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Election 2000: Winner of Florida Still in DoubtAired November 10, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Election Day plus three and the wait is testing the patience of the candidates and their teams.
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JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It appears that the Gore campaign is attempting to unduly prolong the country's national presidential election through endless challenges to the results of the vote here in Florida.
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WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Waiting is unpleasant for all of us, but suggesting that the outcome of a vote is known before all of the ballots are properly counted is inappropriate.
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JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: While Al Gore spent some of the day playing defense, George W. Bush sounds ready to call the play.
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GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think that's what the country needs to know, that this administration will be ready to assume office, and be prepared to lead.
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CHEN: The election uncertainty stretches into the weekend: recounts by hand in several Florida counties, and a public relations battle by both sides for the hearts and minds of Americans.
BLITZER: New challenges to Tuesday's vote elsewhere, as another state shifts to the too close to call column. All straight ahead on this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY.
Good evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting once again from the state capitol in Tallahassee, Florida.
CHEN: And I'm Joie Chen at CNN center in Atlanta. Florida's official election recount is not yet final, but so far, the state says it has results from all but two Florida counties.
BLITZER: Those state figures give George W. Bush the lead over Al Gore. The official results so far, 960 vote differential with 66 of the 67 counties in Florida reporting. But unofficial results compiled by the Associated Press provide a much slimmer, narrower margin for George W. Bush, a margin of only 327 votes.
CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher has been covering the story. Now day three. Mike Boettcher joins us now. It's been another dramatic day here in Tallahassee, Mike. Tell us what happened.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. The big story is upstairs they're trying to get to the official count. We're one county away. But the bigger story is about the overseas ballots, ballots that have yet to be counted.
BOETTCHER (voice-over): In one of these envelopes from overseas, perhaps the ballot that elects the next president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got three pieces -- four pieces of overseas mail today.
BOETTCHER: With an unofficial tabulation of Florida's recount showing George W. Bush holding a razor-thin lead, the overseas absentee ballots, to be counted by November 17th, could decide the election. A full 10 percent of Florida's population, 176,000 U.S. military personnel, are eligible to vote in Florida, and at any one time, several thousand of them are posted abroad.
Add to that civilian Floridians living overseas, and a substantial number of absentee ballots could remain to be counted. The ballots they cast that were received on or before last Tuesday's election are already included in the current vote total. Ballots received up to 10 days after the election also will be counted and certified by next Friday.
Those totals will eventually be added up here, on the 18th floor of Florida's State Capitol Complex, where, besides conducting a statewide recount, officials also will tabulate revised totals from a handful of counties that must now recount ballots by hand, a complicated and time-consuming process.
DAVID CARDWELL, FORMER FLORIDA ELECTION DIRECTOR: There the teams of two people each, one from each political party, that would examine the ballot and they would have to come to an agreement if the ballot is to be registered as a change in the vote. So they'll have to go through all the votes. They can't pull out just the 19,000.
BOETTCHER: So, they have a lot of work to do here. They have to look at -- after counting the ballots by hand they have look after the official count. And Wolf, not to mention the fact that during all of this the whole world is watching.
BLITZER: Now this is a weekend that normally this state capital would be very quiet. But there's still a lot of high-powered legal talent from both of these campaigns running around Tallahassee.
BOETTCHER: Well, absolutely. This is Veterans Day here and it's a state holiday. But even though the 800-pound gorillas of the Democratic Party are leaving -- what's going here on is a parachute drop, basically, of high-powered legal talent and volunteers looking after this whole process of trying to challenge this election in Florida. And they've set what is essentially looks like a campaign office in a state, but it's basically here to look after what's going on with the recount and to look after the investigation of what they allege to be irregularities in this campaign.
BLITZER: All right, Mike Boettcher. you'll be here, I'm sure, for several more days.
And joining us now is Bob Crawford, the agriculture commissioner of Florida. And only within the past few days he was named to State Election Commission to fill the vacancy left by Governor Jeb Bush. He recused himself, he withdrew himself because of the obvious conflict there.
Tell us about these overseas ballots. They seem to have the potential for the success or failure of these two presidential candidates. What is going to happen when they come in?
ROBERT CRAWFORD, FLORIDA AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER: Well, it's no question about it. We have a number of absentee ballots out. Historically, we have a fairly high number. Those will be the final count that's going to occur on Friday. So by Friday at 5:00, we should have all those ballots in. Each individual supervisor of elections will tally those ballots, certify those to Tallahassee, and at that point we hope to have a final certified vote count for the state of Florida.
BLITZER: Do you have any idea, a ballpark figure how many overseas, absentee ballots are out there of people who voted?
