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The Florida Recount: Secretary of State Rejects Manual Recounts; Gore Campaign Announces Appeal; Bush Turns Down Gore Offer

Aired November 15, 2000 - 10:03 p.m. ET



KATHERINE HARRIS, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: I've decided it is my duty under Florida law to exercise my discretion in denying these requested amendments.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Florida's secretary of state rules against counties wanting recounts.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The bombshell comes after Al Gore calls on George W. Bush to accept hand recounts and lower the political rhetoric.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I propose that Governor Bush and I meet personally one on one, as soon as possible, before the vote count is finished not to negotiate but to improve the tone of our dialogue in America.


SHAW: This is a special CNN report on the Florida recount. From Washington, I'm Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: And I'm Judy Woodruff.

Thank you for joining us, and we extend a special welcome to our international viewers.

It has been a night of dramatic developments in the U.S. presidential election. Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris, has announced that she is rejecting any further efforts to recount ballots from the election by hand. Further, she said the state would certify the existing presidential election results, including any overseas absentee ballots, Saturday.

But the Gore campaign, we just heard, is going to court to restart the hand counting: that decision just announced by Gore campaign chairman William Daley. Harris' announcement came just 2 1/2 hours after Vice President Al Gore offered George W. Bush's campaign a deal to stop further legal action over the Florida vote if Governor Bush would accept the results of at least some hand recounts.

Well, we expect to be hearing from Governor Bush himself within the hour.

And now for the details on Katherine Harris's decision, we go to CNN's Deborah Feyerick in Tallahassee -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, the secretary of state, as you just mentioned, said that she will not consider any extension of the votes, the votes she has now in Florida or the votes that will be used along with overseas absentee ballots to decide this election here in Florida.


HARRIS: I've decided it is my duty under Florida law to exercise my discretion in denying these requested amendments. The reasons given in their requests are insufficient to warrant waiver of the unambiguous filing deadline imposed by the Florida legislature.


FEYERICK: And just to let you know what some of the criteria are that she decided or used in her decision -- I've got the list in front of me. She said that proof of voter fraud, that would require an extension. Noncompliance with statutory election procedure, that also would allow for an extension. But not warranting a waiver, that includes confusing ballots. That's not a reason. They also said that just because there's a mere possibility that an election outcome could be different, that is also not a reason to extend the deadline and include additional votes.

Now, Gore pointman Bill Daley called this decision rash and precipitous.


WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: We are very sorry that the secretary of state has taken such a rash and a precipitous action. In light of the gravity of the situation and the pendencey of this very matter before the Florida Supreme Court tomorrow morning.

We will pursue legal action to ensure that notwithstanding this uncalled for action, the hand counts continue under the pre-existing court decisions.


FEYERICK: And to give you a timeline of this, this decision comes five hours after the Supreme Court denied a request by the secretary of state to stop the recount, and it comes a full day after a state judge said that she must consider fairly and objectively all the reasons as to why an extension should be granted.

Now Katherine Harris was here at the podium just roughly about an hour ago. She will take no questions, though she did have her attorneys available. But she did end her statement saying this: "I want to reassure the public that my decisions in this process have been made carefully, consistently, independently," and she said, "I believe correctly."

Now, earlier in the evening, Bill Daley said that this was not a nonpartisan decision, and he, in an answer to a question, said she should step down -- Judy, Bernie.

WOODRUFF: All right. Deborah Feyerick, reporting from Tallahassee, thanks -- Bernie.

SHAW: Vice President Gore's proposal was another surprise development. We are joined by CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley -- she's in Austin, Texas, covering the Bush campaign -- and Patty Davis here in Washington with the details of the vice president's proposal -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It would seem that that proposal brought out by Vice President Al Gore this evening just in time for primetime evening news is somewhat in limbo at this point. What Gore is proposing is that the Bush campaign accept, if they would, hand recounts of three counties in Florida.

He then would drop all legal action, agreeing not to sue even if he, Vice President Gore, lost the hand recounts, the whole certified ballot as well as all those overseas absentee ballots once that vote count came in. And he called also for a face-to-face meeting with Texas Governor George W. Bush.


GORE: I propose that Governor Bush and I meet personally, one- on-one, as soon as possible before the vote count is finished, not to negotiate, but to improve the tone of our dialogue in America. We should both call on all of our supporters to respect the outcome of this election whatever it may be.


