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The Florida Recount: Gore Attorneys File Suit in State Supreme Court to Make Miami-Dade County Hand Count Ballots

Aired November 23, 2000 - 11:29 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Tallahassee, now, live where we want to listen to the words coming from Craig Waters.

CRAIG WATERS, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SPOKESMAN: Vice President Gore's attorneys filed a petition for a writ of mandamus and other matters in this case. The justices, of course, are in various locations because of the holidays. We are now faxing them copies, getting them copies, doing everything we can to get them the information in this material. The court will rule as expeditiously as it can under the circumstances. I just don't know when that will be at this particular point in time. I will stay here to keep you posted and let you know when and if anything comes up.

Do you have any questions?

QUESTION: Craig, is it possible that they will get on a conference call today and potentially rule today on this (OFF-MIKE)?

WATERS: That is possible; I can't rule it out. But, again, we just don't know for sure.

QUESTION: Does it require all the justices to be involved?

WATERS: We will try to have all the justices involved. I believe Justice Pariente is actually on an aircraft at the present time, and so that does pose a problem.

QUESTION: By law do they have (OFF-MIKE)?

WATERS: By law, five members of the court must participate for any action. That's the quorum for the court.

HARRIS: I'm sorry, we've apparently lost the audio there. That was Craig Waters, the spokesperson for the Florida state Supreme Court. Earlier this morning we had reported that lawyers for Al Gore had filed a -- let's go back, now, to Craig Waters.

WATERS: ... circumstances; and the material is not yet on our World Wide Web site. We'll get it there as soon as we possibly can. We are trying to make paper copies of the petition but, again, all of our staff has scattered to their family reunions and Thanksgivings. We hope we'll be able to have enough paper copies of the petition itself to get out to all of you here. If the court does issue an order, however, we may not be able to make sufficient paper copies, but we will post on the World Wide Web.

QUESTION: How long is the document?


WATERS: I just had a question, how long the document was. I believe it was in the high 20-page range; I just skimmed through it, myself.


WATERS: Right; at 10:05 a.m. this morning, Vice President Gore's attorneys filed a petition for a writ of mandamus and seeking other relief here in the court. The court now has the matter under advisement. We have been contacting the justices, wherever they are located, making sure that they get copies of this petition to read. The court is aware of the urgency of this particular matter and will be doing the best it can to come up with a determination as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: How many of them are in town?

WATERS: I don't know how many of the justices are in town.

QUESTION: We don't know if they're going to grant a hearing (OFF-MIKE).

WATERS: This is simply the filing of a petition; and it is possible for the court to actually deny a petition based on its face -- if they determine that, facially, it's not sufficient for any further action.

QUESTION: How many justices (OFF-MIKE)?

WATERS: A quorum of the court, which is the absolute minimum that must participate is five.

QUESTION: But you don't know how many of them are actually in Tallahassee?

WATERS: No, I do not know how many of them are here in Tallahassee today. I've only been able to actually speak with the chief justice and with Justice Anstead.


WATERS: I'm sorry, Joe, I can't hear you.

QUESTION: If they don't deny it on it's face, will they ask for a (OFF-MIKE)?

WATERS: That would be the usual procedure. If they decide not to deny it on its face, normally the other side would be given an opportunity to respond.

QUESTION: Are Justice Wells and Justice Anstead in Tallahassee? WATERS: Justice Anstead is in Tallahassee. But I'm not sure -- I know I was calling Justice Wells in south Florida, but I'm not sure exactly where he is.

Any further questions? OK, thank you. I will come back out here again whenever we know anything more. Right, we'll try to give you at least five minutes' warning, OK.

WATERS: All right, we've been listening to Craig Waters, spokesman for the Florida state Supreme Court. As we were saying moments ago, earlier this morning, about an hour and a half ago, almost exactly, lawyers for Vice President Al Gore had filed with the state Supreme Court a petition to try to get the Miami-Dade County canvassing board to begin -- or, actually, restart their process of recounting ballots.

They've actually stopped doing so. They say they will not have enough time to meet the court-imposed deadline of Sunday at 5:00 p.m. to complete the process; therefore they don't want to count anymore ballots unless they're given more time to do so.

And the Democrats have now filed a petition to get them to begin the counting process now. And we are just -- we just now heard that the court is in the process, now, of trying to track down all of the judges. They're at various points around the country, we understand, because it is the holiday -- they're out trying to visit their own families. We understand that the court is going to get at least five members of the panel of judges to gather to make a decision on this; and they expect they will be able to do so rather expeditiously.

Let's see if we can go now to CNN's Kate Snow who was standing by, listening to all this -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, I think it's interesting to note, when I asked Craig Waters here if they could potentially do this by a conference call, his answer was yes -- that they could get five of the justices, that's a quorum -- if they got five of them on a phone call, they could actually discuss this.

He said that they are faxing copies as we speak to the various justices. Again, as you mentioned, they don't know exactly where all of them are. He did mentioned Justice Pariente, he believes, is on a plane right now trying to go somewhere for her Thanksgiving dinner. So they're trying to locate all the justices, get them the information of the Gore filing and try to see if they might be able to do something, maybe, potentially, as soon as today, on Thanksgiving Day.

At very end he was asked, wouldn't the other side be given a chance to respond? And he said, yes, typically that would occur. So we imagine we might even hear something today from the Bush side responding to this.