CRAWFORD: It's kind of hard to estimate. I know in this county of Leon, it does not have a lot. There's about 100 (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I've heard the number 10,000 statewide. So it could be a little bit higher. It kind of depends on how many you actually get back. So you get a large number mailed out, but because servicemen and other people are moving, you have an attrition there of the number that actually come back to the state.
BLITZER: And to be precise, these are not just military personnel, these are Floridians who happen to live overseas or anyplace else who just asked for an absentee ballot.
CRAWFORD: That's right. You could traveling over there an extended period of time. You could be working over there in the military or a nonmilitary civilian working in a military base. So they all ask for absentee ballots and they get them. BLITZER: And just to be precise, also, next Friday at what time will you -- one of three members of the state election commission -- be able to certify a winner in this presidential election in Florida?
CRAWFORD: We believe we will have all the votes in by 5:00. And so we'll at that point be in a position to do a final count, a final check to make sure we have them there. So hopefully by late Friday night we'll deliver a certified, legally binding vote that it'll show who win the 25 electoral votes in Florida.
BLITZER: So as far as you're concerned, we won't know who won until Friday night?
CRAWFORD: No question about it. I think we've got to see these ballots. These people deserve a chance to vote and we're going to count them.
BLITZER: I think we'll be back here Friday night. I'm just predicting that. Bob Crawford, thank you so much for joining us -- Joie.
CHEN: Wolf, Governor Bush says he is so far pleased by the results of the Florida recount. He spent this day planning his transition strategy, in case he does win.
CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Austin, Texas.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Bush is working in two tenses: the uncertainty of what is; the possibility of what will be.
BUSH: I understand there's still votes to be counted, but I'm in the process of planning in a responsible way a potential administration.
CROWLEY: At the governor's mansion in Austin, the potentials sat beside him: Vice-Presidential Nominee Dick Cheney; Larry Lindsay, chief economic adviser; Condoleezza Rice, chief foreign policy adviser; and Andrew Card, said to be bush's first choice as chief of staff.
The Gore camp calls this transition talk presumptuous. The Bush camp calls it planning.
BUSH: There's been a series of ongoing meetings that the secretary and I've had on a variety of subjects, so that should the verdict that has been announced thus far be confirmed, we'll be ready. And I think that's what the country needs to know, that this administration would be ready to assume office and be prepared to lead.
CROWLEY: The picture and the words seem designed to send out a signal of certainty and serenity. The rough stuff was left to Bush's man on the ground in Florida.
BAKER: If we keep being put in the position of having to respond to recount after recount after recount of the same ballots, then we just can't just sit on our hands, and we will be forced to do what might be in our best personal interests.
CROWLEY: To wit, there are other squeaker states out there that can be brought back into play. Under scrutiny by Republicans: New Mexico, where Bush campaign officials are on the ground; Oregon, the Republican National Committee has personnel there; Iowa where two Republican lawyers are awaiting a final count; and Wisconsin, where Governor Tommy Thompson is the designated point man.
We hope Florida ends this, said one aide to Thompson, but if it doesn't, all bets are. Right now it's saber rattling, an effort to push back the talk of legal action from the Gore team. Republicans in touch with the Bush camp say no decisions have been made about other challenges. And the decisions will be up to Bush. They hope Florida, after the overseas vote, will end it, and the Gore team will drop legal threats.
Our first hope, said one top Republican official, is that we do not have to rip the skin off the electoral process for the outcome to be satisfactory to everyone. When you get into legal disputes about the outcomes of elections in every single county in American, it's nothing less than mutually assured destruction.
CROWLEY: Because of state laws in some of these states where Al Gore won by a razor-thin edge, it is possible that the Bush campaign, should it want a recount, will have to decide before the final tally is in, in Florida -- Joie.
CHEN: So Candy, is the Bush campaign preparing for that eventuality by keeping people on the ground in these area? Is there somebody assigned to watch out for the votes in these, as you call them, squeaker states?
CROWLEY: You know, they're all watching those states. But yes, there are some Bush people on the ground in New Mexico, which, last time I looked, was down to about a hundred votes unofficially. There are Republican National Committee personnel, are now in Oregon also watching a very close vote there. There are two Republican lawyers in Iowa, another state with a 5-6,000-vote edge.
And then that leaves Wisconsin, where the Republican state committee there has been complaining of irregularities. Of course, governor Tommy Thompson, a close Bush friend and a Republican is the point man for that. So, there are several states they are watching and they do have personnel on the ground watching after it.
CHEN: Given the reversals of fortune, if we can put it politely, through the course of this rather dramatic week, I mean, what does the Bush team keep an eye out for now? What is of greatest concern to them? CROWLEY: I have got to believe that the greatest concern to them right now is this hand count. All of them talk about it when you call them to say, well, what's going on and what are you thinking? Here's what worries them about a hand count. They say, you know, once you get human beings involved, you know, ballots tend to get lost, other things can happen to them.
