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Election 2000: Democrats and Republicans Testify Before Palm Beach County Canvassing Board on Recount Standards

Aired November 24, 2000 - 9:30 a.m. ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: There's a lot going on today with the election recounts in Florida.

Bill Hemmer joins us now from Tallahassee with a look at what's expected.

Hi, Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Carol, Leon, good morning once again here.

We're expecting something out of the circuit court later today. We've been told that the Gore campaign has about a 2:00 deadline, about three and a half hours from now -- actually four and a half hours from now, I'll get my math right -- to file their response, if they so desire, to this protest earlier in the week from the Bush campaign.

They were arguing that 13 counties here in Florida should reinclude those military ballots from overseas back into the total count here in Florida.

Again, it's expected the Gore team will have a response to that. We'll track that for you and let you know the latest on that.

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court yesterday, again, dismissed a petition by the Gore campaign to get Miami-Dade to keep counting up until that deadline, Sunday at 5:00. That was thrown out, but from there, the Gore campaign said they will contest the election come Monday, based on what Miami-Dade is doing.

We'll follow it all for you. Hope we're keeping the ABC's up in line for you.

Meanwhile, down in West Palm, they expect to look at those disputed dimpled ballots once again today, and it's quite possible they could be back in court as well today.

Here's Jeff Flock, live in West Palm, with more on those fronts on this story.

Hey, Jeff, good morning. JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Multiple fronts here this morning, Bill. And here's what's happening as we speak, here in West Palm beach.

The canvassing board has now just reconvened. Let's take you live inside the Emergency Operations Center now and take a look at what they are doing. As perhaps you can see, the three-member canvassing board -- that's Judge Burton in the center; to the right is Teresa Lapore, who is a member of the canvassing board, and also put together the canvassing, or I should say the butterfly ballot.

They are hearing from Democratic attorneys right now who are arguing to include the dimpled ballots. This is their last shot at this. They have made time for both the Democrats and the Republicans this morning to go ahead and argue for or against the dimpled ballots. Of course, the Democrats are arguing to put them in. They think that that could give them enough votes to tip the score to Al Gore, if all of the dimples are counted.

They just heard from the designer of the Vote-O-Matic machine, who was explaining why any kind of mark on a chad is potentially evidence that the vote should be counted, that that was the voter's intent. The Republicans will make their case in just a moment.

At the same time, outside the Emergency Operations Center, a group of protesters has gathered. Perhaps not as intensely as the one -- as the protesters that gathered in Miami-Dade, but they are out there in perhaps stronger numbers than they have been earlier, carrying signs, chanting. This is largely, and as far as I can tell right now, solely a Republican group -- people, as you can see, carrying the famed-now "Sore-Loserman" signs and the other signs of support for Governor Bush.

So this is going on outside the Emergency Operations Center. Inside, the last arguments, and then after this is all done, the three member canvassing board will go about the business of deciding these remaining 10,000 or so disputed ballots. They are still hanging fire, as we speak. These are the ones that the counters went through, and kick back saying: We can't make a decision about these ballots, there is some problem with it.

So let's take one last look, if we can, inside there and see where they stand right now, and perhaps, we can listen to some of the arguments now taking place before the canvassing board. This, the Democratic side. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that these so-called dimpled ballots have been counted. Some have not, obviously. They have looked at each ballot and scrutinized each ballot with some considerable deliberation and scrutiny, and some of the factors that they have articulated throughout the process include if there -- let's say there is a light mark on the presidential race, if that same identical mark is made throughout the ballot, that would be helpful in them reaching a conclusion to count the ballot; obviously, conversely, if there were marks that were different, that might impact on them. But I can tell you that even where there have been dimples on the presidential race only and clear punching through the chad clearly and truly on other races, they have still counted those ballots where the dimple has been pushed hard enough for them to be satisfied that that is the clear intent of the voter, that a reasonable -- with reasonable certainty. Not absolute certainty. They did say: You know, our job is not to discuss it, to conclude with absolute certainty, but with reasonable certainty.

JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: I do have one quick question, and I know that our time is coming up.


BURTON: Is it fair to say that in Broward county, for example, anything less than what would be characterized as a dimple -- I mean a little nick, a little poke, something that you could barely -- barely discernible, they are not counting those as votes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that's not accurate. Those have been counted where there have been other factors or patterns on the ballot that have aided them in concluding that this is how they should be counted.

