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Election 2000: Florida Supreme Court Allows Palm Beach to Resume Recount; Republicans go to Court to Stop Broward County Recount

Aired November 16, 2000 - 4:00 p.m. ET



DON EVANS, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: The selective manual recount is not accurate nor can it be accurate.



DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: The voters have voted and those votes should be counted.


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Day nine of the battle over ballots and still no sign of a cease-fire. But now, the war's moving increasingly into the courtroom.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Also, today, Palm Beach County's manual recount is on the back burner while the situation starts heating up in Broward County.

Hello. More of our coverage of Election 2000. I'm Lou Waters.

ALLEN: Thanks for being with us. I'm Natalie Allen.

A busy day for all involved in Florida's recount controversy, but still no resolution. In Tallahassee, the Gore campaign files a motion asking a judge to order the secretary of state to reverse her position and accept the results of a number of hand recounts. In Broward County, Republicans have taken election officials to court in an effort to stop the counting there. And the recount remains on hold in West Palm Beach. Election officials there are waiting for a judge to tell them it's OK to start recounting.

WATERS: Several elements of this election saga playing themselves out in Florida courtrooms this morning. In Circuit Court, the question of whether the Florida secretary of state abused her discretion in stopping the recounts. The Florida Supreme Court is deciding whether Palm Beach and Broward counties should be recounting at all. The Gore campaign also filed an important motion this afternoon. With all of that, CNN's Deborah Feyerick joining us now from Tallahassee -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, every time the situation seems final, one door closes another door somewhere else is opening. There are still significant questions as to whether Tuesday's deadline will in fact hold, the vote certification deadline, and also whether recounts will ultimately be allowed to continue. A state court judge this afternoon was hearing arguments. The Democrats filed an emergency petition saying that they want this certification declared null and void. They also want the recounts to go on and the Democrats say they want the secretary of state, Katherine Harris, prohibited from declaring any winner until the recounts are in and fairly considered.


DEXTER DOUGLASS, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: The secretary did not exercise her discretion lawfully in the manner contemplated by this court's direction. Her ruling on the request came only seven hours after the deadline for submission before counties had completed their counts. She did not consider any facts and circumstances, but rather cited cases to the effect that she lacked the discretion that indeed the court found at the previous -- with the previous order that she did have.


FEYERICK: The Republicans say that she did exercise her discretion, and that she followed the law.


MICHAEL CARVIN, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: So the only question in this case is whether or not the secretary abused her discretion by refusing to excuse a clear violation of law that would have occurred had they not certified at that time.

Obviously, that question is committed to her discretion. There's no statutory standards or criteria to guide it and any kind of line drawing and balancing of the equities along the lines that the plaintiffs are suggesting should be done would clearly be the court substituted its judgment for the person -- the executive branch official that was committed that discretion.


FEYERICK: Even though the secretary of state certified her vote, saying that Governor Bush is ahead by 300 votes, even Governor Bush knows it's not over. His legal team was in a U.S. Court of Appeals today. They're still trying to stop this hand count. So, again, a lot of legal avenues being pursued by all teams. No end clearly in sight.

Meantime, Florida's highest court still deciding whether in fact the secretary of state was right when she said hand counts cannot go on because there was no mechanical error. The attorney general, meantime, telling people that they could go on.

We are live in Tallahassee. I'm Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Florida.

ALLEN: And now to Broward County, where Republicans have launched a new legal assault this afternoon in a bid to stop the manual recount underway there. CNN's Charles Zewe joins us from Broward County with the latest -- Charles.

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, let's go right to the action. They're still counting right now here in Broward County. Thirty-eight teams of people going over the ballots one by one, you can see them there counting out the ballots -- 588,000 ballots roughly have to be gone through by this counting process.

