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The Florida Vote: A CNN Town MeetingAired November 10, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN election 2000 special report. Election day plus three -- and still no winner.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody ever said that democracy is simple or efficient.
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ANNOUNCER: The votes are in, but the battle for the White House rages on in Florida. With recounts...
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JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Governor bush won the first vote. We have had a transparent and fair and orderly recount, and he has won that.
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ANNOUNCER: ... and recriminations.
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WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Calls for declaration of a victory before all the votes are accurately tabulated are inappropriate.
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ANNOUNCER: At ground zero, Palm Beach County, where the ballot did not decide the issue, but became the issue.
Tonight, we'll here from voters in the county that's still voting.
The Florida Vote: A CNN Town Meeting.
Now, from West Palm Beach, here is CNN's Jeff Greenfield.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: You know, maybe none of us would be here tonight if George Bush had chosen Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as his running mate. After all, with Pennsylvania and just one other state in hand, the governor would be the president-elect regardless of Florida.
Or maybe if Al Gore had paid a little more attention to his home state of Tennessee, those electoral votes would have put him within striking distance of the White House. Or maybe if Bush had revealed that misdemeanor arrest or Al Gore hadn't sighed so much.
Well, when a presidential race is this close, 2/10 of 1 percent of the national vote separating them, a few hundred votes in Florida separating them, everything counts: everything. That includes of a local election official, a Democrat, to try to do a good deed.
It was her idea to make the ballot easier to read for the citizens of Palm Beach, so she adopted the so-called "butterfly ballot" design. And the result of that decision may, may determine who the next president of the United States is.
We're here at Palm Beach Atlanta College, who's homecoming they graciously allowed us to disrupt to talk about this incredible story, the story where the uncertainty has grown, as New Mexico votes grew so small in terms of an Al Gore lead that the state has now moved from the Gore column to the undecided column.
We're going to be talking with government and political leaders, with local citizens. We're going to be looking at the wider implication of the story with CNN correspondents in the field as well as with a distinguished historian of America.
But we begin now with today's developments here in Florida and back in the campaigns with Wolf Blitzer in Tallahassee. Wolf, take it away.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jeff.
The latest developments occurred about 2,500 miles away from West Palm Beach, namely in New Mexico, where that state's results from the vote on Tuesday are now deemed too close to call.
News organizations, including CNN, had originally reported that New Mexico was going to go for Al Gore. But now, according to the secretary of state of New Mexico, only 119 votes separate Al Gore and George W. Bush, Gore very slightly ahead of Bush right now in New Mexico.
One of the problems apparently that some ballots were not reported. As a result, they were not counted. And Republicans in New Mexico are asking that all of the ballots in that state be impounded because of these alleged discrepancies.
At stake in New Mexico -- or excuse me, five electoral votes. And as a result of this call, three states are now too close to call: those three states being New Mexico, Florida and its 25 electoral votes, and Oregon and its seven electoral votes, although the Associated Press is reporting tonight that Al Gore is going to carry Oregon when all of the dust settles.
Now, here in Florida, the recount continues. The secretary of state of Florida says that with 66 of 67 counties officially reporting to officials here in Tallahassee, Bush is ahead of Gore by 961 votes. The Associated Press, having reached out to all of the counties, including Palm Beach County, is now saying that with all 67 counties, Bush is ahead by less, by only 327 votes.
They still have to count the overseas absentee ballots. They will not be counted for another week. So we will not know the official result here in Florida until next Friday night around this time.
Meanwhile, both of the campaigns -- the Bush campaign and the Gore campaign -- they're continuing to squabble. Listen to what former Secretary of State James Baker and former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley said earlier today in trying to discern where this result is moving.
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BAKER: 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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DALEY: As frustrating as this wait may be, what we are seeing here is democracy in action: a careful and lawful effort to ensure that the will of the people is done.
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BLITZER: James Baker representing the Bush campaign, insinuating that Republican the vice president -- excuse me, the Republican candidate is the winner. Of course, the vice president and his supporters strongly disagreeing, wanting that full count to be complete by Friday night.
In the meantime, the hand count will begin tomorrow in Palm Beach County as well as in Volusia County, which represents Daytona Beach and other towns in that area. Two other hand counts are anticipated, in Miami Dade County and in Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale.
What they are going to do is do a small sampling of the actual ballots by hand. They're going to go through them. If there are major discrepancies, that could perhaps to a full hand count, which could take a long time. If there are no major discrepancies, that will resolve it, presumably until some other challenges should develop -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Thank you, Wolf. We're going to be talking about tat hand count later in the program. It could be of major significance.
But now we want to go to our intrepid road warriors Candy Crowley and John King, who have been on the campaign trail since roughly, I think, 1968. Candy Crowley is in Austin with Governor Bush, John King in Washington, D.C. with the vice president.
First to you, Candy. What's up?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeff, as you might imagine, the Bush campaign has representatives on the ground in New Mexico, watching that very close vote, but they are elsewhere as well. The Republican National Committee has sent people into Oregon, where a very close vote there, a current vote count, shows about a 6,000-vote difference in favor of Al Gore. They're as well two Republican lawyers in Iowa, keeping a watchful eye on the close tally there, expected to be official by Tuesday. And finally, there is Wisconsin, which had its closest presidential race in history. Local Republican leaders have complained of a variety of voting irregularities. The unofficial tally there in Wisconsin shows Gore with just over a 6,000- vote advantage.
As his campaign waits out the vote in Florida and sweats out the vote elsewhere, the Republican nominee is busy conducting business unusual.
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CROWLEY (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.
CROLWEY: 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 will 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 -- 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. 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 officials, "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 America, it's nothing less than mutually assured destruction."
CROWLEY: But time is running short, especially in Wisconsin and Iowa. If the Bush campaign should want to call for a recount in counties or throughout the entire state, they will probably have to do so before the final vote is in Florida.
Jeff, as Alice once said in Wonderland, things grow curiouser and curiouser.
GREENFIELD: Thank you, Candy. Stand by. We're going to be coming back to you later in the program.
But now to John King. And John, I want to begin by noting that apparently the Gore campaign has taken some hits from what would normally we would think are friendly sources. We've had two Democratic senators questioning the idea of a lawsuit strategy. And today "The New York Times," which endorsed Gore heartily for the presidency, had this to say in an editorial.
They said: "We take very seriously these issues but the problem is that potential remedies such as a new election in Palm Beach County seem politically unsound, legally questionable. It will poison the political atmosphere if presidential elections are seen as a starting point for litigation."
Has that criticism had any impact on the strategy or the language of the Gore campaign, John?
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly had an impact on the strategy and the discussion here in Washington, Jeff. In "The Washington Post," similar criticism as well. In that news -- in those newspapers and in newsprint, the words being discussed back and forth, not only among Democrats but also Republicans here in Washington. Many worried the longer this draws on, the more divided the country will become, the more difficult it will be for whoever ultimately is declared the winner of this election to govern.
