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Election 2000: Gore Camp Goes Back to Florida's Supreme Court and Loses

Aired November 24, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN special report.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to wish everybody, all of my friends and family, a happy Thanksgiving. I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The recount battle doesn't quite take a holiday as the Gore camp goes back to Florida's supreme court and loses.


CRAIG WATERS, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SPOKESMAN: No motion for rehearing will be allowed.




CHEN: This may be what the election comes down to, thousands of disputed ballots in one Florida county. And Dick Cheney spends Thanksgiving in the hospital.

Welcome to this special report, the Florida recount.

Good evening from CNN Center. I'm Joie Chen.

On this Thanksgiving holiday, counting blessings gave way to counting ballots in Florida, although not in Miami-Dade County. This afternoon the state supreme court there denied a Gore campaign request that it force the Miami-Dade hand count to continue. Now the Gore campaign indicates it will file a different kind of legal challenge called a "contest" to the Miami-Dade results.

Also today, Gore attorneys filed papers with the U.S. Supreme Court replying to the Bush campaign's effort to have the Justice stop the Florida recounts.

George W. Bush's official statewide lead is still 930 votes, although the latest canvassing board reports give Vice President Gore a net gain of 225 votes in Broward County and Governor Bush a 14-vote gain in Palm Beach County, putting Bush's official lead now -- unofficial lead at 719 votes.

Still outstanding are about 1,700 disputed ballots in Broward County and some 300,000 ballots plus 10,000 disputed ballots in Palm Beach County.

A Gore attorney says the campaign still believes it will garner enough votes in Broward and Palm Beach Counties to go over the top. And as we mentioned, lawyers for the Gore campaign now say they fully expect to challenge the Miami-Dade County results.

Still, as CNN's Kate Snow tells us, there was no disguising the Gore camp's disappointment with the Florida supreme court's latest decision.


WATERS: And the writ is denied without prejudice to any party raising any issue presented in the writ in any future proceeding.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With that, Vice President Al Gore's petition to the Florida supreme court rejected. Early Thursday, attorneys for Gore had asked the court to order the canvassing board in Miami-Dade County to continue with its recount of ballots, that after county officials, in a stunning reverse Wednesday, had decided to stop the counting.

Gore's legal team wrote, "Determining the will of the voters cannot be frustrated by the whim of local officials." Lawyers for the vice president said the court should force Miami-Dade to at least recount the more than 10,000 so-called "under-votes," ballots not counted for either candidate by machine. Representatives of Governor George W. Bush accused the Gore team of praising the canvassing board one minute and attacking them the next.

MINDY TUCKER, BUSH PRESS SECRETARY: The campaign on the other side is willing to -- to do whatever it takes to make sure these counts go on and the votes get counted as many times as possible until they get the result that they want.

SNOW: Even though most of the supreme court justices never made it into the courthouse on this Thanksgiving Day, six of the seven were rounded up on conference calls, sent faxes of the Gore petition. By mid-afternoon, their decision was made. They would not order Miami- Dade County to resume counting.

RON KLAIN, GORE LEGAL ADVISER: Of course we're disappointed. We'd like to see these votes counted sooner rather than later. But the supreme court today made it clear that in rejecting our request to order a count now, they were leaving open the path for us to get those votes counted later. SNOW (on camera): Attorneys for Al Gore say their next step is to file a contest of the election results in Miami-Dade County some time before Monday morning. They say they don't feel they need the votes in Miami-Dade, but that they want every vote to be counted. Republicans called that strategy "extraordinary" and said they wouldn't be surprised if Democrats refused to back the vice president.

Kate Snow, CNN, Tallahassee.


CHEN: And as the Gore camp readies for the fight over a recount in Miami-Dade, CNN's Patty Davis tonight runs down the Gore legal team's options.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Gore campaign, a very clear signal this will not be over soon. The vice president's legal team reacted quickly to the Florida supreme court's decision not to force Miami-Dade County to continue its manual recount.

KLAIN: We will certainly contest, if, indeed, as they've said they're going to, the Miami-Dade board files a return of votes that's incomplete, that leaves out thousands and thousands of ballots of people who went to the polls and voted and have a right to have their votes counted.

DAVIS: That means Gore would not concede the election if Florida certifies its results and declares George W. Bush the winner. The Gore campaign says it still believes the vice president can gain enough votes in the hand recounts to win Florida. But the move seems certain to keep the battle between Gore and Bush mired in the courts for now.