DAVIS: You heard Bill Daley say that the Democrats will be headed back into circuit court tomorrow, considering various legal arguments. One Gore source tells me that indeed one of those arguments is that the judge in that particular court required her to be reasonable, Secretary of State Katherine Harris to be reasonable in deciding whether or not to allow these Florida counties to go ahead or not with their hand recount. They feel she was not reasonable, that is perhaps one of the arguments they will be using tomorrow in Florida court.

SHAW: Thank you, Patty. Now we're going to turn to Austin and CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, we'll probably know within the hour what Governor Bush thinks about this offer from the vice president, but we already have a pretty good idea of where they're going. We have this from a Bush aide in response: "A fair and accurate vote count is best achieved by following the law, not through a political deal."

When I asked specifically does that mean the deal is rejected, the aides said why don't you wait and see what the governor has to say. The governor will be the first person on the record out here in Austin to actually say anything about the goings-on today. All of the words have come out of Florida and they were very pointed words.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Wednesday from the Bush camp, a furnace- like blast out of Florida.


JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR THE BUSH CAMPAIGN: By now, the Gore campaign strategy, I think, is crystal clear. Keep conducting selective recounts. Keep filing lawsuits. Keep making false charges that divert attention and keep refusing to accept any deadline until the results change.


CROWLEY: Overseeing George Bush's interest in Florida, James Baker delivered his fiercest indictment in a legal and political battle that strains the definition of tension. Baker accused the Gore team of being the driving force behind litigation run amok, of making misstatements that move public opinion and of causing the very delay they complain about.


BAKER: The delay, if any there has been, has been on the part of these counties that vote one day one way to conduct a recount. The next day they change their mind. They vote another way, then the Gore campaign threatens to sue them or even sues them and they go back and change their mind one more time. We're not the cause of the delay.


CROWLEY: Against Democratic explanations that they seek only a fair and accurate tally, Baker responds the vice president and his team aren't looking for fairness, they're looking for victory.


BAKER: I would submit to you that we've had fair recounts. We're about to recount Palm Beach County for the fourth time. That seems to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not all the votes. BAKER: Seems to me to be incredible.



CROWLEY: Now back to the vice president's offer, one person very close to both the legal and the political machinations in the Bush camp says that they give Gore high marks for presentation. They thought it obviously was well thought out. The teleprompter was there. They thought the setting was very and that in the court of the public opinion it probably went across quite well. However, this person added substantively there was absolutely nothing new -- Bernie.

SHAW: Candy, going back to tonight's breaking news, a major development. Florida's secretary of state has decided not to accept hand counted ballots from three counties and add those ballots to the state's overall presidential tally.

We heard William Daley say they will go back. They, the Democrats, will be back in district court tomorrow to appeal that. I'm now told Governor Bush is prepared to make a statement.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good evening. Tonight, Secretary Cheney and I thank the many thousands of Americans who have written or called or e-mailed to offer prayers and encouragement as we all await the outcome of the election.

I'm sure that Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman are receiving similar good wishes, and would want to join us in thanking our fellow Americans for their caring and concern.

No matter who you voted for in this election, whether you supported Vice President Gore or whether you supported me, all Americans want a fair and accurate count of the votes in Florida, a fair and accurate count that measures up to the highest standards and principles outlined in our Constitution and our laws.

As we work to conclude this election, we should be guided by three principles: This process must be fair, this process must be accurate, and this process must be final.

First, the election must be fair: fair to voters throughout America, fair to voters in Florida, and fair to voters in different counties in Florida. I honor and respect the value of every single vote. That's why my campaign supported the automatic recount of all the votes in Florida.

Everyone in Florida has had his or her vote counted once. Those votes have been recounted. In some counties they have been counted a third and even fourth time.

And that brings us to the second principle: accuracy. This process must be accurate. As Americans have watched on television, they have seen for themselves that manual counting, with individuals making subjective decisions about voter intent, introduces human error and politics into the vote-counting process.

Each time these voting cards are handled the potential for errors multiples. Additional manual counts of votes that have been counted and recounted will make the process less accurate, not more so.

Third, not for the -- Vice President Gore, or for me, but for America, this process must have a point of conclusion, a moment when America and the world know who is the next president.

This is precisely why the laws of the state of Florida have deadlines for certification of the election vote. One of them came last night and tonight Florida's chief election official, and the state's election canvassing commission, have reaffirmed it, as their responsibilities require.

