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Republicans Raise Objections to Broward County Canvassing Board

Aired November 25, 2000 - 12:47 p.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We're getting word that things are heating up a bit down in Broward County, let's go now to CNN's Susan Candiotti, who's been watching things develop there -- Susan.


It's not the first time. What happened is, is that we're now in an early lunch recess. That's because for the second time this week, one of the Republican attorneys who represents Florida, the Florida GOP, who has been one of the observers who sits across the table from the Broward County canvassing board, was raising objections about the way the board is going to be looking over, evaluating questionable ballots that are absentee ballots.

There are estimated to be around 500 of them. They haven't gotten to these absentee ballots yet, but this point was raised during the process. At any rate, the Republican attorney said that he did not think that a panel would be able to use reasonable certainty, the same standards that the canvassing board has been used -- that were presented to them by the Florida supreme court, in judging these absentee ballots.

He then began to raise allegations about the kind of advice that the Broward County canvassing board has been receiving from a county attorney, who is a -- who is married to a woman who works for a firm that is representing the Democratic Party. This Republican lawyer is making the allegation that the canvassing board has been receiving advice from someone who might -- who has questionable ethics or might have questionable ethics.

Now, he has raised this concern in the past, earlier in this week. He -- these allegations have been denied by the canvassing board, as well as the county attorney himself. And at that point, the chairman of the canvassing board said, in so many words, I've had enough, this discussion is over. As a matter of fact, we're going to take a lunch recess now, and you, Mr. William Scherer, are no longer welcome to observe this process.

Now, Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating was in the courtroom. He had arrived just before this happened. And so it is questionable and unclear at this time why the Republican lawyer chose this particular time to comment on this. At this point, we're going to take you live there now. When Mr. Scherer left the room, he came downstairs to make comment, he and acting Governor Marc Racicot, Racicot. And they are here now to discuss what occurred.

All right, we're not hearing it right now, and I'm looking for some direction as to whether you are able to hear the news conference right now. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GOV. MARC RACICOT (R), MONTANA: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all of these days, for a brief amount of time, to give what we thought was a thoughtful...

CANDIOTTI: ... thank you very much. I understand that we're tampering with the audio right now. We got it back? Let's go to the live commentary at this moment.

RACICOT: ... reasoned presentation, and we were denied even that opportunity.

Now, with me today is the governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating. He also is new to this process, but has had the chance to observe what's going on. Frank?

GOV. FRANK KEATING (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, thank you, Marc.

Let me just postscript what Governor Racicot said with this.

CANDIOTTI: I'm not hearing it...

KEATING: In a few days, all of us are going to...


... who want finality and a new president. But we also want fairness. It is astonishing to me, someone who comes from an overwhelming Democrat state, to see that we've had a count in Florida, and Governor Bush won. We had a recount in Florida, and Governor Bush won, won. Now we have a re-recount solely in now two heavily Democrat counties with Democrat officials determining whether or not a ballot goes for Mr. Gore or for Mr. Bush.

That is supremely unfair. And the American public, the public from my state, I think the public from all of the states around this room would agree that is supremely unfair. This ballot, as Governor Racicot pointed out, to suggest just bumping it is a vote, just touching it is a vote, is a manifest injustice. It is wrong to count these ballots. They have been counted once by a machine and rejected because the vote never was made.

So when you have a ballot clearly voting other candidacies, and yet the presidential candidacy is not punched, that's wrong.

RACICOT: What's being done here is, this board is casting votes. They're not looking for votes, they're not discerning votes, they're making votes. They are casting a ballot based upon what they think in some way that is unpredictable and indiscernible to me, someone they don't know, might have made. That just seems to me to be an impossible way to think that is appropriate to pick a presidential in the United States of America.

REP. STEVE BUYER (R), INDIANA: The only comment I'd like to make is, I vote with these ballots in Monticello, Indiana, and I have used this type of absentee ballot. You have to -- you're -- this is much different. When a voter goes in, he puts it actually in the machine, they don't see the ballot. They take the stylus and put it through a hole, so they actually never see the actual punch being taken place.

This is much different, it's actually in front of them with a Styrofoam backing, with a stylus, and they have to actually touch the ballot themselves. So upstairs, they're trying to determine this cle -- this intent of the voter using a reasonable certainty-type test. But when you do that, you can't do it absent common sense.

So the argument that was made here was, was -- made a great effort, and I -- and hopefully they'll give you a second opportunity, but America wants a fair process. So hopefully we can get that, and the judges will listen to arguments this afternoon.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) last minute, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we heard the number (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like 500 absentee ballots, sort of a last minute thing?

RACICOT: Well, we got -- we believe that there's probably between 600 and 650 from our best ability to determine. And, well, you have been there, you have watched. We cannot make presentations. We are not afforded a reasonable opportunity to argue or to talk about what it is that we think might be of assistance to them.

It's just unbelievable to me that here we are, picking a president of the United States of America, and we can't even offer some insights into what we think is a reasonable approach to this issue. It certainly appears to me that when nobody wants to hear anything, that their minds are already predisposed and made up. And I think that that's a sad, sad day for America.

QUESTION: Governor Keating, could you please address this issue? We understand now the Republicans have withdrawn their lawsuit here in the state supreme court concerning the military absentee ballots.

RACICOT: I'll address that question.

QUESTION: Can you talk to us about that, why that happened?

RACICOT: That's not, that's not the -- that is not in the supreme court, and quite honestly, that -- you've been advised of that to that defect? Well, I do know that there was some discussion about venue yesterday in front of the Leon County court, and the Leon County court was concerned about whether or not each of the cases from all of the various counties were properly filed in Leon County.

So I know that that discussion is ongoing, and I don't believe that there's any resolution of that issue at this point in time. Thank you.

KEATING: Thank you.


QUESTION: But, sir, could we have Mr. Scherer -- could we ask him one, one question, sir? Mr. Scherer, can we ask you one question? Can I ask you a question, sir?

CANDIOTTI: The Republicans have continued to charge throughout that this process of the hand recount under way in Broward County is unfair, just as they have been making the same charge in other counties as well, Palm Beach County.

So what we had here was, for the second time this week, Republicans who were told and admonished by the Democratic chairman of the canvassing board that they should not interrupt but observe only, that they were not to -- that they could make objections to this after the fact but not to disrupt the proceedings.

That's what happened here today. The news conferences wrapped up, and you're hearing cheers from supporters of the Bush campaign who are standing here just over my shoulder. More or less a few hundred have arrived here today, as they have yesterday, to lend support to the cause, demanding that this hand recount process end and be complete.

Many of these people are local residents here who have received phone calls from the Republican Party to show up here today, others are volunteers and other paid campaign workers who have come here from all over the country to protest the process.

So currently the Broward County canvassing board is in a lunch recess, and when they come back, there will be one face in there who has not been there in the past. That is because the chairman, a Democrat, has told the Republican attorney who raised an objection about the way the process is being handled and the way these absentee ballots will be judged later on this day, that he will not be welcome here when he comes back.

When he was told to leave during the recess, or at the recess, the Republican attorney, attorney left the room and held up his hands like this, to more or less say to one of the deputies in the room, Do you want to arrest me? though he didn't say that. And this is the same thing that he did earlier in the week after a similar outburst.

He was allowed to return at that time because tempers cooled down a bit, but this time he won't be coming back to continue the process.

Leon, back to you.

HARRIS: All right, thanks much, Susan Candiotti, hanging in down there in Broward County. Appreciate it.



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