They hold them up to the light, they examine them, looking for any sort of an indication of how the voters voted in the event that the chads that we've heard so much about didn't fall out completely. Looking for definitive indications what those voters wanted to do when they went into the ballot box. So far, about 61 precincts checked and Al Gore has picked up 17 votes in this process so far, although we understand and believe that there've been a number of other precincts checks since then. They've not updated the total.

Meanwhile, as you said, four Republicans went into court here in Broward County challenging this hand recount as illegal. William Scherer, the attorney for the Republicans showed up here at the canvassing operation to serve notice of a show cause hearing set for tomorrow afternoon here in Broward County. Scherer saying that this entire operation is illegal and should be stopped immediately.


WILLIAM SCHERER, ATTORNEY: I would like to advise you and request on the basis of the rule to show cause that you stop counting, hand counting these ballots. The nation is watching you, the state of Florida is watching you and Broward county is watching you and your continued defiance of the secretary of state's directives that binds you is ignoring the rule of law.


ZEWE: Democrats contend that that lawsuit is garbage. They call it desperate grandstanding. They say that it should fail. The hearing, the show cause hearing for why this operation should be allowed to continue, is set for 1:30 Eastern time tomorrow before a state circuit court judge in Broward County -- Natalie.

NATALIE: And when do they think they are going to be finished with this recount?

ZEWE: Could be Monday, Natalie. At the pace they are going now, they think that some time on Monday they will have this entire count completed. Whether it is accepted by the secretary of state, of course, is the big question.

NATALIE: Anybody's guess at this point. Charles Zewe, thanks. Now for more, here is Lou.

WATERS: Similar legal threats are holding up the recount in Palm Beach County.

Martin Savidge is there with the latest on what isn't going on there -- Marty.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what isn't going on, Lou, is the recount by hand, manually, of the entire county here in Palm Beach County, 431,000 votes. That's been put on hold as they wait, the canvass elections board waits to hear some sort of guidance from the state Supreme Court. As yet, they have not heard that.

In the meantime, here there was a rally that has been taking place, a Republican rally. It, for a time, closed down traffic on the street that runs directly in front of the emergency operations center here that is ground-zero for the manual recount. There were several hundred people that were holding signs and giving chants. The chants were saying, Gore has got to go and that Bush won twice.

There were also a number of people that were holding signs, that is, and chanting in favor of Katherine Harris. She is the secretary of state of Florida that has come under some fire for her decisions of late, most notably, last night. Obviously, Republicans are supporting her position.

The crowd then put down their signs and moved in front of the building directly here. No political signage in this particular zone. And they listened to some speeches that were delivered by Republican leaders in this area.

So, as the elections workers wait at home for some sort of telephone communications to tell them to come into work, there is no manual recount underway in Palm Beach County. As yet, they say, if the state Supreme Court turns them down and says it would be illegal, that there would be no manual recount of Palm Beach County ever in this particular election -- Lou.

WATERS: The circuit court this morning that heard about the secretary of state and the question of her discretion, is word from that court enough to get a recount either started or stopped?

SAVIDGE: It's unlikely, Lou. They are waiting specifically for the Florida state Supreme Court to give them some sort of guidance here. That's the court they look to now, that's the one they wait for some word.

WATERS: OK, Marty Savidge in West Palm Beach.

To count or not to count. We'll tell you why the Republicans are here in Atlanta to block those recounts in a federal court.

ALLEN: And one of our legal experts, Greta Van Susteren -- we need a lot of those these days -- will help us sort through the legal moves and motions from this day. And that's just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: And yet another court is taking up the issue of hand recounts. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals here in Atlanta, as we have reported, is playing a role. The court has accepted pleadings on lawsuits filed by Republican voters and the Bush campaign trying to block the manual recounts in Florida.

We check in now with CNN national correspondent Bob Franken for the latest on that part of the story -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The circuit court is trying to decide whether to overturn two federal courts at the district level in Florida that said that the federal judiciary had no role in the state matter and that courts could not, on the federal level, put an end to these hand counts. But the appeals court judges have decided to hear it -- not only hear it, but hear it on an expedited basis, to use the terminology. All 12 of the judges on this circuit court of appeals are hearing instead of the usual preliminary three-judge panel.