The next and final deadline comes Friday at midnight, when overseas absentee ballots must have been received to be counted in Florida. I don't know who these ballots will support and neither does Vice President Gore.

The votes of Florida have been counted. They have been recounted and tonight they have been certified and we do not know yet who has won.

The way to conclude this election in a fair and accurate and final way is for the state of Florida to count the remaining overseas ballots, add them to the certified vote, and announce the results as required by Florida law.

I was encouraged tonight that Vice President Gore called for a conclusion to this process. We all agree.

Unfortunately, what the vice president proposed is exactly what he's been proposing all along: continuing with selective hand recounts that are neither fair nor accurate, or compounding the error by extending a flawed process statewide.

This means every vote in Florida would be evaluated differently, by different individuals using different judgment, and perhaps different local standards, or perhaps no standards at all.

This would be neither fair nor accurate; it would be arbitrary and chaotic.

At this unique moment in our nation's history, all of us have responsibilities. We have a responsibility to conduct ourselves with dignity and honor. We have a responsibility to make sure that those who speak for us do not poison our politics. And we have a responsibility to respect the law and not seek to undermine it when we do not like its outcome.

The outcome of this election will not be the result of deals or efforts to mold public opinion. The outcome of this election will be determined by the votes and by the law.

Once this election is over, I would be glad to meet with Vice President Gore, and I join him in pledging that regardless of who wins after this weekend's final count, we will work together to unite our great country.

Thank you and God bless America.

SHAW: Texas Governor George Bush addressing the nation and for that matter the world, and in response to Vice President's Gore's earlier call this evening for a sit-down discussion, to cool the political rhetoric, Mr. Gore got his answer from the governor just seconds ago when Governor Bush said once this election is over, I'll be glad to meet with Vice President Gore.

One of the things he zeroed in was on the point of accuracy, which he said must guide this process along with two other points, fairness and finality. He said that manual counting introduces human error and policies -- politics, rather, manual counting and human error introduces into the vote counting process. And then he said very pointedly, additional counting will make the process less accurate.

Candy Crowley in Austin, Texas, this came as I was talking to you, formulating a question. Is this not the centerpiece of the Bush campaign's objection to manual counting, vote counting?

CROWLEY: It has been all along. For days we have heard this mantra out of Florida, out of Austin, out of Republicans who have come before TV cameras, almost anyplace, and that is, there are no uniform standards here for how you judge a ballot, that every time you move these ballots around, you know those famous chads, you know, fall out or move, that people are scrutinizing them under different rules within the same county and much less between counties.

So obviously you heard here, on the first proposal of the vice president to just count these three counties that are now undergoing a recount, the answer is clearly no. They saw nothing different there. As far as extending a hand recount to all 67 counties in Florida, Governor Bush was quite clear -- why would we take this flawed process and do it in 67 counties?

As far as, you know, let's meet and talk about this -- I'd be glad to meet him after the election. As far as bringing down the decibel level, the governor agreed that that was something that both candidates needed to do, bring honor and dignity to this, and also said that there was a responsibility to do this for the American people.

So, you know, basically what we got was a no on the substance of what the vice president had to offer. They believe that it was nothing new and that it was put out there for sort of public relations motives. And as you noticed, the governor did say this election will not be decided by public relations.

SHAW: Candy Crowley with the latest from Austin, now to Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, for additional insight into today's events, we are joined by Tom Edsall, political reporter for "The Washington Post" and our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Well, gentlemen, it seems like we have two presidential candidates. They both dug in their heels. They are about as far apart as you could get. You have got both sides in the court. You've got the Texas supreme court -- I'm sorry -- the Florida court saying this manual counting will continue. You've got the secretary of state of Florida saying, no it won't.

Bill Schneider, what gives here?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You've heard the phrase extreme fighting. This is what I call extreme politics. I mean, you've got both sides really coming out and raising the ante.

Gore came out with a deal today. He said, I'll make this deal with the governor. You allow manual recounting of the ballots and overseas absentees and the election will be final, no further legal action.

Well, what the secretary of state did was she saw Gore's deal and raised the ante. She said if you want to overturn the results of this election you are going to have to take the state of Florida to court. She was speaking as the secretary of state of Florida. She said essentially the election results have been certified. All we have to do is add in the overseas ballots. You don't agree with that, you want some other procedure, take me to court.

WOODRUFF: Tom Edsall, does either side occupy the higher ground right now?

