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Election 2000: Bush Leads Gore in Florida Recount; Challenges Continue

Aired November 10, 2000 - 7:01 a.m. ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we begin in Florida where the recount is over. Less than two hours ago, we got the final unofficial tally. The Associated Press reports George W. Bush leads Al Gore by 327 votes in Florida with all counties reporting. However, this count has not been officially certified since state officials haven't received all county reports yet. But remember this, we are still days away from final results, that's because overseas ballots have not been counted yet in Florida.

Meanwhile, a ballot protest is going on in Palm Beach County. Lawsuits have been filed and there are calls for a revote due to problems with some voters -- they found their ballot on Tuesday. Tomorrow, county officials plan to recount the votes by machine and by hand.

With the first Florida recount numbers in, the Bush campaign says his victory is confirmed. Bush aides are now calling for the Gore campaign to reconsider the ideas of lawsuits and more recounts. The Gore campaign says it has no intention of conceding now. Gore aides tell CNN the county recount is just the beginning of a process which includes tabulation of the ballots overseas.

STEPHEN FRASIER, CNN ANCHOR: Ground zero for the floor recount is the Secretary of State's office in Tallahassee, and that's where county vote totals are being processed.

LIN: That's right, and CNN's Bill Hemmer is there.

Bill, do -- have they receive yet any of these overseas ballots? Do they know how many there are so far?

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Carol and Stephen. In short, the answer to your question, Carol, is no, it is unclear right now indeed how many of those overseas absentee ballots have been received and how many more possibly can come in between now and next week. You mentioned the deadline. There is a deadline on that, it comes on Nov. 17, which is indeed next Friday, a week from today.

Having said that, the only measure we can use right now is looking back to the past election of 1996. In Florida, it's believed that 2300 overseas ballots did come in after the election and about 54 percent of those did favor the Republican candidate for president Bob Dole. Of course his bid for the White House was unsuccessful. But in short again, we don't know the total on these absentee ballots.

And really, to say the last few days here in Florida have been bizarre would be a bit of an understatement. It appeared yesterday that the story changed just about every 30 minutes. It has slowed down slightly just because the Associative Press has given their figures and again, as you mentioned, the Texas governor still with that lead, that slim margin of 327 votes over the vice president, Al Gore.

I mentioned the bizarre. I want to bring in CNN's Mike Boettcher on this topic because we were talking yesterday about so many different variables thrown in here right now.

Based on what you know thus far today, you've been talking with the Democrats, what are they saying?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying they asked for the hang count in various counties because they felt that by looking at the vote totals, there were indications that the machine might not have counted all of the presidential votes. So they believe the only way to find out for sure is to have people go through by hand and physically count each ballot.

They also said that there was a meeting yesterday between Secretary of State Warren Christopher and -- former secretary of state and former Secretary of State James Baker. I talked to Mr. Christopher this morning, and he said all the right things were said. Another Democrat official told me that it was just a matter to open up lines of communication and it was very cordial. So they are opening up those lines, but I'm not sure exactly what is being said.

HEMMER: And as viewers wake up this morning, we went to bed late last night not knowing again what all counties would report. And what we can tell people right now is, as we look at the story as a whole, there are two deadlines we're waiting on: number one, Tuesday the 14th, when the state says it will have official results from here in Florida, and then as I mentioned, the 17th, next Friday.

BOETTCHER: Absolutely. Next Friday is the deadline for the state certification, and one thing to point out to you, we were talking about these overseas ballots, where the focus of attention will really shift now, some of those were received before or on election day. Now those have already been counted. Others that arrive after election day will go directly to the counties, they don't come here to the state capital in Tallahassee. Each county will count those overseas ballots and they'll do it each day as they come in. We don't know if we will get a posting each day, but it's going to be a process, Bill, that's not going to end until Friday.

HEMMER: Indeed. It took me a long time to figure it out this morning, and we're still...

BOETTCHER: We're still working on it.

HEMMER: We are still working on it. Mike Boettcher, many thanks to you. Also here in the state of Florida, in the southeastern section of Florida, in Palm Beach County, it is again a point of major contention for a number of voters down there.

Let's go live now to West Palm Beach and CNN's John Zarrella for more from that part of the state.

John, good morning to you.