Now, where we stand is that the constitutional arguments have been submitted in written arguments and have been delivered to the judges -- all 12 of them, who live in various cities that are covered by this circuit. They are reading those; tomorrow morning at 7:00 the responses from both sides to the original arguments must be delivered and then the judges will probably read those and decide whether to hold a hearing, whether to, in fact, agree or not to put a stop to the hand recounting and, most importantly, decide whether the federal courts really have a role in this.

This is a constitutional issue; the Republicans are arguing that what's going on in Florida -- because it's so uneven, is really denying people their equal protection under the law as guaranteed in the Constitution, and also their right to freely express themselves through the vote. The Democrats are saying that, in fact, Article 2 of the Constitution has very specific procedures for electing the president and those procedures are determined by the states.

That is the fundamental argument that is being decided by these circuit judges. No indication yet on whether they'll hold a hearing, when they'll rule and, of course most importantly, what they'll rule -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right; thank you, Bob Franken, who will be there to wait for whatever. Thanks, Bob.

Now to Lou.

WATERS: CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren is down there in West Palm Beach keeping track of all of this, or at least trying to keep track of all of this.

Greta, we just heard Marty Savidge say that the Palm Beach canvassing board will not move after the circuit court hearing this morning, and a decision in that matter. They're waiting for the Florida Supreme Court before starting a recount or stopping, shutting it down altogether.

What's going on with the Supreme Court, why haven't we heard from them?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good question, Lou. What is going on with the Supreme Court, because the Florida Supreme Court is the one who could give this state guidance on how to handle their problem. Remember, the Palm Beach canvassing board has said, we're confused -- the secretary of state says we can't do this hand count, the attorney general of the state says we can do the hand count, what do we do?

And they went to the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court has been absolutely silent. So they sit and wait. Now the interesting thing is that another county, the Broward County has gone ahead with its hand count, even though they seem to be in the same limbo. But the other interesting aspect of that is that tomorrow at 1:30 there will be a hearing in Broward County, in the county court there, to see whether or not they're going to be ordered to stop their hand count.

So we have this duel between these counties: One's doing the hand count, one isn't; but we all sit and wait for the Florida Supreme Court for some guidance.

WATERS: I found it interesting this morning when David Boies, attorney for the Gore campaign, stepped outside Judge Lewis' courtroom and seemed to suggest that there was a point of agreement. That's hard to find these days -- but Boies says the GOP attorneys seem to be saying, let the recount go forward and challenge the certification afterwards.

Is that what you heard?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I'm not sure I exactly heard that. I mean, the Bush campaign is fighting tooth and nail not to have this hand count go forward. They think it is wrong, that it is improper to go forward. So they've been pretty aggressive.

I think what everyone does agree is that, ultimately, whether this is -- you know, whoever wins at that trial court level, ultimately this will land in the lap of the Florida Supreme Court. And I think the one thing we can all agree on is that it's the Florida Supreme Court that is going to tell everyone else how to act -- what's lawful, what's unlawful.

Now, there's this battle, as you say, in the Leon County Circuit Court, that was earlier today. We're still waiting for that judge's decision on whether or not the secretary of state will be ordered to consider any additional votes, should these hand counts go forward: Broward County and Palm Beach County.

But we don't have a decision. But no matter what that judge decides, you can expect, Lou, this is going to go to the Florida Supreme Court to decide that issue of whether or not the secretary of state must consider more votes, even if a hand count is allowed. So we sit and wait.

WATERS: So -- so this circuit court judge must be thinking: No matter what I decide, it's going to be moot.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, whatever he decides is going to be appealed. I mean, one of the wonderful things about our court system is that we do have layers of appeals, is that you go are from trial court to the appellate court to the Florida Supreme Court. Most people think that this will simply skip over the appellate court go to Supreme Court. You know, we have this checks and balance systems. We have the two sides who come in and argue.