TOM EDSALL, "WASHINGTON POST": Some polling has shown until now Bush had the high ground slightly. The Republican Governors Association has financed a poll and they showed that when people were asked whose behavior do you approve of more, Bush did substantially better than Gore. I think today what's worrying the Gore people is that he pulled off a fairly dignified response and came up with a proposal that has been floating around on editorial pages, has a strong consensus, in a sense, behind it. And he really...

WOODRUFF: He meaning Gore?

EDSALL: Gore raised the bet significantly. The question is whether when the secretary of state came out was she -- did she clear what she did with the Bush campaign before she went out there and did this? They seemed to be kind of stunned and it took them until 10:00, right now, to respond to this, with actually Bush doing the responding.

WOODRUFF: It seemed, Bill Schneider, it seems to me that, you know, it seems to me she would clearly deny that she checked it with the Bush campaign. She's supposed to be an independent figure as the secretary of state.

But in fact, what struck me tonight after listening to the vice president, listening to Governor Bush, seeing where we are in the court, we're no certainly closer to a resolution. If anything, we're farther apart tonight.

SCHNEIDER: Well, the two candidates are farther apart, but Governor Bush just said a few minutes ago, the votes in Florida have been counted, recounted and certified -- and she reaffirmed that -- certified, I'm not going to make any changes except the overseas ballots unless you take me to court, which of course she didn't mention. And Bill Daley a few minutes ago said, I am going to take her to court, we are going to take her to court.

Basically, what the Gore campaign is trying to get -- create the impression that the Bush campaign doesn't want to count the votes. That's how they're trying to get the high ground on this. Why doesn't he want to count the votes?

WOODRUFF: And conversely, Tom, the Bush people are saying the more we handle these ballots, the more potential there is that they are going to be soiled, they're going to be untrustworthy. We can't count on the accuracy of these ballots.

EDSALL: Well, worse than that, you are going to have counters who are Democrats who will be throwing out Bush ballots and accepting Gore ballots. The Gore people now, it's a subtle problem because the judge now ruled that she must accept the -- he's only ruled that the recount must continue. The issue now is, does she have to accept what he said they should be able to do? He has to rule additionally now and we don't know how he's going to handle that question.

WOODRUFF: A remarkable turn of events, first one way and then the other.

Tom Edsall, "The Washington Post," our own Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

And we will take a break. We'll be right back with more of our special coverage.


SHAW: As Election 2000 filters through our court system, we turn to former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and CNN election law analyst Kenneth Gross for their perspective.

To this hour, Justice Kogan, how do you parse what is happening in your state?

GERALD KOGAN, FORMER FLORIDA SUPERIOR COURT JUSTICE: Well, obviously what's happening here, all this is headed for a showdown in the Florida supreme court. Regardless of what Judge Lewis may rule tomorrow in regards to the secretary of state's action, it's obvious this whole thing will wind up in the Florida Supreme Court.

SHAW: Kenneth Gross, what should we focus on right now?

KENNETH GROSS, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, I agree with Judge Kogan, that's where we're headed with this, and probably the thing we need to be focused has not yet happened. It will happen tomorrow when an inevitable lawsuit will be filed against the secretary of state for issuing an opinion that undoubtedly the Gore group will complain, set too high of a standard, a standard for overturning an election as opposed to stating that she would have discretion to merely extend the deadline.

SHAW: Justice Kogan, is the problem that this is so much of an unchartered territory that we have these problems?

KOGAN: Well, that's the reason you're having these problems because this is an issue that we've never really been faced with before. So consequently, the court has to dig down and look at some of its old opinions that deal with elections and the one principle that's generally followed in Florida is that the court does not like to get involved in election disputes, and most especially does not like to set aside the will of the voter.

However, there's an exception to that and the exception is that if the errors that have occurred in the election or the election procedure have gotten to the point where had they not occurred then the result of the election would have been different, and this is one of the very important fundamental principles that the Supreme Court of Florida is going to have to consider.

SHAW: Well, Judge, if the courts don't want to or are reluctant to get involved in the election procedure, how would you evaluate? How would you assess the comportment of Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris?

KOGAN: Well, they're going to have to make that decision. You know, they've already ruled that apparently the hand counting can continue because they prohibited her from stopping that. I'm sure that there'll be further orders coming out of the Supreme Court as to whether or not she can order a certification at this particular point and then send the votes in to wherever the secretary of state sends the vote to be considered by the Electoral College.

