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Election 2000: The Florida Vote

Aired November 28, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN Election 2000 special report.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe this is the time to count every vote and not to run out the clock.


ANNOUNCER: Al Gore courts public opinion, but his attorneys can't push one court to hurry up. The Republicans still say the election is over, and would rather hurry up with the transition.


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The position of the administration has been that the contest is not yet to the point where they're prepared to release the funds Congress has appropriated to support the transition. That really leaves us with no choice but to move forward on our own.


ANNOUNCER: The war in the courts gets a legal dream team, and we'll get to hear but not see Friday's arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was loud. It even was angry, but were the demonstrations outside the recounts really intimidation?

And despite it all, we found a place where there's some holiday goodwill, after all.

This is a CNN special report. ELECTION 2000: THE FLORIDA VOTE, with anchors Bernard Shaw, Judy Woodruff, and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield in Washington.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

There was action on several fronts in the battle for the White House this day. Vice President Al Gore asked the nation to be willing to wait, while his lawyers pushed for quick action in a Florida courtroom. JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, Governor George W. Bush and his team moved forward on planning for the presidency and shoring up legal efforts in Florida.

Here now a rundown of the latest developments: A circuit court judge in Leon County, Florida ordered a Saturday hearing on a Gore legal team request to count ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Judge N. Sanders Sauls called for the ballots to be brought to Tallahassee. There will also be courtroom exhibits of the voting machines and ballots used in both counties. Vice President Al Gore again urged the public to hold on and wait out the entire legal process as it unfolds.

Bush campaign strategist James Baker brought in legal reinforcements, introducing the enlarged team of lawyers who will defend the election results in Florida. And lawyers for both sides filed their briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court today, in advance of Friday's hearing there. The court says that it will expedite the release of an audio version of that hearing on the election as soon as the hearing is over.

SHAW: The Gore legal team wanted quick action from that Leon circuit court judge. They asked for an immediate recount of thousands of ballots.

CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman reports on more than two hours of legal wrangling.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vice president of the United States wants this county judge in Tallahassee to order a hand count of nearly 14,000 disputed votes in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, and his lawyers requested it be done as soon as possible.

The judge's response?

JUDGE N. SANDERS SAULS, LEON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: If we can get into any prospective ballot counting, we'll just do the best we can and finish just as expeditiously as possible.

TUCHMAN: So no commitment to counting just yet, but Judge N. Sanders Sauls did order all those ballots be brought to Tallahassee by Friday. They will come by police escort for the contest trial, which will begin Saturday. But for the Gore side, it's essential they get counted, and they pushed it with the judge.

DAVID BOIES, GORE ATTORNEY: We believe that under Florida law we have a right to ask for a judicial determination as to whether or not those ballots should or should not be counted for Vice President Gore.

TUCHMAN: The attorneys for George W. Bush and Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris strongly disagreed.

JOE KLOCK, ATTORNEY FOR FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: For the people of the state of Florida and the rights of these defendants should not be turned on their tail in the rush by the Democrats to get a certain result in a certain time.

TUCHMAN: The judge was concerned about standards for judging a vote if he does decide to count.

SAULS: We can't have people just running off -- you know, jumping on a horse again and riding off in all directions just counting. They can -- we can count until everybody is slap happy, but if nobody's on the same page, then I don't know what's being accomplished.

TUCHMAN: With that in mind, the judge, despite opposition from the Bush side, decided to hold a hearing Thursday to talk about standards and how to count, if he eventually decides to count.


TUCHMAN: Meanwhile, inside this courthouse in a different courtroom with a different judge, a trial date has been set for this Wednesday in the case of an individual against Seminole County, Florida. Seminole County is accused of having Republican workers fill out voter identification numbers on voter applications after the voters voted for George W. Bush. In a worst-case scenario for George W. Bush, he could lose thousands of votes. But Bush attorneys call it -- quote -- "a hypertechnicality."

Either way, there is lots of work here for the lawyers on both sides. There are literally dozen of lawyers throughout this building. Whatever happens in both these cases, though, they will both eventually go to the Florida Supreme Court.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, live in Tallahassee, Florida.

SHAW: Thank you, Gary.

The Florida Supreme Court is looking at two cases concerning Palm Beach County's so-called "butterfly ballots." The two-sided ballots came in for heavy criticism after Election Day because of the placement of candidate's names. The court did not decide to hear either case, but is accepting briefs through tomorrow. Some voters say the design of the ballot caused them to voted mistakenly for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore.