They don't say, look, there's a potential for fraud here. But what they -- they say, we went to machines for a reason. They can count these things more accurately. Now, to put it into a hand count, they think, is ripe for even more mistakes. They are battling very hard against this hand count in several counties in Florida. They would really like to see it stopped.
CHEN: CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley in Austin, Texas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Joie, the Gore campaign, meanwhile, is under some serious criticism for suggesting that the final recount could still be legally challenged.
CNN White House correspondent John King is covering that part of the story.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Relax, what's the rush? was the vice president's unspoken message. This leisurely family outing was designed to portray an image of calm. But the Gore team is also adjusting its strategy to calm jitters among fellow Democrats: focusing more on the Florida recount and stepping away from aggressive talk of challenging the results in court.
WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I hope that our friends in The bush campaign will join us in our efforts to get the fairest and most accurate vote count here in Florida.
KING: The day's goal was to turn the focus from talk of lawyers and lawsuits to simply making sure the Florida count is accurate.
DALEY: Waiting is unpleasant for all of us. But suggesting that the outcome of a vote is known before all the ballots are properly counted is inappropriate.
KING: Senators Robert Torricelli of New Jersey and John Breaux of Louisiana said publicly what many Democrats are voicing privately: that a long, drawn-out battle is not in the country's best interests. So, while not ruling out a legal challenge, the Gore team said it hoped all this could be resolved through the recounts under way in several Florida counties. And House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt stepped up to help the vice president in the public-relations war.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Look, if the shoe were on the other foot, I can assure you the Bush campaign would be making all these points, and, in the end, wanting what everybody should want, which is a competent, successful, conclusive election. (END VIDEOTAPE)
KING: So, while supporting a thorough recount, most Democrats draw the line there. They believe the Gore campaign made a major tactical mistake coming out of the box yesterday threatening lawsuits. Most Democrats believe that if this recount, in the end, shows that Governor Bush is ahead, the vice president should stop there and not challenge the election in the courts -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John, you would have thought that before the suggestion of some sort of legal recourse was made public by Gore campaign officials, they would have thought through what that meant. Was there a problem there in communication, in the chain of command between Gore and lesser officials, or was this a well-thought-through strategy that seems to have backfired, at least politically?
KING: Well, let's be clear, first and foremost, they are not withdrawing their right to sue eventually. Most believe, though, it was a tactical political error to come right out of the box saying, we may take this to court. There are already citizens of Florida challenging that controversial Palm Beach ballot. The Gore campaign now is saying, if their suit succeeds, great, that will benefit us, probably.
What -- everyone here is tired, remember. This has been a long, exhausting last week at the election. Then the roller-coaster night we had Tuesday night and everything since then. Today, after waking up and reading the papers, a lot of Democrats were alarmed by the idea that we were going to throw this election into the courts. They believe the public will not support that.
Now, if one of those lawsuits is successful, obviously the vice president might benefit from that. But their public relations strategy now, while this recount draws on, for another week, perhaps, is to just focus on asking for a fair count. They believe that is something that is very hard for the Bush campaign to object to -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And John, James Baker, the former secretary of state, is working with the Bush campaign. He made it clear they would really like the Gore campaign, Vice President Gore, to concede defeat even before the final overseas absentee ballots are counted. And that deadline would be a week from right now, a week from today, next Friday.
Is there any prospect that might happen once the official numbers come in without the overseas ballots, given the argument the Republicans are making that most of those overseas ballots historically have trended to be a majority of Republican voters?
KING: Absolutely not, at this point. The only possibility, I think, is if in this hand recount underway now in several counties, if the results actually went in Governor Bush's direction in any big way, then perhaps there would be more pressure on the vice president. They don't believe that will be the case. The hand count underway now is in counties where the vice president beat Governor Bush. The Gore campaign believes they could, indeed, end up ahead after this hand recount.
And what they are saying is that yes, historically those overseas ballots have gone in favor of the Republicans. They are not sure that will be the case this year, they say, because they say they actively targeted Florida Jews who are living in Israel. And they think they might do better among military people than perhaps Bill Clinton did four years ago.
So, they are -- under no circumstances, do they say that they will bow out of this until next Friday. And there is some indignation in the Gore camp about this. They say that Florida has not certified the results yet. so how can Governor Bush claim to be a winner and how can they cast the vice president as a loser when he's still ahead in the Electoral College?
BLITZER: OK, John King, reporting from Washington, thank you -- Joie.