A consensus growing now among the Democrats who were alarmed with what they heard initially from the Gore campaign. The consensus now is support the vice president as he goes ahead pushing for this recount, but they do not want the vice president, should he lose the recount, to challenge this election in the courts.
KING (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.
DALEY: 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: I hope all Americans agree that the will of the people, not a computer glitch, should select our next president.
KING: The Florida results have not been certified, and won't be for at least another week. And the vice president still leads in the popular vote and the Electoral College count. So the Gore campaign makes the case that Governor Bush has no reason and no right to be in a rush to claim he is the president-elect.
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 Toricelli 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.
KING: Now, this very much public relations war as well as a legal battle in the state of Florida. The Gore campaign shrugging today at news, threats, indeed. from the Bush campaign that it might challenge those votes as Candy Crowley mentioned in several other states, Iowa and Wisconsin among them. The Gore campaign saying if the Bush camp thinks it has a legitimate challenge it should lodge it. That, another way of trying to make that case that what is going on here in Florida, while the stakes might be enormous, incredible, hardly believable, is routine and that everyone should calm down and let this play out for another week -- Jeff. GREENFIELD: OK, John, thank you, along with Candy. We're going to ask you to stand by assuming that this does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment after the campaign you have been through.
But I want to turn to our audience now and just ask, as you hear this discussion, as you watch the whole country looking at Palm Beach, what's your reaction, just as a citizen here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, one of the things that bothers me is that I feel that as an American you have a right and privilege to vote and your vote should be valid and it should count. And I think what you're seeing down here is a lot of very frustrated people that feel that there vote was disenfranchised, not valid and not worth anything. They walked out of the polls believing they voted for one candidate and finding out that they didn't. And I think that's why the exit polls very early showed Gore in the lead because people were walking out of the voting booths saying I voted for Gore. And that's not what went down when the vote came in.
GREENFIELD: I promise you we are going to come back to this conversation, or maybe we're going to get into it right now.
But you're reaction as you hear this continuing controversy brought hundreds if not thousands of us down to your peaceful community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I echo a lot what this lady said before. I also feel that I believe, as Al Gore said, I think it was the Wednesday after the election, that I believe in the process. I believe we should give the process a chance. And I find it disturbing that right immediately I hear sentiment that we are going to bring the legal eagles in and there is going to be big lawsuits if things don't turn out the way they want.
GREENFIELD: So, basically, and we may have almost unanimity in this -- I shouldn't say this -- but the lawyers bother you when they show up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lawyers bother me and...
GREENFIELD: I understand. The lawyers bother a lot of people. There is someone else who has a comment I think over here about your general reaction to the story that's been playing out for the last three days -- sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I honestly believe that the process that we're going through now, has to be rectified and I honestly believe that the Constitution has to be upheld. So by doing the right thing and getting the vote processed the way it should be done, everything will come to a satisfactory end.
GREENFIELD: OK, words to live by. That's act one. We will take a break. We're going to come back and talk about what did happen on Election Day here in Palm Beach County. Please stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GREENFIELD: And welcome back to the Palm Beach story. Not the classic Preston Sturges comedy but the real Palm Beach story with enormous political implications. We've gathered some journalists, elected officials, party people, distinguished citizens here to talk about this. I want to start, Mr. Daves, Joel Daves, who is the mayor of West Palm Beach. It's a non-partisan position but you admit to being a Democrat or acknowledge.
MAYOR JOEL DAVES (D), WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA: I do indeed.
GREENFIELD: When you saw this ballot, the sample ballot that presumably everybody got to look at, did you have qualms about it before Election Day?
DAVES: No, I'm sure that people did. But I voted and I voted for Al Gore and did not have any problem with the ballot.
GREENFIELD: On Election Day, did people come up to you as the mayor of West Palm Beach and say, I had a real problem.
DAVES: No, no, but they probably would not have because I assume that they would have gone to the election supervisor or to some other official.
GREENFIELD: Now, I want to talk to Randy Schultz, who is the editorial page of "The Palm Beach Post." That's a paper that endorsed Al Gore.
But you are a journalist, not an advocate. Were you, on Election Day, hearing stories before this thing blew up on the national scene that there were problems with this vote.
RANDY SCHULTZ, "PALM BEACH POST": We were getting calls at 8:00 in the morning on Election Day, hearing stories before this thing blew up on the national scene that there were problems with this vote
SCHULTZ: We were getting calls at 8:00 in the morning on Election Day from people worried that they had miscast their vote, complaining. And it just built from there. I would say between Tuesday and now we have had probably 2,000 calls and 3,000 e-mails from hear and around the country about this.
GREENFIELD: OK, now you are flanked by two Republicans.
SCHULTZ: An uncomfortably position, but we're doing OK.
GREENFIELD: But if you'll -- well, we'll see. But ii you'll hand the mike to State Senator Ken Pruitt. One of the things I'm going try to do here is layout facts independent of political conclusions. We're going to have time for them. So as a matter of fact, was anybody saying to you this is a very -- I don't understand this ballot? I've got a problem with this ballot?
KEN PRUITT (R), FLORIDA STATE SENATOR: Absolutely not. The ballot was published in the newspaper. It was also mailed to many of the citizens as well. It was approved by not only the canvassing board, the two parties but also approved the secretary of state as well.
GREENFIELD: I understand that part of it. And I don't think that part is in dispute. I'm trying to see whether we can narrow the area. On Election Day, nobody was saying to you -- I mean, here we have "The Palm Beach Post" getting apparently a deluged with phone calls. Nobody said to you, hey, senator, I don't get this ballot?
PRUITT: I was on the ballot and not one person contacted my office to tell me or contacted me to tell me that they were having some trouble with the ballot.
GREENFIELD: OK, Bill Washington is the president of the West Palm Beach NAACP. What's your story on -- going back to Election Day?
WILLIAM WASHINGTON, PRESIDENT, PALM BEACH COUNTY NAACP: On Election Day, I voted early in the morning before I went to work. Two people in front of me. There was an elderly going to vote. She went to the booth. She was having problems. She called one of the workers to come assist her. Well, the workers have to come in twos. They can't do it alone, so both of them went to help her. They both left.
A few minutes later, she called again. Again both poll workers had to go over. They stayed and they left again. So it was obvious that she was having problems. And each time she was having problems, it would took two of them to come because the one could not. So it was evident that she was having problems and others as well.
GREENFIELD: But Mr. Washington, I mean, one person having a problem does not a political scandal necessarily make. My question is, was it widespread? Was it the kind of normal thing? I mean, in every election people sometimes, you know, are confused about the ballot. How much greater this year than in your past experience?
