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The Florida Recount: Gore Campaign Looks for More Legal Aid; Bush Team Alleges Irregularities in RecountAired November 18, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: The Gore camp turns to Florida's highest court for help in fighting its recount battle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: We now have clear and compelling evidence from eyewitnesses that this manual recount process is fundamentally flawed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HALL: The Bush campaign raises harsh allegations against some of those doing the tabulating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG HATTAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: The Bush campaign is ratcheting up their rhetoric here. It could be because Governor Bush did not win all the votes that they were expecting out of the overseas ballots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HALL: Good evening. I'm Andria Hall. Welcome to this CNN Special Report, the Florida recount.
If you look away, you might miss something. Well, that pretty much describes this and every other day in the Florida recount saga. So, let's begin with a look at the latest developments.
A count of ballots from Americans living abroad gives Texas Governor George W. Bush an increased lead over Vice President Al Gore. The Associated Press reports Bush now has 930 vote advantage. And the manual recount of regular ballots goes on in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Miami-Dade starts a machine count on Sunday and begins tabulating by hand on Monday.
The Bush camp says those hand counts are fundamentally flawed and they can prove it. Bush staffers say they have evidence of everything from mistakes to deliberate mistabulation during hand counts in Palm Beach and Broward. And yet, the Democrats fight to keep the recounts alive. On Saturday, they filed briefs with the Florida Supreme Court asking it to include recount totals in the state's final certified vote tally. Republicans have until noon Sunday to respond. The high court holds a hearing on the matter Monday afternoon.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick was there when those important papers were filed. And she joins us live now from Tallahassee with more details.
Deborah, good evening.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Andria.
Well, if you're wondering why this election is now in the court system, Florida has 25 electoral votes, and those votes are needed to decide who will become president. The whole kit and caboodle right now as it stands, with all the ballots in, to be determined by less than 1,000 voters and that is why this recount is so critical.
(voice-over): With the overseas absentee ballots counted, George W. Bush had inched closer to the finish line. While those votes tripled Governor Bush's lead to just over 900, it remains a razor-thin margin, considering more than 8 million Floridians went to the polls Election Day.
Still, both sides are holding their breath as Florida's highest court gets ready to hear arguments on whether new hand recounts should be included in the final total.
Lawyers for the Gore campaign filed their brief shortly before Saturday's 2:00 deadline. In it, they argue Secretary of State Katherine Harris, in their words, "used the wrong legal standard in ignoring manual recounts," and that "her refusal to accept recounts was an abuse of discretion".
The Bush team must respond by noon Sunday.
In a lower court this week, their attorneys argued the state's tough election official was following Florida law in upholding Tuesday's deadline and that she was right to disregard new tallies. The Gore and Bush campaigns will face the judges Monday, each side having exactly one hour to lay out their case."
FEYERICK: The judges are getting copies of all of the briefs that are being filed this weekend. They will have all of the facts before them. Their decision could ulitimately decide whether the recounts are or are not included. And that either means a win for Bush or a win for Gore, a very simple statement, but certianly on with a whole lot of impact -- Andria.
HALL: And at least we know that one will definitely be the case. Deborah Feyerick reporting live from Tallahassee.
Thank you, Deborah. As we mentioned, the Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday about whether the hand counts in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami- Dade Counties should be included in the official vote count. With that in mind, here's a closer look now at Florida's Supreme Court. Six of the justices are registered Democrats and one is an Independent. All were appointed by Democratic governors, except for one who was appointed jointly by a Democrat and a Republican.
Aside from Friday's ruling, the court three days ago denied requests from the Bush campaign to stop all hand recounts and to consolidate lawsuits. Well, to help us sort out all of this tangled legal stuff, the issues that are underway in this election, we are joined by election law expert and CNN Legal Analyst, Kenneth Gross - he's standing by live in Washington -- and a former head of Florida's division of elections, David Cardwell, who is in Orlando.
Ken Gross, let's begin with you.
Two days from now Florida's highest court will be center stage in this latest legal maneuver. Walk us through what should happen beginning 2:00 p.m. on Monday.
KENNETH GROSS, FORMER FEC OFFICIAL: Well, of course, each side is going to argue their case. They're each going to have one hour to argue their case. The briefs will be fully submitted by then. The Gore team actually submitted a brief already today and Bush will submit their brief tomorrow. And the justices will be free to ask them questions. We'll be able to see it as it happens as the attorneys argue the case, and then they'll take the case and I doubt they'll make any instant decision. They'll take it under advisement and then issue a ruling, most likely in a day or two.
