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Special Event

Broward County Canvassing Board Sorts Through Disputed Ballots

Aired November 23, 2000 - 9:26 a.m. ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're hearing there may be some breaking news coming out of the Gore camp now. Let's go to Washington.

CNN's Patty Davis standing by -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, CNN has learned that the Gore campaign lawyers are headed to Florida Supreme Court to file their appeal to get Miami-Dade County to do a hand recount. That filing is expected in just a few minutes time at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time this morning.

Among the arguments the Gore campaign will be making is that the original -- in its original count, Miami-Dade said that there were problems, there were discrepancies. So what the Gore campaign is saying is that under Florida law they are now required to go back and do a hand recount. And that's among the arguments that they will be making when that case actually does come before the Florida court.

Of course, that will be in its briefing that -- in its brief that it is filing this morning in just a couple of minutes at Florida Supreme Court -- Leon. HARRIS: Well, Patty, is that to say, then, that the Gore people think that the Miami-Dade County officials can actually complete that hand count by Sunday? They know the deadline imposed by the Florida Supreme Court was for Sunday at, what, 5:00 p.m., to get all the count done and have the vote tallies finally certified.

DAVIS: That's a really good question. If you are talking about hundreds of thousands of votes that would have to be retallied by that time, it's a good question, as to why the Gore camp is pressing this. But the bottom line here is that they need Miami-Dade. There could be a lot of votes to help put Vice President Al Gore over -- help him overtake Texas Governor George W. Bush.

You have Broward. You have Palm Beach County coming in with a certain number of votes. But Miami-Dade could really be a mother-load if they can get that attached to -- and those new numbers put in there for the final vote tally.

HARRIS: Yes. Well, one final question for you: Do you know whether or not what they are asking the Supreme Court to do also includes having anybody -- having the count in Miami-Dade include all of the pregnant chads or whatever those disputed ballots that were not totally punched all the way through, as well?

DAVIS: We don't know exactly what is going to be in that briefing. Last night, there was a briefing by Gore legal advisers when they were challenging it in the court where they lost last night making the argument about the fact that there were discrepancies in the original count, and that they were going to fight -- their argument was going to be that you needed to go back and recount again -- hand recount under Florida Law.

We just don't know what exactly is going to be in this filing. But hopefully we'll be able to get a copy of it today and find the answers out, Leon.

HARRIS: All right, good deal. Thanks, Patty. Good work. We'll get back to you a little bit later on. We'll also be talking in just a couple minutes to Roger Cossack, who is getting ready to stand by for us in Washington, too -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in the meantime, while all these discrepancies are being working out, counting is continuing though today,in fact, on this Thanksgiving day in Broward County, as well as a meeting by the canvassing board down there on a rules dispute.

Susan Candiotti is standing by down there with the latest -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Carol.

Actually, the counting, the consideration of these dimpled ballots is under way and did begin at the top of the hour. Let's take a live picture now of what is going on. They are evaluating already approximately 2,000 undervotes. These include dimpled ballots, where the stylus didn't go all the way through. The board will also have to deal with some ballots where a voter failed to make a hole in the card, but instead circle the hole with a pen or a pencil.

There are three members of the canvassing board: two Democrats, one Republican. They hold up the ballot. They discuss it. Let's listen for a few minutes to see what we can pick up.

JUDGE ROBERT ROSENBERG, BROWARD COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: What about the other 12 bunches in the pile. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ROBERT W. LEE, BROWARD COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: Well, and then, actually, there's another one here and another one here that aren't. So I agree with the commissioner and 5A-9 is a vote for Al Gore. That's plus one Gore; 5A-11, a slight dimple on the three spot. Judge Rosenberg.

ROSENBERG: It cannot be ascertained with reasonable certainty.

SUSAN GUNZBURGER, BROWARD COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: I disagree on this one, because it's pushed more than a slight. And there is slight visible in the bottom. And the talk -- I have read some of the opinions that says when there is light visible that it is a punch for a candidate. ROSENBERG: I don't see it.

LEE: I don't see any light visible.

ROSENBERG: Visible. Hold it up.

LEE: To the light.

ROSENBERG: You can see it.

LEE: All right.

GUNZBURGER: Turn it around and look through the bottom.

