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Special Event

Election 2000: Reps. Diaz-Balart, Sweeney Deliver Statements on Florida Recount

Aired November 20, 2000 - 7:37 a.m. ET

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

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: Congressmen Lincoln Diaz-Balart is now speaking in Miami. He is a Republican Congressman from Florida. We'll listen to what he has to say.

REP. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: I have full respect personally for the individuals involved, and the issue is not one of the individuals involved in this process, the issue is one of the total lack of standards that exists in the state of Florida with regard to manual hand counts. Manual hand counts are admittedly seeking to discern the intent of voters when, in many instances, the voters did not vote for a particular race.

And when one thinks about the fact that we have already had a count, Governor Bush won; we had a recount, Governor Bush won; and then we've had a series, pursuant to the requests of the Gore campaign, of manual recounts; and now one is going to -- has begun here in Miami-Dade County.

And every time that the ballots are touched, they are inevitably, inevitably, by being handled, at risk -- at risk of being changed, of being altered, both manually, and every time that they are passed through the machine I, personally, saw when I walked in there yesterday, countless chad, those small pieces of cardboard, on the floor and coming out of each of the counting machines.

So the issue is not one of the intent, much less the integrity of the individuals involved in these counts. The issue is one of the fact that inevitably, these counts alter, change, put at risk, the actual ballots each time that they are counted and recounted and recounted. And so it is very disturbing when one realizes that there is a total lack of standards with regard to the to discernment of the intent of the voter. And that is what is happening here and it is extremely disturbing.

In addition, I think that all Americans should be bothered by the fact that more than a third of the votes from overseas -- in many, if not most, instances by our servicemen and women were discarded and not counted in the state of Florida. Here in Miami-Dade County, of those votes that came in through the federal statute, that followed the federal statue, because there are two types of absentee ballots that you can obtain here in Florida.

One is, for example, if a Miami-Dade resident is going to be on vacation on election day and he or she seeks -- obtains an absentee ballot directly from the elections department that is one category of the ballot that he or she can obtain.

If you are stationed abroad, for example, if you are going to be a long period of time outside of Florida, in many instances, when you go to your American -- nearest American consulate or embassy you receive your absentee ballot though the federal statute that provides you access to an absentee ballot.

Of those absentee ballots that came pursuant to the federal statute -- that were obtained pursuant to the federal statute and sent to your -- to Miami-Dade County, I was informed that of 113 that were received, 110 were discarded and not counted. That is something that is extremely bothersome and that I think should worry, should concern every American.

And so due to what has happened to the votes of our men and women in uniform overseas many, if not most, of whom were not counted -- their will was not counted, was not registered in this election. And due to the total lack of standards that exists in these constant recounts that are being sought by the Gore campaign, I think that all Americans have reason to be worried today.

Mr. Sweeney.

REP. JOHN SWEENEY (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Lincoln.

I thank my colleague for inviting me to be here as you -- as most of you who were here know that yesterday I was here as well to witness first hand the beginning of the manual recount here in Miami-Dade County. And the results in our observations led us to greater skepticism and a greater awareness that manual recounts in and of themselves are inherently flawed, that the delicate nature of ballots, and the process itself, puts those ballots in great jeopardy. That is why we are here.

Ronald Reagan said to trust, but to verify, and I think that that sums up what our intent here is today. We want to trust, we want to make sure that this process is there, too much is at stake for America. But we also require and demand that we verify.

Today, we go to the next phase of this process that will begin the counting, and we hope it is a pure counting. As Lincoln pointed out, we are quite concerned that there are no written objective standards to be applied here.

Yesterday, I pointed out that we were concerned at the effect on voters and votes individually of that standard, but we hope, we hold out the hope that today indeed we will have a true counting of votes and not indeed a creation of votes.

Also today, I think we want to insure that our observers are going to be given a full opportunity to observe and to insure that they can protect the interests that we seek to have protected here. That means that they will have full view and full witness, not only of what counters are accumulating, but also the three commissioners and their crucial votes.

And finally, we are here to make sure and we ask that the counters be impartial, objective and trained. And we would like a list of those counters as well.

I mentioned yesterday that I have done a number of these kinds of recounts throughout, and especially in New York city, where you have vast numbers of peoples and peoples' votes being counted and the kind of, I guess you would call it, mass chaos or organized chaos that you tend to have in a recount of this size. But one of the critical roles and one of the critically important elements of all of this is the reality of impartiality and objectivity in this process, so that people can be secure in knowing that, indeed, what is happening here are the right things.

I remain skeptical and reserved about the whole notion of whether a manual recount, after we've done one machine count and one machine recount, and they have already weakened those ballots, can be achieved without some controversy. But we are hopeful, at least, today, as we begin this process, that clearer minds will prevail and that we will be able to obtain that.

I want to make one final point on the military ballots. I think it is important to note that it was, I believe, part of an organized effort on the Gore campaign, I believe there is even documentation to that effect, to go after those military ballots. That is unconscionable.

Yesterday my colleague Rob Portman (ph) pointed out that in Broward County, for example, I believe something like 30 felons who were allowed to vote, while we were challenging 1,400 military ballots, based on postmarks. That's not in this America and that is not the way we ought to be conducting these recounts.

But we are hopeful today. We are hopeful that we are going to be able to move to a new phase and move this process along in a fair, objective and impartial manner.

Thank you.

STOUFFER: And you have been listening live to two Republican representatives speaking in Miami, Florida. You heard from Representative John Sweeney just there, he says he is hopeful that today we will move onto a new stage. Before him, Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a representative of Florida, spoke. He says he finds this whole hand count process disturbing. And he says every time the those ballots are touched they are at risk of being changed.

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