HALL: David, you know the court's system as well. Do you expect that they will - well, they're not going to hear any kind of testimony here. They're really just considering evidence. Is that correct?
DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION ANALYST: Well, they're actually only hearing argument. The Florida Supreme Court is an appellate court and it does not hear any introduction of evidence. So, all they'll have before them will be whatever record there is from the Circuit Court - that was Judge Lewis - in his hearing in the ruling he made a couple of days ago and whatever is in the briefs, the arguments on the law that'll be presented to the court and which does lead to the possibility that the court could say, "We need to have some more evidence. The record's not complete enough and could send it back down. That's one of the possibilities. But they will not hear any evidence on Monday, just argument.
HALL: Ken, whoever loses in Florida's State Supreme Court is, of course, going to appeal. We can be pretty sure of that. What likelihood is there that the Federal Supreme Court will actually hear this case?
GROSS: Well, I don't think the likelihood is all that good. This is really a case about this interpretation of the Florida statutes. And there needs to be a federal question in order for the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case and there really isn't a federal question. Now, the Bush team did bring a separate case in Federal Court, introducing the 14th and 1st Amendment, which is a federal question. That was denied at the district court. And the circuit court sort of temporarily denied. They said that we're rejecting it but we're leaving the door open to come back. So, it's possible that if Bush does not succeed in state court that federal court action could get reinvigorated.
HALL: Ken, is this going to be argued as a state issue or a constitutional issue?
GROSS: Before the Supreme Court on Monday you're only going to hear state issues. You're only going to hear about the statutes in Florida, one, the discretion that the secretary of state has or had in rejecting the ballots. Of course, Gore's going to say she abused her discretion, Bush will say she properly exercised it. And another argument, it's not just about discretion.
The Gore brief goes into a good bit of detail, saying that this isn't even a matter of discretion, that the district court was wrong -- or the lower court in this case, the circuit court was wrong in even saying it was up to her discretion, which would open the door for the Florida Supreme Court just to plant their judgment as to what they think should be the right answer, not just an assessment of whether the secretary of state properly exercised her discretion.
HALL: David, when you consider lawsuits and appeals and more appeals, what do you think and how do you think we will see some legal finality to all of this?
CARDWELL: Well, at this point there are many lawsuits that are pending. We have the two appellate proceedings right now. It may take a while to sort through all of these. The issue right now that's getting a lot of the attention deals with the manual recount and whether those can proceed. If they proceed, can they then be included in an amended total of the votes cast for each candidate.
But keep in mind there are also some lawsuits pending that are challenging absentee ballots. There's also the possibility that with the controversy now over the high rejection rate of overseas ballots that there may be some challenges brought or protests filed on the decisions made by the canvassing board on those absentee ballots.
So, while the sort of the big battle right now is over the manual recount issue, because that's the most immediate one at this point, there's still several that are pending on various other issues. And keep in mind that in both the Bush lawsuit in federal court as well as the state court proceeding that was filed by the canvassing boards in which the Gore campaign has intervened, both of those lawsuits ask for, as did also the secretary of state's petition, for a consolidation of all the cases. So, what we may see at some point is a lot of these, if not all of these cases, brought together into one court before one judge to try to sort through them so we don't start having differing decisions in different circuits and different appellate decisions.
That may try to get the process at least organized a bit more than it is now.
HALL: So in answer to my question, finality is a long way off. Ken...
GROSS: Seems that way.
HALL: Ken Gross, David Cardwell, thank you so much for joining us.
A Bush handler did not get an opportunity to celebrate his expanded lead. His camp was busy blasting the ongoing hand counts and the way they're being handled.
CNN's Candy Crowley is monitoring the activity from Austin, Texas, and she joins us now.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Andria.
The Bush team did indeed come loaded for bear this afternoon in a news conference attended by communications director Karen Hughes and Marc Racicot, the governor from Montana, a close friend and colleague of Governor Bush's.
The two of them outlined a number of anecdotes and allegations all intended to undermine and to question the validity of the hand count now under way in Florida. But first they saved their harshest words for the overseas tally taken overnight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARC RACICOT (R), MONTANA: last night, we learned how far the vice president's campaign will go to win this election. And I am very sorry to say but the vice president's lawyers have gone to war in my judgment against the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.
