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Broward County Completes Manual Recount; Florida's Secretary of State Refuses Palm Beach County's Extension Request

Aired November 26, 2000 - 4:00 p.m. ET

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

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Andria Hall.

GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Gene Randall in Washington. Welcome.

In just under an hour, the recount deadline set by the Florida state Supreme Court will be upon us. About a dozen Florida counties are expected to turn in amended presidential vote tallies by then. At the moment, Republican George W. Bush has an official statewide lead of 930 votes. But revised totals from 11 counties give him a net gain of 137. A completed hand count in Broward County gives Democrat Al Gore a net gain of 567 votes.

In Palm Beach County, where the hand count continues, Gore's picked up a net gain of 46 so far. Their request for a deadline extension has been refused by Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris. The unofficial Bush lead for now, 454.

Although Broward County has finished its recount, Palm Beach County still must review about 200,000 ballots which are counted but not finalized, and as many as 1,800 to 2,500 disputed ballots. Once again, next hour will come the recount deadline -- Andria.

HALL: Gene, clearly, whatever happens, choosing the next president will not end today. The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments next week on a Bush campaign appeal, and the campaigns of Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush have contingency plans just in case today's results are not to their liking, plus there are other efforts to try and include military and other disputed votes in the final total.

CNN's Bill Hemmer has been following the action, and it has been moving fast and furious in Florida. He's here live to give us a sense of what we might expect.

Hi, Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Andria. Buckle up, 58 minutes and counting now the 5 o'clock local Eastern Time deadline here in Tallahassee for any amended results to be turned into the state canvassing commission and the secretary of state here in Tallahassee. Now, we expect certification tonight. Why do we say expect than say for sure? Because simply we don't know the bottom line here. And secondly, we'll take you back to the state Supreme Court's ruling from Tuesday night. On page 40 of that 43-page decision, it said that the secretary of state and the canvassing commission must accept amended returns, but it did not state that the canvassing commission must certify those new returns.

Again, it may sound like minutiae at this point and legal speak to many, but again, it could be a find distinction in the end. But again, we do expect certification tonight, but we can't say for certain at this time if indeed that will take place.

Also the news of the hour is with regard to Palm Beach: About an hour ago, they were denied the request to get an extended deadline here in Tallahassee. They wanted to take it to 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, that request, though, denied here. Again, we stand at 5 o'clock, less than an hour away.

Bill Delaney now down live in West Palm with an update from Palm Beach County for us now.

Hey, Bill. Hello to you.

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, hello to you, and what a moment it must have been, Bill, as you said, about an hour ago when the three-person canvassing board here -- Chairman Judge Charles Burton, Commissioner Carol Roberts and election supervisor Theresa LePore -- got the word they had been waiting for, that their request for an extension of this recount had been denied. They got the word from the county attorney's office.

We did see them at one point leave the room. They went out of the emergency operations center behind me, where they had been counting, and they came back and they started counting again. But it must have been quite a blow.

This -- these are people who have been up since 8 o'clock yesterday morning. They had about two hours of sleep at best. And remember, they've been at this for days and they've been only sleeping four or five hours a night for the days leading up to the marathon they're in the middle of now.

Despite all that, Bill, they had every intention of going through the night and trying to finish this count. Would they have finished the count with an extension? Well, they probably would have been able to if they'd gotten the extension until 9 o'clock in the morning tomorrow that they had requested.

There are about 800 disputed votes left. If you do the math, they had a darn good shot at completing that recount by then.

Now, of course, in about an hour on so, it's all over, and there'll be probably some reviewing of some decisions that were made in the past few days as to how ardently to count here. Let's remember, they decided to take Thanksgiving off. There maybe some Monday-morning quarterbacking whether that was a good decision or not. In any event, this is reaching a crescendo now. In about an hour, it's all over.

It's not clear at all what will happen by the way to the incomplete manual recount we absolutely expect now. Will the manual recount be combined with a machine count that they didn't get to to come up with some sort of a number? It's just not clear.

I spoke to a spokesperson for the canvassing board just an hour ago, though, and they said their lawyers are looking at it, but it is -- it is just not clear what happens.