WOODRUFF: Gore continues to make a case for counting votes in Florida, telling reporters outside his Washington residence that Bush is trying to block that effort.

CNN's John King reports on Gore's efforts to make his case.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vice president made another appeal for patience, but mixed in a call for the Florida courts to hurry up.

GORE: Seven days, starting tomorrow, for a full and accurate count of all the votes.

KING: It was an effort to convince the public there will be a clear winner soon enough and an effort to pressure the judge hearing Gore's court challenge in Florida. The Gore legal team wants its challenge heard quickly and proposed a schedule that asked the court to begin reviewing contested ballots from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties on Wednesday; calls for a circuit court ruling on the vice president's case by next Wednesday, December 6th; would have any appeals to the Florida Supreme Court resolved by December 9th so that the case is settled by the December 12th deadline for certifying Florida's electors.

GORE: I understand that this process needs to be completed in a way that is expeditious as well as fair. We cannot jeopardize an orderly transition of power to the next administration, nor need we do so.

KING: Governor Bush's lawyers say they need more time. The vice president says that's unacceptable.

GORE: I believe this is the time to count every vote and not to run out the clock. This is not a time for delay, obstruction and procedural roadblocks.

KING: The image of a court reviewing contested ballots is critical to a Gore team fighting the growing public perception that the election is over and that the vice president's challenge is a lost cause.

The economy was the official subject of this lunch hour sit-down with Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. But Summers is interested in staying on if Mr. Gore ultimately wins the White House -- this picture, part of the Gore campaign to persuade the public that victory is still a possibility.

(on camera): The vice president dismisses as irrelevant new polls showing a majority of Americans now believe it is time for him to concede, but the effort to put the court challenge on a faster track reflects his urgent search for evidence to justify his determination to fight on.

John King, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: Gore's efforts notwithstanding, aides for George W. Bush say he's on track in planning a new government. His running mate Dick Cheney talked about that effort earlier tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," also saying if he were in Gore's position, he would concede.


CHENEY: If I were in his position, that's what I would do. I'm clearly not in his position. He's made the decision that he wants to continue with the legal contest by taking the whole matter to court, and that leaves us really with no choice but to proceed with our own legal options, which we're doing.


SHAW: Governor Bush is planning to spend the next few days at his Crawford, Texas ranch where, as our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reports, transition work will continue.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bush legal team called in reinforcement and amassed in Tallahassee for assaults on several fronts, on what the Gore campaign calls 10,000 uncounted votes in Miami-Dade.

IRVIN TERRELL, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Those 10,000 nonvotes are about 1.6 percent of the votes cast in that county. If you look at other states and other counties, other states outside Florida and other counties in Florida, you find that in 34, at least 34 counties in Florida there are higher percentages of nonvotes.

CROWLEY: On Gore team complaints that a -- quote -- "mob" intimidated Miami-Dade County into calling off a recount.

FRED BARTLIT, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: The air in the room when they made the decision was calm. It was relaxed. There were no shouts. There was no pressure in the room. A statement under these circumstances about a mob storming a counting facility is designed to heat up the situation.

CROWLEY: On whether those Palm Beach County ballots were, as Gore supporters claim, illegal.

PHIL BECK, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: The law is that if anyone has a concern with the form of the ballot, that has to be expressed before the election, not after the election.

CROWLEY: And on 218 Nassau County votes the Gore camp is disputing.

DARYL BRISTOW, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: No one at no time declared these votes illegal. They are not nonvotes. They are not overvotes. They were real votes. They were counted in the original count.

CROWLEY: While lawyers in Florida and Washington defend his claim to the title president-elect, George Bush is in Texas leading a kind of transition in exile. There are meetings with Andy Card, chief of staff in waiting. Transition chief and running mate Dick Cheney is expected to join Bush at his Crawford ranch later this week. It is secluded enough to raise the question whether possible Cabinet interviews could take place there.

ANDY CARD, BUSH ADVISER: I think you'll find that we'll have a few people coming down, but we're not putting any out -- out any big schedule yet. We're waiting to see what happens. Obviously, we're very attentive to what's going to be happening in Washington over the next several days.

CROWLEY: The transition talk has inevitably fired up discussion of familiar names in the Bush rolodex: Colin Powell possibly as secretary of state; Condoleezza Rice as a possible national security adviser; governors Frank Keating or Marc Racicot as possible attorney general; and perhaps, in the mode of bipartisanship, someone like former Senator Sam Nunn, a moderate Democrat, as defense chief.