In an effort to win at any costs, the Democrats have launched a statewide effort to throw out as many military ballots as they can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Military ballots, of course, were presumed to favor Governor Bush. State records show up to 39 percent of overseas ballots were thrown out. A Democrat suggested that really is the result of a 1998 law which tightened restrictions regarding overseas ballots.
Now about the hand count, the Bush team was full of anecdotes of ballots, they say, that were placed in the Gore pile that really belonged to Bush, of ballots that were left on the floor, of ballots that had the chad replaced over the hole where George Bush's name was. They talked of seniors who are working 14 hour days under very bad lighting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RACICOT: Now just for a minute imagine that you have a 70-year- old man at 2 a.m. in the morning trying to count thousands of small cards, many of which stick together, to see where these tiny holes are located. In fact, some of these people have had to use flashlights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Now, of course, all of this is a prelude to the -- this is for the court of public opinion, but it's really a prelude to the Supreme Court case, which, as you know, begins Monday -- Andria.
HALL: The explosive words coming from that camp, have they had any reaction to the reaction from the Gore side?
CROWLEY: Well, as you know, the Gore side has said that they're just trying to undermine the validity of the hand count, they're just denigrating the process, they're bad mouthing citizens. Basically, the Bush camp says, look, were trying to draw attention to what is going on in Florida. We have affidavits from counters who have seen these things occur. So they are not the least bit apologetic.
HALL: Candy Crowley reporting for us from Austin, Texas.
Well, we talk about the Gore team. Well, the Gore team is brushing off those charges of vote tainting and, quote, "hypocritical and without merit."
With more on the Gore campaign's reaction to today's allegations, Chris Black joins us now from Washington.
Chris, what do you have for us?
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Andria, the Gore campaign says the Republicans are getting desperate and trying to discredit the recount process because they're afraid it will show Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush, and they deny Democrats made any concerted effort to disqualify the ballots of overseas military personnel because local officials, many of them Republican, made those decisions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HATTAWAY: What we've seen watching on television of the counting of the ballots is civic-minded people carefully observing each ballot. They are being watched over by observers from both sides. I think if they're noting issues that they're bringing those to the attention of the appropriate officials. I think that's clear to everybody. The Bush campaign is ratcheting up their rhetoric here. It could be because Governor Bush did not win all the votes that they were expecting out of the overseas ballots, so now they're trying to cast dispersions on the process. I think that's the tactic at work here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: The Gore campaign was actually pleased by the absentee ballot results because Bush only picked up 1,530 votes and not the thousands that some had feared.
The vice president and his senior advisers stayed out of sight today and let a legal document make their case. The brief filed with the Supreme Court of Florida charges Secretary of State Katherine Harris abused her discretion by deciding to ignore the results of manual recounts even before she had received them. The campaign asked the court to force Harris to consider every single lawfully cast and counted votes, including any votes found in the manual recount in the heavily Democratic Gold Coast.
The vice president has canceled a trip to his home state of Tennessee tomorrow. He was scheduled to participate in the ninth annual Family Conference, this year on how families deal with aging relatives, on Monday. But that's the very same time his lawyers will be making oral arguments to Florida's highest court. Gore's spokesman said the vice president decided it would be better if he stayed in Washington, where he's been very closely monitoring those events in Florida -- Andria.
HALL: Chris, Doug Hattaway's response to the Republican charges seems relatively mild compared to the words that were coming out from the Bush camp. Is this a case where they're really not trying to dignify it too much with a response?
BLACK: That's exactly right, Andria. They really don't want to get into a sort of political war of words. And there was a real concerted effort by the Gore campaign today to really be low key, to let the sort of rhetoric die down a little bit. They really have a lot of conviction and belief in the legal process. They're hoping that the Supreme Court of Florida rules in their favor on Monday, and they're really hoping to get enough votes in those recounted counties to overcome Bush's 926 vote lead.
HALL: Chris Black live from Washington. Thank you, Chris.
Well we've heard the charges and the counter charges over the Florida recount. But what really happens during that recounting. Here's a concept. CNN's Martin Savidge with a fact check coming up.
HALL: Charges of ballot tampering, allegations of questionable judgment calls from vote counters. Well these claims and more cloud the Florida recount. But what are the facts?