Now, outside the gates here, as in Tallahassee, big protests, the biggest protest we've seen in days. We are looking I believe at a primarily Gore protest at the moment, kind of an informal protest. They've had a few speakers. Right next to them on the boulevard outside of the Emergency Operations Center here, there are Bush partisans, for the most part good-natured groups. The two groups have not been getting angry at each other overtly, but there is a lot of very intense emotion out there. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in an hour or so, when some sort of a verdict comes out from here.

So a blow for this canvassing board that had worked so hard to try to finish this manual recount. They will not finish it. The secretary of state of Florida wouldn't give them the extension. We move on, but it looks like it's all over here as far as manually counting ballots in less than an hour.

Back to you, Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Bill Delaney, with an update there in Palm Beach County in West Palm. And again, the whole issue of Palm Beach may be revisited come that contest period again that we may or may not get into starting Monday with regard to Palm Beach.

Bill, again, thanks to you.

A couple of other matters here in Tallahassee. Katherine Harris is here. Clay Roberts has been here all day. Bob Crawford expected at half past the hour, about 25 minutes from now. That would round out the threesome when it comes to that state canvassing commission, those board members here in Tallahassee.

David Boies, top attorney for Al Gore, expected to talk with reporters inside here in Tallahassee in a matter of moment. Hopefully, we'll have those comments for you live coming up here on CNN.

And you heard Bill Delaney talking about the protesters in Southeastern Florida. They're coming out in big numbers behind us here in Tallahassee as well. Last count, upwards of about 300. We could get many, many more given the deadline coming up in less than an hour now.

By my watch, Gene, I have 53 minutes, and we'll track it for you, let you know what we know here. Again, certification expected tonight. Whether it happens or not, as we well know in this story, nothing has gone as planned.

We'll be here for you, coming up shortly -- Gene.

RANDALL: All right, Bill, thanks very much.

Today's ballot deadline in Florida takes us one step close to electing a president, but is by no means the end game.

Candy Crowley is covering the Bush camp for us in Austin, Texas.

Candy, if Governor Bush is certified the winner in Florida tonight, does he celebrate?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so. I think what we're going to hear -- they've been very cautious around here, particularly today, Gene. You'll remember 15 days ago they were waiting for the certification. At that time, what they wanted was yet another vote count that showed George Bush ahead, and it has been sort of their mantra all along. We've had a vote, we've had a revote, now we've had a recount.

If they get the certification tonight, I suspect that that's what you'll hear from surrogates, but they have to be very careful. And I think they are being cautious now in this sense: Nobody really wants to talk about what they will after the certification, win or lose. They want the certification to stand for itself, sort of leave Al Gore out there talking about contesting this county or that county while they sit back, because this is a huge sort of a public relations marker for them at this point -- that if the secretary of state in Florida, indeed the statewide canvassing board, go ahead and certify election results that show once again George Bush the winner, they believe that gives them not only a strong public relations position, but they believe the courts will also look at that, that climbing out of a hole for Gore at that point will become more difficult.

So they believe that this vote, should it go for George Bush in less than an hour, makes it legally and politically very difficult for Al Gore, and they don't want to say anything to get in the way of that. And that's pretty much where they stand right now.

RANDALL: And Candy, where is the governor this weekend? What's he doing?

CROWLEY: He's here in Austin. As you know, his twin daughters came home from their various colleges for Thanksgiving. One of them is headed back now. So they've been in and out. Bush went to church by himself while Mrs. Bush stayed home and helped one of her daughters pack. So it's been sort of a family day.

I mean, basically, one of the Bush aides describe this as sort of like election, you just sort of sit there and wait for, you know, that deadline when the votes are supposed to be in and take a look at it. So they -- you know, a little bit of deja vu here, although on a much smaller scale. RANDALL: Candy, have you had Thanksgiving yet?

CROWLEY: Not yet, Gene, but I promise my children when I get home we will. Thanks.

RANDALL: Thank you, Candy -- Andria.

HALL: Well, the Gore campaign is also anxiously awaiting a conclusion in Florida in a tossup that still could go either way, but clearly perception versus reality. That's the question now.

CNN's John King is standing by in Washington, D.C. with more. This no extension on the recount in West Palm Beach changes things a bit, doesn't it, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No surprise to the Gore campaign. The challenge now is to try convince the American public the results they will hear shortly, we presume, from the secretary of state of Florida are meaningless.