WASHINGTON: Well, that was just the beginning. I think at the end of the day, then people -- the story began to build and people began talk, and the word of mouth, you know, it began to say who did I really vote for? And I think that's what happened.
GREENFIELD: We're going to take a break. We're going to continue this story of Election Day and then turn to an election expert to figure out what happens next. We'll be back.
GREENFIELD: And welcome back. We're pursuing the story of what happened in Palm Beach on Election Day. And like Diogenes looking, you know, with the lantern, looking for nonpartisan reactions from partisan people, I'm going to keep pushing at this and see what happens.
Mary McCarty, you're a Palm Beach County commissioner. You're a Republican. So let me put this question to you, if I possibly can, stripped of political implication. Pat Buchanan got 3,400 votes in this county. Three to six times the vote he got anywhere else. Now, I'm not asking you to tell me what it means, whether -- who should be president. You know this community. Is there any way this community could have cast, without confusion, 3,400 votes for Pat Buchanan.
MARY MCCARTY (R), PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Well, we have over 16,000 registered people in the Reform and Independent Parties. And Palm Beach County has a history of voting very heavily on the Reform ticket. So I do not find it unusual that there would be a high Pat Buchanan vote. Contrast that to Broward County, where there's only several hundred of the Reform Party registrants.
GREENFIELD: But Pat Buchanan got, as I said, at least three times as many votes in this county. And you're saying no, you think that could have happened without any confusion?
MCCARTY: We have that many more registered voters here.
GREENFIELD: All right, I'm going to pass you for just a second, Rabbi. Frank Demario, you're a Palm Beach County GOP chairman. Is this possible?
FRANK DEMARIO, PALM BEACH COUNTY GOP CHAIRMAN: Absolutely possible. In fact, if you go back to the '96 election Pat Buchanan got 9,000 votes in an election with only a 55 percent turnout. The turnout was almost 69 percent and he only got 3,400. Absolutely possible.
GREENFIELD: Running as a Republican in 1996, not as a member of a third party.
DEMARIO: But he's still the Reform Party as it was very strong.
GREENFIELD: All right, Rabbi Levy, you represent the larger reform congregation in Palm Beach.
RABBI JERROLD LEVY, TEMPLE BETH EL, BOCA RATON: Yes.
GREENFIELD: What was your sense on Election Day?
LEVY: My sense is that people felt disenfranchised. I know I did. I walked out of the voting booth thinking that I had voted for Vice President Gore, and when I got back to temple and I began to hear people talking about the confusion that they had with the ballot. I began to scratch my head.
I'm a voter of many, many years standing. I began to scratch my head and say to myself, well, maybe I didn't really vote for Vice President Gore because maybe I, too, put the pin into the wrong place on the ballot. It was indeed true that all the places on -- all the holes were lined up one on top of the other, unlike the ones sent to us previously for us to look at in our homes.
GREENFIELD: All right, so what I'm getting here, though, is a strong sense of how you look at the ballot, and maybe I'm making an unfair assumption, is kind of related to who you voted for and what happened. So here's what I want to ask. Is there anybody here who voted for Al Gore who feels this ballot was OK? Conversely, is there anybody here who voted for Pat -- I'm sorry, for Governor Bush and thinks that the ballot was confusing.
All right, can we get a microphone back here and see what this anomaly is like? That's a common word with this ballot. Yes, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I did think it was confusing and I am a Republican and I knew that George Bush was at the very top of the ballot and he was the first one. But I've had recently a problem with my right eye and as soon as I looked at it, I noticed that the holes were extremely close together. That the staggered method of having one candidate on one side and the other candidate on the other side was confusing. And I breathed a sigh of relief that I was a Republican and just had to punch the top button.
GREENFIELD: We may have hit a precedent here because in the entire conversation in 72 hours this is the first person whose reaction on the ballot was not predictable by who you voted for. I think you've -- you've been a pioneer. Does anyone else have a reaction just to this question of how confusing the ballot was? Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I absolutely did not think twice about the ballot. You have a very quick opportunity to influence the most powerful man in the world, and whose going to be in that position. And you take your time and you read it carefully. You've been taught that for many years. And you punch the hole. I didn't think twice about it. I did, however, as I was walking to the ballot box, look at it. Put it away.
I think that the nation as a whole needs to be very concerned right now with thinking too much and the classic domino effect that is starting to occur with all the states looking for a recount. And in addition, I think we need to be scared of creating a mountain out of molehill.
GREENFIELD: Thank you. You have a different reaction, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was surprised. This was the first time I voted in Palm Beach County. So I was surprised to see what looked like a ballot from the 1960s, an old, punch card style of vote. And I'm used to a little more modern ballot and process, I guess.
So because it was the first time I voted, I made sure -- knowing how important the election was, being told ahead of time how important Florida was in that election, I made sure I got it right. So I did actually go back to an election judge when I looked at that and made sure that the big numbers next to the candidates' name matched the numbers in the punch hole, and I made sure that I got because I knew how important it was.
GREENFIELD: OK, and sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this was my first year of voting in Florida, also. And the ballot may have appeared to be confusing when you first got it because you didn't have the flip chart to go with it. And I was flipping my ballot around looking for directions or arrows. Didn't find any, and the lady that gave me the ballot knew I needed help. And she told me to go into the next line and they'll explain the ballot to me.
So in my precinct they had people explaining the concept of the ballot both in Spanish and English so there wouldn't be any confusion about the ballot. Then when I went to the polling box to make my selection, I was very careful moving my finger across with the arow to make sure that I put my peg in the hole I wanted to vote for.
GREENFIELD: Thank you. Whatever you think about the confusion or lack thereof, one of the questions that has come up, maybe one of the most remarkably unprecedented in American political life as it affects a presidential campaign, can we, should we revote? And what are the legal implications? What are the political implications? We'll deal with that in a minute when we come back. Stay with us, please.
GREENFIELD: And we're back in Palm Beach. We're talking about -- well, you know what we're talking about. Now, we're going to try to put some meat on the bones of this. We're going to try to actually figure out what the law says and then we'll let the audience and our folks talk about what the political system maybe should say.
We're joined by David Cardwell, who is a former Florida state election director. And Mr. Cardwell, I have to say I have a hunch you did now expect as a career move that this might be one of the most important political subjects we're talking about. Florida state election laws.
DAVID CARDWELL, FRM. FLORIDA STATE ELECTION OFFICIAL: Election law is pretty obscure except in presidential elections like this.
GREENFIELD: All right, let's try to figure out what the law says here in Florida. I want to put up a graphic so our audience can see it from a 1998 Florida Supreme Court decision which seemed too say or did say that the courts have the power to invalidate an election when reasonable doubt exists as to whether a certain election expressed the will of the voters. In such a case, the court is to void the contested election even in the absence of fraud or wrongdoing.
