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Montana Governor Marc Racicot Speaks for Bush Campaign

Aired November 19, 2000 - 5:23 p.m. ET


GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: The scene is Austin, Texas. The spokesman at the podium is Montana's Republican Governor Racicot speaking for the Bush campaign.

GOV. MARC RACICOT (R), MONTANA: ... We now have a second statewide recount of the votes and Governor Bush won that vote as well. And now this weekend, even after a concerted effort by Al Gore's campaign to reject the votes of as many members of the Armed Forces as they could, Governor Bush's margin of victory in fact increased. Yet the Democrats continue to try to reverse the results of this election by conducting subjective hand counts and recounts in the most Democratic counties in the state of Florida.

Yesterday, I stood before you to say that we have seen clear and compelling evidence that the manual recount is flawed, it's inaccurate and it's untrustworthy. Last night and today, new information has come to light that further demonstrates the inherent flaws in this very subjective and very unreliable process.

"The New York Times" reported today that statisticians working with Florida Democrats were asked to determine how many votes they could expect from the three Democrat counties conducting manual recounts. According to their analysis of current recount procedures, Al Gore would fall far, far short of overcoming Governor Bush's lead in this statewide vote.

Recognizing that they are not extracting votes that the vice president needs, Gore supporters now want to change the rules halfway through the process by lowering standards in Broward and Dade Counties. To reverse the results of this election, Al Gore's supporters are less interested in accuracy and more interested in changing the rules to generate the votes that they need to win.

The Gore campaign fears that they will lose even the manual recount without what's called dimpled ballots. As many people know, a dimpled ballot is a paper ballot whose hole is not punched at all, but appears to be pressed. If a voter did touch that punch mark, they may have paused. They may have pondered. They may have changed their mind. They may have passed their pen on top of the punch mark, but they took no action.

It is an entirely clear example of a guessing game to determine whether a dimple shows a clear intent of vote for a particular candidate and those guesses are being made by Democrat-dominated panels. There are nine people in these three counties making these decisions and out of those nine people, there is one Republican.

Yesterday, the Broward County canvassing board decided not to lower their standards by counting these dimpled ballots. Today, however, Broward County officials reversed themselves and said that they would now count these unpunched dimpled ballots. Judge Lee, one of the canvassing board members, said that if could you count the questionable ballots with a new standard, they would be largely Gore votes.

So, make no mistake about what's going on here. When Vice President Gore's Broward County supporters saw Governor Bush's gain in the overseas ballots, they changed rules so that they could manufacture additional Gore votes. It's wrong. It's flawed and it is a process that is simply and honestly not worthy of our democracy.

In Miami-Dade County, as many of you already know, the canvassing board reversed an earlier decision not to conduct manual recount, but before conducting a full manual recount, the board voted to run all of the ballots back through a counting machine. Not to count. They used a new program to segregate the undervotes and overvotes from normal ballots. They are on a hunt for these dimpled ballots and they want to find them as fast as they can.

The clear strategy of the Gore campaign in Miami-Dade, based upon all the evidence available to us, is to quickly gain votes by divining the intent of voters whose intent is impossible to divine. Once they divine this intent, the Miami-Dade officials say they will punch holes through new cards and run those cards through a machine. And entirely new ballot, never touched by a voter, will be created, punched out and included in the overall vote count.

In an effort to win for Al Gore, these officials will go so far to manufacture completely new voting cards. As we said yesterday, something is terribly, terribly wrong with this situation. Perhaps because of how far they are willing to go to deny victory to Governor Bush, Miami-Dade officials this morning voted to keep the press out of the room where the voting will be done.

They'll let the press peer through an obstructed window out of earshot, but they won't let the press in the room to hear, to see, to understand and to document what is really going on. If ever our nation needed a free press to keep a vigilant eye on the process, the time is now.

One final point, and that has to do with deadlines. You are seeing a great manifestation of why over the course of the history of this country, we have come to understand that deadlines are important. They're not always to be considered an exclusion of any other circumstance, but they are critically important to a process because we know in this human condition, if there are no deadlines, if there's no finality, there's no opportunity to bring about a guarantee of trustworthiness and that's precisely what's taking place in this instance.

If you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.


QUESTION: Are you alleging election fraud here in this case?

RACICOT: We're not alleging fraud in any way whatsoever when it comes to talking about the legal proceedings that are under consideration. We're talking about people and I don't have an exact count, but there are hundreds of them that are engaged in this process without explicit directions, using changing standards, and not entirely briefed on precisely what it is that they're supposed to do, using different methods and involved in different conditions with different challenges; and the collective judgment, the exercises of discretion, the mistakes, the inadvertence, the exhaustion, the negligence ultimately bears, in very profound ways upon the integrity of the process.

And that's what we tried to talk about from the very beginning. This is not a competent process. I've seen more stability, more predictability and more of a set of standards in place when you have a zoning hearing -- and in this instance we're electing the president of the United States of America.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Tom's question. Do you think the rule changes in Broward and the decisions made by the folks in Dade give you ample recourse should the votes for Gore materialize?

RACICOT: Well, you know, you can hypothesize until you're blue in the face about what might occur legally, but the fact of the matter is it's not wise to try and engage in some abstract theory about what might occur. The fact is, you have to make those legal judgments based upon the facts that exist at the time; and we know that the next legal step is to go before the Supreme Court tomorrow. Based upon the Supreme Court's ruling -- tomorrow there will be judgments that will be made about whether or not there will be any actions taken to address these particular issues.