I know you gentlemen were just talking about a couple of deadlines looming out there into the 17th. Well, there are some soft deadlines out there that could still throw a monkey wrench into everything. Take a look at the "Palm Beach Post" this morning: "Judge Freezes Ballots Until Next Week; The Tension Builds."

About 8:30 last evening, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge, Kathleen Kroll (ph), issued a temporary injunction, which stops Palm Beach County from certifying the votes until at least next Tuesday, when she has scheduled hearing. This is the results of a lawsuit filed yesterday by two Boca Raton women, who are claiming that they were, quote, "cheated of their rights."

Now, we have heard that before, all day yesterday, but this appears to be the first action where a judge has actually now decided to go ahead and hold a scheduled hearing, a circuit court judge, and that will be some time next Tuesday.

There are at least four or five other lawsuits we understand that are pending out there at this point, but no dates, court dates have been set for those.

The judge, in issuing the temporary injunction, said, quote, "it would cause irreparable injury if Palm Beach County were allowed to certify those votes here in the county before a hearing were held."

Now, the attorney representing the two women says the judge did the right thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the results should be certified. I don't think that the entire election should be resolved without the basis of this ballot, which was inappropriate, being resolved.


ZARRELLA: Now, while all this will take place next week, the city -- county yesterday, late yesterday afternoon, announced that it would go ahead and do what both the Democratic and Republican parties asked for. The Democrats asked for a hand recount of the ballots here in Palm Beach County, and that will be 1 percent of the ballot, about 4000, 4600 ballots will be hand counted beginning at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. At the same time, the Republican Party asked for a machine recount of all of the ballots cast in Palm Beach County. That too will be conducted some time starting tomorrow about 9:00 a.m. -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, John, John Zarrella live in Palm Beach.

And want to let you know also a couple of really interesting guests straight ahead here owns CNN's EARLY EDITION, Bob Dole will be with us live from Washington; Warren Christopher here in Tallahassee, we'll talk with him; and also David Cardwell (ph), he's the former director of the elections division in Florida. He'll be our guest, certainly, to try and get some answers to the many, many questions out there again now on this third day in the Sunshine state.

That's it from here. See you in a couple of minutes. Back to Atlanta now, more with Carol and Stephen.

LIN: All right, thanks, Bill, very much.

FRAZIER: Thanks, Bill.

Let's turn out to the camps of the two major players in this election drama. Gov. Bush is in Austin. Vice President Gore has moved, though, to Washington now.

We're going to start with the Gore camp. CNN's Jonathan Karl is in the nations capital this morning with the Gore side of all this.

Jonathan, good morning.

JONATHAN KARL: Good morning, Stephen.

Immediate response from the Gore campaign to this unofficial tally of the Associative Press, giving a narrow lead to George W. Bush of 327 votes, the Gore campaign saying: Hey, this is the beginning of the process. They think that margin is much, much narrower than it was when we got started here after on Wednesday, we got started with a margin of nearly 2000 votes for George W. Bush, we're down to 327. They say that raises the stake for the next two steps, the next two steps being counting those -- the rest of those overseas absentee ballots and going through some very important recounts by hand.

The Gore campaign has requested recounts in four counties. Some of those recount the idea being here -- there you're seeing pictures of the vice president arriving in Washington last night. The vice president is here in Washington now. He is expected to keep a very low profile until this process shakes out. We're told not to expect any public comments from the vice president.

But, again, his team is saying that these next steps are very important, waiting for those overseas ballots and the recounts. The recounts by hand are important because in several of these counties there were a large number of votes that had no recorded vote for president. So what the Gore campaign wants to see happen is to go through and look at those ballots by hand, not simply run them through a machine, because they believe the machines may have missed a vote, you know, perhaps the person didn't punch the whole far enough, the machines may have missed the vote that could be picked up by hand.

Meanwhile, the Gore campaign looking at this narrow margin of 300 votes certainly in no mood for a concession here. I asked one of the vice president's top aides if, when this thing shakes out, we finally count the overseas ballots, when we finally look at these recounts by hand, will the vice president go on with legal challenges or do you think he will have to look at this and say, hey, you know, it's time to concede? And the person looked at me, this top aid looked at me and said, concede? We won, why would we concede? That very much the attitude right here in Washington with the Gore campaign.

