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CNN Today

Election 2000 Officially Enters Contest Phase

Aired November 27, 2000 - 1:49 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore has officially contested the Florida election outcome. Let's go to CNN's Bill Hemmer, who's in Tallahassee to bring us up to date -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, thank you.

Officially, we are still following the legal bouncing ball here, and officially, as you mention, we are now in that contest period. It was about two hours ago, a little bit past noon Eastern time here in Tallahassee, when the Gore campaign filed its lawsuit against three different counties here in Florida: specifically, Palm Beach, Miami- Dade and Nassau. In the suit, basically they're trying to amend the numbers reported for the votes there, and in some cases they're also trying to keep counting the ballots in certain parts of Florida.

They're also asking that some ballots as evidence, those ballots may be brought actually here to Leon County to be presented before the judge. And they're also asking, you know, with this time crunch here, as we get closer and closer to December 12th, the date when the electors in Florida must be chosen, today knowing it's the 27th of November, they're asking a motion here to shorten the time of response, which may expedite this matter.

Want to let you know also, Natalie, there are four circuit judges here in Leon County. We've heard of Ralph Smith from last week, we've heard of Terry Lewis from two weeks ago. Put the name M. Sander Sauls down on your list. That's the judge who has drawn the straw in this matter.

And basically in the case that the Gore campaign outlines on page three, they said, you go back to several of these counties, specifically Palm Beach, and contest the hand recount that was continued after the deadline yesterday, if you go back to Miami-Dade and contest the partial recount that was not filed here yesterday, and contest the vote change in Nassau County, then change some of that the absentee ballots, they believe that margin of difference, 537 votes, can be overcome by Al Gore.

But again, in a contest phase -- and we have talked with many different legal analysts on this matter -- it's a very difficult road to go given the very different cases that have come before the courts here in Florida.

Having said that, we have no idea when this hearing may or may not start. It may start today, it may not. It may be tomorrow. But again, we're standing by here in Tallahassee, waiting to see the next direction in the legal matter here.

But again, officially the contest period is under way in election 2000.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: All right, Bill Hemmer in Tallahassee. And some people want to contest the whole thing in Palm Beach County. Some Democratic voters are still trying to get a whole new election in that county. They say they were confused by the butterfly ballots.

CNN's Mark Potter has today's development on that front -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Natalie.

The plaintiffs in that case thought they had a hearing at the appeals court, but 20 minutes before that hearing was to begin it was canceled because the court announced that it was sending the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court, citing it as a matter of great public importance.

The case to be argued before that court now is whether a judge here, Jorge Labarga, was correct in saying that he simply did not have the legal authority to set a new presidential election in Palm Beach County. Some Palm Beach residents, as you remember, filed suit arguing that there should be a new election because they lost the right to vote -- they lost their vote, rather, because of confusion, widespread confusion over that butterfly ballot.

Now an attorney for George W. Bush said today that the judge actually was correct in making that ruling, and he said he that agrees with the judge's position, that only the Congress and the U.S. Constitution can govern the details of a presidential election, not the court. And he said he fully expects to make that argument before, now, the Florida Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK BIDEAU, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: The issue Judge Labarga dealt with was whether he had the statutory constitutional authority to issue a revote, and our position had been and remains that he did not under the Constitution and under the federal statute that governs presidential elections. That's what we argued to Judge Labarga. He agreed. That's what we would have argued in here in a few minutes if they had given us argument. And I presume that's what the Supreme Court wants to hear. That's what will get argued up there. I don't think it will be any different argument than what you all heard before Judge Labarga.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Now attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the Florida law does allow a court to set aside a new election if the court finds that the will of the voters was not captured by the election. And they say that's what happened in this case. The attorneys also complained that it took so long to get this case to the Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY FARMER, PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY: Since the day after the election, we have sought a determination as to the legality of this ballot. Through maneuverings by the Republican Party, through some, I believe, well-intentioned decisions by Judge Labarga and by this court, that determination has been delayed. It's been delayed unnecessarily, and it's been delayed far too long. We have a ballot which on its face clearly violates at least three Florida statutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Now the plaintiffs also argue that the butterfly ballot itself was illegally designed, and they say they'll try to get the Florida Supreme Court to hear that argument and to rule on that argument as well.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: All right, Mark Potter with the latest from Palm Beach County, thanks.

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