CNN's national correspondent Martin Savidge looks into what's really going on in the hand count.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside walls built to withstand 200-mile-per-hour winds, the Palm Beach County hand recount drones on. Critics say its fitting the controversial count is carried out in a room designed to cope with disaster. But it's really not a room at all. It's a giant microscope and everyone and everything here is under it. This is how it's supposed to work. Teams of counters, one Democrat, one Republican count the ballots and look for discrepancies. Over their shoulders peer two observers, one from each party.
DENISE DYTRYCH, ELECTIONS BOARD ATTORNEY: If there is an objection then it will be raised by an observer. It will be noted and we just put it to the questionable stack. And that's really -- it's just tedious.
SAVIDGE: At one point, the elections board chairman pleads with those in the room not to object to a ballot simply to object.
JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH CANVASSING BOARD: If it's clearly a vote, it's clearly a vote. We ought not to be playing games by either party. We will all be here until Christmas if this continues.
SAVIDGE: A case in point: in one precinct alone, counters found 144 objections with questionable ballots. But when reviewed by the elections board and attorneys, they found only six legitimate discrepancies. The Republicans maintain that ballots have been tampered with, stealing votes from George W. Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think there's a flaw in the system. I mean, you know the Gore observer isn't looking at the ballots the same way today as he looked at them yesterday.
SAVIDGE: But Republicans aren't the only ones objecting. Democrats charge ballots with dimples or dents are not being counted as they should, robbing Vice President Gore of decisive votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had protested approximately 150. There were clear dents on the number five chad but they were ruled as an undervote.
SAVIDGE: Democrats in Palm Beach County went to court to have those dimples counted. Not surprisingly, right after they saw a lot of them for Gore during last weekend's partial hand recount. The political spinners spin off, escorted by handlers to their next interviews, emerging from under the lens of a microscope, only to exchange it for another one, the lens of a television camera.
Martin Savidge, CNN West Palm Beach, Florida.
HALL: Coming up next, we've heard from attorneys and politicians, but what about the people? Reaction from around the nation when we come back, including a live discussion with citizens from both sides of the political isle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really think that they need to just go ahead, wash everything and let's just have the six million people in Florida just revote. And whoever wins then that's the final decision. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HALL: The presidential election goes on and on and on and on. So what will it take to determine the next president? Or, has the process itself taken over?
CNN's Brian Palmer has more.
BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It seems like the process will never end.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The election's so anticlimactic at this point.
PALMER: The counting and recounting and sometimes not counting of Florida's presidential ballots. Americans may be angry, like this former Democratic Party worker in New York.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the process is unfair. I think that it is fixed.
PALMER: Or these demonstrators, also in New York. They may be pleased, like this social worker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to me. I love it.
PALMER: Or they may be just plain tired, like these San Franciscans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like people are a little bored with it.'
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm way bored of it.
PALMER: But across the country, most people are keeping close tabs on election developments. Here, a New York Democrat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it has to go until it's really fully complete in an honest way.
PALMER: For all those who say the system is working, there are those like this mechanical engineer from Connecticut, a Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush has won the election count three times and the Democrats need to learn that three is bigger than zero.
PALMER: At the annual football game between Harvard, Al Gore's old school, and Yale, where George Bush, Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman went to college.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beat Harvard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's see if the difference between the presidential candidates come down - comes down to as close a game as the football game.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that Harvard wins today and that's a precursor of what the outcome is in Florida.
PALMER: But regardless of their opinions, the most difference between the presidential candidates come down - comes down to as close a game as the football game.
Brian Palmer, CNN New York.
HALL: Well, we know where the Bush and Gore camps stand on the recount issue, but how does the average Floridian feel about the controversy that's thrust their state into the spotlight? Well, we turn to two voters from Palm Beach County, a Republican and a Democrat, for their impressions. And we begin with Jan Gill, a retired account executive and a staunch Bush-Cheney supporter.
Ms. Gill, you join ...
JAN GILL, PALM BEACH COUNTY REPUBLICAN: That's me.
HALL: ... us live from West Palm Beach. And I want to ask you just for a second, if you can, put away your Bush-Cheney hat for president and vice president and put on a hat on a Democrat. See this thing from a different pair of shoes. Just try. This is what you would tell your children right if you were trying to get a compromise here. Do you believe it's best for all the votes to be counted and for every vote to count?