QUESTIONS: Do you think the rule changes are fair -- do you think they...

RACICOT: No; the rule changes -- I don't think that people of this country, for a moment, think that these rule changes are fair. They know that there have to be principles. You know, even when you're a parent, which is, in my judgment, the most important thing we do on this planet, you set about to establish principles and you teach your children from the time they're very tiny that there are some rules that are immutable and there are some standards that we have to observe and have to apply evenly and fairly.

If there's anything that the American people know about almost innately, it's fairness. And I think that they're sensing very, very quickly that this process is just simply not fair and that it's not trustworthy.

QUESTION: Why do you assume that a dimpled ballot will be probably be a Gore ballot? Isn't it just us likely that a dimpled ballot could be for the governor?

RACICOT: I don't think we have to assume that. I think the important notion to reflect upon here is that the standards are constantly changing. There's never been a uniform standard from the very beginning. This lasted all the way through when it comes to talking which of these ballots are going to be counted and which ones are not.

Now, how can you assume contrary? You know, in any case where we set about to establish a fact, we begin with a demonstration of intent. It has to be something that's clear and convincing. You do that in virtually all of your affairs. If you went to the bank and somebody guessed about whether or not you sought to withdraw money, I don't think that you'd be too delighted with that circumstance. And in this particular case, we're electing a president; and we're going to try to divine out of thin air whether or not someone meant to poke a ballot all the way through when they didn't?

QUESTION: You seem to be suggesting that if you count dimpled ballots, where they're, quote, "not all the way through the hole," that this somehow is going to favor Vice President Gore.

RACICOT: I think Judge Lee said that. I was quoting Judge Lee. Now, we obviously don't know precisely what that process will produce, but you're in three very heavily Democrat counties and in some of these precincts you saw the votes go 20 to one and as high as 50 to one. Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's probably going to be the case whenever it is you take a look at those particular ballots, but we don't know the final result, you're absolutely correct in that regard.

Yes sir?

QUESTION: Texas law specifically allows for the counting of dimpled ballots in a hand recount of the Texas election. Why shouldn't the standards of Governor Bush's home state apply to his election...

RACICOT: Perhaps that's a good question for the Florida legislature at some future time. The fact of the matter is, in the state of Texas you have 14 precincts out of an excess of 500 that utilize this particular technique. Secondly, it's set by law. This was determined in Texas before the contest ever occurred. It would be used all the way through from beginning to end -- in Florida this has been a process that's been the subject of change from the very beginning to the point to where we are now, and in circumstances that suggest that people are being very, very opportunistic.

QUESTION: At one point you said you're not accusing the Democrats of fraud; at the same time you made very clear to us that eight of the nine people on these boards are Democrats -- only one Republican. And then you talked about changing of the rules. It seems like you are sort of hinting, suggesting...

RACICOT: In my judgment, fraud, when you speak about it in legal terms, requires a certain criminal intent associated with it. What we're talking about here are people, and there are probably a lot of very good and decent people. There are also a lot of very, very strong partisans -- these are sympathizers -- and they're going to look at facts in the light most favorable to themselves and to their cause; and through the exercise of this discretion from all of these different people that are involved in supporting this cause, you end up producing a result that is incredibly unfair.

But can you call it, legally, fraud? That's not what we have termed it at this point in time. It's certainly, ultimately, in our judgment, works a result that is totally unreliable.

Thank you.

RANDALL: Montana's Republican Governor Mark Racicot in Austin, Texas speaking for the Bush campaign. All of this in the run-up to tomorrow's crucial arguments -- oral arguments before the Florida state Supreme Court.

The Bush camp will argue that hand recounts should not be valid, those votes should not be part of the Florida tally. And Al Gore's campaign argument just the opposite, that the hand counts are fine under Florida law and the vote count should, in fact, be part of the statewide tally.

Let's go to Chris Black in Washington. She is tracking the Gore campaign.

I suppose there's no immediate reaction to Mark Racicot, who seems to be the man of the hour about this hour -- each day this weekend for the Republicans.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Gene, there is no immediate reaction. But I can tell you that Democrats are quite emphatic and quite convinced that the Republicans are systematically trying to discredit the recount process and they think it's because they're afraid. They're afraid of what the results will show.

Earlier today Joe Lieberman went on all five Sunday talk shows and he said that he thought the process was very fair and that everyone could see on television that these citizens in those three counties were very carefully counting these ballots. And he said that he and Al Gore did not want any vote that they did not deserve.

But the Democrats are also agreeing with the Republicans on one important point: they also do not like these shifting standards; and one of the things they're going to argue tomorrow before the Supreme Court of Florida is that the court should set an uniform standard; and, ironically, they're calling it the Texas standard. It's a standard that is set out, spelled out in Texas law -- a law that George W. Bush signed into law just three years ago. And it says that vote intent should rule and that an indented ballot should be what is important.

Now, what democratic operatives tell me who are on the ground there is that these voting machines have -- when the chads fall out over the course of day they build up inside the machine and that it's impossible, at a certain point, to push the stylus through because the chads block it. So they are hoping that the court will rule in their favor -- Gene.

RANDALL: Chris Black in Washington; thank you, Chris, very much.



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