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Special Event

Bush Gains Two Votes from Palm Beach Hand Count

Aired November 17, 2000 - 3:38 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BOBBIE BATTISTA, CNN ANCHOR: We have to go live now to Judge Burton of the Palm Beach Canvassing Board, who's speaking.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: ... to get started last night, and from some very good people who came in on very short notice, and all of the people who have come here and counted and helped us out. I can guarantee you that this process could not happen without them. We really appreciate their efforts.

It's not exactly the best job in town. So I do want to thank everybody.

We tried to get started last night, couldn't quite -- I think we wound up with only about 13 teams. Unfortunately, the way we've been pulling the -- all of the ballots are locked and sealed, and they're in a back room back there, and they're on carts. And so we just kind of randomly took cart No. 1 and wheeled it out and started pulling ballot boxes. We didn't go for particular precincts. We just took the box, and whatever precincts were in it, we tried to count.

So last night, we did -- I'm not sure how much we actually went through last night, but a couple extremely large precincts. And that bogged us down. We were hoping to keep folks here until about midnight, and I think we actually got out of here about 10 minutes to 3:00.

And there's a couple of problems where we had agreed to allow each party more observers than we probably should have, because there's too much commotion running around, and it was getting late into the night, and I know one fellow dropped some ballots, and everybody was kind of hooting and hollering at him. So we agreed, fine, we'll just recount all of those and just put them back in and we'll deal with them.

So I think we're finally moving along at a faster pace and things seem to be going a little bit smoother.

I'll give you an example of just two precincts, and these are unofficial. We haven't signed any of these yet, because we're -- and I'll explain why in a minute. Precinct 144(d).

The way the process works, as I told you yesterday, is the counters will pick up a ballot and they'll show it. There's an observer from the Democrat Party and the Republican Party, and they have a right to say objection, or questionable or whatever, and then those are put aside. And the canvassing board has to sit down and review those.

So, for example, on precinct 144(d), which was roughly -- I think it was almost 1,800 ballots, there were 281 questionable ballots. Now, that's based on the observers, and I'm not blaming either party, and I don't know if they were Democrats or Republicans. But it was 281 questionable ballots.

So before we can close out those precincts, the board has to sit down with a lawyer from the Republican Party and a lawyer from the Democratic Party, and we have to go through 281. So out of those 281 that were initially declared questionable, the lawyers only had three objections. Every one of those would have -- would have just gone through without a problem except three, but yet because of all the questionable ballots, we've got sit there and go through each one.

Precinct 144(d) resulted in a very unofficial total, but George Bush, 600 votes, which is plus-two, Al Gore 933 votes, which is plus 1, for a net gain of 1 vote for George Bush.

The other precinct that I can give you some unofficial numbers on is precinct three. Again, this was 263 questionable ballots that the canvassing boarded had to sit and go through. The lawyers made two objections where they argued that, you know, this dimple should have counted as a vote. Everyone else went by without any objection.

That resulted in a vote total of 606 for George Bush, 770 for Al Gore, no change. That's an example of two of the ballots -- or two of the precincts. What we've found ourselves having to do because of all the questionable ballots -- as I've said, we've got a lot of very good and dedicated people who've been waiting here to come in and help us out and act as counters.

At the same time they're counting, we were trying to go through the questionable ballots, but the problem was occurring that, you know, they'd have questions, the observers were making a lot of noise and so we had to keep getting up and running to them; and what we've decided, I think, is that the quicker method has been to let them go ahead and count all of these.

We have talked to the lawyers from both sides and they've agreed to talk to their people about, you know, making some more realistic objections to these ballots so we don't have quite as many.

BATTISTA: All right, Judge Burton of the Palm Beach canvassing board giving us an update there on how the recount is going. Slowly would be the operative word, I think, but they're doing the best that they can. Sounds like they have quite a ways to go, obviously.

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