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West Palm Beach Plaintiffs' Lawyers Hold News Briefing on Possibility of Complete RevoteAired November 15, 2000 - 12:25 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you down to West Palm Beach. Florida right now, where we are expecting to hear just momentarily from some lawyers who have been in a hearing over this controversial butterfly ballot. You see the microphones setup and the huddle right up to the left.
As we wait for the lawyers to take their place. Let me give you another voice who has now entered this discussion and that is Tom Daschle. He is the Senate minority leader, the Democratic leader, saying that it is time for a Secretary of State Harris in Florida to recuse herself from all of this. Daschle telling our congressional correspondent Chris Black that she is just too partisan and been too supportive of George W. Bush during the campaign.
As you see in the picture here, the lawyers now in West Palm.
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DAVID KRATHEN, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: Let me say that today's proceedings in court were a tremendous victory for the people of Palm Beach County. The canvassing board now is going to be proceeding with the count in accordance with the directives of a judge of the circuit court of Palm Beach County, who obviously has given very careful and considerate thought to what should happen.
We are very pleased with the outcome of this morning's proceedings. We are also very pleased that the court will -- is inclined to take the testimony of our world-class experts with respect to the scientific methodology and the analysis of the vote that occurred in Palm Beach County that clearly, unequivocally shows, within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, that Al Gore should have received at least an additional 11,600 votes from the ballots that were cast in Palm Beach County, and that have not been counted in his favor.
We are going to be giving our expert report, in accordance with the judge's directions, to the defendants tomorrow, along with copies of their curriculum vitae, and we be proceeding in that course of events.
Gary Farmer, co-counsel, who has been handling the issues on the law at this point and is a tremendous lawyer, and I think has done a phenomenal job on behalf of the voters of Palm Beach County. Let me introduce him again to you, and ask you to listen to the comments that he has.
GARY FARMER, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: I'm not sure I really have much of a comment for you all, other than we believe that this evidence has to be heard. We're certainly not looking to sandbag anyone.
I think the cries by the Republican lawyers today, by the Bush lawyers, that they weren't prepared for this issue really are not well founded. This lawsuit at the beginning was and always has been about the legality of the ballot. You need evidence on that issue. We gave notice to them on Monday. We gave them the names of all six of our experts and we had a hearing set yesterday on the injunction. That hearing was specific to the injunction standard, which includes whether there's potential likelihood that we will prevail on the merits.
So these cries that we're not prepared, we feel, are not well founded.
Be that as it may, I would certainly respect Judge Labarga's ruling today. And I think he tried to forge a middle ground, and I think he did that effectively. Our experts will prepare the reports. We will get them to all defense counsel, as instructed by the judge. And we will be here Friday at 9:30 to argue on the constitutionality or the legality of a re-vote, if that ultimately has to occur.
What we are trying to do here is we are trying to get things in place so that if, for example, the manual recount ends up in a dead heat or something else happens where a manual recount is not allowed or is not counted, for example, if Secretary of State Harris certifies the election without any consideration of the results of the manual recount, the next recourse would be to determine whether or not the Palm Beach County votes were accurately counted, due to the illegality of the ballot. And we don't want any delay in that determination. We feel things should move with some speed.
It's funny, you know, the Bush lawyers seem to pick and choose their situations where they want speed and where they want slow movement. Today, it was, let's wait, let's wait. First it was, let's wait on the pregnant chad issue. Let's count everything else and wait on that and see if it matters. Then it was, let's wait on the testimony.
Yesterday, I heard all over the media, that we need to get this done now. We need to get this done yesterday. Bush won, Bush won, Bush won. You know, there's evidence to be taken. There is issues to be resolved. Everybody knows what those issues are. Everybody ought to be prepared for those issues.
I come from a five-lawyer firm, they come from a four-lawyer firm. We are doing our best to stay ahead of this thing, do the research, get prepared for these issues and these cases. The Bush campaign and Governor Bush have at their disposal practically any lawyer they want. They have hired one of the most powerful and large firms in the state of Florida, why Mr. Richards in the one that has to be at every hearing and has to argue every argument and every motion, I really don't understand.