And one other example that I might relate to you, to underscore that: There have been numerous, maybe five or six precincts, where there have been large numbers of dimpled ballots -- election day ballots. And they have concluded that -- Judge Lee, in particular, has referred to these -- these are where they had bad machines. In other words, it was very clear when there were numerous situations. So my point for that is not -- it's not just those that were counted that way, but they have, in ballot after ballot, looked at the totality to reach their conclusions.

BURTON: So essentially, what you're telling us is what I think this board has been doing, and that is, we're looking at the ballot, we're examining it in relation to the entire ballot in an effort to try and determine the voter's intent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I haven't been here, so I can't speak to what you've been doing, but I....

BURTON: But you would agree that would be the appropriate standard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The totality of the ballot, yes. But I can say the dimples have clearly been counted, that light marks have clearly been counted, and there have been no per se rules in Broward county to exclude -- there are no requirement that there be light only, and so forth.

BURTON: I understand that. And I think that's -- if Judge Labarga made anything clear to us the other day, it is that there should be no per se rules and everything needs to be considered.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, I appreciate it.

BURTON: All right, Mr Puny (ph), I believe...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have just have one more, and I apologize, but I did not realize the questions would take up about two minutes, and Professor Hengartner is a professor from Yale University, and he will be very brief. I do have an affidavit, as well, from Professor Hengartner.

BURTON: All right, professor, good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, thank you very much. My name is Nicolas Hengartner. I'm professor of statistics at Yale University. I am here to discuss some empirical facts about undervotes, which is, of course, of great concern to us all.

Analyses of undervote patterns in the state of Florida have shown that when one considers ballots cast using visual systems, we expect, more or less, about three out of a thousand undervotes. When I use -- or when people use the Vote-O-Matic -- this increases five times, to 15 out of a thousand undervotes. And worst of all, in Palm Beach, here, the rate is actually 22 out of a thousand, so it's even more. It's seven times what I would obtain with an optical method.

I would try to suggest that the reason this happens is because there's a problem with first column. Let me give you the empirical facts we uncovered. We've looked at the elections in 1998, and we've compared the senatorial race and the governor's race. And what we found, surprisingly, is that in the senator's race, which was in column one, there were less votes cast for him than for comptroller, which was in column five.

Now, this is surprising. It's anecdotal evidence; however, what is also a fact is that if I go throughout the whole state of Florida again, and I compare the number of the reversal -- that means if I compare how many votes are cast for the governor and how many votes were cast for the senator, you see a clear pattern of indicates that the Vote-O-Matic has been used. There's an increase in voting for the governor compared to the senator, and a decrease -- a typical decrease, but it's not always the case -- but, typically, there's a decrease in the number of votes cast for the governor compared to the senator otherwise.

That's all I have to say.

BURTON: I think it could be the legislature up in Tallahassee may be more interested in that from this session. But, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

BURTON: Members of the board, I do have an affidavit for Professor Hengartner and Mr. Sauder (ph). I also have an affidavit from Linda Urlick (ph), who is here, she's a voter... FLOCK: As you can see, this testimony continues on here. Just to summarize what have you heard and missed, they heard from a former election supervisor here who said that they had had problems with a Vote-O-Matic machine, in terms of people being able to register their votes, for years in Palm Beach county with some of the machines. The designer of the Vote-O-Matic testified this morning and said that there is a problem with the chads, perhaps, building up on the left side in the column where the presidential choices would be registered, making it very difficult for people to push through, so that any kind of a nick or impression on the chad is a good indication of a person's intent. And also the statistician that you heard there talking about the high undervote in Palm Beach county that, perhaps, could explain some of that.

The Democrats still making their final case, as, at the same time outside -- we have pictures of what is going on outside, here in Palm Beach county, outside the Emergency Operations Center: A large group of supporters of Governor Bush have gathered. As I said, perhaps not as vociferous as the protest in Miami-Dade county earlier this week, but a large group, nonetheless, that you can see out there chanting and carrying signs and trying to make their voice known, as the voices of both sides are heard inside. And still yet to come, all of the adjudication on the part of the three-member canvassing board of all of these disputed ballots.

So, as you can see, Bill, the situation heating up in Palm Beach county. Back to you.

HEMMER: Indeed. All right, Jeff, Jeff Flock, live down there in West Palm. Jeff, thanks to you.



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