CHEN: Wolf, clouding this picture even further: New Mexico's continuing vote count. Gore's election night lead of more than 9,000 votes has now dwindled to a razor-thin 106. That puts the Land of Enchantment and its five electoral votes right back into the undecided column. It joins Florida and Oregon as states that CNN sees as too close to call.
However, the Associated Press is reporting that Gore apparently has won Oregon. Adding to the day's confusion, Iowa and Wisconsin may be back in play.
CNN's Pat Neal reports from Milwaukee.
PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Wisconsin, Republicans are asking the Milwaukee district attorney to investigate claims of voter irregularities.
RICHARD GRABER, WISCONSIN GOP CHAIRMAN: These concerns range from the improper handling of marked ballots to voters being told they had voted when in fact they had not to voters being given multiple ballots.
NEAL: Al Gore won Wisconsin by just 6,000 votes. Republicans do not claim Democrats were behind any of these new problems. But in another incident, recorded by a local Milwaukee TV station, Republicans are crying fouls over claims a Democratic volunteer offered cigarettes to homeless people in exchange for casting a vote for Gore. The D.A. is already looking into this charge.
MARVIN PRATT, MILWAUKEE CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: There was a 6,000-vote margin here in the state, and Al Gore and Joe Lieberman won this state.
NEAL: Wisconsin election officials doubt any irregularities would change the outcome of the state's decision, but efforts here and in many other states show Republicans are ready to fight fire with fire, if necessary.
(on camera): There is no automatic recount in Wisconsin. The Bush campaign will likely wait until the official tally here is complete next week before deciding whether to request one.
(voice-over): In Iowa, another state Gore narrowly won, absentee ballots will keep trailing in until next week. There, the margin between George Bush and Al Gore is two-tenths of 1 percent.
CHET CULVER, IOWA SECRETARY OF STATE: We'll look at each county and we'll see if there are any aberrations or anything that doesn't look like it would be in the normal flow.
NEAL: Under Iowa state law, if the margin is less than 1 percent, a candidate may ask for a recount. Republicans are talking with county auditors while the Bush campaign is mulling over a recount request.
Even though there's been no declared winner yet in Oregon, a recount is almost certain. With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, Gore leads by three-tenths of 1 percent. Under state law, if the final margin is only .2 of one percent, a recount is automatic. In all these states, Republicans or the Bush campaign are moving in teams to investigate and lay the groundwork for recounts if Florida doesn't go Bush's way.
Pat Neal, CNN, Milwaukee.
CHEN: And there's a late development at this hour from one of the another states whose totals are now on the razor's edge. CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren now joins us from West Palm Beach, Florida -- Greta.
GREAT VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Joie, sources close to the Republican state party in the state of New Mexico have just told me that lawyers are headed to court at this moment and may have already ended up in court. They may be there seeking emergency relief, asking a state court judge to impound the ballots in the state of New Mexico.
CHEN: To impound the ballots and why are they moving on this now? We understand that the total is very close. Last report we had was 106 votes difference. But why are they moving on this tonight?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, because the race is so close, Joie, and because of all the suspicions on the ballots, in terms of the custody of the ballots, what the Republicans in the state of New Mexico want to do is they want to make sure that they ensure the integrity of those ballots. and they want a judge to impound the ballots so that those ballots can be counted fairly.
They're worried that there'll be allegations that they'll be tampering with the ballots. In case there may have already been tampering at least they want to stop it. So they want a judge in essence just to stop everything. Seize those ballots. impound them so they can be counted. This is an emergency procedure that the state party is doing.
CHEN: But there is also something of a deadline in New Mexico in terms of appeal or a demand for a recount.
VAN SUSTEREN: There is indeed, Joie, but the main thing that the lawyers are worried about -- in fact, they were thinking about even waiting until Monday, after the holiday weekend and not doing this on an emergency basis, what they wanted to do, Joie, was to go in and do it right now because they simply don't know what could happen over the course of the weekend.
So that's why they've done this on an emergency basis. Now we don't know if the judge will actually impound the ballots. They're simply making the request.
CHEN: All right, CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren joining us with the latest developments. She's in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Here on the set in Atlanta, CNN political analyst Bill Schneider. What do you make of all this, Bill? Now we're seeing development, possibly New Mexico calling for impounding the ballot and the deadlines we were talking about there?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. What you make of all of this that this could be a problem not just in Florida, but it could spread to Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, New Mexico. There are ballot problems all over the country in every state where the election was close, and even some states where it wasn't particularly close.
What that means is there are grounds for legal challenges everywhere. Each campaign is gearing up, sending teams of lawyers to challenge the ballot. Notice that in Florida, that's being done by Democrats because Bush is ahead there slightly.