They give their different viewpoints. And one side always loses -- or almost always. It's very rare that both sides go away thinking they really, truly won. One side usually complains, goes to the next court. In this case, we expect it will be to the Florida Supreme Court. They probably have the last word. The only question that will remain is: Is there any sort of constitutional issue, that, no matter what the Florida Supreme Court decides, that it can then go on to the United States Supreme Court?

Typically -- and I understand line the word typically -- this is not your typical case -- but in most cases, these federal courts and the United States Supreme Court `stay out of state elections. They allow the states to do what they want. And that would be the Florida Supreme Court. But this is by no means any typical question -- typical case. And if there's a constitutional question, we may see this go all the way to Washington for those nine justices. It seems unlikely, but it is always possible.

WATERS: Unchartered waters -- Greta Van Susteren in West Palm Beach.

Here is Natalie.

ALLEN: Stock market closed about 16 minutes ago -- let's get today's wrap-up from Fred Katayama -- Fred.


Technology stocks led the selling, as a brokerage firm downgrade in the chip sector stoked worries about slowing corporate growth. The unresolved election also weighed on Wall Street. The Nasdaq composite weakened throughout the afternoon, sliding nearly 4.25 percent by the closing bell.

Communication chip-makers were battered. Merrill Lynch downgraded many in that sector, saying high inventories could cut into future sales. Broadcom plunged 25. And PMC-Sierra fell 18. If you were at the Big Board, the Dow Jones industrial lost 51 points. Basic materials were hard hit. Alcoa fell more than 1. And International Paper lost 1 7/8. Merrill Lynch also slashed IP's earnings forecast for next year by more than half.

But Coca-Cola rose fractionally. The soft-drink-maker agreed to pay $192 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit. Coke also agreed to have its employment practices reviewed by an outside group. The seven-member watchdog group will examine the company to ensure fair hiring, pay, and other human resources practices over the next four years. The class action suit claimed Coke discriminated against black-salaried employees in pay, promotion and evaluation. The company denied those claims.

American Greetings, the number-two greeting card-maker, behind Hallmark, issued a profit warning for the third quarter. Its sales have been weak, partly because of the growing popularity of free online greeting cards. The company is planning a major restructuring and says job cuts are inevitable. Shares of American Greetings tumbled 8 3/8, or more than 40 percent. Looks like American Greetings can use a get well card.

Well, that's the latest from Wall Street -- now back to Lou and Natalie in Atlanta.

WATERS: All right, Fred.

And I don't think we can imagine the tension amid the Bush and Gore campaigns while all this is going on in Florida.

ALLEN: We will try to get a handle on that when we speak with our correspondents covering both camps -- right after this.


ALLEN: As this election battle drags on, we continue to keep track of the latest reactions from both the Gore and Bush campaigns.

Let's go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve, who has pretty much built a home there in Austin, Texas, she's got the latest for us.

Hi again, Jeanne.


A diversion today from Florida, a small one, and one taken with the intent of influencing what's going on in the Sunshine State. Don Evans, the chairman of the Bush campaign, went to the microphone this afternoon and made an announcement: The Bush campaign will not be contesting the results in Iowa, 1.3 million ballots were cast there, and in the end, only .3 percent separated Bush and Gore.


DON EVANS, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Both sides waged vigorous campaigns in Iowa, the results were exceptionally close, but Governor Bush believes the time has arrived for our nation to begin the process of moving forward. A concluding deadline arrives tomorrow night at midnight in Florida, as the final votes come in from the overseas ballots. Once these votes are counted, we will know the final result of Florida's election and the nation's election. Win or lose, this election will be over.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MESERVE: This was a symbolic move, Iowa with its seven electoral votes is no longer critical in this presidential race, but the Bush campaign was trying to gain the moral high ground in the fight for public opinion going on with the Gore campaign, and it wanted to draw a couple of contrasts with the Gore campaign; first, deadlines, the endpoint for contesting the results in Iowa are just a couple of hours away and the Bush campaign said, we are respecting a deadline here, we would like the Gore campaign to respect the next big deadline, that's midnight Friday, when those overseas absentee ballots are due. The prospects of the Gore campaign doing that, highly unlikely, of course.