The Gore campaign's David Boies, the lead legal counsel, will be out in a matter of moments, we're told, in Tallahassee to make the case that are still court challenges going on to this election, to the process used in Palm Beach County, to Miami-Dade County's decision to stop its hand recount altogether.

His case will be that we have another week or two in the courts here and that no one should accept these results as meaning much. And in part of the public relations argument of that, they will also make the case that Governor Bush has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and therefore, there is a Republican case in the court as well.

HALL: John, I hate to interrupt you, dear, but David Boies is now taking the microphone. Let's go live to Tallahassee.

DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We have lot of inquiries from a lot of you about what we;re going to be doing tomorrow in terms of our contest. We thought it would be useful to come out and explain that briefly and give you an opportunity to ask questions.

It's obviously a work in progress. Events continue to develop around that state of Florida. Lawsuits continue to be filed by Governor Bush's people, including over the weekend. We continue to hear reports of county canvassing boards opening for business unexpectedly. And it probably will not be until tonight that we have a complete view of exactly what has happened and a complete understanding of what the nature of our contest will be.

However, there are three aspects of the contest that I think are reasonably clear at the present time that I'd be happy to talk about a little bit and answer questions about.

First is Miami-Dade, and, obviously, we will be contesting Miami- Dade with respect to two elements of what has happened. First, as you know, 388 votes were counted by the Miami-Dade canvassing board before they prematurely stopped its counting efforts. Those votes may or may not be certified.

If they are not certified and not accepted by the secretary of state, obviously that will be one element of our contest, because you will have votes that have been counted, clearly legal votes, accepted votes by the canvassing board, that have not been included in the certified results. And we believe that that, by itself, would be an independent basis for challenging the certification.

Second, in addition to those 388 votes that have been counted, there are approximately 10,000 ballots that have never been counted once for the presidential election, and it is those so-called undervote ballots that we will be contesting. And we'll be asking the court to be sure that those votes are at least counted once. They were cast by the voters, and no one has ever counted those, and no one, at this point, can tell you who the voters voted those votes for. And so a second element of our Miami-Dade contest will be to ask the court to be sure that those votes are counted and included in the results.

A second, broad element of our contest will be the inexplicable actions in Nassau County. As many of you are aware, Nassau County replaced one member of its canvassing board with another individual, who appears to be ineligible under Florida law to serve. The newly constituted group of three people then got together in a meeting that did not have the required notice provided for under Florida law, and voted to discard the results that they have previously certified based on the machine recount, and go back to the unofficial results on Election Day, even though that's contrary to Florida statute, and has absolutely, as near as we can tell, no prior precedent either in that county or in other counties in Florida that will, perhaps understandably, be another element of our contest.

Third, we will be contesting certain of the results in Palm Beach County. As I think you know, Palm Beach County requested an extension of the deadline to 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. The secretary of state has, as I think you probably also know, declined that request.

What that means is that Palm Beach County will not have completed its recount and there will be again, as in the case in Dade, ballots cast for the presidency of the United States that have never been counted even once. Those ballots, we will argue to the court, must be counted.

In addition to that, one of the things that we will be looking at is the extent to which there are other contested ballots in Palm Beach that the canvassing board did review and did make a decision on.

As you know, from a lot of the other discussions that we've had and the various discussions that legal experts have had on television, the determination during the contest period is something for the judge to decide, it's a judicial question. And one of the issues will be whether the canvassing board in Palm Beach County applied the correct standard or not.

That is also something that will likely be part of our contest. But one of the things we'll be looking at tonight is trying to review what the canvassing board has done over the last marathon session that they have gone through.

I think, whether or not one entirely agrees with the decisions the canvassing board in Palm Beach made, I think everyone who's interested in this election has to be grateful for the enormous effort that they have put in over the last many hours, working all night, working today, seeking the secretary of state's permission to work a few more hours in order to complete their work.

So whether or not we would entirely agree with their standard and whether, or not we would entirely agree with whether or not they have applied the standard that Judge Labarga directed them to apply, I think we all have to be grateful for the time and effort and dedication that they have shown in the most recent marathon session.

I'd be happy to respond to any questions, and there are others here who have more expert knowledge than I do about some of the elements.

QUESTION: In the 16 days until December 12, can you -- you're talking about counting thousands of additional ballots. Spell out for us, if you could, how you think you can get all this done, including appeals, in 16 days.