Let me back up and tell what you what it is the Gore legal team has done here today. Earlier this morning, three lawyers for Vice President Al Gore showed up here at the state Supreme Court. They're asking the Florida Supreme Court for what's known as a writ of mandamus -- that is, something that would order the county of Miami- Dade to restart its counting. They want the Supreme Court to issue that writ, saying, look, you need to start counting those ballots again.

Now, a spokesman for the vice president said that they realize that there might not be enough time by Sunday at 5:00 for Miami-Dade to do that recount -- to recount the entire county and, certainly, hundreds of thousands of votes to get through. So, they have said that, at least if Miami could start with those 10,000 under-votes that they mentioned yesterday, that originally, yesterday, they were going to start counting -- the Gore team saying they want them to start with those 10,000, get as far as they can.

In their filing today they also -- they don't ask for the deadline to be expanded, but they do suggest that, perhaps, if it comes down to be Sunday night and it looks like Miami-Dade can't get very far that, perhaps, the court might want to reconsider that 5:00 deadline on Sunday.

Why does the Gore team think that it can do this? Well, they think they have standing -- they think Florida law requires counties, they say, under Florida law, to, if they're asked for a recount, to sample 1 percent of their vote. And you remember, Miami-Dade did that, they sampled 1 percent. And if they find discrepancies, then they have to go ahead and recount the entire county. So the argument from the Gore attorneys is that Miami-Dade, under Florida law, needs to be counting and they ought to get started.

I did ask spokesman Doug Hattaway, what about the fact that it's Thanksgiving. You're saying you want to bring all those volunteers back into Miami-Dade to continue on Thanksgiving? And he said, well, look, we're here on Thanksgiving. This work has got to be done -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes, and we have been hearing all day yesterday about how Craig Waters had to get home to his Aunt Ethel (ph) for Thanksgiving, and we see he's still there.

Let me ask you something about whether or not the Republicans are actually going to go there and make a filing on behalf of George W. Bush. Have you seen anyone from the Republican camp or have you heard anything about whether or not they're going to have their open filing in response?

SNOW: I have not seen anyone here yet today. I should tell you, this crowd around me formed within the last hour, I'd say. I mean, no one was really expecting that the court might receive this document today. So whether or not the Republicans are planning on filing anything, I don't know yet, at this point. We'll certainly be checking in with them, though -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right; good deal, and we'll check back with you, too. Kate Snow, happy holiday, thanks much -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, Patty Davis is with the Gore campaign. In fact, she's standing right outside the vice president's mansion today covering this aspect of the story.

Patty, clearly they must see it as a good sign, at least, that the court is taking all this time and trouble to try to fax this petition to the different justices and try to get them on a conference call today.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the Gore campaign wants this recount to go forward as soon as possible. Obviously, if it can get Miami-Dade recounting -- doing those hand counts again -- that's a good thing. And like Kate was saying, they can start with those under-counts, those are 10,000-plus under-counts. If they start there and they can show that they're making progress, perhaps they can get an extension, and perhaps they can add to Vice President Al Gore's vote totals.

The Gore camp saying that they need Miami-Dade. You know, they're not a lot of huge gains being made so far in Palm Beach and Broward, although Gore officials remain optimistic that those votes will come through. But they know that they need Miami-Dade to come through for them, so they're really pressing ahead on this.

LIN: Your sense, Patty, is -- from the campaign -- your sense is that if they still don't have enough votes by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, that they are going to go the extra mile and, perhaps, petition the court to extend that deadline?

DAVIS: Well, in this court briefing -- the brief -- what I have been told by Gore sources is that they suggest to the court that that's an option. That you could give Miami-Dade an extension here; and what the sources tell me is that, in fact, if they are shown to be making progress in that county that, perhaps, the justices would go along with it and grant an extension. The Gore attorneys are saying in that brief, that it's totally up to the justices, but they're suggesting it.

LIN: All right, thank you very much; Patty Davis reporting live from Washington, D.C.

And, of course, the Bush campaign already petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the counts altogether.

HARRIS: Carol, speaking of the Bush campaign, let's check and see what's happening in the Bush camp.

Our Tony Clark standing by in Austin, Texas this Halloween -- this Halloween, listen to me -- I'm getting my holidays mixed up. No, it's Thanksgiving Day -- Tony.

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, no doubt the Bush campaign is ready for any action that may happen in the Florida state Supreme Court. I'm no lawyer but, you know, they're -- my assumption is they will simply have to wait to hear whether or not the Florida state Supreme Court decides to take the case on, the Gore filing or not.

But they have argued all along over the past few days that Miami- Dade, the activities there, were unwarranted; that they should stay with the November 8 count, should not do a recount. In fact, Barry Richard, one of the attorneys for the Bush campaign was on last night and he said, you know, the Miami-Dade officials, election officials, have gone back and forth. And it is very similar to the kind of argument that we heard them put before the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, where they described activities in Florida as being like a circus, bordering on anarchy, changing the rules time and time again.

And I think Governor Bush made it quite clear yesterday -- his feelings about the Florida state Supreme Court trying to write new rules, change the rules after the election is over. So I think one can assume that, should the Florida state Supreme Court take this case on, that the Gore campaign has brought, that the Bush campaign will be ready to fight it all the way -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thanks much, Tony Clark reporting live this morning from Austin, Texas.



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