Now, I want to do this almost like colloquy. In your mind, is there any doubt -- or I should ask it as a question. Do you see, looking at the numbers here, that you could make a reasonable case that there was a lot of confusion about the vote in Palm Beach County?
GREENFIELD: No doubt?
CARDWELL: No doubt. There's obviously some confusion. The question is whether or not it can be proven.
GREENFIELD: All right. OK. How would you go about proving confusion. Can you do it just by saying Pat Buchanan's votes are so anomalous compared to the rest of the state that it had to have been confusion? Can a judge draw that conclusion?
CARDWELL: Well, the difference in the situation in Palm Beach County versus the case that you were mentioning, the '98 Supreme Court case, that confusion there dealt with how the elections office administered the counting of the ballots after they'd been cast. Here, the questioned confusion is the actual casting of the ballot. Courts are very reluctant to overturn a vote once cast.
GREENFIELD: OK, so I take it that even if all the people who felt they were confused could in a sense prove their point, I'm going to take the court language and simplify it, tough tarts?
CARDWELL: Somewhat, and then there is an earlier case in which the court said mere confusion is not enough.
GREENFIELD: OK, I'm going to come back to you in a minute, but you have a reaction to this, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the Republicans have been saying that we should not -- and others, and rightly have said that we shouldn't be resorting to litigation to resolve it. But there is a way to avoid litigation and yet resolve it in a way that will express the will of the people, and that is to have a revote of those people who did in fact vote, limited only to those registered voters who did in fact vote in this election.
It seems to me that instead of posturing for political advantage, both of the candidates should agree together that yes, the truth is what should ultimately prevail, and the way to ascertain the truth is empirically by running the election a second time, limited to those voters. Confusion will not be -- will be absent on such an occasion, and in that event I think there will be no disputable result.
GREENFIELD: OK. Before I go to you ma'am, I just -- Mr. Cardwell, what are the odds that they'll order -- let me ask you this. Has any court anywhere in the country ever ordered a revote in a presidential election?
GREENFIELD: OK, that's pretty concise. Ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I believe that we should have a redo. We should have a revote. There are many people in Palm Beach County that are elderly. We have many senior citizens. They found the vote very confusing. We have people that are dyslexic and handicapped. We have black people who were denied their education until 1954 because of segregation. They have difficulty reading and writing. They were confused by this ballot. I think we should have a revote.
GREENFIELD: OK, to John King. You have a comment on this conversation you've been hearing.
KING: Well, Jeff, even privately they would love a recount, the Gore campaign, or they would love some redress. But privately, Gore campaign officials will tell you that that would be incredibly unfair to Governor Bush because why? Supporters of Ralph Nader, given a second chance to vote in this election, might decide they don't want Governor Bush as president and go vote for Mr. Gore.
GREENFIELD: Thank You. Ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I kind of like the Rabbi here, when I went home I spoke to my husband about the ballot card and all that and he told me about the arrows and I scratched my head. Did I vote correctly? I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and what this woman said about senior citizens and all that. My husband was confused with the ballot. I think I voted correctly. I hope I did. I'm not sure.
And it's not only senior citizens and what she had said. My 36- year-old neighbor went to vote and had to call her husband at work to explain to him how to do it and I really believe that there should be a revote. This gentleman says no, there never was, but it wouldn't be fair. Every vote should count.
GREENFIELD: I want just to play devil's advocate with you for a second, OK? If somebody doesn't understand what they're doing in a voting booth, there are, I believe, people at the polls to help them. Is this correct?
If you know you've punched a ballot twice, this is what people will say to you, you go out of the booth before you drop it in the box and you say, I screwed this up, if I may use that term. I mean, if the idea is that people who can't see or are elderly or can't read so well didn't vote properly the first time, how many times do we get them to vote? I think that's what people are going to be saying.
Well -- go ahead. I asked you. You can answer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, no, I do understand exactly what you're saying, yes, but it was confusing. And it doesn't mean, like I heard on the radio, that we are idiots down here, you know? It was a confusing ballot. This gentleman said that it was, like, from the 1960's. We need to update it. I honestly feel we should have a revote, a revote.
GREENFIELD: OK, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a Republican, I agreed with this lady over here that the ballot was a little confusing. But I wholeheartedly disagree with the thought of a recount. Who's to say that -- a revote, excuse me. Who's to say that everybody who goes into the polls is going to cast the same ballot that they did the first time? And that would totally change the face of this election.
GREENFIELD: I'm going to do the world's quickest unscientific poll. Mayor Daves, you like the idea of a revote?
DAVES: You want a yes or no?
GREENFIELD: No, you can go a little longer than that.
DAVES: Well, the problem with the revote is there isn't any elective official or government official who can order a revote. It would have to go through the courts. And I think that would be a very bad mistake. I think we need to resolve this as quickly as possible. The country cannot continue with this uncertainty we have.
GREENFIELD: Appreciate that. You have a question or a comment, ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly don't have a common. I certainly don't think that actually in the voting it had anything to do with literacy whatsoever. I'm very literate. I'm not dyslexic. I did think that actually the ballot was somewhat confusing, although I do have some concerns about a revote. I do think it would alter the outcome. I do believe it would alter the outcome, that people may change their vote.
But I don't think it speaks anything about literacy whatsoever in this county. I'm very literate, and I'm not dyslexic. I read very well. And I think I took my time. But I do think, like the rabbi said, that when I left, I was wondering, gee, I think I voted for Buchanan. I think I do.
GREENFIELD: Yes, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just 450,000 people in Palm Beach County got it right, so I think we need to understand this in the full context.
Also, 10,000 people in this county did not vote for any presidential candidate. So to go back for a re-do, a revote, those people that didn't vote now knowing how close it is, they get a second bite at the apple? I don't think that would be fair.
GREENFIELD: Very quickly, rabbi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty-eight hundred, I heard, according to the figure I heard mistakenly cast dual votes in the senator race and the senatorial race, and 19,000 cast dual votes in the presidential race. To me, that means that there was a great deal more confusion, if you will, in the presidential race. The senatorial -- yes, there are some people will get confused no matter what. But in this case, 19,000 people walked out having made a mistake and having in some cases tried to rectify the mistake by voting again, and in some cases probably voted -- some people said they thought they were voting once for President Gore -- Vice President Gore, another time for Senator Lieberman.
GREENFIELD: Is that Candy Crowley has a comment on?
CROWLEY: Jeff, I just wanted to point out one of the things the Bush campaign has been saying for a couple of days. And that is, when you take into account the number of people that voted in '96 in Palm Beach County and the number of people that voted this time, the number of votes that were thrown out is in proportion, that there are roughly the same proportion of votes that were thrown out in this election as in the last election, their point being this is not all that unusual.
GREENFIELD: Thank you.
We're going to take a break.
When we come back, we're going to hear from Brooks Jackson about what the campaigns are saying about the recount, we're going to hear about Mr. Cardwell about how a recount actually may be the most startling event of this campaign, when we come back.
