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Special Event

The Florida Recount: Protesters Call for Vote Certification in Palm Beach County; Canvassing Board Adjudicates Disputed Ballots

Aired November 24, 2000 - 11:26 a.m. ET

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

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Until elections officials hear any further from the court system, the counting is continuing, particularly today in Palm Beach County. And that's where we find CNN's Jeff Flock standing by.

Hi, Jeff.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Carol. Indeed, counting and protests both under way here as we stand outside the emergency operations center in Palm Beach County. Out on the street corner, a group of protesters has gathered, a larger group than had been here earlier in the week, and perhaps you can hear them.

We pause for a moment to let them be heard.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

PROTESTERS: Certify the vote, now! Certify the vote, now! Certify the vote, now! Certify the vote, now...!

FLOCK: Perhaps you can hear that the thrust of their protest is to attempt to put pressure on Vice President Gore to essentially cash in his chips here.

But that is not what is going on across the street inside the emergency operations center. We have a live picture inside the -- what has been the counting room for the past week or two. It is now the meeting place of the three-member canvassing board. And as you can see there, perhaps, Charles Burton, who you've come to know over the course of these past several days, who is the election judge and a judge here in the local county.

That's Carol Roberts to his right who you see there. And that's -- behind them, you see, to Mr. Burton's left, is Mark Wallace, the Republican attorney. And to Mr. Burton's right is the Democratic attorney, Ben Kuehne. They have been going ballot by ballot, hand by hand, each of the ballots, attempting to resolve the disputes that have come up -- about 10,000 disputed ballots.

Let's just listen in on this for just a moment to hear the kind of conflicts and the way they've been adjudicating these. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CAROL ROBERTS, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: I see no light.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No objection.

JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: A unanimous undervote. Four and five clearly punched, overvote.

ROBERTS: Over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No objection.

BURTON: Four and five, overvote.

ROBERTS: Over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No objection.

BURTON: You don't have to state the obvious.

ROBERTS: Over.

BURTON: Overvote, four and five.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five, based on the chad being reversed, which I have not been able to duplicate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That might be a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rule.

BURTON: This is a reversed chad, clearly had to be punched. I would say that's a number five.

ROBERTS: I would say it's a number five.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE) rule the chad has been reversed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over.

BURTON: Four and five clearly punched, overvote.

ROBERTS: Over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over.

BURTON: This one is also four and five clearly punched, overvote.

ROBERTS: Over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under.

BURTON: This one looks like a dimple almost. Let's see, it's got one corner popped...

FLOCK: You hear all of the references to the numbers four, five, three. For your information, a Palm Beach County ballot, number three is for Gov. Bush, number five was for Al Gore. And what you just saw there is an example of the number of overvotes. Of course, the Democrats have argued that those overvotes are an example of people's confusion with the ballot and all that sort of thing. So they're arguing about that.

Also arguing, both sides, about what should constitute a valid vote. I've been fortunate enough to be joined by Burt Odelson. He is the man who argued the case before the Illinois Supreme Court that the Florida Supreme Court cited as a means for saying hand recounts are quite legitimate.

You agree with that, do you not?

BURT ODELSON, GOP ATTORNEY: Yes, I do. In Illinois, our hand counts are done by judges. In Florida, the process you're going through now you have canvassing boards, different canvassing boards using different criteria.

FLOCK: So you buy the notion of hand recount, but you pointed out that in your case in Illinois, that kind of ran counter to what the Democrats are arguing here.

ODELSON: Yes, in fact the Illinois Supreme Court held that Judge Barth (ph), the circuit judge at the time was correct when he took the totality of the ballot into account. And if a dimple appeared on a ballot along with properly counted chads that were punched out, you did not count the dent.

FLOCK: So that's essentially what the board is doing here and what the Republican have argued for, correct?

ODELSON: Yes, my understanding is that is what Judge Burton is doing and what Judge Labarga confirmed that they should do, yes, to keep on going the way they were.

FLOCK: As we watch them -- let's take the picture back, if we can get the picture back from inside, David. Yes.

As you see the process that's going on, as you've been watching this, is that a fair process where they're making these determinations?

ODELSON: Yes, the process is fair. That's exactly what Judge Barth did in making his determinations 10 years ago in Illinois.

FLOCK: In Illinois.

ODELSON: Yes, in Illinois. However, the difference, of course, is if you have three people using criteria in this county that's perhaps different in another county. The criteria they should use is what your Florida Supreme Court has adopted, and that is the Illinois standard, the Pullen vs. Mulligan (ph) standard that the dimple does not count, the indentation does not count if there are other correctly voted places on the ballot.

FLOCK: But now try this one on as we continue to watch that: Some have argued that perhaps the chads build up in that left tray right where the presidential candidates would have been voted and it makes it difficult to get your stylus through. So that argues, then, even if you've been able to punch out the rest of the ballot OK, maybe in that left tray, which has the most chads, that perhaps that was harder to get punched out so you should take the dimples.

ODELSON: First of all, there was no complaints on election day of that happening. Second of all, in every election, you have overvotes, you have undervotes. And thirdly, the person's responsible for their own ballot. So if you can't punch through, you have two choice. One, take the ballot out and punch it yourself, or go back to the election judge and get another ballot. The person has to bear some responsibility himself or herself for their ballot.

FLOCK: I got one final thing to ask you about, and that is in that case that went before the Illinois Supreme Court, the Mulligan- Pullen case, the original way that got decided by Illinois law, tell me how that was decided.

ODELSON: It ended up in a tie and it was decided by a flip of the coin. Tails, by the way, won the election.

FLOCK: And your candidate won the election.

ODELSON: Rosemary Mulligan won the election, ultimately lost by six votes in the Illinois Supreme Court, but then came back a year later and won by over 1,000 votes in the primary when the voters just rejected the idea that a court made a determination for them. And she has been the state representative ever since.

FLOCK: Because the court took votes away from her.

ODELSON: Yes, they did.

FLOCK: What do you think of the coin flip idea.

ODELSON: Floridians may be surprised that they have the same law here. In doing the research, if this vote would end up in a tie, it would be chosen by a flip of the coin.

FLOCK: Well, at the rate we're going, I think, as we perhaps leave you with a picture of the continued adjudication process inside on the canvassing board, no one is ruling out, I suppose, that this could end up in a tie here as well. Obviously the heat is on here in Palm Beach, both literally and figuratively. With the Miami-Dade recount possibilities going away, the increased intensity here in West Palm, along with Broward County's, as this adjudication process continues. And it will go on, we expect, all day today, as well as into tomorrow, and perhaps Sunday as well. And, of course, we'll continue to watch it.

For now, I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, reporting live from Palm Beach County, Florida. LIN: All right, thank you very much, Jeff.

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