So, consequently, I think what you're going to see here is a lot of fast and furious action in the courts of Florida and especially in the Supreme Court of Florida.

SHAW: The courts of Florida, you say, but Kenneth Gross, on Saturday morning the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia will swing into action. Grafted onto the Florida situation, how do you sort this out?

GROSS: Well, that's going to be a tough one, although that is on a separate track. That's the case that the Bush people brought Miami on constitutional grounds, which was rejected by the District Court and is now appealed to the 11th Circuit. If the 11th Circuit would rule -- overrule the District Court, that would essentially stop everything, but the weight of authority is on a constitutional issue, the courts would be reluctant to intervene.

On a statutory issue, which is in the province of the state courts in Florida, I think you're going to find a greater likelihood of the courts to get involved. The courts may not like to get involved, but they're going to have to get involved. We're just going to have a lot of unhappy judges in Florida, but this whole thing has been thrown into their lap.

SHAW: Gentlemen, last question, a brief response please, if you would. Judge Kogan, you believe that this is not a constitutional crisis. What would a constitutional crisis be?

KOGAN: Well, very simply the courts would have ruled and then those persons affected by the ruling refuse to obey the court's ruling. In other words, Katherine Harris would refuse to follow orders given to her by the Supreme Court of Florida.

Then you would be in a constitutional crisis because you would have one branch of government, the judiciary, attempting to order another branch, the executive, and telling them what to do, but yet the executive branch refusing to follow the orders of the Supreme Court. That's when you reach a constitutional crisis.

SHAW: Ken Gross?

GROSS: Yes, I agree with that, and of course, if the Electoral College process comes to a clash, that would also create a constitutional crisis. If you could not actually assemble a decision of the electors in Florida to cast their vote, that would be another form of constitutional crisis.

SHAW: OK, Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and Kenneth Gross, our CNN election law analyst. Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

KOGAN: You're welcome.

SHAW: Before Florida's secretary of state announced she would not accept the results of any more hand recounts of Florida's presidential vote, the Bush campaign announced it would ask a federal appeals court to stop the manual recount. The full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, as we just mentioned, is scheduled to accept written arguments on that appeal in the morning.

Now, taking a closer look at the court, seven of its 12 justices were appointed by Republican presidents. The court has jurisdiction over cases from Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The 11th Circuit Court was in the news this year during the Elian Gonzalez custody case when its 12 members unanimously refused to reconsider an appeal filed by the boy's Miami relatives.

WOODRUFF: When we return, Brooks Jackson looks at the type of ballot that has caused so many problems in Florida. Coming up, the punch card ballot and its record in other elections.


WOODRUFF: It is the punch card ballot that is at the center of the recount dispute in Palm Beach County. Much has been said about the accuracy of machine counts versus manual counts over the past few days. CNN's Brooks Jackson examines the record of voting by punch card.


JACKSON (voice-over): Machine counts infallible? Forget about it. The kind of punch card ballot used in Palm Beach is notorious for inaccuracy and has been for years, as election expert Kimball Brace inadvertently demonstrated for us.


KIMBALL BRACE, ELECTION DATA SERVICES, INC.: A voter would take this card and slip it into the device here. When they're finish they pull it out and they see that they've got holes. One would hope they've punched the right holes that they wanted and that they don't have, like we have here, a hanging chad.

JACKSON (on camera): You've got one.

BRACE: Right there.


JACKSON (voice-over): These hanging bits of paper and the miscounts they've caused have long been a problem. The so-called Votomatic system was developed in the 1960s based on IBM technology that's now long obsolete,

But as long ago as 1988 there were calls to get rid of it. A National Bureau of Standards report said, quote: "It is generally not possible to exactly duplicate a count obtained on pre-scored punch cards. It is recommended that the use of pre-scored punch card ballots be ended."

Later that same year, a second, separate report the nonprofit group ECRI said in bold face -- quote: "Chad from pre-scored punch cards tend to fall out randomly during recounts. We recommend strongly against use of Votomatic-type recorders requiring prescored ballots."

Behind those reports was a series of disputed elections, including, ironically, a 1984 election in Palm Beach County for the office of property appraiser. The Bureau of Standards report said of that race -- quote: "Clearly there were problems of hanging chad."

Lawsuits dragged on for months, but Palm Beach is still using the same type of system, as are counties in which 31 percent of registered voters live. Defenders say the Votomatic system is accurate if voters follow instructions and remove any dangling chad.