The second point they wanted to make, Iowa was a tightly contested election, we lost but we have accepted the results, this is something they say the Gore campaign has not done in the state of Florida. Will this influence public opinion? Possibly. Will it influence the Gore campaign? Unlikely.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, reporting live from Austin, Texas.

WATERS: And now to the Gore campaign. Covering us from Washington, CNN's Patty Davis.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the Gore campaign has been in court much of the day, the end goal here is to get the manual recounts, those ballots they think should be added to Florida's final vote tally.


DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: The voters have voted and those votes should be counted, and as one of the people pointed out just a few minutes ago, Governor Bush's lawyers in court seem to say that the vote count should go forward; if they mean that, I think that's a major step in the right direction, but after the back and forth that we've had over the last three days, I will believe it firmly when I hear it outside of the courtroom and I see the actions that are consistent with it.


DAVIS: The Gore campaign believes Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote, it -- they think that he also really won the state of Florida and they think the only way to show that is to let those hand ballots be recounted. Now, in an interview today, Vice President Al Gore here in Washington did a radio interview, he called for a cooling off of the rhetoric between the two campaigns, he also said that he regrets Texas Governor George W. Bush not agreeing to a proposal by Al Gore to meet face-to-face. Another proposal that Texas Governor George W. Bush did not agree to and that is for a deal offered by Gore, the deal being, include those hand recounts and Gore will drop all future litigation, but Bush did not go for that -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Patty Davis in Washington.

ALLEN: Well, there are many elements in the legal and political battles over Florida's ballots. WATERS: CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider will weigh in to help us sort out the confusion there, when we come back.


ALLEN: Want to talk more about today's developments with our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Hi there, Bill.


ALLEN: Let's talk first about Iowa, George Bush's decision to close the book on the count there and not revisit any recounts. What do you make of that?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think it's consistent with his position all along, which is that he wants closure, he wants to get this thing to Saturday after they count those overseas ballots, which he expects he will win -- can't be sure, of course -- but he expects that if he's ahead Saturday and the secretary of state comes out and says this -- the election is over, it's certified, Bush is winning by so many hundreds of votes, which he thinks is what will happen -- that, that will look like finality and he'll be able to say why is Gore prolonging it.

If he had asked for a recount of the Iowa ballots, number one, it was very unlikely that the result in Iowa, which has been where Gore is ahead, it's very unlikely that, that would be turned around; and number two, it would look like he is prolonging the count and that's exactly the charge he wants to lay on Al Gore.

ALLEN: And now we have the absentee ballots, of course, the deadline looms and there have been some reports that maybe those haven't been coming in to Democratic counties that the Gore team would like to see, so it -- that should please the Bush campaign.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. The Bush campaign is counting on those absentee -- overseas absentee ballots that have come in since Election Day, couple of thousand of them by most estimates, to produce a little bit bigger lead for George W. Bush, because a lot of them seem to be in the military counties around Jacksonville and Pensacola, where a lot of military people are stationed overseas, and the Bush campaign hopes, expects that many of them will be cast for George W. Bush. Can't be sure about that because the more enlisted people are casting those ballots, the better Al Gore is likely to do. But most of them seem to be going to counties where Bush did quite well, so they're expecting it to be a good showing for Bush.