BOIES: Well, first of all, in terms of the appeals, I think the Florida courts have shown an ability to be quite expeditious in a matter of this importance.

With respect to the counting, the counting now becomes a matter of judicial interpretation, and so those ballots have to come here to Leon County. Leon County is the venue for any statewide election contest. They come here, and those ballots will have to be reviewed by the court or by special master or special masters appointed by the court to review the ballots. You will then get a decision by the court as to what those ballots show.

Any party can then appeal that issue to the Florida Supreme Court. What we obviously would hope is that that process of reviewing the ballots would start very promptly, hopefully as early as Tuesday. It'll probably take until Tuesday to get the ballots up here from Dade County and from Palm Beach County.

But that process, which is the most time-sensitive process, needs to start quickly. We think it can start quickly. And particularly given the progress that both Broward County and Palm Beach County have made over the last 24 hours, I think you can see that people can review these ballots very promptly. And you can cover a lot of ground.

Both Broward County and Palm Beach County covered a lot of ground in 24 hours. And it was in some respects more difficult going for them because, in each of those cases, three people, each member of the canvassing board, had to look at the ballots and make an independent determination. Obviously, if you're talking about a single judge or a single special master, it can move even faster.

So we believe that the time is available to do the kind of review that needs to be done.

(CROSSTALK)

There was a question that got started back there.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BOIES: Well, the sample -- there are two things. There's the sample recount, the three precincts. As I understand it, that has already been certified by Miami-Dade County. That was certified before.

Second, there are 388 votes, that resulted in a net gain for Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman of 156 votes, that have been completed, have been counted by the canvassing board.

And the question is whether or not the Miami-Dade canvassing board is going to certify those results, that is, send those results forward to the secretary of state. Obviously our viewpoint is that those votes have been counted and they need to be included in the statewide results.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BOIES: Well, I think that the statutes in Florida say every vote should count, and what the Supreme Court has ruled is that every vote should count. And remember, nobody has ever disputed partial recounts as being countable or not countable, because partial recounts were, in the form of the sample recounts, included in the certifications.

So up until recently, there hasn't been any suggestion that if you count some votes, you should disregard them because you haven't counted other votes. That simply disenfranchises more people. The fact that some people are going to be disenfranchised because their votes are not going to be counted is no excuse for disenfranchising people whose votes you've actually counted and have recorded.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BOIES: That's one of the questions that we're still looking at. We're prepared, I think, to say that we are going to have elements of our contest that relate to Palm Beach, to Miami-Dade and to Nassau. Those are the only counties that we've made a decision on as of now.

We'll be looking at the remainder of the issues over the course of the next several hours, maybe even longer than that.

There are a number of issues in Seminole County. One of them has to do with, as some of you know, there were defective absentee ballots, the applications that were submitted lacked the voter identification that is required under Florida law. The people in charge of the voter office there permitted the Republican people to come into the offices themselves -- again, in our view, in violation of Florida law -- and actually changed the applications after the applications were already on file. There are a variety of serious issues there, and I think that that's one of the things we'll be looking at.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BOIES: No decision has been made on that. There are a variety of issues that have to be addressed in that context. As you know, there is already a lawsuit pending by individual voters relating to that up in Seminole County. But there are a variety of issues that I think Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman have to consider in deciding whether or not to include that in the contest. That decision has not been made, and what I'm really here to talk about it what we've decided to do, not what we haven't decided to do.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BOIES: First of all, I'd be very surprised, because the issue as to whether or not hand counts should be included was the question that the Supreme Court declined to accept cert on. That is, Governor Bush asked the Supreme Court to accept review of three issues. The third issue was whether manual recounts were constitutional.

The Supreme Court refused to accept review on that issue, leaving that question where it was decided by the Florida Supreme Court.

The question that is before the Supreme Court -- the two questions that they accepted review on, certiorari on, relate to the Florida Supreme Court's decision that the secretary of state was required to accept amended returns that were submitted after November 14 but before 5:00 p.m. today. That is the only question that is up before the Florida Supreme Court.

QUESTION: If they rule against you, though, what would you do at that point?

BOIES: Well, at that point, if the Supreme Court -- if the United States Supreme Court -- I think I said Florida Supreme Court a moment ago -- but if the United States Supreme Court were to say that that deadline should not have been extended, I don't think that changes the activity once the certification is made.