Gore's legal team said it believed the Florida supreme court had given it the leeway to file this challenge when it ruled earlier this week that hand recounts should be included in the state's final vote tally. While pursuing its legal options, the Gore campaign is working to keep public sentiment on its side. A Gore legal adviser turned attention back on Florida's Republican secretary of state, Katherine Harris.

KENDALL COFFEY, DEMOCRATIC PARTY ATTORNEY: I don't think any certification by the Florida secretary of state is going to convince a whole lot of people that it's anything beyond a partisan act.

DAVIS: The Gore campaign isn't fighting only in state court, it's opposing Bush's petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court to end Florida's recount. The Gore team says it's a state issue.

(on camera): For his part, the vice president remained behind the scenes at his official residence in Washington, celebrating Thanksgiving. But aide say he was fully involved in Thursday's decision and gave the go ahead to challenge the Florida Supreme Court. Patty Davis, CNN, Washington.


CHEN: Meantime, Governor Bush spent the holiday with friends and family in Austin, Texas. Although the Bush camp says it is pleased with today's Florida supreme court ruling, it also recognizes that the fight for the White House may be far from over. CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Austin.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A morning jog, seasonal wishes...


BUSH: I'm going to have to -- I'm going to wish everybody, all of my friends and family, a happy Thanksgiving. I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.


CROWLEY: A Thanksgiving meal with friends and a get-away to his ranch in Crawford. George Bush passed a pretty typical holiday, albeit within the confines of a once-in-a-lifetime election season. As Bush enjoyed the lull between court cases, a senior aide reacted to official word from the Gore camp that even if the vote tally Sunday is certified with George Bush as the winner, Al Gore will not concede.

"Today is Thanksgiving," said spokesman Ari Fleischer. "That is probably the last thing the American people want to hear on a day like this."

Privately, a senior Bush aide called the Gore camp's statement "extraordinary" and suggested the vice president might be on his own if he refuses to accept a Sunday certified victory for Bush. It is not at all clear, said the aide, that Gore allies on the Hill will support that action.

Still, Bush aides refuse to say whether the Texas governor would concede Sunday should Al Gore win the recount. Said one, "I'm just not going to speculate on that."

On the legal front, there are three irons in the fire: an appeal to the United States Supreme Court to stop the recount, a bid one Bush source called "an admitted long shot," and there are appeals in a federal and a Florida court to force 13 counties to accept overseas military ballots that were signed and dated.

The Gore camp has enjoyed the concept of the Bush team trying to stop a recount in the Supreme Court and force recounts for military ballots. But irony is a game two can play.

TUCKER: Al Gore was very praiseworthy of the canvassing boards. He was very praiseworthy of the supreme court decision. Yet since then, he has sued one of those canvassing boards and he's asked the supreme court to change their mind. And I just think it shows that they're -- the campaign on the other side is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure these counts go on and the votes get counted as many times as possible until they get the result that they want.

CROWLEY (on-camera): As the holiday season begins, it is as uncertain as ever when the election season will end. Both sides seem entrenched. One source close to the Bush legal team says there has been, quote, "no, none, zero, zero" discussions about the circumstances under which George Bush would back away.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Austin.


CHEN: Next up in our special report: the counties where they will be counting and where there could be fireworks tomorrow.


CHEN: As we continue our special look at the Florida recount, we consider the two Florida counties where the hand counts will resume tomorrow. CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Broward County, where officials are close to being finished.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trying to decide what a voter intended when a machine could not, Broward County's canvassing board slowly, methodically peering into ballots and then making a decision.

UNIDENTIFIED CANVASSING BOARD MEMBER: Oh, you're right. You can see. I agree with the commissioner, 5A-11 is a vote for Gore.

UNIDENTIFIED CANVASSING BOARD MEMBER: The supreme court said "clear intent." Here is a clear intent, when you write George Bush.

CANDIOTTI: Vice President Gore benefited the most. Of the 327 ballots evaluated, Gore won 88. The vice president's net gain in Broward so far, a total of 225 votes. There were 2-to-1 decisions among the two Democrats and one Republican on the board, but not always along party lines. The board got along, but a GOP attorney whose role was to observe, not participate, was nearly ejected when he wouldn't be quiet.