GILL: Well, I think the vote has been counted and I don't think the hand count is the thing to do because we had an election, we had a recount, and I think we should now get the votes in from the military. And, unfortunately, Mr. Gore has lost me on that one too because those young men are over there working for us, working for our democracy, working for our freedom. And what happens to them? Their votes are cancelled. They're thrown away. They're on ship. They're out in the middle of no man land. They don't know how to get the ballots back here, so they give them to their officer, they're put in a mailbag and they're sent back to America. And what happens? Mr. Gore's minions decide they shouldn't be counted and he tells everybody don't count the vote. So, how in the world can I put on a Gore hat?
HALL: OK. Well, I see you're not comfortable with that hat, that's for sure. Let me just - let me ask you this question. You're an average citizen. We know that you have a preference politically. But how is it that you can be so sure of all the facts that are coming out from each camp when there's really a lot of spin that's going on here? You're - I mean, you're not really privy to all of the details. You just know what you hear in the media, right?
GILL: Well, I hear what I hear in the media, of course, but I know. I can see there's votes that have been taken away. And everybody says they've been thrown out. I do know that the GI's have no way of stamping their ballots. They have to depend on their officers and their officers have to depend on sending it back to the states and they have to depend on the people in America to take care of them.
GILL: They're over there taking care of us.
HALL: Jan, let's look at the glass as half ...
HALL: ... full versus half empty. Do you see any good coming out of this?
GILL: Out of this? Well, yes, if George Bush wins.
HALL: What a surprise ...
GILL: You know, he's a very ...
HALL: ... that you would say that.
GILL: He's a very honest, nice, young man and what he says he does. I have friends in Texas, relatives, and they tell me that whatever he has said he would do he has done. So, I trust him. I know Al Gore because I used to live in the Washington area and I saw him all the time, so I can't quite trust everything he says.
HALL: All right, Jan, we ...
GILL: And that's why ...
HALL: We thank you for your perspective tonight. I know you could go on and on about it, but we're going to get the other side of the story here. And for that ...
GILL: You will.
HALL: And for that, we go to the opposite side of the political coin. Elvin Dowling is a Democrat who works for the county commissioner's office and he also lives in West Palm Beach. Mr. Dowling, I'm going to pose the same question I asked Jan. If you were supporting the Republican ticket for presidency, how would you view what's happened to your state?
ELVIN DOWLING, WEST PALM BEACH COUNTY DEMOCRAT: Well, Andria, first I think it's important to note that I am here on my own volition, speaking, giving my own opinions on the race. With that being said, I think it's also important to note that the hand counts are still going on. We're hopeful that the vice president will move into the lead. And we believe that once there has been a full, fair and accurate recount of the votes the vice president will emerge victorious.
HALL: So, you're very patient with this process. But do you think that it's going on a little bit too long? Do you think that Jan Gill has merit in what she says? That it's already been counted and recounted, so let the votes from abroad determine the winner?
DOWLING: Well, Andria, I think it's important for all of us to understand that we shouldn't -- we certainly shouldn't put a time limit on democracy. It's important that every vote counts. And for anyone on any side of the aisle to suggest that we've counted and we've had a full, fair and accurate count, I just don't think that's accurate.
In fact, there have been people who have voted -- and my Republican counterpart talked about our overseas votes and our GIs not having their votes counted. But no one ever says anything about the scores of African-Americans who voted in precincts right here in Palm Beach County, whose votes were thrown out, scores of African-American voters who were turned away at the polls with voter ID cards in their hand and told that they weren't on the rolls.
So I think if there's going to be some consternation, there ought to be a real examination of who had the opportunity to vote. And when I think you look at that, there is some inequity on both side of the aisle.
HALL: How do you believe that most people from West Palm Beach and indeed the state of Florida feel about the spotlight on their state? Do you think people are sensitive about the criticism coming?
DOWLING: Well, I think that there are some folk who are most likely sensitive about the criticism that we're getting here in Palm Beach County. But again, this is an opportunity of monumental historic proportions. And we're quite glad that we, the citizens of Palm Beach County, will be the ones who decide who's the next president of the United States, and we're happy about that.
HALL: On a lighter note, I heard someone say that they're waiting for the adults to show up there in Florida on both political sides and decide this thing. Do you think in some ways that that's -- do you think that that's fair? Do you think in some ways that they're acting like children?