And in Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico -- I guess Gore won Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico, so there it's the Republicans who are going in and saying maybe the count wasn't right. We want to challenge things. This is beginning to escalate dangerously.
CHEN: The domino effect -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, Bill, on the issue of calling New Mexico for Gore, now withdrawing that call. News media organizations, including ours, were severely criticized for miscalling Florida twice. What happened precisely in New Mexico to convince us and other news organizations to call New Mexico for Gore but now to withdraw that decision?
SCHNEIDER: What happened was they found some ballots, I believe, in the most populous county in New Mexico, Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque that were not counted originally and the returns did not come in on Tuesday night when New Mexico was called for Al Gore. And when they counted those ballots they discovered that the margin for Gore has become razor-thin. Just undiscovered ballots suddenly counted.
CHEN: This is the kind of thing, though, that's got to make voters very nervous, I mean the sort of thing they're already uncomfortable with in Florida. But to see it spread to other states.
SCHNEIDER: Voters are very nervous. Look, the election is close everywhere. It's close nationally. It's close in a whole lot of states. I think the main principle here is the state balloting authority should take charge of this process. They have procedures in place for recounts, for absentee ballots, even for legal challenges by duly constituted voters in places like Palm Beach County and Albuquerque, New Mexico and in Milwaukee.
There are procedures for dealing with this. The problem is the campaigns. They are continuing to campaign after the ballots have been counted and that's outrageous. What the campaigns should do is back off. Stop encouraging legal challenges and stop politicizing the vote counting process.
BLITZER: Well, on that specific point, Bill, "The New York Times" in its editorial today praised you for warning about what you called the other day a treacherous path that both of the candidates potentially could walk down. Explain to our viewers what this treacherous path potentially means.
SCHNEIDER: That the whole election process could end up in the courts. That you could delay the casting of ballots by the Electoral College. That there could be legal challenges everywhere. That the electors would not be duly appointed. And the integrity of the electoral process in this country could be thrown into turmoil because the campaigns are escalating the stakes.
I believe that the courts will be very reluctant to get involved, as they should be. The state election authority should be in charge of this. If there are legitimate cases of fraud or intimidation, then, of course, court cases can be brought. But most are these are errors. They are matters of confusion over the ballot. There are very few charges of fraud and intimidation. Let the election authorities handle it. Don't politicize or judicialize the election process unnecessarily.
BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst. Thank you once again for joining us -- Joie.
CHEN: Wolf, next up here, Palm Beach County voters there are back in line to make official their complaints about the ballot. This is a special edition of THE WORLD TODAY.
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ROBERT DOLE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's so far so good, but if it continues much longer, then it starts to smell, and the American people are soured on the whole process.
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CHEN: The presidential election may indeed hinge on what happens in Palm Beach County, Florida, where a second recount begins tomorrow, and lawsuits have already been filed.
Democrats contend there were several problems at polling places across Palm Beach County on Tuesday, particularly confusion over what's being called the butterfly ballot.
With details on that, here's CNN's Mark Potter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is for people who double-punch their ballots.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Palm Beach County Democratic headquarters, volunteers took affidavits from voters who say they were confused by their presidential ballot. They claim they may have voted for the wrong candidate or voted twice, which disqualified them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this true and correct?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure it is.
POTTER: Party officials say they have heard from thousands of residents and are gathering all their statements in case the Gore campaign decides to file a lawsuit. An attorney specializing in election law was on hand, but the party would not confirm whether it is preparing legal action.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DNC SPOKESMAN: This isn't just one, you know, small mixup or problem. There's something very serious that's going on here. We want take a really close look at it before we come to any conclusions.
POTTER: Over and over, the party says, it has heard from Democrats who say they accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am confused, and I believe I voted Buchanan, and it's just tearing me apart that I could actually do a thing like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I looked up and I saw Gore's name, but then when I went to push the pin, it ended up on Buchanan.
POTTER: The party also argues poll workers weren't always willing to give out new ballots when voters complained they made a mistake.
PEYTON MCARTHUR, PALM BEACH DEMOCRATIC PARTY: But in all too many cases, they were told, well, there's nothing we can do about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, Democratic headquarters. POTTER: A law firm in West Palm Beach, which supports the Democratic Party, continues to operate a hotline, taking calls from concerned voters, urging them to fill out affidavits.
SIMMONS: It's a very close race in Florida, and we need to be patient and deliberate, yet move at a steady speed to be able to resolve this issue for the American people.
POTTER: But an adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign says it is time to bring all this to an end.
TUCKER ESKEW, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: There has been a vote. There's been a recount. It's time to get over disappointment with the result and move forward.
POTTER: On Saturday morning, Palm Beach County election officials will begin their second vote recount.
