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Special Event

Florida Recount: Miami-Dade County Canvassing Board Votes to End Recount

Aired November 22, 2000 - 1:11 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: From CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen, here today with Stephen Frazier as well.

We want to take you first live to Miami-Dade County, where the canvassing board is voting on how to proceed with the recount.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DAVID LEAHY, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: I'm going to also vote no for two reasons: I have twice...

(APPLAUSE)

LEAHY: I have twice voted no. In my opinion, there was no requirement, or it wasn't warranted, that we do a full manual recount, based on my administrative reading of the law. And, therefore, I voted twice no for a full manual recount.

When the board voted last week to have a full recount, I supported the decision. I've done everything I can do to carry out that decision of the majority of the board, but at this time I do not believe that there is time to carry out a complete, full manual recount that is accurate and that will count every vote, because of the limitations put on this board in terms of time.

So for both reasons, one, I do not think the full manual recount was warranted, and two, I do not believe that we have the ability to conduct a full, accurate recount. I would vote no.

LAWRENCE KING, CHAIRMAN, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: Thank you.

Judge Lehr, before -- so the media understands, we will remain a few minutes afterwards to answer questions, no matter what the vote. I know that whatever happens there may be some excitement in the room, but don't worry, we're not leaving.

Thank you.

Judge Lehr?

MYRIAN LEHR, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: I, too, am going to vote no, because I do agree with Judge King and... (CROSSTALK)

LEHR: I, too, am going to vote no. I do agree with Judge King and Mr. Leahy that it is not physically possible to continue with this task.

We do want to of course provide with an accurate count, and we cannot provide such an accurate count under the time guideline that we have available to us. And based on my last vote, I would have loved to provide the people of Dade County with a vote, but that's the best I can do this morning.

And I thank you all for your time and for your efforts to both parties, the Republican and Democratic Party. Thank you all for your efforts. Thank you.

KING: Thank you, Judge Lehr.

Before we leave, we'd like to ask that Mr. Leahy notify the secretary of state that it is the unanimous decision of this canvassing board that we will not be proceeding further with a manual recount, and that the certification of November 8, 2000, be the certification that is accepted by the secretary of state for the valid cast votes of Miami-Dade County.

LEAHY: I'll be glad to do that. Would it also be reasonable to notify Mr. Ginsburg (ph), the state Supreme Court, of the decision of this board, since we had previously notified them that we were beginning a hand recount?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you instruct me, I will provide whatever appropriate notification you wish.

LEAHY: Do you think that's appropriate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the Supreme Court is open to further petitions or notices, but I'll provide it if I'm instructed to by this board.

LEAHY: Well, simply then notify the secretary of state, as the chairman...

KING: All right. For those of you who are pressing forward, as you know, this room is very, very small, even as big as it may seem to you. We're going to answer questions for the media because we know, as we've always done, that everything be done in the wide open light of day, and that's what we have always done.

But it is very close quarters, and we wish that you all please just simply let us do so. If you want to stay for a few minutes, that's fine. But please don't press forward from where you are. If you'll be seated. And we're not just yet ready to answer the questions. We're going to set up and we'll stand here in front of the media. We would like -- yes, Mr. De Grandy?

MIGUEL DE GRANDY, GOP ATTORNEY: Sir, if I may -- if I may, sir, I would like you to know, on behalf of my client, I have done what I felt that I needed to do in an orderly and civilized system to press my client's case.

I would tell you, sir, on a personal basis that it is my judgment that although we have differed at times throughout these votes that you have at all times tried to do what is right and what is honorable, and for that, sir, we thank you.

ALLEN: All right, the Miami-Dade County canvassing board taking a vote to end the recount there. There will be no more counting of votes in Miami-Dade County, the largest county that was trying to get their votes hand recounted by the deadline that the state supreme court set up for Sunday. Apparently, it did not believed that that can happen. There had been discussions of recounting only the 10,000 ballots that were rejected by the machine count, because the machine considered them non-votes -- those being ballots that weren't totally marked through. But apparently, if we're understanding this correctly, the recount over is over in Miami-Dade County. We'll be talking with a correspondent there about that eventually.

For more news now, let's go over to Stephen.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Natalie, they decided not go ahead because of the physical impossibility of getting through all of the votes still left uncounted by hand. This is county which has flipped and flopped several times in the past few days. But this is a big development for the Bush campaign, so we're going to turn there next. It's also been a big day for them, because of the condition of their vice president. Just hours after the Florida Supreme Court decided that manual recounts should be included in the official tally, the number two man on the Bush-Cheney ticket, a man with a long history of heart problems, has been hospitalized.

The Texas governor responded to both the developments within the past hour, and CNN's Jeanne Meserve was listening as he did, and she joins us now from Austin with that.

Jeanne, have you been listening to this latest development out of Miami-Dade?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have been listening to it. Of course we have no reaction from the campaign as yet, but I'm sure they're pleased. There was a fear that if this recount went forward in Miami-Dade, a great many votes for Al Gore might turn up and might reduce or eliminate Governor Bush's margin that he currently holds over gore in the state of Florida.