DOWLING: Well, I've been here time and again, and I've seen, particularly people on the governor's side, who have had signs like Sore-Loserman, who are saying that we should grow up and learn how to read.
And for anyone to suggest that somehow the elderly population in Palm Beach County, the African-American population in Palm Beach County is ignorant or can't read and can't understand the ballot, I honestly think that they ought to be ashamed of themselves.
So I do believe, to answer your question, that there have been some folk who haven't quite acted their age as opposed to their shoe size in this particular instance.
HALL: I remember that one. We used to say that in ninth grade. Thank you very much...
DOWLING: They're still saying it here, Andria. HALL: Yes, we thank you very much for joining us, Mr. Dowling from West Palm Beach.
And coming up next, from Palm Beach to Broward, they're eyeballing the ballots. We will have a wrap up of the state of the recount.
And from Florida's Seminole County, yet another lawsuit, this one trying to throw out more than 4,000 Republican absentee ballots.
Details on that when we come back.
HALL: If you're just joining us, here is the latest in the battle over ballots in Florida.
The Associated Press says the count of absentee ballots has George W. Bush with a 930-vote lead over Al Gore.
In the meantime, the hand recount of regular ballots goes on in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Miami-Dade will conduct a machine count Sunday, and then it's due to start retabulating by hand on Monday.
The Bush camp now says it can prove such hand counts are not credible. Bush staffers say they have evidence of everything from innocent mistakes to deliberate mishandling of ballots in both Palm Beach and Broward.
And the Gore campaign's turns to Florida's high court for help in making the results of those recounts part of the state's official tally. Democrats filed legal briefs with the state Supreme Court Saturday afternoon. Republicans must respond by noon on Sunday. The high court hold a hearing on the issue Monday afternoon.
Well it's the countdown to the presidency -- one ballot at a time.
In Broward County, Florida, CNN's Susan Candiotti is following the ballot count, and so far there's no end in sight.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Broward County, ballot counters and partisan observers lined u0p early for a fourth day of recounting ballots by hand.
Gabe Kentenia (ph) came all the way from Texas.
GABE KENTENIA, VOLUNTEER: I thought it was a noble thing to do to make sure every vote was counted.
CANDIOTTI: Throughout the day, Vice President Gore's net gain continued to grow while Governor Bush's numbers remain the same in this heavily Democratic county. In Palm Beach County, manual recounts inched ahead, with hopes of finishing by early next week.
Elections officials say they've noticed little change in the totals so far.
In Miami-Dade County, the largest by far with more than 654,000 ballots, the canvassing board decided to recount some ballots by machine Sunday, only those that failed to count any vote for president. The hand count won't begin until Monday and could take about two weeks.
While Broward and Palm Beach plodded forward, accusations continue to fly. Among the strangest: someone swallowing a chad.
Broward Canvassing Board Chairman Robert Lee (ph) flatly denied a charge he ordered chads swept off the floor.
ROBERT LEE, BROWARD CANVASSING BOARD CHAIRMAN: That is totally ridiculous. I would not do anything that stupid.
CANDIOTTI: Amid complaints from both sides, election officials worried about South Florida's image.
JANE CARROLL, BROWARD SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS: Maybe we're a laughingstock when you see us sitting there holding a card up looking through for light.
CANDIOTTI: Others see it differently.
You know, the bottom line is not when we finish, the bottom line is we need to make sure everybody's vote is fairly and accurately counted.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): But how long will that take? At minimum, a few more days. At most -- well, one lawyer joked he was hiring a band to play here New Year's Eve.
CNN, Susan Candiotti, Plantation, Florida.
HALL: In Republican-rich Seminole County, the legal dance over ballot counting is very different than in other parts of Florida. Here Democrats are suing to exclude certain ballots because of problems in the election process.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lawsuit was file in Sanford, Florida, by attorney Harry Jacobs, who is also a volunteer vote count observer for the Democratic Party. The suit asks that thousands of Republican absentee ballots already counted be thrown out because of alleged election-law violations.
In court, the plaintiff claimed the Seminole County supervisor of elections have Republicans access to absentee ballot request forms. Those request forms had been previously rejected for not including the voter's registration numbers as required by law.
HARRY JACOBS, PLAINTIFF: They then altered these defective and null-and-void absentee ballot requests by adding voter ID numbers.