(on camera): Several lawsuits have already been filed by voters. But Florida's top election officials say the presidential ballot in Palm Beach County was legal, and despite the complaints, say there was nothing wrong with the way it was designed.
Mark Potter, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.
CHEN: And you can hear voices from ground zero in a town-hall meeting coming up tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN's Jeff Greenfield with voters in West Palm Beach, Florida, coming up right after "LARRY KING" tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Joie, there's some irony in the fact that the woman who designed that so-called "butterfly ballot" in West Palm Beach, in Palm Beach County actually intended to make it easier for voters to read by making the type bigger.
For more on that part of the story, we're joined by CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman, who's in West Palm Beach.
Gary, tell us what's going on.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are many voters in the United States, particularly those who support Al Gore, who believe that if the ballots here in Palm Beach County, Florida was like the ballot in every other county in Florida, the Democrat would now be the president of the United States. And that's a heavy burden on the shoulders of the election supervisor of Palm Beach County, Theresa LePore: not only because she designed the ballot to help older people read it, but also because she is a registered Democrat.
She has now hired an attorney to help her out. That attorney, Bob Montgomery, has advised her not to speak to reporters. The attorney says she is not criminally or civilly liable, but says she is the subject of lawsuits that may or may not go court, and he says this is a very difficult time for her. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB MONTGOMERY, ATTORNEY FOR THERESA LEPORE: Under the impression that it would be the better or best, I should say, way within which to put all of these numerous candidates on the ballot.
TUCHMAN: But she would do it differently if she could do it again?
MONTGOMERY: Oh, I'm sure (UNINTELLIGIBLE), no question about that. Obviously.
TUCHMAN: Does she think, though, that it's possible that she, a registered Democrat, may have cost Al Gore the presidency?
MONTGOMERY: Well, I'm certain that goes through her mind and I'm certain that bears very heavily upon her. The emotional impact of this whole situation is obviously something that really takes a person with a lot of starch in the backbone to survive. And it's been very telling upon her, you can -- loss of sleep, being in the news media.
TUCHMAN: Is she scared?
MONTGOMERY: Of course, she's scared. I mean, she's -- you can say scared. She's not terror-stricken, she's not in panic. But certainly, she's very, very concerned about the whole situation. Anyone would be under the circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: What advice has Bob Montgomery given his client? He has told her to continue to act professional and get some sleep. His exact quote is "She should sleep the sleep of the just."
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Gary Tuchman, thanks for that reporting. We have to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll speak to political supporters of both the Gore and Bush campaign, a lot more on our special report.
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GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: The electoral college probably served them well back in the 1700s and 1800s, when you were required to cast those ballots because somebody had to ride on horseback to Washington. And so it doesn't require us to have, in my opinion, the electoral college anymore.
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BLITZER: Welcome back to our special edition of THE WORLD TODAY. Joining us is the Republican governor of Oklahoma, Governor Frank Keating, a strong supporter of Governor Bush. Thanks for joining us on THE WORLD TODAY, Governor Keating.
GOV. FRANK KEATING (R), OKLAHOMA: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: The Gore campaign is making it clear they are not going to concede, Vice President Gore is not going to concede, at least until after the official certification, which is one week from today.
Do you have a problem with that?
KEATING: No, I don't have a problem with counting all the votes, and we've had a vote. Then we've had a recount. Now there's a proposal for a re-recount, which I think is a little silly. But the military ballots aren't going to be in until next Friday. They have to be counted, as I understand it, at the close of business Friday, and to wait until that event occurs to announce a winner is probably appropriate.
BLITZER: So there -- is it appropriate, as some people are suggesting -- it's not appropriate -- for the Bush people, for Governor Bush and his team, to already start talking about transition, possible Cabinet members? Some are saying that's inappropriate since there's no winner yet.
KEATING: Well, I don't think it's a question of appropriate or inappropriate. I think it's a question of preparing for the next administration.
I would assume that both the Gore as well as the Bush camps are quietly preparing for the next administration. That's the responsible thing to do. We have a country to run. Partisan politics in just hopefully a few weeks will take back seat to running the country.
But obviously, to announce who your secretary of the interior is going to be before the vote is counted, especially this vote, which will determine whether or not we won Florida -- I think we will -- I think is probably a little premature.
But I think Governor Bush has handled it very well to suggest to the American people that he has a responsible team that he has in place, advising him now, a responsible team in place that should he win will be those around him helping to run this country. I think that's certainly quite the right thing to do.
BLITZER: Governor Keating, would you think that there would be any different tactic, the Bush campaign would do if the shoe were on the other foot, if Governor Bush won a decisive -- at least by 150,000 popular vote nationwide -- but narrowly lost Florida, do you think they would be doing things any differently than wanting a recount and perhaps a second recount?