(on camera): But because they walk a fine line between trying to project certainty without seeming presumptuous, the Bush camp says it rejects this public talk of specific Cabinet names as a Washington parlor game.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Austin.


WOODRUFF: The United States Supreme Court will hear the Bush campaign appeal over hand recounts Friday morning. And because of the intense interest in the case, the court will release an audiotape of the 90 minutes of arguments soon after the end of the hearing.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer looks at the issues the justices will look at.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lawyers and couriers dashed in and out of the U.S. Supreme Court throughout the afternoon delivering the critical legal briefs that frame Friday's arguments. George W. Bush's lawyers called on the court to vacate the ruling of the Florida Supreme Court that extended the manual vote recount until Sunday.

BEN GINSBERG, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Among the bedrock principles of American election law is that you can't come up with new and different rules after election day for the purpose of counting ballots.

BIERBAUER: The impact, which the justices asked all to assess, would be to "... certify the results of the election based on returns received by the statutory deadline of November 14th."

The Bush brief notes Miami-Dade's recount did not begin until after the 14th. As a practical result, "Some of the recently filed election challenges to the election results may be mooted."

The Gore brief asks the justices to "affirm" the Florida ruling. Gore's lawyers saw broader consequences in overturning the Florida court that "... would do violence both to principles of federalism and to the independence of the judiciary throughout the United States."

LAURENCE TRIBE, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We are asking the high court to step aside. We do not think there has been any violation of federal law or the federal Constitution to remedy. BIERBAUER: Competing briefs from Florida officials predicted differing consequences in overturning the ruling. For Secretary of State Harris, a Republican, "No returns from manual recounts after the November 14 certification will be permitted to be counted." But Attorney General Butterworth, a Democrat, saw "... no effect on the obligation of the state canvassing board to amend the vote tabulation to correct inaccuracies." In other words, the Gore contest in several counties could still produce new vote totals.

(on camera): The justices could shred those arguments in an hour and a half of intense questioning before the court Friday. They'll be on some new terrain, but no one will be timid.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.


SHAW: Now to help us sort through and make sense of the legal issues surrounding this election, we're joined once again by Kenneth Gross. He's a CNN election law analyst and a former FEC official.

Ken, Friday morning before the highest court in this great land, oral arguments. Saturday morning in Tallahassee in the courtroom of Judge Sauls, very critical arguments.

Of all these legal proceedings, which should most command our attention?

KENNETH GROSS, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, it sounds odd, but that proceeding before Judge Sauls in the circuit court, the lowest court in the state of Florida, may be more important in resolving this conflict than the Supreme Court meeting on this issue. The Supreme Court has before it an issue involving the protest part of this, and I certainly don't want to underestimate the headline of a Supreme Court decision as to who wins. But looking at it legally, the decisions and the issues that are before Judge Sauls' court in Tallahassee, Florida are more important, because they deal with the contest part of this proceeding.

SHAW: Now, today we learned that Judge Sauls denied Vice President Gore's side. They made a request for an emergency recount of 13,000 ballots in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. What can be read into this?

GROSS: Well, I don't want to read too much into it, because it was a very preliminary hearing. Make no mistake about it: This proceeding before Judge Sauls, the circuit court in Florida, is about time. And the sooner the Gore people can get the judge to count those votes or recount the votes that are in issue, the better off they are. And of course, the Bush people are trying to say, we have to have a proceeding, you have to have due process.

So Judge Sauls is kind of trying to go down the middle on this, and he's saying, we're going to have some evidentiary hearing before I decide to start recounting. But if I order recounting, I'm going to do it in time to get the recounting done, and hopefully, have an appeal process still before December 12th.

GREENFIELD: Ken, turn back to the Supreme Court for a second, because there's a real odd situation here. George W. Bush publicly by name praised justices Scalia and Thomas as the kind of justices he would appoint. The Gore campaign -- and I believe Gore himself -- by name has said that Scalia and Thomas are the kinds of justices he would never appoint. Is there a case here for recusal? Should these two justices step aside because they've been brought into the presidential campaign?

GROSS: The way the Supreme Court works is mysterious to a lot of people, because they work in secrecy and there are no courtrooms. But one of the most -- and there's no cameras in the courtrooms. But one of the most difficult things to ascertain is why a particular justice would recuse themselves. They simply do it. They don't ever give an explanation. It could be because of some personal relationship.

I'm doubtful, however, based on a public statement of a presidential candidate praising one of the justices that that would be a basis for recusal.