POTTER: The lawsuit alleges that by altering the ballot request and resubmitting them, county and party officials broke the law.
BOB POE, COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: You've got the supervisor of elections in Seminole County of the Republican Party operating in a manner that's a little bit too cozy for comfort.
POTTER: But attorneys for the county officials and the Republican Party argue the supervisor of elections did absolutely nothing wrong and broke no laws.
JIM HATTAWAY, ATTORNEY: It's not an illegal act, it's not a felonious act, and the plaintiffs are just wrong, pure and simple.
POTTER: They strongly criticize the plaintiffs' proposal that if the absentee ballots in question cannot be found all 15,000 absentee votes be thrown out. They attempt it's merely a political attempt to take votes from George W. Bush, who led Al Gore in absentees by two to one.
KEN WRIGHT, REPUBLICAN ATTORNEY: This is an attempt to target Seminole County, which is a Republican-rich county, where they know mathematically if they can throw out 15,000 people's votes they can gain a 5,000 vote advantage for Al Gore in the statewide count.
POTTER (on camera): Republicans point out the irony of Democrats asking that votes be thrown out while arguing that more votes be included in the manual recount.
The plaintiff argues that tossing out votes is what a court must do if it finds election laws were violated.
Mark Potter, CNN, Sanford, Florida.
HALL: Well this battle over ballots has a lot of people asking, is it time for an Electoral College overhaul? We'll talk with a presidential historian about that.
And just ahead, Atlanta teachers turn election 2000 into a history lesson -- real time, when this CNN special report continues.
HALL: While adults grow weary of election 2000's seemingly endless recounts and legal challenges, the whole process seems to have energized the next generation of voters. CNN's Pat Etheridge has more now from Atlanta.
PAT ETHERIDGE, CNN PARENTING CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Recount fever is spreading through classrooms across the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Legal wrangling intensifies...
ETHERIDGE: Who would have thought politics could be so captivating to kids?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I woke up in the morning, I was like, who is the president, who is the president? And my mom was like, they haven't decided yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like now I really care about who is the president and the stuff that is going on.
ETHERIDGE: An election stranger than fiction is proving to be a golden opportunity to bring current events to life; take it from Sharon Brownlee, a teacher of 15 years.
SHARON BROWNLEE, AVONDALE ELEMENTARY: To see the election unfold and then all of the peculiar things that have happened has kept them interested and kept them talking.
ETHERIDGE (on camera): The news of the day brings new meaning to a wide range of classroom concepts, everything from counting correctly to understanding the intricacies of the law.
(voice-over): Claudia Wallis is managing editor of the news magazine "Time for Kids."
CLAUDIA WALLIS, "TIME FOR KIDS" MAGAZINE: I think that we're going to have a generation that's going to understand what the Electoral College means and what our election rules are better than maybe any generation in a century.
ETHERIDGE: This 6th-grade class is fired up enough to fire off a series of e-mails to lawmakers in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're sending ours to Senator Max Cleland.
ETHERIDGE: The message: get organized.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I grow up, it will be right to the point, they won't have to do any recounting, and they will know the president the day after the election.
ETHERIDGE: Until that day, they watch, wait, and debate -- the civics lesson of a lifetime.
Pat Etheridge, CNN, Atlanta.
HALL: The events in Florida may seem unprecedented, but there is actually another chapter in our history of presidential elections that appears just as bizarre -- if you can believe that.
Here to talk about it and give his own take on the current contest is presidential historian Richard Shenkman.
Richard, you've dusted off your history books and the year 1876 comes up. What on earth could an election more than 100 years ago have to do with this one? How can it compare?
RICHARD SHENKMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it was a mess, just like this one. And just like this one, it made Americans really suspicious about politicians. It was a corrupt election where first the Democrats tried to steal the election in the South, in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida, and then the Republicans decided they were going to steal it back. Neither side could prove that they'd won in the Electoral College, so it went to special commission in the Congress.
The Congress appointed seven Republican and then seven Democrats to the commission and left one spot open to an independent. But it turned out the independent wound up leaving. He was replaced by a Republican. It was 8-7. Guess who won the election? The Republicans.
HALL: The Republicans. Yes, I was just about to say that.
Now did they reach some type of compromise or bargain in that?