GREENFIELD: And welcome back to Palm Beach.
We're talking with elected officials, with journalists, with community leaders and with, as we like to say, real people about what happened in Palm Beach and its implications.
Now all through this campaign, Brooks Jackson of CNN has been fact checking the candidates claims about their policies and programs and criticisms. So, since the campaign has gone on past Election Day, we asked Brooks Jackson to fact check what the campaigns are saying about the whole idea of a recount in Florida.
BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What happened in Palm Beach? Did hundreds of confused Gore supporters really vote for Pat Buchanan by accident?
(on camera): Let's look at what we know for sure, starting with the raw vote totals. They show Palm Beach is Gore country.
(voice-over): Gore out-polled Bush nearly two to one. Buchanan got only 3,407 votes, his highest of any Florida county. Buchanan's vote was only eight-tenths of 1 percent of all the votes in Palm Beach, more than triple the percentage Buchanan polled in the rest of Florida.
And now compare Buchanan's vote in each Florida county with the number of registered Reform Party members in each county and you see they're closely related -- except in Palm Beach county, statistically very significant.
DAVID S. LEE, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY: Based on the relationship that we see in the data, the chances that this would happen just purely by accident or by chance would be significantly less than 1 in 1 trillion.
JACKSON (on camera): In addition to the 3,400 Buchanan votes, Democrats point to an unusually high over vote in Palm Beach County. They say thousands of other voters may have voted for Buchanan by accident, then realizing their mistake voted for Gore as well, ruining their ballots in the process.
(voice-over): In Palm Beach, the over vote for president was more than 19,000, very high. The over for state treasurer, where the ballot layout was more conventional, was only 605, for state commissioner of education 633.
Republicans stay the presidential over vote is not high compared to four years ago, when nearly 15,000 presidential ballots were invalidated in Palm Beach. To be precise, 14,872. But that total includes both over voting and under voting, persons who marked no choice for the election. The comparable total for this election is 29,702 -- still a big jump.
CAROL ROBERTS (D), PALM BEACH CO. COMM.: The increase percentage wise was more than double, from '96 the combined count to 2000. That's only for the presidential race.
JACKSON (on camera): And what about that ballot design, the so- called "butterfly ballot"? Republicans say they use it in Chicago, home of Al Gore's campaign chairman.
KARL ROVE, BUSH CHIEF STRATEGIST: I really thought it was ironic that Chairman Daley went to great lengths to decry the butterfly ballot as confusing and undemocratic, because I have here a copy of the Cook County, Illinois judicial ballot, which is a butterfly ballot.
JACKSON (voice-over): True, but Chicago officials say they'd never set up a ballot with presidential candidates staggered across two pages.
LANCE GOUGH, CHICAGO ELECTION COMMITTEE BOARD: We would never break up a race. And we, in fact, if you look at our ballot, our presidential candidates are all lined up in a row.
JACKSON: Republicans also say Democrats had plenty of opportunity to complain before the election.
JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR THE BUSH CAMPAIGN: The ballot was designed by a Democratic elections supervisor. She approved it. The Democratic Party did not question it before the election.
JACKSON: And both those statements are true. The ballot was designed by Theresa LaPoor (ph), a Palm Beach supervisor of elections, an elected Democrat.
And the ballot design was publicized well before the election. Here's what it looked like in the voter guide. Democrats now say the actual ballot looked different, giving them no chance to protest until too late. You be the judge.
(on camera): There's strong evidence many Gore supporters made a mistake in the voting booth in Palm Beach County. Who is to blame and what to do about it now are questions on which history will turn.
Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)
GREENFIELD: Those facts are brutal things sometimes for both sides in a political campaign. I want to turn back now to Mr. Cardwell and focus in on something we talked about before the program began that I frankly found startling, and that's your sense -- let's not talk about a revote. Let's not talk about a lawsuit.
What could happen with these so-called hand recounts that are going happen in a couple counties? First tell us what that means.
CARDWELL: Well, under Florida law, the canvassing board may in their own discretion order a manual recount of some or all the precincts in the county. And also, any losing candidate or political party may request a manual recount. The way that a manual recount works is that there's a small number of precincts, customarily three that are chosen. In fact, if it's a candidate or party, they can request the three precincts. And then, there's a sample of the ballots in that precinct that are then hand counted, where, in this case the ballot card would actually be physically inspected by a team or two and determine if the votes, whether there was one hole punched or two holes punched.
GREENFIELD: Now, this is what I want to get to. We are not talking about a new election or anything like that, just holding up those punch cards there to the light to see whether they were properly punched through, not double voting, not no voting. These are the infamous -- I think there's a term that threw me -- hanging chads. The little pieces of cardboard, OK.
Let me ask you, if they do a hand count in Palm Beach County and other counties like Gore's, what is your sense of what could happen to the statewide vote?
CARDWELL: It's very possible in going through a hand count, that a determination could be made by the people physically inspecting the ballots that, for example, someone may have started to vote in one punch, started to make an indentation, removed it and then punched another. The machine counting the ballots would have read that as two punches. Or there could be a punch that was not made as strong as the other one and that would leave the hanging chad, so to speak.
GREENFIELD: OK, now, here's what I want to know from our Republican friends. We are not talking about a new election here, but would you have any problem if a hand recount showed that people actually voted properly, it just, you know, they just didn't punch it all the way through and on a hand count, Republicans and Democrats looking at these cards, they counted it and found, my lord. Al Gore actually had a lot more votes than we counted for him?
FRANK DEMARIO, PALM BEACH CO. GOP CHMN.: I would not prefer to have a hand count. I think you're factoring the human thing. You're asking someone to make a determination what someone intended to do when they were punching that. To use a better phrase, did he check his swing when he pushed it in, or you know, did he punch the other hole out? I just think it's a -- I'd rather do it by machine and not have a human factor in it.
GREENFIELD: Yes sir.
KEN PRUITT (R), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: Jeff, a lot of eyes are on us right now, but probably the most important eyes are our children. They are looking at this election in the way adults are the conducting themselves. What we need to do is to allow the law to take place. If it's hand counted or if it's machine counted, we need to allow the canvassing board to certify the election. We need to allow the secretary of state to certify that election. And what we need to do is to move on.
And whoever loses, be it Al Gore or George W. Bush,, what they need to do is concede and let the country move on. We don't need a legion of lawyers coming down from Washington. What we need to do is we need to get past this and we need to allow the people, because the law is on the books. It's very clear. This isn't -- we don't have to worry about subjecting ourselves to emotion on this. It is very clear. The laws in Florida are very clear when it comes to this issue. So, what we need to do is to go ahead and move on. Let those who are the experts do their jobs and let's go ahead and move forward.
GREENFIELD: So, if a hand count says Al Gore won the Florida in the presidency, as a Republican, that's fine.