SHAW: OK. Thank you, Ken Gross -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And up next, we move from the court of law to the court of public opinion. Our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, will share his thoughts.

Also ahead...


PROTESTERS: Let us in! Let us in! Let us in!


WOODRUFF: ... who was behind the ruckus in Miami and did these Bush supporters pressure vote counters to call it quits?

And later, will the Florida state legislature get involved in the election and take the matter of the controversial vote into its own hands?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he should continue. It's the American democracy and people should have the right to have votes expressed. And, you know, the whole system seems to be flawed and it expresses that view that, you know, it's going to take time and we're going to have to find a better way to do it for the next election.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I definitely see it coming to an end. I think the court is the right place to go when things need to be -- when you have to have higher justice. But I think now the votes are in and everything's been tallied and we don't need the courts anymore. The numbers speak for themselves.


WOODRUFF: The views from two coasts. And joining us now with his take on today's developments, our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.

Jeff, you've been doing some thinking about that position that Al Gore finds himself in.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Yes, I think it's a very tricky and difficult one politically. On the one hand, everything he and his campaign has said is trying to strike the tone of reasonableness. All we want is the votes to be counted. We don't know who won. Yes, maybe I won the popular vote but on the other hand, almost from the beginning, Bush's supporters have been saying the theft of the presidency may be at stake, here. We've got to rally the troops.

And the question I'm wondering is if Al Gore needs to sustain Democrats to stand with him in this political time, can he do it if his argument is not passionate, if it's just reasonable? I don't know that people march behind the flag of reasonableness in politics.

WOODRUFF: How does he do it, then?

GREENFIELD: Well, I think he -- my own sense is that he needs outside help. If he can get that court in Leon County to say, you know, these ballots weren't counted. We are going to look at these ballots. By George, you have more votes, that will change the entire dynamic. But I don't think speeches to the nation, no matter how many flags you have behind you and tones of reasonableness are going to change what seems to be a public mood of all right, already, to put in the vernacular. I think he needs help.

WOODRUFF: Reasonableness on the surface, but clearly, Jeff, boiling below the surface and, you know, at the top among some real bitterness. How long does that stay with us?

GREENFIELD: Well, let me just give you some from history. Back in 1876, we know that Rutherford B. Hayes some think stole the election from Samuel Tilden. He came from a month's long trip in Europe, greeted the crown in New York and somebody yelled at him, you were robbed. And Tilden -- now remember, this is months later -- said, I wasn't robbed. The country was robbed.

So, you know, I don't mean to suggest that Al Gore would come back from a vacation if he loses and say that. But the potential for longstanding bitterness should not be swept away by notions of, oh, well we'll all be civil again. I think this one could last for a while, particularly depending on how the politicians behave.

WOODRUFF: Longer than Inauguration Day, in other words?

GREENFIELD: Oh, I would -- I'd kind of make a bet on that.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff Greenfield. Thanks very much -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you. It probably won't make a difference, but Al Gore may be able to count on a dozen more electoral votes. Oregon today certified Gore as the winner of its seven electoral votes. Also, New Mexico officials conditionally certified Gore the winner of its five electoral votes, but that's on hold until officials review disputed ballots in one county.

When we return, more questions about what's been going on in Florida.


REP. JOHN SWEENEY (R), NEW YORK: I told my people they needed to stop the process from going forward. I think they wholly understood that and what words I used, frankly, I don't quite remember.


SHAW: This time, it's about whether an angry demonstration in Miami-Dade County was designed to intimidate the vote counters.


SHAW: Welcome back to this CNN special report. There's another controversy in this collection of controversies.

CNN's Frank Buckley looks at last week's demonstration outside the room where votes were being recounted in Miami-Dade County.


CROWD: The world is watching!

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who was behind this Republican protest?

This is Brendan Quinn, executive director of New York's Republican Party. Quinn now saying he was among the first to suggest Republicans demonstrate.

BRENDAN QUINN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE: I told people I was going up there because I was very frustrated and everyone else acknowledged they were frustrated too and wanted to go up there.

BUCKLEY: Quinn seeming to confirm what some critics have said, that paid political operatives of the Republican Party spearheaded the demonstration.

But Quinn says the protest was spontaneous, sparked when he and fellow Republican observers got angry about the canvassing board's decision to move the vote counting process to this smaller tabulating room, where only a few of them would be permitted to observe the manual recount.