Be that as it may, we just want to be prepared. We, again, applaud the re-vote. We want it to go forward with due speed. We expect that Secretary of State Harris will consider the results of the re-vote and if and only if somehow the re-vote is not counted, or this issue as to the total number of votes is not resolved, and we have to turn to the legality of the ballot, we want to be prepared to do that as quickly as possible. And that was the purpose of what we asked for today.
QUESTION: Gary, what do you say about the judge's opinion in the state statute that prevent a re-vote in Palm Beach County? would not allow another vote for the presidential election in Palm Beach County until the year 2004?
FARMER: Well, I think Judge Labarga, you know, was sort of shooting from a first impression. Yes, the statute does set forth a date on which the presidential election shall occur. The statute does not say the only presidential election shall occur on that day. Certainly we need to set a date for that election.
As I said in court today, I don't think the legislators of this state ever envisioned a situation like this, nor do I think that the people who drafted the rules of civil procedure ever envisioned a situation like this. We have got to sort of adjust the rules, as we go, to be fair to everyone, absolutely. We're not looking for an unfair advantage. But, we need to start getting this thing prepared in the event that we have to order a re-vote in very short order.
QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence, any case law, that says that a re-vote ever happened in any county in the United States?
FARMER: Yes. There are a number of instances where re-votes have occurred. I will be happy to provide you all with our brief when it is prepared. But there are a number of incidents where re-votes have been allowed. I have not found any on a presidential election. I will concede that point. But there have been instances where re- votes have been allowed and been allowed on a county level. And again, that is all we are asking for. We are not asking for the entire United States of America to go vote for president again.
There is only one county in the state of Florida where an illegal ballot was utilized. That's the only place we are asking for a re- vote.
FARMER: I don't want to comment on that. I don't want to predict what Judge Labarga is going to do. I said it yesterday and I will say it again. I think Judge Labarga needs to be really recognized for the fine work he's done in this case. He has been brought into a maelstrom in very short notice. he has got people coming at him from all sides. He has announced an affiliation with the Republican Party, yet he has remained even and fair, as far as I'm concerned, on everything that he's done in this case. I really think he needs to be commended. I mean, he is doing his job separate and apart from his own personal political beliefs. I wish some other state officials in this state would do that as well.
QUESTION: The order in which they are looking at the issues, the constitutionality of a re-vote, is that the right order? Should you be looking at the issue of the ballot, first, and then that, can you comment on that?
FARMER: I think reasonable minds would differ on that, but I think -- I really think Judge Labarga made a Solomon-like decision here today. We couldn't agree on discovery. But Judge Labarga went to the, as he said, the heart of the matter, the ultimate remedy would perhaps be a revote.
I do think that Judge Labarga, upon further consideration, may see that there are possible other remedies, short of a re-vote. We are doing research to see if there is any authority for a statistical reapportionment of votes, based upon the scientific evidence that we intend to present.
So I think the re-vote is one of a few possible options here. But I certainly have no problem with the procedure that's been ruled on, that Judge Labarga has ruled we should follow.
SESNO: You have been listening to Gary Farmer, one of the lawyers standing at the microphones right now in West Palm Beach, Florida. They represent the plaintiffs, who say, as you probably know, that those so-called butterfly ballots, which some say are confusing, which listed Pat Buchanan's name to the right, in a column to right of the George W. Bush and Al Gore columns, that it was confusing, that people cast votes for Pat Buchanan when they wanted to vote for Al Gore.
David Krathen, one of the lawyers, saying when he first came out there that they have an argument that says 11,600 votes should have gone to Al Gore. That obviously way more than enough to give the state to Al Gore.
So a very high stakes argument there. They are also saying that they are prepared to come back on Friday at 9:30 in the morning to argue the constitutionality of a re-vote in the entire county.
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