PRUITT: Whatever is certified by the canvassing board, I will accept it.
GREENFIELD: Quick comment from you, Mr. Washington.
WASHINGTON: I was going to say that the state law in Florida says something about the will of the people. And we need to be sure that the will of the people is known and that can only be known done by revoting in my case because just too many people did not vote.
GREENFIELD: All right, we are going to have to take a break now. When we come back, we are going to be talking with Alan Brinkley from Columbia University about the broader political impact of a campaign that ends the way this one is. Stay with us.
GREENFIELD: We are back here in Palm Beach talking about the campaign, perhaps, 2001, because we don't know when this is going to end. Now, what we've learned from Palm Beach and as anybody who has walked into a polling booth in cities and towns around the country know, elections are often run imperfectly.
But the question that Charles Bierbauer of CNN asked is can an election be imperfect and yet still be fair? Here's his piece.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hundred million Americans punching and poking their votes into cards and machines are bound to make mistakes. JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: This happens in every precinct and every election.
BIERBAUER: The technology and process are both primitive by 21st century standards.
LEONARD GARMENT, COUNSEL TO PRES. NIXON: Hand process that's subject to the elements, the rain, how many buses you can locate to drive people to the polls. And people forgets boxes of votes, locked up in the trunk.
BIERBAUER: Garment says what has changed since he was counsel to President Nixon and Nixon declined to pursue ballot recounts is the current eagerness to take any dispute the court.
GARMENT: That was not a litigating culture. Now we have a culture that is dominated by class actions, by lawyers by any litigious behavior.
BIERBAUER: Palm Beach County's butterfly ballot and some confused voters added up to what Democrats consider miscast votes.
DALEY: The will of the people, not a computer glitch, should select our president.
BIERBAUER: The will of the people figured in a 1998 case before the Florida supreme court. It sustained the reelection of Volusia County Sheriff Robert Vogel over his opponent's claim that thousands of absentee ballots were spoiled. But the court also said if reasonable doubt exists that the election expresses the will of the voters then court is to void the contested election even in the absence of fraud or intentional wrongdoing.
GERALD KOGAN, FMR. FLORIDA CHIEF JUSTICE: It has to be more than just a technical violation of the election laws.
BIERBAUER: The former chief justice of Florida's supreme court says elections can be flawed yet still fair. But it will take guts for any Florida judge to throw out the Palm Beach vote on the basis of confusion, not fraud.
KOGAN: The court presumes, and wants to assume that the voters are correct and does not like to set aside that which the voters have chosen, except in extreme circumstances.
BIERBAUER: While the system may be imperfect, the damage is hard to calculate. Elections pick winners and losers, so what may be no more than an annoyance to one voter is a fatal flaw to another.
Charles Bierbauer, CNN, Washington.
GREENFIELD: And joining us now from New York, Columbia University history professor Alan Brinkley. Professor Brinkley, in every election there are some disgruntled people who will swear it wasn't fair: Kennedy stole the 1960 election, Nixon did a back channel to South Vietnam, Reagan connived to keep the hostages out, it was Clinton's fund raising.
But what happens, if you look back at American history, when there is an authentic question about whether or not the presidency is legitimate. What happens to the process?
ALAN BRINKLEY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, the process becomes questioned by people on the losing side, in particular, and the elected president under such circumstances generally has very a miserable time in office. If you look at 1824, 1876, even at 1888, the only ones in which the loser of the popular vote won the electoral vote, they were all extremely unsuccessful and frustrated presidencies with great legitimacy problems.
GREENFIELD: But is that alone enough, do you think, in this day and age to, quote, delegitimatize a president. In other words, what if Florida comes out in Governor Bush's favor, and there is no question that it was the vote -- an honest vote, and he still comes in losing the popular vote, do you think in this day and age that that would undermine him, or given Al Gore's comments would there be a kind of live and let live, he is the president, that's our system?
BRINKLEY: Well, I think probably most of the American people, once this is resolved, will give Bush a chance. I'm not sure the same will be true in Congress and among the party faithful and elected party officials. There's going to tremendous rancor after this election on whichever side loses.
If Bush loses, there will be a sense that the process was tinkered with and interfered with by the Gore campaign. If Gore loses, there will be a sense by many Gore supporters that he was cheated out of the election, that he won the popular vote, should have won Florida if there had not been a Ruth Goldberg (ph) ballot in Palm Beach. So I think it's very difficult to imagine a scenario that will complete this election process and bring everyone together happily.
GREENFIELD: Well let me off you a Polyannish view perhaps of this. And that is, whoever gets to be president he knows he won by one of the closest margins in history, he knows that the House and the Senate are almost evenly split, and, therefore, the extremes will drop away, and whether it is Gore or Bush there will be an attempt at national reconciliation, there will be an attempt at cooperation, and partisanship will decline. Based on your historical view of the country, how possible is that sunny scenario?
BRINKLEY: Well, I suppose anything is possible. But given the relations between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress over the last right years, it doesn't seem very likely, and it has not happened in comparable elections in the past.
GREENFIELD: OK, Candy Crowley in Austin has a question for you, professor Brinkley -- Candy. CROWLEY: Professor Brinkley, just wondering, couldn't you make the same case without all of this controversy, if it had all ended Tuesday night and it was a close election, even in the victor won both the popular vote and the electoral vote, that this Congress is a recipe for partisanship anyway because of the way the Congress came out? You still have that razor-thin margin in the House, You have almost a dead-even race. We've got some that haven't come in.
So is it just because of the nature of this race? Couldn't you just make the same argument that it's laying right out there even if in a clean win?
BRINKLEY: Well, you could certainly make a part of the argument. And it's obviously going to be very difficult for either Bush or Gore to work effectively with the Congress so evenly divided. But I think the way in which this election is being resolved will make it much more difficult because there will always be people who will believe this election was won somehow fraudulently.
CROWLEY: But aren't there also going to be people like...
GREENFIELD: Candy, a follow-up?
CROWLEY: Sure, just wondering about, you know, isn't there going to be some sort of honeymoon period, no matter who it is, when the American people are going to say, look, you know, it is what it is. Get something done, as there usually always is for a president.
BRINKLEY: Oh, I think in the early days of the next presidency, it is very likely that people will hold back, that they'll give the new president a chance. And perhaps the new president will be smart enough to know that he has to moderate his views and reach out across party lines, and maybe that will help.
But I think there will always be, laying in wait, a sense that this election was somehow illegitimate. And as soon as the new president runs afoul of his opposition, those doubts will resurface, and I think this will be a very difficult presidency for whoever wins.
GREENFIELD: OK, on that realistic, if not optimistic note, we're going to take a break. And we'll be back here in Palm Beach in just a moment.
ANNOUNCER: The Florida Vote, a CNN town meeting. Here again Jeff Greenfield.