On other subjects, the subject of Secretary Cheney and his stay at the hospital, a few moments ago, communications director Karen Hughes spoke with reporters. She revealed that Cheney had occasionally had chest pains over the years. None recently, she said. She also predicted that he would be in the hospital for just one or two days. That presuming, of course, that his condition no more serious than we currently think.

Governor Bush, as you mentioned, did speak to reporters a short time ago. He spoke with Secretary Cheney this morning. He said, described as very strong, said he speak to him again this afternoon; said he went to great length to illustrate that Secretary Cheney is still a player in this campaign, saying that they needed to stalk to strategize about the election and the election results.

At the moment, exactly what that strategy is remains something of a mystery. Governor Bush did not reveal what the next steps might be, but he really blasted the Florida State Supreme Court, saying they had exceeded their authority, rewritten the election laws, usurped the authority of Florida election officials, and he said, changed the rules after the election had been held.

He also a issued a challenge to Vice President Al Gore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Vice President Gore is seeking some common ground, I propose a good place to start. He should join me in calling upon all appropriate authorities in Florida to make sure that overseas military ballots that were signed and received on time count in this election. Our men and women in uniform overseas should not lose their right to vote. I hope the vice president will personally support me in this call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: The Bush campaign has been charging since Saturday that the Gore campaign was conducting a systematic effort to reject those military ballots, simply because they did not have postmarks.

Bush also reiterated something we heard repeatedly over the last two weeks, and that is that it is fundamentally unfair to be conducting recounts in only a couple of Florida counties. We do not know if this is setting the stage for a constitutional challenge, a federal court case, challenging what the Florida Supreme Court did last night, because we simply don't know exactly what the lawyers and Governor Bush are going to decide to do next.

He also reiterated something else we've heard, which is his belief that he and Secretary Cheney won the state of Florida fair and square, and these efforts to have recounts hand recounts, with changing standards, are simply an effort by the Gore campaign to undermine the legitimate result of this election -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: Jeanne, thanks so much for all those insights, and please don't go far. The way things are changing, we need you there in Austin.

Jeanne Meserve.

ALLEN: Well, election officials in Miami-Dade, as we just reported, decided just now they simply do not have time to manually recount every single ballot, so they won't be recounting any. Let's get more on this development from CNN's Frank Buckley, who is there.

Frank, what's going on? FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, I was in the room when this vote was taken, when the discussion began. This is a remarkable turnaround and is the fourth position that this canvassing board has taken. First last week, deciding not to do a recount. Over the weekend, deciding to go forward with a full recount. Earlier this morning, deciding to do only a recount of the so-called undervote. And then, today, just now, we have just a decision it will not do a hand count at all. The only vote total to go forward will be the certified vote from November 8th that was taken here by the canvassing board. A remarkable turnaround.

I can tell you inside as this vote was taken, after the second vote to stop with the idea of a manual recount was taken, that after the second vote was cast, Republicans in the room, in the back of the room, started high-fiving each other, they started hugging each other.

The Republican here clearly see this as a major victory. There are Republicans outside where I am now in front of the building holding up signs Bush-Cheney, and chanting. They feel like they have won a major victory here -- Natalie.

ALLEN: I was wondering who that was we could hear in the background there, Frank.

Why the decision, why the change, yet the vote we just saw in the past few minutes from the canvassing board to not count those undervoted ballots? Was it just an issue of time?

BUCKLEY: Well, what happened here was, as I understand it, the canvassing board wanted to move it's operation to the 19th floor, into the tabulation room, where they felt they could efficiently work to -- with just three members, move forward, and they though they could actually count all 10,750 votes by the Sunday deadline. After, you'll recall, the Republican observers here had a tremendous protest on the 19th floor outside of that tabulation room, there was a decision made, as well as members of the media were lodging protest with the canvassing board about the news media exclusion from that area. After that, the canvassing board made a decision to move operations back down to the 18th floor, which is accessible to the media, and accessible to the observers and the public; everyone could watch the process.

Now at some point between that decision being made and sometime this afternoon, there was apparently a discussion among those canvassing board members that led up to this hearing once again, on the -- in the 18th floor, which is what you were seeing a few minutes ago, when they decided to take arguments about whether or not to proceed. The sense was that David Leahy, the elections supervisor, could not guarantee that they would finish in time if they physically did the counting on 18th floor and tabulate on the 19th floor. That apparently was the decision of Leahy, and he wanted to express that to his fellow board members. Upon hearing that, the board felt that some of the 10,750 might not be counted in the end, and they felt that that was not fair, and that's what led to this 3-0 vote to simply go forward with the votes certified to date.

ALLEN: What a day so far in Miami. And logistics being apparently a big part of what has happened there.

Any reaction from the Democratic lawyers who made an appeal before the canvassing board?

BUCKLEY: Well, I suspect we will get that fairly quickly. So far, nothing.

I did see some of the Democrats who are here. And the way it's set up here, there's a camp of Republicans, there's a camp of Democrats, they actually have staging areas right next to each other, inside this building, and I suspect that we will hear very soon from the Democrats as to whether or not they will try to appeal this on some level, or exactly what their next move will be -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Frank Buckley who's there amidst the action. We thank you. We'll be talking with you further, and we'll be exploring this turn of events in Miami-Dade County throughout this afternoon. And when we come back here, we'll also talk about what's going on in Palm Beach County and Broward.

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