WILLIAM SCHERER, REPUBLICAN ATTORNEY: You know, you can kick me out of here, if you want to, but when you're counting those votes, you're contrary to Pullin (ph), and I'm going to try to make a record of it.

UNIDENTIFIED CANVASSING BOARD MEMBER: Then why don't you excuse yourself, sir, before I have you removed, OK?

SCHERER: I think I'd like to have you have me removed, please.

UNIDENTIFIED CANVASSING BOARD MEMBER: OK. Deputy, would you please escort Mr. Scherer from the courtroom?

CANDIOTTI: At that point, court security approached the lawyer before tempers cooled and he was allowed to stay. Republicans continue to insist the process cannot be trusted.

SCHERER: ... a little dimple for Gore with a little bit of light showing through -- they're counting that as a vote.

CANDIOTTI: Democrats contend deciding a voter's intent is not, in their words, "rocket science."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's literally intent of the voter that they're looking at one by one, card by card, to ascertain that intent.

CANDIOTTI (on-camera): But can Democrats gain enough ground to overtake George Bush's lead? Not likely without help from Palm Beach County. In the morning, work resumes here. A 12-hour day is planned as Sunday's deadline gets closer.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Fort Lauderdale.


CHEN: In Palm Beach County, the Republicans and Democrats still have more than a quarter million ballots to fight over. CNN's Jeff Flock is in West Palm Beach, where today's holiday quiet may just have been the calm before the storm.


JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A tarp over the microphones, a solitary protester, the hurricane door to the Palm Beach County emergency operations center mostly shut, the eye of the storm of what some have called "Hurricane Chad." This was the last of the vote counting, 462,000 ballots now done, very little change in the totals so far.

But an ambiguous ruling by circuit court judge Jorge Labarga on the issue of dimpled ballots has left the fate of perhaps 10,000 disputed ballots up in the air. The Gore side wants them in.

JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: And if you have to, you know, put it up like this to see something, their argument is that's a vote.

FLOCK: Election judge Charles Burton and the rest of the canvassing board will make the final call. This is what it'll look like Friday morning, the three-member board going over each disputed ballot by hand, ultimately voting on which side -- hole number 3 for Bush or 5 for Gore -- gets the vote.


BURTON: Unanimous. No objections.

FLOCK: The board includes Carol Roberts, who earlier said she was willing to go to jail over the recount, Theresa LePore, author of Palm Beach County's controversial butterfly ballot, and circuit court judge Burton. Behind them will sit the lawyers: on the left, Gore surrogate Dennis Newman (ph), Mark Wallace (ph) for the Bush side, each protesting when they disagree with a call. Can the board meet the Sunday deadline?

BURTON: It depends how good the lawyers behave.

FLOCK (on-camera): The lawyers get one more chance to argue for and against the dimpled chads before the canvassing board Friday morning. Including them, say the Democrats, could net 1,000 votes here alone, and even without the Miami-Dade recount, tip the score to Gore. Republicans are just hoping the whole process gets tossed out.

I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, in Palm Beach County, Florida.


CHEN: And next in our CNN special report, an update on vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney a day after he suffered a mild heart attack.

Stay tuned.


CHEN: The Bush campaign's number two man could soon be home to mark the rest of this holiday season. CNN medical correspondent Eileen O'Connor tonight updates us on Dick Cheney's condition.


EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice presidential nominee Richard Cheney was allowed turkey with all the trimmings as he and his family gave thanks for a good report from his doctor at George Washington University Hospital. Dr. Jonathan Reiner (ph), in a written statement from the hospital, said "Mr. Cheney is looking great." If he continues to progress this well, the hospital says, he will be released as early as tomorrow morning.

Cheney underwent angioplasty, a procedure designed to open an artery doctors discovered blocked after Cheney suffered a mild heart attack on Wednesday. His doctor inserted a stent, a kind of scaffolding-like device that will keep the artery open.

Cheney was in good spirits, talking to his running mate, George W. Bush, who said he hoped Cheney would be out of the hospital in a day or two. Then Cheney did the dialing, calling his Democratic counterpart, Joseph Lieberman, to wish him a good Thanksgiving. On Wednesday, he had called in to CNN's Larry King, denying that the stress of the last two weeks was the culprit in this latest episode, even joking about the battle over ballots taking place in Florida.

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I can report that when they got in there today, they didn't find any pregnant chads at all, Larry. O'CONNOR: Through the hospital, the Cheney family expressed its appreciation for all the good wishes he had received from Americans.