ALLEN: Well, and as that deadline, like we said, looms, what is your feeling about whether the Gore team is running out of time here in its battles?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the Gore team -- you know, the Bush team, as I said, is pressing for closure; and the Gore team is pressing for something else, they're pressing for fairness, they say, let's not be in a rush, let's, you know, just hold on here and make sure every ballot is counted. And so far, the public has been more sympathetic to the Gore position, they're not necessarily insisting that this be brought to a speedy conclusion, but once the vote is announced on Saturday, the public mood may change.

ALLEN: Bill Schneider, thanks.

Now here's Lou.


ALLEN: Well, a ruling has apparently just been handed down in one of the battles before the courts in Florida. Let's go to CNN's legal analyst, Greta Van Susteren, to bring the news from Palm Beach County.

Greta, do you have the news about the ruling that has just been handed down?

VAN SUSTEREN: We just heard -- we just got a copy of the order for the Supreme Court of Florida. It's an interim order. But the bottom line is -- the headline is that the vote count, the manual vote count in Palm Beach County can go forward.

The read order read as follows -- this is the from the Supreme Court: "We enter the present interim order in this matter. We have considered the petition, and appears that the relief sought on the question of whether the canvassing board may continue a manual recount of the votes cast for president or vice president has been answered in the affirmative by the circuit courts of Leon and Palm Beach, Florida. At present, this is binding legal authority on this issue. And there is no illegal impediment to the recounts continuing. Thus petitioners are authorized to proceed with the manual recount." Back to you.

ALLEN: Greta, how does this square then with Katherine Harris, the highest state elected -- oops. OK, I am told Greta can't hear me. So we will thank Greta for that. It looks like Palm Beach County is cleared to begin its manual recount. So we will continue to follow developments there.


ALLEN: And again we have developments in the ongoing presidential election saga: the Supreme Court clearing the way for Palm Beach County to resume its manual recount. The head of the Palm Beach County canvassing board is now speaking.

Let's go to Judge Charles Burton.

JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: I'm sorry, I can't hear you. I have a feeling that that issue will be probably resolved when they reach their entire decision on the matter.

BURTON: As I said, there's many issues before it. And I think all the court is saying now is, you know, we're giving the authorization to begin. QUESTION: That being true, do you expect Secretary of State Harris ultimately to retain her authority to de-validate the manual recount?

BURTON: Well, she's already told those counties that requested an extension that she's not going to accept the votes.

QUESTION: Has your legal counsel advised you that her authority is still intact?

BURTON: Well, I would imagine that's going to be the next round of litigation, because whether it's Broward or Palm Beach or whatever county concludes first and submits those votes, Secretary Harris has already indicated that she's not going to accept them, so that that will be the next round of litigation in this.

QUESTION: How do you determine a valid (OFF-MIKE)

BURTON: Thank you all for being so well-behaved. It's very nice. Thank you.


BURTON: We are still going by those 1990 provisions. The only difference that Judge Labarga made in his opinion was that we cannot simply exclude it, just because there's a dimple and not a clear punch. And I think we're going to do that by examining the rest of the ballot card.

QUESTION: So just to clarify, if there's a dimple, is there a chance that that vote could be counted (OFF-MIKE)

BURTON: Well, I mean, that's something we'd have to talk about, but just for a way of example, one thing you may look at, for example, if one was not punched all the way through and it's classified -- you're going to call it a dimple.

BURTON: You look at the rest of the ballot: Is every other vote clearly punched through, versus another ballot card that may have two or three dimple punches. You know, those are some of the things that you can consider: Did this person have trouble with the ballot card or not?

QUESTION: Is that any different from the way you did the hand count on Saturday?

BURTON: Well, we're going to have to recount...


BURTON: We're going to have to recount those, because, obviously, at that time we were just operating strictly under the 1990 provision.


BURTON: They're saying that based on the judge's rulings in Leon and Palm Beach County, that we have the authority to begin recounting.


BURTON: I'm sorry?


BURTON: Well, we chose to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on it.



QUESTION: Your Honor, do you like being a media superstar?