SHENKMAN: Exactly, it was a bargain. What happened was the Republicans decided that they were going to withdraw the federal troops from the South, which Democrats objected to -- this was all part of Reconstruction -- and then in exchange they would get the presidency.
So each side got a little bit of something. There was also a railroad that was thrown into the deal. And they went away reasonably happy, although the net outcome was that the public was just completely turned off by politics.
HALL: And do you see any way that these two men who would be president can reach a bargain today? Any kind of compromise, or is the process just a little too murky with everybody kind of into the act?
SHENKMAN: We're not at that point. Back in 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes wasn't exactly selected as president until two days before his inauguration, On other words, this is kind of like Arafat and the Israelis sitting down and negotiating and negotiating and negotiating, but not until they hit a deadline, they come right up close to a deadline, do they actually make that compromise. And we're not nearly there yet.
HALL: But we will get there, and someone will be writing about it in the history books.
SHENKMAN: We will.
HALL: Richard Shenkman, thanks you for joining us.
SHENKMAN: Sure, you bet.
HALL: Just ahead on this CNN special report, we'll break away from election coverage for other news of the day, and that includes President Clinton's historic trip to Vietnam.
We'll be right back.
HALL: In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, thousands of cheering and waving people turned out for President Clinton's arrival tonight. Mr. Clinton says the fate of missing Americans from the Vietnam War is high on his agenda. Earlier today, he visited a recovery site where U.S. and Vietnamese workers are digging for remains.
Before arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. Clinton also attended a ceremony in Hanoi. There the remains of three American servicemen killed during the Vietnam War were turned over to U.S. authorities.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may have entered a new phase today. And Israeli soldier was killed and two others wounded when a Palestinian policeman attacked an outpost in Gaza. The assailant was killed.
The Fatah Hawks, an armed group loyal to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's movement, claimed responsibility. The Israeli army accused Palestinian leaders of ordering the attack and vowed to retaliate.
And when we come back, party politics may be putting the presidency on hold, but can it stop the party? The preparations for the inaugural celebrations, when we come back.
HALL: Election 200 may be in suspended animation, but preparations for the presidential inaugural are not.
As Kathleen Koch reports, party plans continue, though no one knows who will be the guest of honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make a right, there is a triangle, that's where the command post will be set up for the presidential inauguration.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite the lack of a new commander-in-chief, the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee is already on duty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And early in the morning, what we'll do is we'll rehearse the swearing-in ceremony and the parade.
KOCH: Training drivers, readying military bands, honor guards trumpet, so there will be plenty of pop despite the circumstances.
COL. STEPHANIE HOEHNE, ARMED FORCES INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: As far as the military is concerned, we will have an inauguration one way or the other on January 20, and we, the military, will be able to support whatever they want us to do.
KOCH: And inaugural planners on Capitol Hill are pressing forward.
TAMARA SOMERVILLE, INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: Fortunately, most of the printed materials that we distribute, including the 200,000 tickets and invitations, and maps of the Capitol grounds and all that, are generic.
KOCH: But without a president-elect, there is no Inaugural Committee to plan the balls, the parade, the galas.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, FMR. PRESIDENT OF INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: What you can't do is begin to put together the themes, the message that you want your inauguration to convey to people.
KOCH: It's no laughing matter for those who bring the themes to life. Idle workers at this exhibit company draft car ads instead of polishing up Texas-sized boots.
EARL HARGROVE, HARGROVE, INC.: I think if it goes beyond December 1, I think that there will be a lot of scaled-down things. I mean, you're losing -- what -- almost three weeks.
KOCH: At Sauro's Tuxedo Rental, they're on pins and needles waiting for a winner.
JOSEPH SAURO, SAURO FORMAL WEAR: Here we are, November 18, and I have yet to place an order, and to be very honest with you about it, I am very cautious about placing an order until this thing is resolved.
KOCH: Even Lone Star Accessories are on hold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are special made. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... they told me until January 4, so I'm hoping that, you know...
KOCH (on camera): You'll know something by then.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well before then.
KOCH: We're all hoping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope we all know -- that's right.
KOCH: Whatever happens, the inaugural show must go on, and eventually there will be a host, even if half the guests are in no mood to celebrate.
Kathleen Koch for CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HALL: That's our special report tonight. I'm Andria Hall.
Be sure to stay with CNN for late-breaking developments on the Florida recount and be patient with the process. It can't go on forever.
Have a good evening.
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