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Election 2000: Palm Beach Co. Canvassing Board Votes to Suspend Recount; Bob Crawford Offers Reaction

Aired November 14, 2000 - 8:36 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the Florida Recount goes on, at least talk of it does. I'm Leon Harris in CNN Center in Atlanta.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Lin. Lots of talk of recounting, but no recounting so far, as Palm Beach County and Florida decide not to start their recounting of the ballots until a critical decision today by the secretary of state, as well as a state court judge.

We go to Bill Hemmer now for more on this story -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Carol and Leon, good morning, once again.

We are going to talk with Bob Crawford in just a second here. He is the canvassing commissioner for the entire state of Florida. We will get to that in a second. But first, back to Palm Beach and John Zarrella for more developments in southeastern Florida.

John, hello, what do you have?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, yet another twist. The attorney general, Bob Butterworth, the opinion they were waiting for, again he is Democrat, his opinion says that the opinion of the secretary of state and the director of elections, that Palm Beach County cannot recount its ballots because there was nothing wrong with the machines, he says that that opinion by the secretary of state is erroneous. It is about a five or six-page opinion.

A member of the Democratic Party counsel for Al Gore and the Democrats had just been handed to it, looked it over, and said: Well, he says it is erroneous. So they are going to analyze what all that means but it apparently means that the county will be going to court now to seek a -- a position from the judge in circuit court here in Palm Beach County as to what to do when you have the secretary of state of Florida telling you one thing and you have got the attorney general of the state of Florida telling you something different.

So another issue headed to court, and to further complicate things, the counsel, Ben Cuny (ph), for the Democratic Party and Al Gore, tells us they have also gone to court here today over dimpled ballots. They want a judge to tell the canvassing commission that, by Florida law, if an attempt has been made by a voter to punch that card, even if it is just a little dimple, that that vote has to be counted. They are concerned apparently that the county was not counting dimpled ballots.

So another court action likely here. When will it end, Bill?

HEMMER: Wish we could stay, John. John Zarrella in West Palm. Stay in touch. John.

Want to bring in Bob Crawford now. He is the commissioner for the canvassing commission here statewide in Florida. Your reaction to the developments. First it was off. Now it appears like it may be back on.

BOB CRAWFORD, FLORIDA CANVASSING BOARD: Well, I think we need to get everything resolved in Palm Beach County. Nearly every other county in the state has done their job, they have taken the vote. They have done everything they need to conclude matters. And I think we are going to have all the counties certified. We are now down to Palm Beach County that hasn't even counted a single vote in the last two days but is asking for an extension, which appears to be contrary to state law.

HEMMER: For people looking from the outside in, here is probably what a lot of people see. Katharine Harris, secretary of state, a Republican, outright Bush supporter; Bob Butterworth, the attorney general, a Democrat, outright Gore supporter. When do we pull the line between politics on this issue, and is it ultimately possible to remove that element to achieve some sort of fair balance and decision here?

CRAWFORD: Well, I think, in a case like that, it probably is going to have to go to court. It's my understanding that the secretary of state is the chief elections officer, has the final authority as it relates to opinions from the state, not the attorney general, as it relates to election law.

HEMMER: You're saying Katherine Harris supersedes Bob Butterworth.

CRAWFORD: On election opinions that is my understanding. So even though Attorney General Butterworth has a contrary opinion, I think hers prevails. But, the fair way to do it is probably to go to court, and I'm sure that is what will happen.

HEMMER: There is going to be a court decision announced in about two hours' time in this town in Tallahassee. Earlier today, you told me that you did not think the deadline would stick at 5:00 today. You believe extension will be granted. Why are you of that opinion?

CRAWFORD: I think probably the initial court level it may be granted, but likely would get overturned almost immediately at an appeals court level. But if Palm Beach County is not going forward with a vote count, then Judge Lewis here in Tallahassee could wait on an opinion because it really wouldn't be necessary because they're a party to the suit. The other party is Volusia County, and I think they are going to be finished by the end of the day. HEMMER: It was believed last night, Volusia County did finish their recount, but publicly I don't think it has been approved just yet by the commission in that part of the state. Are you hearing anything from Volusia on that front?

CRAWFORD: Only that they're moving ahead very rapidly and very conscientiously. I think Volusia will conclude. So it really will kind of just leave Palm Beach County the only county that hadn't finished their work.

HEMMER: Quickly here, if the appeal comes down, through the local court here in Tallahassee, ultimately, if it goes to the state supreme court, how fast could that be pushed through the system in Florida>

CRAWFORD: I think it could be very fast. In fact, our lawyers are looking at an emergency appeal, votes...

HEMMER: Give me a time frame, 12 hours, 24, two days?

CRAWFORD: I think anything more than a day or two kind of leaves of hanging too long. I think the Supreme Court has a procedure to get us there quickly.

HEMMER: All right, Bob Crawford, thanks again.



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