before.
STAFF: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
WATERS: All right, the Gore campaign stepping forward this afternoon, claiming 20,000 or so voters have been disenfranchised in Florida. The former secretary of state, Warren Christopher, calling that a serious and substantial irregularity requiring the full attention of the Florida courts. He called that West Palm Beach ballot "confusing and illegal." We're going to talk about that with Greta Van Susteren here in just a moment. But in the meantime, the Gore campaign is calling for a hand count of votes in four Florida counties: West Palm Beach County, of course, the one where the ballot is alleged to be confusing; Volusia County; Dade and Broward Counties.
Greta Van Susteren, our legal analyst, is here.
Greta, there's going to be in about 30, 40 minutes a hearing -- an emergency hearing is called in federal court down there in West Palm Beach challenging the results in West Palm Beach. What would be the nature of the challenge? How does that read?
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, in that case -- that guest actually appeared on CNN about an hour ago, and what that person is trying to do is get what's called an injunction or temporary restraining order to hold the status quo so that everyone can examine the issue.
What he claims is that he was denied his right to vote by virtue of the way the ballot was created and presented and that he was confused, that he intended to vote for Albert Gore and instead he thinks he voted for Pat Buchanan. So he says he is being disenfranchised.
Now, Lou, that's before a federal judge. There's also an action in a county court down in Palm Beach, so it's not just the one in federal court. But what's interesting about the federal court one is federal judges have life tenure. They have an awful lot of power. And we lawyers oftentimes sit around trying to guess what judges do, and there's simply no way to know. We're on the edge of our seats to see what this judge does.
WATERS: Do Florida -- do judges generally like to get near the ballot box? I mean, would the American people be comfortable with a ruling by a federal judge in the case of selecting a president of the United States?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I don't know if Judge Airfield (ph) is comfortable in a case like this. It's sort of duck and run because no one really is going to -- no matter what the judge does, he's going to have critics or she's going to have critics in these particular cases. Judges will step in when the law, in that judge's mind, warrants that judge to step in and do something, but this is not the kind of case that a judge goes out of his way to try to get. This is a no-win situation from a personal level for the judge, going to have a lot of unhappy people out there. But judges are supposedly supposed to vote their conscience when they issue orders.
WATERS: Let's get ahead of ourselves for a minute, Greta. John Zarrella reported just a little while ago that, according to U.S. Congressman Peter Deutsche, by Florida law, the state court judge has to renew the ballots -- has to review the ballots in Palm Beach County and review the discrepancies. If he finds problems that look out of bounds, he must do a statistical analysis. And if he finds one candidate that got more votes than he should have, he must adjust the votes. Do you know what that's all about? VAN SUSTEREN: I know a little bit about what it is. What it is, Lou, is that every lawyer thinks that he or she understands the law in this case. And I must tell you that since we don't experience this often -- I don't think we've ever had this particular problem before -- nobody knows exactly what is the law governing this.
Now, what the judges are suppose to do is they're supposed to look at the case, if a case come before him and say that there's some impropriety, to try to make a determination whether indeed there's an impropriety. But, you know, at this point, I must tell you, no one knows for sure what's going to happen in any of these cases. And most of all, we don't know what that federal judge is going to do in about 30 minutes down in Palm Beach.
WATERS: The political risks here of too many lawyers, both for Al Gore and Gov. Bush, what do you see a prolonged fight in Florida, how that will impact the election of a president?
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know. I think what will happen is I think the judges will move it quickly through the system. But I must say sort of ironically, you know, it's the politicians that always blame that the judicial branch of government has lots of problems and needs to be fixed. Well, now we're taking a look at the political branch of government which has lots of problems as well. And now they're going to court, perhaps, to get some of them resolved one way or another.
WATERS: All right, Greta Van Susteren, our CNN legal analyst down there with all the other lawyers in Tallahassee.
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