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Joint Florida Legislative Committee Holds Hearing to Determine Whether to Convene Special Session for Appointing Electors

Aired November 29, 2000 - 11:19 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to show our viewers live pictures now from Tallahassee. This is the committee meeting taking place at the state legislature of Florida deciding whether they need a special session coming up this weekend. Let's listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I know she saw me punch Buchanan and did not say a word. I want my vote to count.


It has gotten to the point that I can no longer watch this on television. I have been in the emergency room twice because I have been so upset and physically ill over this. I am ready to file a $10 million lawsuit over this, and I will. Thank you.


Mrs. Collins (ph), Mrs. Engel (ph), and then Myrtle Rains (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. My name is Beverly Collins and I'm here today because I thought I was coming to speak about what happened to me on Election Day. And from what you've just stated, beginning, I know that I'll be shut down and asked to be removed if I go that route.

So what I wanted to say to you is, I'm a voter, I've been a voter for a long time. And I come here this morning to not only share my story, but to ask you to see me as a voter, to see me as a person that placed you in your jobs today and ask you to not ask us to step aside and not have a say in what you're deciding. I'm quite nervous this morning. But I'm here because my children expect me to be here, and my community wants me to be here.

And I say to all of you, don't discount us as people that have come up here on one agenda and you've changed yours. Hear us out and let us be able to have a say in what you're deciding and take back with you what we're saying and what we're feeling. Because a lot of black people -- and I know people call them African-Americans, but I'm a black woman. And I say to you as a black woman, look at all of the black people that came out on election day to vote. And because we came en masse and we have not in the past come en masse, we were confused, we were misled, and we had no knowledge of what we were thinking we were supposed to do. We went out, we were high falutin' and we thought we were going to vote for who we wanted to lead us. And we've jumped out here in this pot of politics and what's right and what's wrong and we've bungled it up a little bit. But step back and take notice that one of us voted for one of you. And in voting for one or all of you, we are making choices that we haven't made in the past.

And I say to you again, please, please, please, hear us out, take into consideration what we're saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Engel, Mrs. Rains, Mrs. Burmester (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam chair and committee members, I thank you in advance for your time. I'm here with fellow citizens from Palm Beach County. I believe our issues do relate directly to the appointing of electors for the state of Florida. The electors need to be appointed, or are supposed to be appointed, according to the will of the people. And I believe in Palm Beach County that it was very difficult to determine what the will of the people was.

I served as a precinct clerk in Palm Beach County on Election Day and I myself observed numerous irregularities. The main issue that I observed was the fact that our phone lines were so busy that, even as poll workers, we were unable to do our job properly to certify whether people were registered to vote in Palm Beach County or not. Thus, every individual precinct clerk had to make judgment calls about who was allowed to vote or who was denied the right to vote based on a book we had.

Now we should have been able to access a phone number that would have given us direct information of the database if people registered or not. We were not able to do that. And every -- 531 individual precinct clerks made determinations to the best of their judgment call about who should or should not be allowed to vote that day, and that was not the way it was meant to be. We were supposed to have access to that information and we would have not needed to make those judgment calls.

In addition, throughout the day we had numerous people complaining about confusing ballots, we had numerous people needing assistance, some of whom we were able to provide assistance, others who we were not able to provide. I am very concerned about the issues that I saw not only in my precinct but in other precincts in Palm Beach County.

Thank you for your time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Mrs. Rains, Mrs. Burmester, Mrs. Johnson (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. Myrtle Rains, Belle Glade, Florida.

I'm going to withdraw my request to speak because of the change in the agenda, but I will return. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

Mrs. Burmester, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Steinman (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Mary McCarly Burmester (ph) and I'm a native Floridian, and I've been working the polls in West Palm Beach County for many, many years. And there was a lot of irregularities that I couldn't get through to the headquarters. As I understand, we only had 12 lines and people came in that were not on the precinct register, and I would have to put them on an add-on list. I couldn't get through to do that. Some waited up as long as three hours. Even the minister of the church was trying to get through to the headquarters. And that was one of the things.

And I had eight people working for me and an assistant clerk. And we were just so busy all day long trying to help people in the booths and getting the people voting, and no one was really holding their ballot up and checking that they were voting. There was lines. I never saw so many in all the years that I have been a precinct clerk, or when I was an inspector. And I thought it was the most unusual election I've ever been because so many people didn't get to vote. And what ones did vote were not sure they voted for the right person.


Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Steinman, Lewis Hasen (Ph), Miriam Lazarus (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gwendolyn Johnson. I reside in Wellington -- excuse me -- Florida.

First of all, I do have to change what I am going -- what I did come here to say to you this morning. And I find it very embarrassing that we came from such a long distance and you changed the agenda on us.


It is not fair, though we are -- I'm embarrassed about concerning what is going on, and I'm very embarrassed about, you know, we elected people that are not really representing us properly and in order. We have to change -- we came from a long ways. We took time out of our agenda, our busy schedule, and we also -- you know, we worked on your campaigns doing the same thing. We deserve the right to exercise what we came here to discuss with you from such a long distance.

But I will add on that it was numerous of problems that I have to discuss with you. I was one of the persons that coordinated the black GOTV. And it was problems all through the program. The ballot -- it was -- we have two different ballots here. The absentee ballot does not even look like the original or the sample ballot.

And I say to you this morning, you really should feel embarrassed that you're not allowing us to do what we came here for. We work for you, you should work for us. Thank you.


KAGAN: We've been listening to a special joint legislative committee hearing of the Florida state legislature convened to figure out what happens if the Florida state legislature, in fact, on December 12 does end up having to decide what to do with Florida's electors.

The people we've been listening to, citizens from South Florida. As we understand it from Mike Boettcher earlier today, this is a group of voters brought up by the Democrats to have their say of what their experience was, they believe, on Election Day.

With more, and on the other side, let's go back down to Tallahassee and Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Daryn, thank you.

It is said that those voters flew in here, basically, and they were bused over about 9:30 a.m. local time. And each given about five minute, no more, to address the special committee meeting, again, to our right in a special building here in Tallahassee.

Now, you may or may not have heard a number of people talk about the confusion that they seemed to experience on Election Day. And lot of this goes back to that butterfly ballot.

Now, Republicans counter that that butterfly ballot was actually designed by Democrats and then approved by Democrats in those specific counties before the election ever took place. They say, at this point, there's nothing you can do about that. It may be unfortunate; however, if you want to change it, change it for next time as opposed to this time.

And again, we expect this to continues throughout the day. This committee here made up of house members and senate members from the statehouse here in Tallahassee: six Republicans, six Democrats.

We do expect a strong possibility that before the end of the day today, before they close out business here in the state capital, that they may indeed send this to the full state legislature, senate and house here. And you could possibly go into a special session, if indeed that's the conclusion reached here, by the end of this week, maybe Thursday or perhaps Friday.

So that's what we're watching, Daryn. We'll set the table for you throughout the morning here and let you know what we learn and know here in Florida. Back to you now in Atlanta.

KAGAN: All right, very good. Thank you very much.



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