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CNN Today

Election 2000: Florida Voting Irregularities Could Cause Difficult, Even Constitutional, Problems

Aired November 9, 2000 - 2:17 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: We're getting our first pictures of George W. Bush today arriving at the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas. We have heard reports out of there today of business being conducted vis-a-vis a transition to office, a report that has angered some within the Gore campaign, who stepped forward and called it arrogant.

But the governor is conducting business, and the vice president is considering his options for the future, including his legal options. CNN political analyst Bill Schneider is here. We're awaiting a court thing here in Palm Beach shortly as the candidates go about their business.

First of all, this legal business, what are the political dangers of a judge getting involved?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Very serious dangers. There appear to be very clear irregularities in the case of Palm Beach county voting, that the ballot appears to have been highly confusing. Even the candidates -- Pat Buchanan and, certainly, Al Gore -- contend the vote doesn't follow the pattern of any other vote.

But if the judge orders this election thrown out and the revote to take place, that raises all kinds of questions and problems. Can you have revote in one county with only the same voters allowed to vote when they know the outcome in the rest of the country?

Then the president of the United States will be picked by the voters of one county who know something that they did not know on election day, namely how the rest of the country voted, and in effect, the entire presidential reelection will take place in that county.

That's a bit strange. We know that voters in be West Coast sometimes know how people voted on the East Coast. This, I think, is a different order of magnitude.

WATERS: Doesn't that also open a Pandora's box because of the closeness of several races in several other states?

SCHNEIDER: That's right. I would imagine that if the judge says because of valid confusion that he's going to order another election, the Bush campaign can probably find races to contest in other states. There were several states -- I can think of Iowa and Wisconsin -- that Al Gore carried by very slim majorities of 2,000 votes. My guess is it would not be that difficult to find confusing ballots, voters who claimed they were pressured, or that there was some kind of fraud or irregularity, and we could have court cases blossoming all over the country.

WATERS: Well, Warren Christopher and Bill Daley stepped out less than an hour ago and they seemed to be saying that they're going to pursue a legal path here to settling this business. That begs the question about the electoral college meeting December 18th if this Florida business hasn't been settled legally. What happens this?

SCHNEIDER: Well, of course the electors are scheduled to meet on the 18th -- that's a statutory date, not constitutional -- to cast their ballots for president, which are then counted in January.

There are all kinds of nightmare scenarios about judges and joining the electoral college for meeting. I guess the question basically reduces to this: Is the presidential election going to be decided on a legal technicality. There's only one force -- two people -- who can make sure it does not happen, and that is the two candidates.

Both of them are raising, I think, serious problems just in terms of politics and public relations. The Bush campaign, by behaving presumptuously -- Bush called it arrogant -- I'm sorry, the Gore campaign called it -- in setting up a transition and talking about victory rallies -- that's terribly presumptuous, and the voters may deeply resent that. And the Gore campaign indicating that they're going to fight this tooth and claw and raise every legal barricade.

As I indicated that could just open the floodgates to lawsuits all over the country. The candidates and the campaign had better be very careful about what they're doing here.

At some point, somebody's going to have to say stop just for the good of the country, for the survival of the Republic and the law: Stop, we can't pursue this. The candidates, the candidates have to say that.

WATERS: Now, the 12th amendment allows for the House of Representatives to settle the presidential election. We never thought we would see the impeachment of a president in our lifetime. Could it happen?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it could happen. You could be pursuing this where electors don't meet, and then, of course, there's nothing to count. and the Congress has to name an acting president. These are all nightmare scenarios, and the question is are the candidates willing to pursue this to that bitter end.

At some point they just have to say it's not worth endangering the Constitution to win this election, and what will victory be worth? That's for both candidates to decide, let me stress, both candidates.

WATERS: And the legitimacy of the presidency itself is at stake here. SCHNEIDER: Sure, I mean, Gore, in a sense, has the upper hand because he did win the popular vote, so people understand. Number one, he won the popular vote. Number two, there were clear irregularities in Palm Beach county. Now no one is charging fraud, that anyone deliberately manipulated the electorate. It's just that there was a ballot that caused a lot of confusion. And there are probably cases all over the country where people can claim that.

That's my point. This is a terrible misfortune with calamitous consequences, but the question is how far do you pursue it, and at what political risk and what Constitutional risk.

WATERS: Stock up on your throat lozenges. I think you're going to need them for the next few days. Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst.

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