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CNN Today

The Florida Vote: Gore Camp Continues Fight for Further Ballot Counts

Aired November 28, 2000 - 2:19 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: Well, we've heard from Al Gore, who just said his side wants to get this contested section of all of this done quickly and more puts the blame on the Bush team for slowing things down in the courts. We'll have to hear from them more on that.

Let's go to CNN's Bill Hemmer, who can tell us where we stand with all these court battles.

We hope you have them all sorted out, Bill, we certainly do not.

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, get out your notebook here. Listen, what the vice president was just talking about is something that's about to happen in about three hours time. There was an emergency motion filed just within the past hour over at circuit court across the street here. What the Gore campaign wants is the court to speed things up here, as he was just talking about. What they would like is a good number of these ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach brought up to Tallahassee so, starting tomorrow morning about 9:00 a.m., they can actually start counting those ballots.

Now, the Bush team is saying hey, wait a second here. We have not determined just yet if we even need to look and recount those ballots -- not so fast. In addition the Bush team -- this morning James Baker trotted out three more high-profile attorneys who were announced and introduced to members of the media here who will now join the contest -- the contest period here on behalf of the Bush campaign.

James Baker once again saying, as he had repeatedly, that the vote and the count still stands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: It is wrong, simply wrong -- and, I would submit, not fair to say, as our opponents do, over and over that these votes have never been counted. They've been counted just like all of the other non-votes, not only in other counties in Florida, but across the United States of America have been counted. They've been counted and they've been recounted by machines. They have not been manually counted, but neither have all these other votes that were thrown out in other counties in Florida and across the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: James Baker -- his legal team here talking about what they consider a number of myths in the current Gore campaign and the current suit against these three counties, Nassau, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.

They talk about Miami-Dade, they say the reference to that mob last week that the vice president just mentioned -- they point out that no one was arrested and, granted, these folks may have been loud, but they were not out of control to the sense that they were breaking the law. They also talk about those 10,000 under-votes. They contend that if 600,000 votes cast in Miami-Dade, the 10,000 only represents about 1.6 percent, or well under 2 percent. They indicate that's normal for big counties in America.

Let's talk more about it with an expert here in Florida. David Cardwell with us now.

Hello to you again, huh? We're seeing entirely too much of each other.

(LAUGHTER)

HEMMER: Here's how I see things right now, in the big scope of things: I see this big hourglass sitting there. Sometimes I see it tilting this way for the Gore folks, sometimes this way for the Bush folks.

Where do you see it -- are we up, down or somewhere else?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: I think it's probably horizontal right now. And sand isn't moving in either direction for either side except for the fact, time is running out for Gore campaign. They know that they're up against a December 12 date for when elector are supposed to have been selected and their certificates been sent by the governor to the archivist of the United States.

Now, we know that certification has occurred in Florida; the governor of Florida can send those certificates now. And that, as far as the federal government is concerned, then there's no contest, no challenge to the electors. But they know they've got to try to get something done by the 12th, otherwise they're going to have a hard time getting that slate of electors pulled back.

HEMMER: So all these legal tails that we've been chasing in Tallahassee, it appears, based on your response, that Al Gore has to click on every legal cylinder to make it work at this point.

CARDWELL: Right; the schedule that's attached to their motion that'll be heard today at 5:00 before Judge Sauls, shows a very, very aggressive schedule where something has to happen every single day. There's no opportunity for any slippage. They've even put in for a Florida Supreme Court appeal that takes only two days. That's incredible.

HEMMER: Do they move this fast in Florida, or could they? CARDWELL: They could. We don't often move this fast, but they could. This is extraordinary, as we've said before.

HEMMER: Vice President Al Gore, from a short time ago, mentioned the under-votes. The Republicans counter and say 1.6 percent of 600,000 is minuscule. Is that normal or is it not?

CARDWELL: That's not an excessively high number. In fact, I've seen numbers that -- several counties in Florida had much higher under-vote totals. Also, apparently, there's been an estimate made that, throughout the entire country, there are almost 2 million under- votes in the presidential election.

HEMMER: Two million of 100 million, so do the math there.