PAUL NOLTE, ELECTION RESOURCES CORPORATION: I don't think there's any problems with the punch-card voting system. I think that no matter what voting system you're using, there is a certain responsibility that's the voter's responsibility to cast a ballot according to the way that they were instructed to cast the ballot. JACKSON: Nolte's company designed the software used to print ballots in Palm Beach. But voters there didn't always perform the way officials like. About 19 percent of voters still use old-fashioned lever machines, which aren't made anymore.

The trend is to paper ballots designed to be scanned optically, used by 27 percent of voters, and electronic systems used by more than 9 percent. A few still use hand-counted paper ballots. This map shows what a hodgepodge of systems the country uses. But why are any punch cards still in use given their problems?

BRACE: We're still using them because of the dollar figure, the money. It is very expensive to replace a voting system.

JACKSON: Upgrading to electronic systems could cost $20 million in a county of a million population. Officials are often reluctant to spend the money.

LARRY NAAKE, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES: When you have priorities like police and fire, when you have priorities like public hospitals and health and welfare systems, the justice system, roads -- you have to make decisions. And so, you know, people only go to the polls about once a year.

JACKSON (on camera): But this year, it isn't just a property appraiser race that's fouled up by bits of dangling paper. It's for the most powerful office on Earth.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: Counting presidential ballots continues to be slow in several other states with close races. Election officials are seeing numbers change across the country. Gore is leading in Iowa by 4,047 votes. It's up to the Bush campaign to decide whether to ask for a recount. The Gore lead is 5,805 votes in Wisconsin. Canvassing will not be complete until Friday. After that, both campaigns have three days, three business days to request a recount.

The vice president's lead is 377 votes in New Mexico. Several counties are still working on final totals. Republicans have asked state police to impound ballots in case of a recount.

They're still counting mail-in ballots in Oregon where Gore is leading by almost 4,000 votes. The Bush campaign says state officials have been uncooperative and the campaign is hinting at a possible legal action if the Oregon secretary of state does not produce a complete tally of presidential votes by tomorrow evening.

CNN's special report, "The Florida Recount," will continue in a moment.


SHAW: Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert met briefly with Democratic House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt today. It's the first time they've met in months. And that meeting may be one of the few signs of a bipartisan effort on the Hill. CNN Congressional correspondent Chris Black explains how the Hill is split over the Florida recount.


CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, the partisan knives are out.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: The vice president's people are trying to undo that election.

REP. PETER DEUTSCH (D), FLORIDA: The only thing I think that Vice President Gore has wanted, the only thing that the American people, I believe, want, is a fair and accurate count.

BLACK: One Republican from Texas compares Vice President Al Gore to the Yugoslav strongman, Slobodan Milosevic.

SEN. PHIL GRAMM (R), TEXAS: I think people are nervous. I think they are nervous. You know, Milosevic wanted to keep counting votes when he lost.

BLACK: And mocks the Gore strategy with his own version of the old Johnny Carson routine of mind reader, Karnac the Magnificent.

GRAMM: Yes, they voted for George Bush, but we know they wanted to vote for Al Gore.

BLACK: The frustration, building since the Senate acquitted Bill Clinton of impeachment charges two years ago, is bubbling over.

REP. DAVID WELDON (R), FLORIDA: If this is not somebody trying to steal an election, I don't know what is.

BLACK: Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle is calling for Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris, a Bush supporter, to step aside.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D), MINORITY LEADER: You have this problem, this perception problem of a high-level Bush official running this entire effort.

BLACK: George W. Bush's liaison to House Republicans says some of his colleagues expressed fears earlier this week Bush was underestimating the Democratic tactics.

REP. ROY BLOUNT (R), MISSOURI: Only to find out that you hadn't been invited to a tea party, you'd been invited to a knife fight.

BLACK: He says G.O.P. members are heartened by the Bush campaign's more aggressive posture, but still are warning the Texas governor to stay on guard.

And the former leader of House Republicans says it is will be tough for whoever wins.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Whoever the next president is, they have to, I think, be very creative at knitting together an ability to solve problems and an ability to govern from day one. He's going to arrive without any national mandate because that's the reality where the country is.

BLACK (on camera): The recount is heightening and heartening partisan tensions, so Democrats and Republicans are wondering how they put the knives away in January to get anything accomplished in the 107th Congress.