(on camera): Doctors say they are pleased with the condition of the rest of Mr. Cheney's heart, despite this being his fourth heart attack. And they say he should be under no limitations. Cheney himself says that he is fit to serve as vice president, but that now all he has to do is get elected.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.


CHEN: And ahead here in our special report: From butterflies to bed sheets, a look at ballots from around the world and what we might learn from them.


CHEN: Marking this holiday away from politics, in Atlanta volunteers dished up 30,000 turkey dinners for the hungry and homeless. This tradition was started by Civil Rights veteran Hosea Williams, who died one week ago here in the city of Atlanta.

In New York today, the 74th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade featured the return of Mickey Mouse after an 18-year absence. The beloved rodent was among 14 helium balloons, 20 floats, 14 marching bands all marching down Broadway.

Another holiday tradition, of course, occurs on Friday, the shopping season, and the travel season, as well. Karen Maginnis joins us to tell us about the weather for that.



CHEN: Now to recap our top story, the Florida recount. This afternoon, the state supreme court denied a Gore campaign request that it force the Miami-Dade hand count to continue. Now the Gore campaign indicates it will file another legal challenge. It will be called a "contest" to the Miami-Dade results.

Also today, Gore attorneys filed papers with the U.S. Supreme Court, replying to the Bush campaign's effort to have the Justices stop the Florida recounts.

As of now, George W. Bush's official statewide lead is 930 votes, although the latest canvassing board reports give Gore a net gain of 225 votes in Broward County and Bush a 14-vote gain in Palm Beach County, putting Bush's unofficial lead at 719 votes. Still outstanding are about 1,700 disputed ballots in Broward County and some 300,000 ballots plus 10,000 disputed ballots in Palm Beach County.

So it wasn't much of a holiday for ballot counters in Florida, their Thanksgiving wedged between chad instead of the traditional football games and pumpkin pie. Bear in mind, though, it doesn't have to be like that. And it isn't in a lot of other places. Perhaps it's time to take a lesson from an exhibit on display now in Washington. On that, here's national correspondent Bruce Morton.


VOTING MACHINE VOICE: You have finished voting. Please take your card.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Japanese, wouldn't you know it, have come up with this electronic voting machine. It asks for your identification card, then walks you through the questions.

VOTING MACHINE VOICE: If you would like to vote for the head of government, please press "Vote." If you want to vote differently, press "Amend."

MORTON: Eat your hearts out, Florida counters. And that's just one chad-less way to vote. The exhibit has others.

JEFF FISCHER, INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR ELECTION SYSTEMS: This is a ballot from Ecuador, and it is a legislative ballot. This is a style known as the "bedsheet ballot," obviously, by the -- by the size.

MORTON: Pretty big bedsheet, all right. No chads, but lots of dirty laundry. Look at it all, more than 20 parties. Americans might flee in panic faced with this. The point, of course, is to use pictures and party logos because not all the voters can read, though learning all those faces makes reading seem like a shortcut.

FISCHER: Each of these ballots is a voter's selection. Each is a different political party.

MORTON: They used to do this in Senegal, keep the slip with the party you want to vote for, throw the rest away, which should have produced a huge local confetti industry. But they've gone now to one ballot with the logos. Lots of counties use logos and pictures -- this is a Haitian ballot -- because the voters can't always read. And then there are special cases. This Peruvian ballot comes with a template, an overlay in Braille, so that blind voters can make their choices unassisted.

The exhibit also has ballot boxes, old and wooden, newer and transparent, this accordion shape, which does not play music, and this one from Yemen, with a tamper-proof seal like the kind they put on the mini-bar in hotel rooms. And there's a poster from a Palestinian election teaching people how to vote. Maybe some posters next time, Palm Beach?

And of course, there are some punchcard ballots here. Whatever, Fischer says, the aim is to be fair, not perfect.

FISCHER: I don't know that perfection is what we -- what we really want to set out for ourselves. We need to find a free system. We need to look at fair systems, transparent systems that ultimately are going to reflect the will of the people.

MORTON: And in the meantime, keep counting, guys.

VOTING MACHINE VOICE: You have finished voting. Please take your card.

MORTON: We know we've finished voting, machine. It's the counting that's giving us fits.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


CHEN: And that's our report. Please stay tuned to CNN for the latest developments on the Florida recount. Thanks for being with us.



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