GREENFIELD: After hearing Mr. Cardwell, our state elections expert, talking about recounts, John King in Washington, D.C., back from the wars in Nashville, do you have a question for Mr. Cardwell?
KING: I sure do, Jeff.
First, an observation quickly on the discussion with Professor Brinkley just a moment ago. Remember coming into this campaign the line from Democrats was this was Al Gore's one shot, that he was the vice president with a strong economy running against a governor, it turns out most Democrats grossly underestimated. But the conventional line was, if Al Gore lost, that was it. He would be a pariah in the Democratic Party.
Now many of those close to Gore saying, if he ends up losing this election, especially if he still wins the popular vote, why shouldn't he run again? Why shouldn't he make the case that he had been wronged by what happened in Florida? So watch for that dynamic in the coming days.
My question is this for Mr. Cardwell or any other of the Florida experts. There's word tonight that the Bush campaign may now go to court and seek an injunction blocking these hand counts to try to go and stop the Gore campaign from getting the hand counts now underway in these four counties. My question is, under state law, can they do that, or is this solely at the discretion of the local election officials who have already started that process?
CARDWELL: The decision whether to do a hand recount rests with the discretion of the county canvassing board. If a request is made by a candidate or a party for the recount and they identify the three precincts and send it up to the canvassing board to determine if the request is valid and if they would proceed with the initial sampling, there's no precedent in Florida for a court to enjoin a manual recount. So it would be very unusual, and there would have to be some showing at a very high threshold in court that the hand recount is frivolous or that it would have absolutely no effect.
But it seems with the issues that have been raised here that a hand recount -- and keep in mind that when we -- when it's first done, it's a mere sample, and the canvassing board then compares the results of the initial hand count of a few ballots to the machine totals, and if they determine there is a discrepancy, they then -- they can then expand it. It's not a full countywide hand count from the beginning.
Also, for the legitimacy of the hand count, state law requires the hand count to be done in a room or a facility that is open to the public and it can be observed by the media and the public, and also both political parties have to be represented at the counting tables.
KING: And what about if you're doing this hand count and -- in the case of the disqualified votes, A, would they be considered in the hand count, the 19,000 that were thrown out -- A, would they be considered and, B, what if a voter had punched Buchanan, realized the mistake, punched Gore, and then somehow drew something on the ballot, wrote another arrow or circled it, tried to show the distinction that they actually meant Gore? Can the three people who make that decision -- can they decide to rule that in, even though they voted twice?
CARDWELL: They could if they -- if the canvassing board determines that the intent of the voter can be discerned from what they marked on the ballot, and I will tell you, having looked at ballots in manual recounts before, it's amazing what sometimes gets written on those ballots in addition to just votes, but...
GREENFIELD: Perhaps we ought to stop there actually.
CARDWELL: OK. But the -- your first question -- the 19,000 overvotes would be included in a manual recount...
CARDWELL: ... if -- if it's the entire county.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'd like to ask Mr. Cardwell does he think the ballot was valid.
CARDWELL: As -- as far as a matter of law under the election code, it was valid. It -- it gets -- let me tell you it can still be confusing and be valid, but, as a matter of law, it's valid on its face.
GREENFIELD: I think someone else has a comment next to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything -- is there any law or precedence if of that -- if an -- X number of people make a mistake on a ballot, can they throw out the ballot? In other words, is there any acceptable margin? In other words, is there like throughout the country 19,000 ballots per county get thrown out, and if there's 25,000 that get thrown out, then that means that there's an invalid ballot?
CARDWELL: The ballots that have been thrown out in Florida have always been absentee ballots, and those can be challenged, and there are several factors in an absentee ballot, from how it was requested, how it was delivered, how it was filled out, that's the basis for a challenge. There's no precedent in Florida for throwing out the election day count that -- there's always a heavy presumption that that would be favored.
Also keep in mind Florida, as do most states, has a standard that's often referred to as the "but for" standard that, in order to overturn an election and knock some votes out, you have to show that but for the -- what you're complaining about occurred, the result of the election would have been different. It's a very high legal standard to meet.
GREENFIELD: OK. Thank you.
I want to try a quick thing before we break and ask some of the local officials -- do you think that a President Bush elected with a -- with a -- having lost the popular vote and under these circumstances in Florida, as a local official, do you think he has any less legitimacy than if he'd carried, say, 35 states and won by five million votes?
DAVES: Do you -- do I think he would have any less...
GREENFIELD: Yeah. Yeah, legitimacy. The question that Alan Brinkley was raising.
DAVES: No, no, no. GREENFIELD: From your point of view, he's the leader. He'd be the leader just as much as one...
DAVES: Yes, yes. I think it depends on the qualities of leadership that he can demonstrate in office, and we look forward to that. That would be my opinion.
GREENFIELD: Let me ask someone we haven't heard from.
Rabbi Levy, what do you say? I mean, I'm taking -- I'm taking a wild stab that you're a Democrat. Call me madcap. But if Bush...
GREENFIELD: But if Bush...
LEVY: How would you come to that conclusion?
GREENFIELD: Oh, it's -- there's an old joke I won't use, but I'll tell you after. Anyway, would it -- but would -- could you say, "OK. It's over. Bush wins. He's my president. I wish him well," even if it -- under these circumstances?
LEVY: I would wish him well, and I would hope that he would govern the country wisely. My concern would be that for either -- for either Bush or Gore with that -- with these shadows hanging over the -- with these shadows of puzzlement, illegitimacy tainting the presidency of either one, I would hope that these matters could be resolved by having a revote in those states in which the vote was not just close because closeness doesn't -- isn't what makes it, but close plus challenged -- having a legitimate challenge. If it's a legitimate challenge in any of the states by either party, plus a razor-thin majority, then I would hope that there would be a -- a revote of the voters in that state just to be sure that the new president was able to avoid the problems that Professor Brinkley spoke about.
GREENFIELD: OK. We're going to take a break. When we come back, we're going to do something that you may never have had the experience of. We're going to show you a real live elector. Stay with us.
GREENFIELD: The Florida Vote, a CNN town meeting. Here again Jeff Greenfield.
GREENFIELD: If there's one thing this election has done, it is to drag from the shadows one of the least understood institutions in American political life, the electoral college. It is not, as Frank Sesno, tells us an entry in the NCAA basketball tournament -- Frank.
FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you entered that crowded polling place last Tuesday, you may have thought you were voting for president, but, as you probably know by now, it's the electoral college that, constitutionally speaking, does the job based on the popular vote winner in each state.
Five hundred thirty-eight electors all together, 270 needed to win, little noted, nor long remembered, but real people, party people.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This man represents what our party is all about.
SESNO: Mel Martinez, a lawyer, Cuban immigrant, GOP county executive, and Republican elector from Florida.