BURTON: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) will be here?

BURTON: I don't know. How many folks we got coming in, do you know?


QUESTION: What has the pressure been like these last few days?

BURTON: I don't want to answer too many questions.

BURTON: I mean, if you all have some procedural questions, I'll be glad to answer them.

QUESTION: Judge, are you still hoping for six days, even with the new rule?


QUESTION: ... standards you give the counters as to what -- how to determine what each ballot means?

BURTON: Well, first of all, the way it's set up, we have teams of counters and we have an observer, a Democrat observer and a Republican observer.


BURTON: And as they go through the ballots, you know, assuming it's clearly punched through, there's no objection by either observer, then the vote's counted. If the observers, whether it's the Democratic observer or the Republican observer, has any problem with the ballot, they yell out "questionable," and then those questionable ones are set aside. And it is the questionable ballots that the canvassing board has to look at and decide.

QUESTION: Judge, can I ask a question? How can we be clear when we counted this card, they're computer cards. I was a computer operator in...


QUESTION: Your Honor, if this is an interim order, where do we go from here?


QUESTION: ... these things fall off. How can we be sure that...

BURTON: The order allows us to begin the recounting process. That's what we intend to do.

QUESTION: You don't want to hear that. That's a fact of life, sir. These things fall off.


BURTON: Well, it was estimated six days, so we're going to see how much, you know, how smoothly things go.

QUESTION: Are you taking any precautions to preserve the integrity of the ballots with these hanging chads? (OFF-MIKE) fall on the floor in Broward County.

BURTON: Well, the ballots right now have been under constant police guard, they're locked up, there's been Democratic and Republican observers I believe around the clock. So...


BURTON: There plenty of security here, And we're going to do everything we can possibly do.

QUESTION: Do you have a concern about (OFF-MIKE)

BURTON: You know, ladies and gentlemen, I just want to make something very clear to all of you.

Quite honestly, there is a Florida statute that provides for a manual recount of votes. That has been on the books for I don't know how many years. To be honest with you, I have never heard anyone complain about it before.


QUESTION: Judge, is it true that you and Carol Roberts are having an affair?

BURTON: I think Howard Stern's waiting over there for you. Why don't you go see?

Thank you all very much.

ALLEN: All right, everyone trying to weigh in there in Palm Beach County. Judge Charles Burton who is head of the canvassing board, announcing that a recount will begin; it will begin tomorrow morning, 7:00 a.m. in Palm Beach County. He projects it will take six days and, no doubt, Republican and democratic observers will be watching it closely.

Let's bring in again, CNN's legal expert Greta Van Susteren.

Greta, what have we got here? We've got the Supreme Court clearing the way for this manual recount; at the same time, the secretary of state saying she's not going to accept any more recounts.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me tell you the interesting part of this order. First of all, it's an interim order. That means it's not permanent. It just simply gives this county guidance; it also that the petitioners are authorized to proceed with the manual count. That's a hint that this is -- that they believe that this should be counted. It is not a statement that the court is ordering the secretary of state to count the votes when she does her certification. It simply is a directive to this county and to Broward County and any of the other counties who are party to this to continue with the manual count.

The other sort of significant aspect of this very short and to- the-point order is that it's unanimous. There are seven justices on the Florida Supreme Court and all seven of them say that they concur with the agreement. And so they say, right now, the Florida Supreme Court has said to Palm Beach County, go ahead, start your manual count -- unanimous.

But, what we still don't know, is will those votes -- if the hand count vote down here in Palm Beach County has votes that are helpful to president -- or helpful to the vice president over Governor Bush -- what we don't know is whether or not the secretary of state will be required to count them. It seems to be a nod and a wink to the secretary of state, but it's, by no means, an order to her that she must do that. So that may be the next round of litigation in this case.

ALLEN: And will that next round come from the same state Supreme Court?