QUINN: We were just frustrated. We wanted to be able to document that we were not allowed in to be able to have evidence for future court dates because they were taking this process from out in the open to behind closed doors, and it just didn't look right. It wasn't fair.

BUCKLEY: New York Congressman John Sweeney, upon hearing the board's decision to move was quoted as saying, "shut it down."

SWEENEY: I told my people that they needed to stop the process from going forward. I think they wholly understood that and what words I used, frankly, I don't quite remember.

BUCKLEY: But Sweeney says his intention was clear, to legally challenge the canvassing board.

SWEENEY: You've got to get our attorneys in there. You've got to make sure that they understand that this is wholly unacceptable and there will be legal consequences to that action. And that's essentially what we were ordering people to do.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Canvassing board members say they were not intimidated by the Republican protesters, but Democrats and other critics continue to insist they were. That has prompted some members of Congress to request a formal investigation by the Department of Justice.

(voice-over): Of a protest emblematic of a partisan struggle for the presidency that is still underway.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Miami.


WOODRUFF: There are thousands of Florida votes in question because counting machines did not register any votes for presidential candidates on those ballots. What is the likelihood that people would vote without voting for president?

To talk about that and other questions being raised by the Gore camp we are joined by the editorial page editor of "The Miami Herald," Tom Fiedler. He's in Miami. And coming along in a moment we expect to have -- here he is. CNN election analyst David Cardwell. He joins us from Tallahassee.

Before we get into Miami-Dade ballots, I just want to ask Tom Fiedler if you have late information about this protest there in the Miami-Dade government building. You just heard our report by Frank Buckley. Tom, anything new on that today, tonight?

TOM FIEDLER, "THE MIAMI HERALD": No, there's really nothing new on this. But again, I think this is largely being driven by the vice president and Senator Lieberman. Frankly, politics in Miami-Dade County has long been contact sport and this hardly rose to the level I think of something that would be terribly upsetting to a canvassing board down here.

WOODRUFF: All right. Well, that's -- that's reassuring to know, I'm sure, for other parts of the country where politics is also a contact sport.

Let me ask you both about these 10,750-some-odd ballots in Miami- Dade, so-called "undervotes," where people voted for other offices but did not vote for president.

David Cardwell, knowing what you know about voters in Florida, how typical is it that there would be that many in Miami-Dade County who didn't vote for the top office on the ballot?

DAVID CARDWELL, FORMER FLORIDA ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Well, the percentage works out to a little over 1 1/2 percent, and that's within the range of undervotes typically in some of our statewide races. You may initially think that it's a little unusual to have that many undervotes or people not voting in the presidential election, but I think if you look at this election this year, it was so close -- it was basically a draw in the state of Florida -- there may have been a lot of people who went to the polls and just quite frankly said, "I can't make up my mind between these two," and just went on to the next race.

WOODRUFF: Tom Fiedler, has anybody actually seen these ballots, touched them? We know they've been through machines, but the Gore people seem to be saying they haven't been counted by human hands. But has anybody really gotten a sense of, you know, how -- not only how many there are, but where these ballots are from, what precincts?

FIEDLER: Well, no. Actually, they're from all over. In fact, they just program the counting machines to spit out those ballots where there was no indentation, no mark of any kind on the presidential level. So they really do come from all over the county. There's no way of finding if they are -- if they would be heavily Gore or heavily Bush in either case.

You know, I think what David was saying is absolutely right. To have 10,000 undercount ballots in an election here in Dade County where there were about 600,000 is really right within the parameters. In fact, the exit poll, the Voter News Service exit poll, also turned up I think it was 1 1/2 to 2 percent of the people who came out and said they also did not vote.

So I think we may find in going through these by hand that a high, high number of them are actually people who passed on the presidential race entirely.

WOODRUFF: If that's the case, David Cardwell, what is your sense of what the Gore people are hanging their argument on? If this is entirely within a statistical estimate of how many votes might not have been cast for president, what are -- what are they hanging this on then? CARDWELL: Judy, you may hate for me to say this, but it could be the dimpled chad again, because what they may be counting on is that by going into these undervotes and pulling those ballots out, that by hand counting them, it will be found that there is a significant number of those ballots that had some sort of indentation in the slot or in the punch that would have been a Gore vote but didn't go all the way through, and the machine would not have picked those up, would have registered as an undervote.

And they're hoping that by inspecting them by hand that either a judge or a special master or whoever is doing the hand count now in this contest proceeding could determine if that was in fact a vote for Gore and not a literally a pass on the entire election for that particular voter.