CARDWELL: So it's not unusual to have under-votes because it may be that the person just could not make up their mind. Look at the closeness of this election -- there may have been some people saying, I can't choose, I'll just move to the next race that's on the ballot. What the Gore campaign is arguing is that those under-votes contain a significant amount of the dimples, the pregnant chads; and they're hoping that if they're counted manually, as they were in Broward, they'll pick up a lot of votes.

HEMMER: The vice president also suggested that this punch-card ballot is unfair. He was suggesting that senior citizens vote off it, possibly minorities. However, we know and we have evidence that there's -- the state of New York votes this way. New York city votes this way. Parts of Atlanta vote this way as well.

Fair criticism from him or not?

CARDWELL: Well, the Vote-o-Matic system -- the punch-card voting -- is used throughout the country. It's probably, over the last 30 years, been the most popular, so to speak, voting system. It's relatively easy to maintain, except on Election Day. It doesn't take up a lot of space for storage and this sort of thing.

But there have been problems with the punch cards. It is an older technology, newer systems coming out use optical scanners; they're much more accurate and avoid the hanging chad problem. But we've had a lot of elections in Florida with the punch-cart ballots. We've had some contest over it, we haven't had anything like this, but it's worked fine several other times.

HEMMER: Last question, here: In Washington, D.C., there is a rather substantial court there -- the U.S. Supreme Court -- that still lurks -- oral arguments at the end of this week. The judges here in Tallahassee, are they thinking, possibly, in the back of their minds, that no matter what they decide here, possibly this court in Washington could overturn anything they do here? And if so, does that determine any decisions they're making?

CARDWELL: Certainly; while their ultimate decision may not be effected by them thinking what another court may do, all appellate courts are cognizant of what's going on around them and what other courts may be doing. I wouldn't be surprised if the justices don't have their TV tuned to CNN in their chambers saying, what's going on? I want to know what's happening; because they want to see that their decision is in some sort of context. I'm sure that the Florida Supreme Court, very aware the U.S. Supreme Court weighing in, as is the 11th Circuit sitting in Atlanta.

We sort of have three appellate courts kind of looking at each other and seeing which one goes first.

HEMMER: We like it when people tune into CNN, too.

David Cardwell, again, thanks. We'll talk to you again tomorrow, OK? I'm sure we'll have a number of other things to talk about then.

All right, a 5:00 hearing here in Tallahassee, we'll track that for you. Also let you know everything else that's going around here in the Florida capitol.

Now back to Atlanta and more with Natalie -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Bill.

We have courts there in Florida active, we've got the Supreme Court gearing up, and we also have the Pentagon getting into the ballot questions -- this concerning military ballots.

And Jamie McIntyre is following that one for us -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, there's been a lot of heartburn here at the Pentagon about the controversy in Florida, about military absentee ballots being disqualified because of lack of postmark or other procedural questions. And the secretary of defense today, William Cohen, has ordered an inspector-general review of all of the absentee ballot voting procedures for military people serving overseas with a particular eye toward determining whether or not the procedures are adequate for postmarking all those ballots.

Now, military absentee ballots do not require postage. That is, they can be mailed postage free, just like members of Congress, for instance, can mail letters without postage. But the question is, did that lack of a postage stamp result in the last of a postmark that got a military ballot disqualified? The Pentagon is going to look into that to see whether or not the procedures in place require that all of the mail be postmarked as it should, if not, that they need to change the procedures and -- whether or not those procedures were adequately followed in this case.

This, of course, won't do anything to change what's happened in Florida in this election. The eye here is for ensuring, in the future, that all military absentee ballots are counted, and that they're not -- no members of the military are disenfranchised because of the failure of the military postal system to postmark their ballot.

This review will result in a series of recommendations for improvements in the system, and that should be coming in the coming months, again, with an eye toward improving things in future elections -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And for those ballots -- those military members that were disenfranchised in this election -- is the Pentagon saying whether this was just a problem, mainly, in Florida, or have they figured out whether this occurred in many other states?

MCINTYRE: Well, the Pentagon has said that this has been an educational process for the military as well as everybody else. This kind of think may have happened in other parts of the country, it may have happened in previous elections. But, because this election was so close -- because the margin was so close, in this case those military ballots really mattered.

And because of that, they're getting an education about what might have happened in the system. Perhaps problems that have been around for a while that haven't been addressed that the Pentagon will now take a serious look at addressing.

ALLEN: All right, Jamie McIntyre, thanks Jamie -- from the Pentagon.

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