Chris Black, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WOODRUFF: When we come back we will talk with two members of Congress, Democrat Louise Slaughter of New York and Republican Jennifer Dunn of Washington state.


WOODRUFF: We turn now to two members of Congress to talk more about the challenges of governing after this presidential race and some about today's developments. Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter of New York, she joins us from Rochester, and Republican Representative Jennifer Dunn of Washington State. She's here in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Dunn, to you first. Today an extraordinary -- another extraordinary day. We are eight days out from the election. The two candidates if anything, the two camps digging in their heels. Everyone's in court. Do you see resolution, a light at the end of the tunnel anywhere here?

REP. JENNIFER DUNN (R), WASHINGTON: I do, Judy. I'm an optimist out of all this. And as Governor Bush just told us, he wants this election to be fair, accurate and final and we're hoping on Saturday that things will end with about the third victory for him.

I guess what I look forward to the very most, though, Judy, is helping to bring some bipartisanship back to bring us from this point to this point after we start on the new Congress. And I think if Bush ends up being the president, he is a uniter. I think that can work for us.

WOODRUFF: Before we talk about what happens next, Congresswoman Slaughter, how do you see this resolving now? Do you accept Jennifer Dunn's scenario?

REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D), NEW YORK: Well, Judy, I think this is a very exciting time. I think Americans really are learning a lot about the Electoral Process that may be maybe they didn't know before about the Electoral College and how important every vote is. And we do have a president to lead us until January. I think the most important thing is that all American people need to know that this is fair. It isn't up to either Gore or Bush to decide when it's over. It has to do with the voter of the state of Florida. I would like to see Governor Bush, who certainly is watching his constituents being shoved around, I'd like so see him take an active part. I think he needs to do it. I did not agree with...


WOODRUFF: You mean Governor Jeb Bush.

SLAUGHTER: Governor Jeb Bush, yes. I don't know how he can sit by while this goes on in his own state, and I think the secretary of state was perfectly wrong tonight and I thought that people had a very difficult time trying to defend what she had done and I don't think it stands up.

WOODRUFF: Let me just ask you, I know that both of you for all sorts of reasons want to and are supporting the position of the candidate of your party, but let me just ask you to take a few steps back...

SLAUGHTER: I can do that.

WOODRUFF: ... and look at whether either candidate is in a position to give any ground given the fact that the entire weight of his party, whether it's the Republicans for Governor Bush, the Democrats for Vice President Gore, are expecting him to fight to the last -- for every last inch of ground here.

DUNN: Judy, I don't think it really needs to be fighting. It needs to be sticking to the rules of this vote count, and that's the position that Governor Bush is espousing. It's what we support.

And that's why I think if we can get through this confusing morass of all these legal challenges and all this battling, get beyond the hand counts which, in my experience as 11 years as a party chairman, are very inaccurate types of counts when you have ballots that are made for machines, I think we'll be able to get over this.

And the point where Louise Slaughter and I must come together is after this whole thing is settled, whether it be in the courts or there the arena of public opinion. we've got a responsibility when we get back to Congress to make sure this works for whichever president wins.

WOODRUFF: Congresswoman Slaughter, can that happen?

SLAUGHTER: Sure it can, and I think it will happen because the count is very close. You know, there are still four contested house races, so we're really not clear yet on what the makeup is going to be, but I think Jennifer would agree, if we had women making some of those decisions we could be sure of it, right Jennifer?

DUNN: I think you're right, Louise.

SLAUGHTER: Heaven help the president, though, that's elected to have half the people in the United States to think it wasn't fair.

DUNN: Yes, but you know what Louise, I bet you and I could agree together help be part of that leadership that makes this thing work for whichever president. I certainly feel that way, and I know there's a lot of our colleagues -- Louise and I have worked together on many issues and we were elected by people who want us to get something done, so...


SLAUGHTER: Absolutely, and Jennifer, I really look forward to that. I think we have an opportunity here and in the Senate to come down and just be members of Congress.

WOODRUFF: Maybe both of you need to place a call to your respective party nominees. Congresswoman Dunn...


WODDRUFF: Congresswoman Slaughter and Congresswoman Dunn, we thank you very much.

SLAUGHTER: You're welcome.

DUNN: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. And we'll have more of this special report. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: And that's going to have to wrap up our special report tonight from Washington. I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw. Please stay tuned for "THE SPIN ROOM" with Bill Press and Tucker Carlson next here on CNN.



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