WOODRUFF: And Tom Fiedler, if that's what we're dealing with here, what is your sense of what's going to turn up? Because we know that in Miami-Dade they stopped counting, but what standards were they using before they stopped?

FIEDLER: They were using the sunlight test basically here. We didn't get into pregnant dimples or dimples in that initial count. And they only again sampled 10 percent of those -- of the precincts, most of which were heavily Gore precincts.

I think again that the vice president here is hanging his hopes on very slender thread if he ends up having to focus the outcome of these 10,700 ballots -- long, long shot for him.

GREENFIELD: David, take us through briefly what we know about timing. I've been reading that in some cases in Florida these contests can take weeks, months, in some cases literally years. How in heaven's name can they ever get this contest within the timeframe of December 12th as a cutoff?

CARDWELL: It's going to be very, very difficult, Jeff. Recounts that -- contests that I've been involved in, at only a single-county level, dealing with a county office, have often taken two to three months, and that's not counting an appeal. In this instance, the stakes are so high, the issues are so significant, and the evidence that has to be brought in -- the number of ballots that have to either be counted or recounted, witnesses that may be brought in to testify to what the canvassing board did or did not do -- to try to get this compressed into the timeframe that we have to complete it by December 12th, it has never been done in the state of Florida.

But you know, why should that be unusual in this election?

WOODRUFF: Tom Fiedler, you've already weighed in on, based on your educated background there in looking at politics in Florida...


... in Miami-Dade ballots. Let me ask you what your thinking is about those 3,300 ballots in Palm Beach County that are going to be very much the focus of this hearing up in Tallahassee on Saturday. FIEDLER: Again, this is going to be interesting to see, because it sounds like Judge Sauls wants to go through a tutorial here to find out exactly how this is done, to look at what a dimple is. And then he is going to set the standard -- I guess this would also be subject to appeal -- as to just what he believes was proper.

And what is really difficult, too, about these 3,300 Palm Beach ballots, we know at least anecdotally that the standard changed as the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board moved through them. They were much stricter in the first -- in doing the first ballots, the first precincts than they were toward the end, when I think -- when I think they felt pressure and things loosened up a bit.

So it's really a puzzle how this is going to come up. It looks like Judge Sauls is going to play the roll of Solomon here in deciding about the pregnant chads.

WOODRUFF: David Cardwell, are you reading it the same way?

CARDWELL: Pretty much. In fact, I thought it was interesting today at the hearing before Judge Sauls that at one point David Boies, the counsel for the Gore campaign, made the comment that depending on how the judge ruled on Saturday on the recount issue, that they wanted to be sure they had sufficient time to take an immediate appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on his ruling. It's an intermediate appeal while you're in the course of a proceeding, which to me sort, if I heard it right, seemed to indicate that the Gore campaign may already be anticipating that Judge Sauls may not be disposed to doing a recount.

Even though he's ordering the ballots to be brought to Tallahassee so they're physically here in the event that a recount is necessary, he seemed to be reluctant to do that. And as Tom said, I think he is trying to go down the middle with this, but he's not -- surely, from what we heard today, he's not convinced yet that a recount's absolutely necessary, but he wants to be in a position to do if it is found to be necessary. But it may be that we're going to have an intermediate appeal to the Supreme Court first.

WOODRUFF: Which further raises the question how do you get all those done by the time that it has to be done by.

CARDWELL: That's right.

WOODRUFF: David Cardwell, Tom Fiedler, we appreciate you both being with us. Thanks very much.

CARDWELL: My pleasure.

SHAW: Still ahead, just when you thought this whole process couldn't get any more confusing, Florida's legislature ponders whether it should get involved in this disputed presidential contest. Details when this special report continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: A quick look now at the latest developments. In Leon County, Florida, a circuit judge scheduled a hearing Saturday into Al Gore's request to count ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The vice president took his case to the public again, urging Americans to permit the legal process to run its course. Bush observer James Baker added more legal firepower, introducing a new team of lawyers to defend the election results in Florida.

Lawyers for both sides filed briefs with the United States Supreme Court and the Court announced that audio tapes will let the public hear, but not see, what happens at Friday's hearing on whether the recounts were legal.

SHAW: But, the legal maneuvering may not end with the nation's highest court. In Tallahassee, Florida state lawmakers will meet again tomorrow to decide whether to call a special session to use their power to settle the state's disputed presidential election.

CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher has more.


MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Never in modern American history has it happened: A legislature naming its state's presidential electors. In Florida, the first steps have been taken to do just that.

JOHNNIE BYRD (R), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: At the end of the day, we must make absolutely sure that Floridians are represented in the Electoral College.

BOETTCHER: A 14-member Florida legislative committee, dominated by Republicans, the majority party in the Florida House and Senate, held hearings to lay the groundwork for calling a special session where they plan to assign Florida's presidential electors to vote for Governor Bush. Democrats cried foul.

KENNETH GOTTLIEB (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: I'm concerned that this could be seen as a sham. Are we meeting to set the stage for a special session to guarantee the presidency to George W. Bush? We should not serve as an insurance policy for a Bush presidency.

BOETTCHER: But Republican legislators brought in expert witnesses, constitutional experts, who maintained that the U.S. Constitution requires state legislatures to step in and name electors if the election results are in doubt.

PROFESSOR JOHN YOO, CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERT: I think that you sit at a time of amazing constitutional controversy and I really think that much of what will happen turns on your decision alone. And that is a heavy and difficult responsibility, but it is your constitutional duty, and I don't think it would be appropriate to avoid that duty by waiting until the last minute.

BOETTCHER (on camera): The committee is scheduled to reconvene at 10:00 a.m., and according to senior members of the Florida legislature, by the end of the day will recommend that the Florida House and Senate take matters of a controversial presidential election into their own hands.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Tallahassee.


SHAW: And in the nation's capital, inquiring Pentagon minds want to know, did military voting procedures lead to confusion? This military investigation follows complaints that Florida election officials disqualified many overseas ballots because of problems with the postmark. Absentee ballots from military people overseas do not require stamps, but all military mail is to be postmarked.

GREENFIELD: And when come back: A Bush presidency. Would it really delight the right? Would it really leave the left bereft? Let's ask, shall we? In a moment.


GREENFIELD: As the ancient curse has it, be careful what you wish for. Does that apply to this campaign? Would a Bush presidency really be the best thing for conservative? Would it really be the worst thing for liberals and Democrats? Let's ask Rich Lowry, editor of "National Review" magazine, who is in New York and Michelle Cottle. She's a senior editor of "The New Republic" who is in Washington.

So, Rich you know the hypothesis. It's the Democrats are actually licking their chops about a Bush presidency. He can't appoint Scalias and Thomases. He can't get a tax cut through. He's lost the popular vote. He'll be a weakened president from day one, and they'll clean up in the Congressional elections in four years. To which conservatives might say what?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I mean, that's one way to look at it. But Jeff, as you know, American politics is fundamentally a centrist coalition politics and the differences are always at the margins and even the weakened George W. Bush that becomes president in these circumstances is going to be better from a conservative's perspective than Al Gore.

So, that's a big point in his favor right there and look, you know John F. Kennedy in 1960 won an extremely close election. Of course, he had the benefit of an opponent who actually conceded at some point, but he created mandate in effect through the way he governed and George W. Bush is going to have to do the same think. So, I think it's too early to make any judgment about his ability to did that one way or the other.

GREENFIELD: I guess what I'm asking, Rich, also is in a year or two do you think right will be fuming at George W. Bush because except for not being Al Gore, he hasn't gotten anything through that they cared about?

LOWRY: Well, you know, that's quite possible and the advantage of loosing in these sort of circumstances is it makes everyone very angry. And, you know, right now I haven't seen conservatives so supercharged and upset since 1993 and 1994. And if Al Gore were to somehow sneak in, that edge and that energy would definitely stay there. You're not sure if it's going to remain there if George Bush is president.

But look, Jeff, I mean there's a possibility for real conservative policy advances on a bipartisan basis in Congress. There's a bipartisan majority in Congress in favor of rebuilding defenses. There's a bipartisan majority in favor of missile defenses. There's a bipartisan majority in favor of certain tax cuts. So, there's no reason that a Bush administration need to be desolate desert for conservatives.

GREENFIELD: Michelle Cottle, turn that around. The concept that Democrats in Congress, who may not be that fond of Al Gore anyway, are perfectly content to have weakened George Bush. History would show that they would take the Congress back in two years. Is that your sense that Democrats are just kind of OK with that idea of a Bush president right now?

MICHELLE COTTLE, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": It certainly seems that if you have Al Gore come in, there's a lot more danger that Republicans are just going to berserk and get supercharged in 2002, and then Gore's going to be a one-term president who can't accomplish anything because of this, the really close split in the House and the Senate. And then by 2004, the Republicans will have both houses of Congress and the presidency.