KEATING: I don't know, Wolf, how any of can post-mortem a post- mortem or create another scenario, but the reality is I think the popular vote might very well go to George W. Bush. My understanding is that it's about 80,000 votes that separate the two. I know officially it's some 150,000. There are a lot of votes to count. But the issue here is not the popular vote. The issue is the electoral college. And Florida is everything. And I think to count the vote and then recount the vote, as is required and has been completed, I think that's fine: to count the absentee ballots. But to recount the recount, where does that end? Let's say Gore goes up 150 votes or 350 votes, then it would I think appropriate for the Bush people to recount the recount in all the other counties, and then we recount the recount of the recount.
I mean, at some day we have to get serious and become adults and prepare the country for a new administration.
BLITZER: And what about the whole controversy surrounding that so-called butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County. Perhaps as the Gore campaign is suggesting, 19,000 votes were not cast the way they should have been?
KEATING: Well, Wolf, I have a copy here of the butterfly ballot and you've seen it. You've shown your viewers many, many times. Here if I wanted to vote for Al Gore, I would look for number five and then go right across from a very clear arrow and punch a number five. So five matches five. I don't think that's terribly difficult to understand.
The reality is every ballot is different. If you only vote once a year or once every four years, it is a challenge to read the instructions, to understand your responsibility as a citizen is a heavy one, to be a responsibly vote, to prepare for voting and to vote intelligently.
And if someone goes in and they vote for two candidates, it's appropriate that that be thrown out. But if I go in to vote and I'm confused how to do it, and I've done that before, there's somebody there to help you or if I prepare a ballot in error, it can be destroyed. I can start again.
But if you vote in error -- and my wife has told me on occasion I voted in error -- that's over. There's nothing I can do about it and I think that this is just a frivolous lawsuit. The issue is who won the electoral college? Who won the vote there in Florida? Recount after the count, and then let's get on with the business of assuring our allies and the markets that America is ready to govern under its new administration.
BLITZER: All right, Governor Frank Keating. Thank you so much for joining us on our special edition of "THE WORLD TODAY."
And joining us now is Jenny Baucus. She's a representative of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. You're here in Tallahassee. The whole notion of legal challenges after the recount, even some Democratic allies of Vice President Gore seem to be quite critical of that possibility.
Is the Democratic Party seriously thinking of a legal challenge?
JENNY BAUCUS, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Right now, Wolf. we're really focusing on those manual hand counts of these ballots and I would respectfully disagree with the governor of Oklahoma in his assertion that this count is over. This count is not over. This count is not final.
BLITZER: Well, didn't say it was. He said there would be a final count by next Friday night.
BAUCUS: Well, no, he's talking saying there's a recount of a recount. We haven't finish -- there is questions about the official results. There's questions about whether the recount is done.
The local election officials who work with the secretary of state have said that we need to take, in the case of the three counties out of the four that the state party of Florida requested, they want to take another look at it. They want to take a look and assess and see if there's been error made. And in one county they're going to start counting them by hand.
What is important here, Wolf, is the voters. I don't think that the Gore campaign, the DNC, the Bush campaign or Governor Keating should be talking about what a voter meant to do when they went into a ballot box. The important thing is to remember did that voter get to exercise their Constitutional rights?
BLITZER: And that will be determined presumably between now and next Friday night. But the criticism that Vice President Gore's campaign has been getting and the Democratic National Committee from "The Washington Post," "The New York Times," some Democratic lawmakers, Senator Torricelli, Senator Breaux, they've been suggesting that to start talking now about lawsuits is entering a dangerous, slippery slope and it's something that should not necessarily go forward. You've heard that criticism?
BAUCUS: Sure, but again I think -- again, you're talking -- you're keeping it on a campaign level and partisan level. This is about voters. This is about getting a fair and an accurate count. This is about making sure that people's right to vote were actually given to them.
In Palm Beach County you have hundreds of -- well, hundreds and hundreds moving into thousands and thousands of people who have said, hey, I didn't get to exercise my right to vote. We want to take a closer look. We have not said that we're going to move forward with legal action. In fact, it would probably be something if did, would come from citizens. But that's not what we're focusing on.
BLITZER: But the DNC is not planning legal action now.
BAUCUS: No. Not at this point. Right now, we want to make sure that we have a fair count. We want to give the opportunity for the local officials here in Florida, with the local parties to make sure that every single ballot is counted.
BLITZER: If, at the end of next Friday night a week from today, the vote shows in Florida, certified by the state election commission, that George W. Bush won this state, as far as the DNC is concerned and you're a representative of the Democratic Party here in Tallahassee, as far as the DNC is concerned, will it end there?
