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Bush and Gore Campaigns Clash on Fairness and Accuracy of Hand Recounts

Aired November 15, 2000 - 4:40 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We are talking with CNN political analyst Bill Schneider and CNN election law analyst David Cardwell about recent developments down in Florida.

Bill, as this goes on -- and we're now in the eight day of this recounting in Florida -- what are the political calculations here? It's evident that every word is measured here, but must be some liabilities here as we go on.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, each side is trying to make its argument based on one value. The Democrats are saying: We want fairness. Fairness requires that every vote be counted as carefully as possible, and that we must have a manual recount, if necessary, to count every last vote to try to get the voters intent.

What the Republicans are saying is: We need closure. We have to get this thing done so the country can go ahead with its business.

I think that the Democrats may have the stronger part of that argument. So what we heard Jim Baker just talk about now is: Well, if you do, do that chasing down every last vote, and looking at pregnant chads and hanging folds and dimpled chads and things like that, No. 1, it's being done in selective counties, and -- the ones that the Democrats find favorable. So, that's not fair.

And Baker says, No. 2, there have been no clear standards for how to how to count those ballots. The standards have been made up as they go along. And to prove it, they said the Democrats have gone to court and asked the court if they would set some clear standards. So the Republican argument is: They sound like they're fair, but their standards are not really fair at all.

WATERS: Well, this morning, we heard David Boies telling us there have several counties in which Republicans have asked for a hand recount and gotten it. So it would be only fair for the Democrats to get a hand recount. And James Baker seemed to question that just a couple of minutes ago.

SCHNEIDER: He did. Yesterday, I was told by some Democrats: Don't you say that the Democrats have only requested recounts, because Republicans have in six counties. What Jim Baker just said a few minutes ago was that is untrue. Now, it's not clear whether it's untrue that there were manual recounts in six counties that lean toward the Republicans, or what he was saying was something more precise: namely, that Republicans have not asked for or conducted manual recounts in pro-Republican counties.

Those recounts may -- those manual recounts may be going on. But at least, he said, the Republicans didn't ask for them or conduct them. It appears to have been done by local authorities. And in those counties, there wasn't a comprehensive recount of the entire vote. It apparently was recounts of just some precincts.

WATERS: And David Cardwell, there seems to be a subtext here in the Republican message that counting every vote by hand is essentially unfair, because of the potential for human error. And James Baker mentioned it twice in his comments just a few minutes ago: "the chance for human mischief." What mischief are we talking about?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, I fear that what he means by mischief is somehow or another the vote totals could be manipulated in some way by the counters. The statute that addresses manual recounts does have some safeguards in it. For example, the counting teams must consist of at least two people. And they must be of different political parties.

Also, in the supervisor's office, when they do the recount, they have others who are overseeing, you know, a group of tables or the entire counting area. So there is plenty of oversight of the counters. Also, the counting room must be open to the public, which means it's also open to the news media. So everything is going to be closely scrutinized. There is the potential, though, for human error.

If you did a multitude of -- or more than one manual recount, you very likely would come up with two different results, because, when you are counting this many thousands of ballots, the counters are going to become tired, fatigue will set in. It's very important -- even though they may work a long shift -- to give them frequent breaks and give them the opportunity to rest. Otherwise, you can start seeing some errors being made, just by virtue of, if nothing else, fatigue.


WATERS: Yes, go ahead, Bill, sure.

SCHNEIDER: James Baker -- to be fair to James Baker -- he also mentioned that the more these punch cards in Palm Beach County -- and other places that use punch cards -- the more they're handled and counted, the more likely it is that you will actually change the card itself, that holes will fall out that weren't there initially, that dimples will become perforations.

In other words, even without any kind of manipulation or human error, you could simply find that the handling of these cards invariably changes what is on them.

WATERS: All right. We will talk later. Bill Schneider, David Cardwell, thanks so much. CNN will take a break. We will continue on in a moment.


WATERS: At the water cooler, in the coffee shops, out on the street, this still undecided presidential election still is the talk of the USA.

CNN's Jennifer Auther checks in now from L.A. with some reaction from the folks there -- Jennifer.


We are at the farmer's market on the west side of Los Angeles. And here you can get all different kinds of food to eat. It's a regular lunch spot for a lot of the people who work around here. We wanted to talk with Jason Adelman (ph) first. You were telling us this is your second presidential election voting. What do you make of what's going on now?

JASON ADELMAN, VOTER: To be honest with you, I mean, I am still on, you know, everyday at work. But this is an election for the leader of the free world, and, you know, I don't care what the, you know, Bush supporters say, the Gore campaign going to the Florida Supreme Court has to be done. This is a very important election, and for such a slim margin, you don't -- you have to be -- you take it very aggressively.