I think there's a lot more danger of the Republicans getting energized over a Gore presidency, because they will have seen him to have stolen it. I mean, they -- they do look at this already as just his foot dragging and that Bush should be in there, and I think they'd have a lot of problems.

GREENFIELD: But among the people you know in Washington, whether they're on the Hill, whether they're folks in exile at the more liberal think tanks, are you hearing that undercurrent that, look, OK, let's let this one pass, we can afford a weakened Bush president, and then we can figure out what our game is in two or four years? Is that -- is that a conversation that's going on here?

COTTLE: Well, right now, I think Democrats, especially publicly, are just kind of biding their time. They have become really angry I think with the Republican shenanigans in Miami, and if there's one thing that the Republicans showed themselves able to do with Bill Clinton in particular, they can drive you into the arms of somebody who you're a little irritated with any way. And they really have driven Democrats into the arms of Al Gore with this, and they've rallied behind him.

But I think part of that is that the Supreme Court decision Friday has given the Democrats a little breathing room. They don't have to decide anything. They can kind of sit back and wait. But then after the ruling this week, you know, they're going to have to kind of decide when enough is enough, and I think then you're going to go back to what we were hearing earlier, which is, you know, how long -- how far are we going to take this.

GREENFIELD: Rich, very quickly, so if in two years we have several Democrats in Bush's Cabinet and compassionate conservatism and centrism, the folks on the right will be saying, "Yippee!" or "Oh, Lord"?

LOWRY: Well, it depends. It depends on what kind of bipartisan administration he has. If he has a bipartisan administration that actually accomplishes some achievable conservative goals, you know, we'll be -- we'll be satisfied with that.

But you know, look, to be frank, the tapping of Andy Card as chief of staff is not particularly encouraging to the right, because it shows an old Bush tendency to go to guys who are just family loyalists rather than people with strong philosophical agendas. So, that's not an early encouraging sign.

GREENFIELD: Sorry, Rich, but all right, we have the first signs of discontent, and the man isn't even sworn in.

Thank you, Rick Lowry. Thank you, Michelle Cottle.

And finally, you know Diogenes, who with his lantern wandered the land looking for an honest man? That's what it's like these days trying to find a nonpartisan institution to offer a dispassionate voice in this fight.

Katherine Harris? A Bush Republican. The Florida Supreme Court? They're all Democrats. The Florida legislature? GOP. The canvassing boards? Democratic.

So, look at the United States Supreme Court. On the surface, you could say Republican presidents named seven justices, a Democratic president, Clinton, two. Now look at it a little deeper: Two of the justices named by Republicans, David Souter and John Paul Stevens, are liberal. Two others, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, conservatives.

I look back in history: Republican Eisenhower appointed two of the most liberal court members, including Chief Justice Earl Warren. John F. Kennedy named one of the more conservative, Byron White. And it was Chief Justice Warren Burger, named by Richard Nixon, who led the court when it forced Nixon to give up those Watergate tapes.

So maybe party labels don't tell us everything? Wasn't it a Democratic Miami-Dade board that refused to do that hand count Gore wanted? Maybe we shouldn't assume the worst just because of a party label. Maybe we'll remember that once the dust settles -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: We'll make sure we do remember it.

GREENFIELD: Take notes.

WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield. We are. Thank you.

And when this special report continues, trimming the tree and decking the halls: the candidates getting into the holiday spirit in the midst of the election confusion.


WOODRUFF: Well, in spite of all the partisan bickering, name- calling and legal arguing, it doesn't appear that the election grinch has stolen Christmas.

SHAW: In Governor Bush's home state, Texas, workers began sprucing up the capital today, placing wreaths at the entrance. And on Thursday, Vice President Al Gore's wife, Tipper, will place star atop the Christmas tree on the Ellipse here in Washington.

And that concludes this special report on "Election 2000: The Florida Vote." I'm Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: And I'm Judy Woodruff. "THE SPIN ROOM" is just about ready to take off. Here are Bill Press and Tucker Carlson with a preview.

Hello, gentlemen.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST, CNN "THE SPIN ROOM": All right. Hi, Judy and Bernie.

Yes, we're up next, so get ready to spin tonight with the Reverend Jesse Jackson as more lawyers invade the sunshine state.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, CNN "THE SPIN ROOM": We'll have bushels of lawyers and reams of your recount poetry, coming up in two minutes on "THE SPIN ROOM."



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