FRAZIER: Jonathan, that attitude notwithstanding, as the move was made yesterday, I was reading some accounts of tearful Gore staffers packing up their offices in Nashville, putting things into boxes, and a kind of an elegiac or sad mood. Were you witness to any of that when you were there yesterday?

KARL: Well, absolutely. These are people who have come through as they have over the Bush campaign, you know, one of the toughest political battles in memory. The Nashville office is essentially closed down now without any conclusion. The Gore campaign, the Gore operation now moving up to Washington. All the top lieutenants and many of the ground troops down to Florida. Those left in Nashville are left closing up a campaign headquarters not knowing if their guy won. It's an incredibly emotional time for them, their nerves are frayed, they've been going for so long without sleep, there such an emotional high, emotional lows on election night, when at one point it looked like they were going to win, then it looked like they lost. It's a very confusing time, especially for a lot of these you know campaign workers who have dedicated much of their lives for the past year or maybe even more to the Gore campaign, many of them working without pay, working incredibly long hours, and now being forced to go home not knowing what's going to happen next.

FRAZIER: Well, thank you for that account of the human side of things, we tend to forget all that. Jonathan Karl with the vice president in Washington this morning.

LIN: So you wonder what's going on over at the Bush campaign as they wait for these votes to be counted.

Let's go to Jeanne Meserve. She is standing by in the Texas capital of Austin.

Jeanne, what's the mood there?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, you may recall that Wednesday, Governor Bush said that if a Florida recount reconfirmed his win than he had won the election. Today, the Bush campaign going not quite that far.

They did issue a statement immediately after the recount results were revealed by the Associative Press, a statement from communications director Karen Hughes said, "We won Florida Tuesday night and now a recount has reconfirmed Bush's victory." She went on to say: "We hope Vice President Gore and his campaign will reconsider their threats of lawsuits and still more recounts, which could undermine the constitutional process of selecting a president and has no foreseeable end." That a reference to questions about some other states that arose yesterday, a day of increasing tensions and acrimony between the campaigns.


MESERVE (voice-over): The governor acted positively presidential, continuing plans for a possible White House transition with Dick Cheney, making no public remarks about the muck and mire surrounding the contested presidential race. Top aides however waded right in.

DON EVANS, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: The Democrats, who are politicizing and distorting these events, risk doing so at the expense of our democracy. One of the options that they seem to be looking at is new elections. Our democratic process calls for a vote on election day, it does not call for us to continue voting until someone likes the outcome.

MESERVE: Bush officials say the Gore campaign has exaggerated reports of voting irregularities in Florida. In Palm Beach, they say, thousands of presidential ballots were also disqualified in 1996 for double punching. Reform and independent registration has surged 110 percent in that county, explaining, the Bush people say, the high Buchanan tally there.

As for Palm Beach's butterfly ballot, the Bush people said, Gore Chairman Daley should be the last to criticize it.

KARL ROVE, BUSH CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I have here the copy of the Cook County, Illinois judicial ballot, which is a butterfly ballot. It's been used in a number of states in a number of counties, and it's historically been used in Cook County, Illinois. Maybe Mr. Daley's in a better place to decry democracy and confusion in Cook County than he is in Florida.

MESERVE: Cook County of course is Daley's home turf.

The Bush campaign raised the specter that incomplete and irregular voting elsewhere in the country could change vote tallies and could lead to other recounts.


MESERVE: Still to be counted in Florida an undetermined number of overseas absentee ballots. The Bush campaign argues that they are only likely to increase Bush's margin of victory. That in the past they have tended Republican, but those will not all be in and counted until the 17th of this month -- Carol.

LIN: Jeanne, do you know if the Bush campaign has specifically asked for recounts in states like Iowa and Wisconsin, where Gore won by a very narrow margin? And if they have, where does it end, in terms of how many recounts continue until we find out who becomes president? MESERVE: Carol, as far as we know, they have not asked for recounts in those states. However, they point out that I believe it's in Iowa that an automatic recount might be triggered if the margin is very close, just the way an automatic recount was triggered in Florida when the margin was tight -- Carol.

LIN: Thank you very much, Jeanne Meserve in Austin, Texas.



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