AUTHER: It's getting very litigious, many lawsuits, with a call by the secretary of state of Florida to consolidate it with the state supreme court there. What do you make of that?

ADELMAN: I think that the American people are frustrated by all of the legal procedures and they are just looking for an outcome, and I think maybe the popularity polls are going up and down for the different candidates as the American people are just looking for a leader. No one is thinking about Clinton right now, they're just looking -- they feel like they're a country lost without a leader, and I look for a quick close to this.

AUTHER: So you look for a quick close, so do you think that's more important than to take your time, find out what the vote is -- do it now?

ADELMAN: I think that as long as it's judicious and democracy is served -- I am also waiting for the mini-movie, so...

AUTHER: All right.

ADELMAN: ... I look forward to that.

AUTHER: All right, thank you very much, Jason Adelman.

I wanted to now introduce you to Lisa Fontinesy (ph), and specifically wanted to ask you do you think either side wants this to end quickly? We were talking earlier. LISA FONTINESY, VOTER: No, I think they're enjoying the dragging-out process and the ups and downs. I think -- it's not finished this way, and so, they're keeping each other in the spotlight.

AUTHER: If you could pull anything positive out of all of these goings on in Florida, what would that be?

FONTINESY: I suppose it's that everybody feels a little bit -- I think we feel a little more involved about picking the president than I think we've ever have. I think you go, you vote, you get your little sticker and you walk away, but I think people are really paying attention now.

AUTHER: Do you have any different thoughts now on the Electoral College and the way that we select a president in the United States?

FONTINESY: Well, prior to this, I really didn't understand what it was, now that I have sort of an idea of how it works, it really seems that the Electoral College doesn't work for the way our systems are set up. It was set up for -- they never thought we'd have two or three parties, we'd have lots of parties, and that's not the case, so maybe we'll revamp our government as we know it. That might be what happens.

AUTHER: Do you have an opinion about let's get this thing over with, or let's take our time and do the count?

FONTINESY: You know what? I think let's get this thing over with and just figure out who's going to be our president. I think we're -- it's -- I hate to say it, I hate to be like everybody else, it's not going to make that much difference which one is -- there are some issues where definitely, but I think it's time to figure out what's going on and move on.

AUTHER: All right, Lisa Fontinesy...


AUTHER: ... mother of two and an actress.

Wanted to introduce you finally to Ray Pollentonio (ph).


AUTHER: Pollentonio, thank you very much.

You have heard the discussion. What we are trying to do is get the voice from the West Coast as to what's going on in Florida.

POLLENTONIO: Just like everybody else, I am frustrated with it all, but I am always glued to the TV. You know, it's more exciting than the Super Bowl. You know, I didn't expect to sit up all night watching the election last Tuesday, but I did. And then I went to bed and then my friend called me at 2:00 a.m. saying, they took Florida back from Bush, so I have been following it all week. AUTHER: You know, there always has been in recent years a concern about the voter 18-24 years old, do you think -- do you have an opinion as to whether or not this will engage more younger voters? We didn't hear the candidates talking much to issues that concerned younger voters in this election. We heard of prescription drugs, we heard of Medicare, Social Security.

POLLENTONIO: Absolutely. I mean, when I first voted back in '96 for Clinton, I was in college, you know. I voted for Clinton, which I would be fine with him staying in four more years, absolutely. But, yes, absolutely.

AUTHER: All right.

POLLENTONIO: Give us a chance to vote.

AUTHER: All right, Ray, thank you so much for waiting around and telling the nation what you think.


AUTHER: We're going to toss it back to you, Lou, from the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles.

WATERS: All right, Jennifer, thank you.

Give us a break. We'll be back to history in just a moment.


WATERS: In Phoenix, Arizona, we told you about an hour ago, rescue crews are working to remove four people who still are stranded on a roller coaster. Eleven other people who were stranded have been rescued. The downward-heading cars on this ride, known as The Desert Storm, rolled to a stop on the tracks about 30 feet in the air, stranding the riders. We have no reports of injuries, though.

Now, about the recount, Bush campaign observer James Baker once again blasts Democrats for the "tangled legal web," as he called it, arising from the deadlocked presidential election. The Gore campaign has yet to respond to Baker's comments made within the past hour. Another deadline has passed; this one, the Florida counties to submit letters justifying manual recounts of the vote. Four counties met that deadline. All the while, a federal appeals court says it will consider whether the Bush campaign can stop the manual recounts requested by Democrats. In Tallahassee, both sides asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether or not that recounting is legal.

A quick programming note before I go: Be sure to join us this evening for a CNN special report: "THE FLORIDA RECOUNT," 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific. I'm Lou Waters.

Next, an extended 90-minute edition of "INSIDE POLITICS." Take care.



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