LEE: Oh, you're right. You can see it. All right. I agree with the commissioner: 5A-11 is a vote for Gore. That is plus two Gore on precinct. What is that -- yes, 5A. Now to 7A -- 7A only has two disputed ballots: 14 and 18 -- 14 of a couple of dimples. Let me look at the numbers. I'm sorry.

ROSENBERG: It's OK.

GUNZBURGER: This is very similar to the last one we did. And let me look at the others. There are some others that they pushed and didn't get through. And C-41 is a Democratic vote; 44 is a Democratic vote.

LEE: Twenty-one.

ROSENBERG: What is the relevancy of the other votes being Democratic or Republican or mixed? That is not the pattern that is before us, is it?

GUNZBURGER: Judge Rosenberg, I will answer briefly that if there were Democrats and Republicans, I'd be more troubled than if it's straight Democratic or straight Republican.

ROSENBERG: But is it the pattern you are looking for or the punching pattern, as opposed to...

LEE: I think that it's both.

ROSENBERG: .. the pattern for the other candidate.

LEE: I think that it's both. I think looking at the totality of the ballot, you have to look at both.

ROSENBERG: But the point that you made earlier (INAUDIBLE) You can't see it.

LEE: It's very clear that there are two punches on the 3 and 21 spots.

ROSENBERG: That doesn't

(CROSSTALK) LEE: No. So I believe, based on that, that this is, with reasonable certainty, the voter intended to vote for Gore. And does the commissioner agree?

GUNZBURGER: I agree.

ROSENBERG: I disagree. There's no certainty.

LEE: 7-A -- 8 -- I believe that it's 18 is the next one. Is it 19?

HARRIS: What we are looking now is the work of the Broward canvassing board. And -- we just -- the camera just moved away from was the governor of Montana, Mark Racicot, who has been quite critical and quite vocal in his criticism of this recount process. He has said a number of times that he believes that Democrats are trying to steal the election there in Florida.

But it appears as though this room is a very -- it seems as though this process is proceeding in a rather orderly fashion and a rather deliberate fashion as well, which is quite different from the characterizations that we have been hearing when these men have left the room and come outside to our cameras and our microphones. Let's see if we can bring in Susan Candiotti to ask her about that.

Susan, what is your impression about the process that we've seen so far? Is this typically the way it's been going inside of that room?

CANDIOTTI: Yes, Leon.

You and our viewers are having a unique opportunity, certainly. Imagine seeing this kind of thing for the very first time on a nationwide basis in what has been a very steady and methodical process throughout. This is the ninth day they have been engaged in this recount here in Broward County. As I said, there are two Democrats on this board, one Republican. All the members are trying to keep this as fair and impartial as they possibly can, as they pick up each and every ballot, look them over, discuss it, and, at times, debate it, to determine -- try to figure out what a voter was intending to do.

And you see, in some case, it's easier -- in some cases, it's easier than others to try to make that determination. If there is disagreement, if no one can decide which way a voter is going, they will reject the ballot. That has what has been decided, the standards they are using by this canvassing board. And there has been considerable debate about all of this over the past several days: Republicans trying to shut down the process altogether because they say this is an impossible situation; the Democrats arguing that, in many cases, when you look at these ballot cards, it -- if you -- if you try to determine a voter's intent, it is not as difficult as one might seem when you look at the card in its entirety.

And so you can see for yourselves what is going on there, as they try to work this process out. They announced a little while ago that about 190 of 609 precincts -- there were no disputes in those cases. And so, also in this courtroom, watching all of this go on, are observers from both the Democratic and the Republican Party. But as the canvassing board member told me this morning, they have no role in this.

They can -- they might protest later. But it's up to the board to make the final decision about what a voter was intending to do -- Leon.

HARRIS: And Susan, by my count, I should also mention that it looks there's some 25, maybe 30 people in that room. It's kind of hard to see how anyone could be doing any cheating or how any ballots could disappear or be altered if 25 or 30 people are looking on as the process is taking place.

CANDIOTTI: Leon, that is what has been happening each and every day. It's being conducted in a very professional matter from days and days of watching this procedure going on. You have people sitting in very close proximity to the process, as you know. And you've got members of the media watching it as well -- observers from both parties. And so I -- certainly, this isn't being done in the dark by any means.

HARRIS: All right. Good deal. We'll let you get back to your watching then. Thanks much -- Susan Candiotti reporting live this morning from Broward County, Florida.

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