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Election 2000: Judge Denies Extended Florida Vote Count Deadline; Both Parties Seek Overseas Ballots

Aired November 14, 2000 - 1:12 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the judicial proceedings have reached critical mass in Florida. We've just had within the past few minutes, the Florida state court judge Terry Lewis denying a motion for temporary injunction extending the deadline for the reporting of all Florida ballots.

We have another legal effort going on in west Palm Beach county. That's over the ballot, the butterfly ballot, whether or not that was legal. And Mark Potter is covering that aspect of the story in West Palm Beach.

Mark, anything new?

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Lou, first of all, this is a scene of confusion here at the Palm Beach county courthouse. You should see the clerk's office right now: It looks like there's a fire sale on. Everybody's coming in, filing motions, it's really a mess. But we'll try to sort it out as best we can.

What we are seeing is a proceeding that's about to begin in the court of the chief judge of the county, Walter Cobalth, and that's a hearing on the issue of this injunction that was imposed a few days ago by another judge against the canvassing board prohibiting that board from certifying the results of the election until the court can deal with the matter.

And of course, with this deadline imposed in Tallahassee, of 5:00 p.m., there was a great urgency to get this matter settled. The canvassing board is sitting here with its hands tied, not knowing what to do. They face a $200 a day fine if they don't get the certifications in, and they're ordered not to do it. So this hearing at the outset is designed to deal with that issue, the injunction itself.

Now, as for the butterfly ballots, there have been a number of lawsuits -- we lost count at nine this morning -- I think that's where it stands -- nine suits have been filed by voters in this county, almost all of them -- I would say eight -- involve the ballot itself and the problems with the ballot. Most of those cases ask for a revote countywide in the presidential race. One of them talks about the certification process itself.

We do not know if the judge here is going to deal with that or if another judge will be assigned those other matters. We do that know a number of judges -- five of them -- were assigned this case, the butterfly case. Four of them, at least, have recused themselves for a variety of reasons, a conflict of interest here or there.

And so we are still waiting to see. And even the lawyers, I must say, I'm not the only one totally confused by this, the lawyers themselves are not quite sure about the procedure. We talked to one of the lawyers from the Democratic Party who was standing up in that sea of madness in the clerk's office, trying to figure out to do, and he said he thought that this hearing today that we're dealing with right now, before the chief judge, would be more or less a status conference: trying to pull the pieces together to figure out what's going on, to deal with all these issues, figure out who's in charge, and where to go from here.

So we're just going to sit and watch and see how this develops. We think that, at the beginning, they're going to deal with this injunction, though, because this is the most pressing matter facing this county and the voter -- the canvassing board here -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Mark Potter. And we know one thing's certain, you're one of the people to watch today, and we'll be back to you when anything happens.

Natalie, take it away.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good luck to Mark, sorting all that out for us.

Let's go to Bill Hemmer, who's live now in Tallahassee, and he can remind us of where things stood before we got into all the manual count discussions and controversy -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Natalie, hello to you, from Tallahassee. Listen, the latest numbers we have from the secretary of state came out this morning about 9:17 a.m. This could prove critical if that 5:00 deadline is met later today. According to the state, the official numbers they had this morning had George Bush leading Al Gore by 1,065 votes.

Now, having said that, Palm Beach is not officially recounted in this because, you may remember, last week, when a lawsuit was brought on Palm Beach, a judge said: OK you cannot certify your votes, you must stop for the moment. That's why it should be important to point out to our viewers the Associated Press number we've been reporting that shows George Bush up by 388 votes -- is what the AP is doing throughout the state of Florida as they collect different information from different counties, all 67 of them.

However, the official state count right now roughly 1,000 votes in favor of George Bush over Al Gore, and if, indeed, that 5:00 deadline comes and goes without the court stopping it, Bush would have a 1,000-point lead here in Florida.

Now to the issue of the absentee ballots. It's largely believed that the Republicans have the advantage on that front, but Democrats in Tallahassee say, Not so fast. There is a large effort, apparently, put out by the Democratic National Committee, to get Floridians living or travelling in Israel to vote this past election. As you well know, with Joe Lieberman on the under card with Al Gore, it is thought a lot of those Democrats would, indeed, return absentee ballots.

One other quick point: The RNC is saying they spent 600,000 dollars this past year trying to reach Republicans overseas to get them to vote in this election.

So again, we'll see how things unfold throughout the afternoon here, then certainly wait for later in the week on those absentee ballots -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Bill Hemmer, in Tallahassee.



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