VAN SUSTEREN: I suspect so; but first of all we have to figure out whether it's even an issue. Suppose that they do the manual recount here in Palm Beach County and suppose it's Governor Bush that wins. Suppose after we get the overseas votes, it's Governor Bush that gets all the extra votes. Then this issue really evaporates, that there's no point to go any further.

The only time it becomes particularly relevant is if they do the manual recount here and if they take a look at the overseas ballots and it's Vice President Al Gore who wins. That's when we have another showdown in court because Secretary of State Harris will be asked to consider the additional votes assuming, hypothetically, that it's Vice President Al Gore who wins over Governor Bush.

Then if she then, at that point, declines to do so, then that's when the courtroom battle really gets started again and it's going to be fast and furious at that point. But we don't know how this vote is going to turn out it. It may be Governor Bush, it may be Vice President Al Gore.

ALLEN: And I have another question about this vote. We heard him say that you will have Republican and democratic observers watching every ballot. If there are any questionable ballots, they will be set aside. So this could be a long, drawn-out process here in Palm Beach County.

VAN SUSTEREN: It can. I was here last Saturday when they began doing them in another building and it's a rather arduous process. I mean, they have to go through every single one and if there's any contest as to whether it's a vote or not a vote then everyone gathers around and looks at it, makes that decision.

They've now moved it, though, to this building here behind me, which is a much larger building to accommodate a larger recount. Now, they asked me to take a tour earlier this afternoon. It almost looks like a mini U.N. This is where they have the emergency -- when they have hurricanes, this is the place where they all gather to handle any problems that arise associated with hurricanes or other natural disasters.

So they've got a bigger facility. They're going to have more people. And the way they get these people to actually look at the ballot is they are county employees. They can be people -- they can be secretaries, they can be clerks, they can be anybody who, sort of, volunteered to be part of it. It will be a Republican and a Democrat; but they all get together in a room.

And the other significant aspect of it -- this is the sunshine state, but they also have the sunshine law. Everything's open here. So, not only will they have Republican and democratic observers looking at these people, looking at these votes, trying to determine the intent, but the media will be there too.

ALLEN: All right; Greta Van Susteren, thanks Greta.

Now here's Lou.

WATERS: More to keep track of.

Now to Mike Boettcher -- CNN's Mike Boettcher who has been covering us on the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee. Mike, is this a narrow ruling or are the other counties -- Broward, Miami-Dade -- including in this guidance?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That I can't answer precisely. This particular ruling by the Supreme Court was particularly in the case of Palm Beach County versus the secretary of state and the attorney general. So they are answering this. My reading of it is, and I believe I'm right. They're answering it specifically for Palm Beach County.

I believe the other counties can take that as precedent, but that is the case. And what they've also said, Lou is -- I'll read it to you: "We have considered the petition and it appears that the relief sought on the question of whether the canvassing board may conduct a manual recount of the votes cast for president and vice president has been answered in the affirmative by the circuit courts of Leon and Palm Beach Counties. At present, this is binding legal authority on this issue and there is no legal impediment to the recounts continuing."

What it says to me, specifically, right now: The final word, right now, is in this court, in Leon County, the second circuit; a state trial court in front of Judge Terry Lewis. This is the only court right now that has, in its hands, any decision whether to block the final certification of the votes on Friday. Now, Judge Lewis, after hearing arguments from Democrat lawyers and Republican lawyers, told us -- or his court administrator told us about 45 minutes ago, that he was going to sleep on this tonight, come back tomorrow morning and would have an opinion about 10:00.

Now, attorneys for Al Gore were arguing that the secretary of state, a Republican here in Florida, Katherine Harris, abused her authority when, on Tuesday, she certified the county results -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Mike Boettcher at the Florida Supreme Court, and there will be more to come on that score, of course.

ALLEN: "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next here. They'll carry on with this new development from Palm Beach County.

I'm Natalie Allen.

WATERS: I'm Lou Waters. Take care.



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