BAUCUS: Again, we don't know. We are gathering more information. I have told you and Secretary Daley has told you and voters of Florida have told you, thousands of people down in Palm Beach County don't think that they got their right to vote. They have questions. We still have questions. We don't think that that ballot was lawful.
But again, we can't keep this focused on the political. I think that people are right that we don't want this to be anymore more campaigning. We want this to be about voters and we want this to be about a fair process. We're talking about the presidency of the United States. We want to make sure Al Gore won the popular vote.
We feel that Al Gore is going to win Florida, but regardless of what happens, we need to not worry about Al Gore or George Bush. We need to worry about voters and I think that's what's getting lost here and it's very disappointing to sort of hear other people rush to judgment and try and characterize what a voter meant or thought. We need to follow the procedures and make sure it's a fair election.
BLITZER: And will you be joined by other DNC officials and Gore campaign officials in the next few days as this build up to this announcement next Friday night?
BAUCUS: Actually, no. This is -- we came, the Democratic Party, came to Florida at the request of the Florida party. This is a Florida issue. These are Florida voters. It obviously has national significance which is why you have party spokespeople here. But again, this is about Florida voters. We're going to be keeping this as much of Florida-centric operation as possible.
We have a Florida council helping us. We have local volunteers in all these counties watching these hand counts. And I think the whole country realizes that we need to have a fair and an accurate count and not rush to judgment and we want to make sure that the voters much every big county, especially Dade County, Broward County, and Volusia County and Palm Beach County have their votes counted.
BLITZER: All right, Jenny Baucus of the Democratic National Committee, thanks for joining us here in Tallahassee.
BAUCUS: Thank you.
BLITZER: And when we come back, we'll get perspective from a former Federal Election Commission executive who knows a lot about election law. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special edition of THE WORLD TODAY. The legal ramifications of these extraordinary developments are enormous.
Joining us now to help us sort through some of these questions is Kenneth Gross. He's a former chief-of-enforcement at the Federal Election Commission in Washington.
Mr. Gross, thanks for joining us. The whole notion of a judge getting involved in this kind of dispute between these two campaigns is extraordinary.
KENNETH GROSS, FORMER FEC OFFICIAL: It is extraordinary. There are certainly many examples of challenges around the country where elections have been called into question and ballots have been reviewed. But in this circumstance, it is extraordinary and the relief of calling for some kind of revote would be very extraordinary.
BLITZER: This criticism of the Gore campaign and the Democratic Party for raising the specter of lawsuits, you've heard it. Is this legitimate criticism or do they have every right to challenge as long as they want to?
GROSS: Well, they have, as a legal matter, they have every right to challenge and to the due process of the system. They can make a legal challenge to the ballot itself. The real citizens of the county are complaining that their voices weren't heard and they individually can challenge the vote.
BLITZER: The secretary of state of Florida says she will certify, perhaps as early as Tuesday, this election result even though the absentee overseas ballots won't be completely counted until Friday.
Explain to us that difference.
GROSS: Actually, I believe that the Democratic lawyers are trying to delay that certification because that would be just one more hurdle that they would have to overcome if there's a certification. And I suppose there's some validity to the argument that if the vote is not finally counted, maybe there shouldn't be a certification. That is the basis of the Democratic challenge to that.
BLITZER: All right, Kenneth Gross, thanks for joining us here in Tallahassee.
We're going to take another quick break. When we come back, some final thoughts from Joie and me.
CHEN: As we leave you this hour, what a week it has been, Wolf. Even if you looked at all the close polls from a week ago today, nobody could have predicted that this week could turn out this way.
BLITZER: Joie, I've been a reporter for more than 25 years, and I've covered some huge stories. This has to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest. You don't get a story like this every day, certainly, perhaps, not even every hundred years. And I think all of us this weekend are going to be looking at those vote counting, the hand ballot counting in Palm Beach County. I know that tomorrow morning I'll be flying over to West Palm Beach to start covering that part of the story. CHEN: Do you worry about what the voters, what the real people of this country are going to feel when this is all over with, whether anybody can ever really be satisfied?
BLITZER: Look, half of the country is not going to be satisfied with the end result no matter what it is. But I'm confident that the country as a whole, the American people will certainly understand what happened. And in the end, we will get through this crisis as well -- Joie.
CHEN: That is THE WORLD TODAY. Next up here, "LARRY KING LIVE" continues the conversation about the Florida recount. One hour from now, Jeff Greenfield hosts a CNN town meeting at ground zero of the controversy, West Palm Beach.
Good night, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good night, Joie. Tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, I'll do a special report from West Palm Beach, and of course, "LATE EDITION," noon on Sunday. For all of us here at CNN, good night.
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