We're all assuming the secretary of state is going to certify it today. Now, if that's right, by the time it gets to Friday, the certification will have been made and the contest will be going forward.

The question before the United States Supreme Court, or the two questions, both relate to the same issue in terms of extending the deadline, will then be passed, because you will already have the certification. And it's a little unclear what kind of remedy would be ordered, even if the Supreme Court decided that there should not have been a delay in certification, because certification will already have now taken place.

The issues before the Supreme Court really are whether the Florida Supreme Court's decision was inconsistent with prior precedent. Our view was that it clearly was not, that it was exactly following prior precedent.

QUESTION: David, on the contest issue, Florida statute says that the other side would have 10 days to reply to a contest. If the judge speeds up that process, how is that not rewriting Florida law?

BOIES: Well, every time you have a lawsuit, a court has the ability to shorten time. In fact, there's even a particular rule that you follow when you want to make a motion to shorten time. Lawyers do that all the time.

For example, it takes generally 20 days to answer a complaint. If somebody's going to bulldoze your house down and it's going to be done tomorrow, you don't let them wait 20 days to answer the complaint. The court can give immediate relief.

QUESTION: Even though the legislature gave 10 days...

BOIES: Well, the legislature always does that. In other words, you'll have 20 days to answer most complaints. You have 10 days to answer this complaint. Indeed, the statute specifically provides...

RANDALL: We're going to break away from David Boies to go to Palm Beach Count and Judge Charles Burton.

JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: ... had set Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. as the deadline, but in addition said that if the secretary of state's office wasn't going to be open that we could have until 9:00 a.m., or they must accept them by 9:00 a.m. on Monday.

It seemed to me that the decision was one that afforded the secretary of state discretion. Whether she gets the results at 5:00 p.m. this evening or she gets them by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, I'm not quite sure there's a difference.

Notwithstanding, the secretary of state has apparently decided not to exercise her discretion. And a short time ago, we received the following letter:

"Dear Judge Burton: I am in receipt of your request for an extension for filing amended returns until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, as well as your verbal request for an extension beyond 5:00 p.m. this evening."

And I will tell you that I personally spoke with Clay Roberts, who is the director of the division of elections, explained that there were an awful lot of great people who had been breaking their behinds for about 20 hours a day the past two weeks, and if he could give us until 7:00, 7:30 this evening, we would be able to finish.

And the letter goes on: "page 40 of its decision in the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board v. Harris, et al, decided last Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court stated accordingly and in order to allow maximum time for a contest pursuant to Section 102-168, amended certification must be filed with the Elections Canvassing Commission by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 26, 2000, and the secretary of state. The Elections Canvassing Commission shall accept any such certifications received by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 26, 2000, provided that the office of the secretary of state, division of elections, is open in order to allow receipt thereof.

"In a memorandum from this office to you dated Wednesday, November 22, you were informed that the office would be open to receive amended certifications up until 5:00 p.m. on November 26, 2000. This office is in fact open today to receive amended certifications and has received amended certifications during the day both by facsimile transmission and by hand delivery. Moreover, this office will remain open for the purpose of receiving such amended certifications until 5:00 p.m. today.

"Therefore, in accordance with the explicit terms of the decision by the Florida Supreme Court, your request for filing an amended certification after 5:00 p.m.today is denied."

So the secretary of state has apparently decided to shut us down with approximately two hours perhaps left to go. And that's how she chose to exercise her discretion.

We believe there are approximately 800 to 1,000 ballots left to count. So unfortunately, at this time, we have no other choice but then to shut down. The supervisor of elections needs to hurriedly gather all the paperwork and prepare to file the returns that we have. We certainly don't want to get anything in there at 5:01, so we're going to the best we can.

Thank you all very much.

RANDALL: I'm Gene Randall in Washington. At the risk of understatement, it's been a very interesting day. It promises to get no less interesting in the hours ahead. Coming up next, Jeff Greenfield and Judy Woodruff anchor our continuing coverage of the Florida recount.

HALL: And I'm Andria Hall in Atlanta. The deadline for all Florida counties to submit their totals to the secretary of state's office is -- well, it's about a half an hour away, and CNN, of course, will continue its extensive live coverage.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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