BUSH: I love Mel's story, and I love Mel -- what Mel stands for, and I'm proud to call him friend.
MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA ELECTOR: Well, I mean, I thought at the time it would be kind of a fun, historic, little asterisk on -- for my grandchildren to know about, and now it's become a -- like an exclamation point.
SESNO: Mel Martinez didn't bargain on this: a disputed vote, a recount, court challenges. Scholars warn these are unchartered waters.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: We may conceivably end up in a situation where you have two competing slates of electors. We may get into a situation where a judge issues an injunction preventing the governor from certifying a choice of electors and he defies the judge, sends those electors forward, and then Congress is going to have to make a determination.
SESNO: Or, say, Florida goes narrowly for Bush and Gore continues to lead in the national popular vote. There may be pressure for Bush electors to break ranks and vote for Gore. History has coined a name for them. Faithless electors, they're called. There have only been a handful of them in the nation's history. Mel Martinez says he would not be one of them.
MARTINEZ: I think there will be pressure because there's been a politicization of this process, and I think that's unfortunate.
SESNO (on camera): More likely, court disputes and public challenges. The clock is ticking. Electors are required by federal law to cast their ballots on December 18th for transmittal to Washington.
ORNSTEIN: If a state isn't ready because it can't duly certify those electors and they don't meet on December 18th, that deadline passes, there are no electors from the state.
SESNO (voice-over): That could change the electoral equation altogether because, without Florida, Gore is leading in the electoral tally.
On January 6th, the new Congress must gather in joint session to count the electoral voters. It could find itself confronting unforeseen, perhaps unprecedented dispute, and keep this in mind, the new Congress, like the presidential vote itself, is split right down the middle.
Frank Sesno, CNN, Washington.
GREENFIELD: Ben, you actually know an elector?
BEN: I know two.
BEN: One Republican and one Democrat.
GREENFIELD: And is this a big deal in their lives, that they actually have a chance to be electors?
BEN: Pretty much so. They -- they feel it's quite an honor, and they feel that they are part of history.
GREENFIELD: Any chance either of them would vote against the fellow they were pledged to in the electoral college?
BEN: I'm not sure about that.
GREENFIELD: Whoa! We may have a story. We may be back in Palm Beach.
There are a couple of you who have not had a chance to comment. Maybe more. But you, sir, wanted to mention something about the conversation in general.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what I wanted to mention was this. Here in America, I -- we're -- we all take voting as a -- we take it for granted how it's done, and now we're finding out how everything can change and how we can make mistakes. Maybe it's come time that America starts voting differently. Maybe we need to look at the whole process of going in that box, what we do in that box, changing all of that so that these kinds of mistakes can't happen, that when somebody walks out of a box, they know for sure who they voted for.
GREENFIELD: OK. A good point to take a break. We'll be back with our final section in just a moment. Please stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: The Florida Vote, a CNN town meeting. Here again Jeff Greenfield.
GREENFIELD: Back for our last segment here in, as I am reminded, West Palm Beach.
Here's the question. What's it been like in this friendly town when suddenly you become ground zero? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's certainly been maddening. It's been phenomenal, it's been exciting, but what I really hope is that we are part of the Democratic process. That's what I'm really hoping for.
GREENFIELD: Mr. Mayor, share your feelings with us.
DAVES: Well, we love having you here. You bring your legions of people and spend money, and we like that. So you can come anytime.
Let me say one more thing while you have given me -- while I have this mic. I think that generally the country expects these two candidates who aspire to be president to demonstrate some statesmanship right now, which I really don't see them doing, and say that we too believe in the Democratic process and we think that they know how to count votes in Florida and let us go through our process here, and in time -- and in a very short time, our secretary of state will certify these -- these votes, and we'll have a new president, but I think some of that -- a big part of that has to come from the candidates themselves.
GREENFIELD: OK. Ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'd just like to say in closing that I hope that we can learn from all of this, whether it be Palm Beach County, the State of Florida, or any other state in the union, that we can move on and just close this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just a bottom line: God bless whoever gets the job because they're going to have a lot of work ahead of them, but the -- it's very clear that we have a human element to our voting process in this country today. We have to accept that humans are fallible and that there are mistakes that are going to be made and -- at the voter, at the polling workers. I mean, this -- this is reality. We have to look at -- one of the great things about our nation is we can make it better. We can do it right going forward. We can't change history. It happened. We can get it right going forward.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that either Mr. Bush or Mr. Gore would like to win the election unless they feel that they deserve to win the election, and I hope that, at some point, we'll be able to resolve this, whether it be a revote, a recount, or something. I do hope we learn from it because we definitely had some flaws.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just real quickly, I think everybody needs to remember that voting is a scientific study and every scientific study does have a margin of error that's acceptable. What is that level? We need to ascertain that. And how far back do we look to reach that level? GREENFIELD: Mr. Washington (ph).
WASHINGTON: I think the electoral college should take the lead and get us out of this mess and vote for the candidate that got the most votes and send a message to all of us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problems with the ballots -- the people have to be more responsible for themselves, they can't blame the system that they double punched for a president or that there was 19,000 ballots that were thrown away. These people are now trying to blame the system instead of themselves.
GREENFIELD: Last word, sir.
BEN: I grew up in a home where I had wonderful parents that voted in every election, and I think if anything this election teaches us, it is that every American -- their vote counts, and the only vote that doesn't count is the one that's not cast. Everyone should register to vote and do their civic duty.
GREENFIELD: All right. On that note, with my clumsy dropping of the portable microphone, I really want to thank our guests, elected officials, journalists, distinguished folks, mayors, citizens. You've been terrific. I have now learned that I am in West Palm Beach, not Palm Beach, for which I thank you.
And speaking of thanks, our thanks to Palm Beach Atlantic (ph) College once again for the use of the hall.
And, finally, one note of optimistic caution: when the framers finished with the Constitution in that summer in Philadelphia in 1787, a Philadelphian asked Ben Franklin, "What have you given us?" and Franklin said, "A republic if you can keep it."
Well, we've kept it for 200 years, and we're going to keep it now. Blood will not run in the streets. Troops will not ring the capital. But there is a danger of something dangerous enough in its own right, and that is a process so politically charged and so angry that the sense of common good, the sense of comity, the sense of coming together can be eaten away by bile.
For the last several inaugurals, I've had the privilege of being at a reporter's perch looking down at the Capitol steps watching zealous political enemies shaking hands and laughing and sharing this mundane miracle. The concern is that if -- if half of this country believes that the president cheated his way into office, whichever half, that good will can be eaten away from a sense of fury.
We've all had a sense these last couple of days that we're living in history, and I think the hope is that our words and our deeds will be worthy of that history.
That's our program for tonight. My thanks to you for watching. I'm Jeff Greenfield. And, Bernie, you can't know how much we're going to miss you at CNN. Godspeed.
Thanks for watching. Good night.
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