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Special Event

Florida Hearing: 12:41-12:54

Aired December 3, 2000 - 12:41 p.m. ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Briefly, bringing you up to date on the stand now is John Ahmann, a witness for the Bush team.

When we last left off, he was testifying about how chad and ballots can be damaged when humans handle them. He was also talking about the theory about chad buildup.

Now Steven (ph) Zack, an attorney for the Gore team, for the past 25 minutes gets his shot at the witness, John Ahmann.

Back inside now -- Steven Zack doing the questioning.

ZACK: ... invented a stylus that had more -- it was a more flexible stylus. Is that correct?

AHMANN: That is the only pattern I have on a stylus other than a handicap, and they are -- both have the same tip.

ZACK: And the reason for creating that is that you found that people do not do what you would ideally like, and that is to vertically press down, and they come in at an angle, and that that patented rubber stylus that you have created allows them to come in at an angle and have a vote. Correct?

AHMANN: It is designed to allow the voter, because they do roll in, to straighten out that punch so it doesn't wear the template and keeps it on the chad so that, when it goes all the way through, it punches out reliably -- or more reliably.

ZACK: And when they -- I'm going to use your terminology -- roll in, if they don't have your more flexible stylus, they can end up leaving an indentation, a hanging chad, or some other form of chad. Correct?

AHMANN: They can break the tip on the old, serrated stylus. I have not done a comparison test on the new needlepoint that the other manufacturers have, so I really can't offer what happens with that. I have not tested it.

ZACK: That's fair enough. But what you did do is offer an alternative to people who use this machine that would allow a voter who comes in at an angle to actually have a clean punch. That was idea behind it?

AHMANN: Yes, sir.

ZACK: And a matter of fact, you offered that to Palm Beach, and they went with another manufacturer other than yourself. Isn't that correct?

AHMANN: No.

ZACK: Didn't you tell me that you were up for bid, and that you had offered that stylus to Palm Beach? And if I have it mistaken, please explain to it me.

AHMANN: I believe you are referring to Dade County.

ZACK: Oh. You know what? I stand corrected.

AHMANN: OK.

ZACK: So, Dade County rejected it. And that's where we're talking about 9,000-plus ballots that have not been counted yet. Is that correct?

AHMANN: I'd like to correct something. Everybody keeps saying...

ZACK: Could you answer that question and then come back and...

AHMANN: No. Everybody keeps saying those ballots haven't been counted. All of those ballots have been counted except...

ZACK: Have not been manually counted.

AHMANN: They haven't been manually counted.

ZACK: You and I are on the same page, OK?

AHMANN: And they also -- they have been counted twice in the machine to see if there is any light coming through the chad. And there is no light coming through.

ZACK: I don't disagree with what you are saying. What I'm saying to you is a different question. And I don't know, because I wasn't there, and neither were you. Isn't that correct?

AHMANN: That is correct.

ZACK: OK. And -- but what I'm saying to you is, there are 9,000-plus ballots in Dade County that have not been hand counted yet, as for as you know. Correct?

AHMANN: I have no firsthand knowledge of that, but that's what...

ZACK: And that is the county that rejected this new stylus that you invented to make sure that people's vote counted, because you were concerned about the old stylus being used in a way that would keep people's votes from being counted, yes or no? AHMANN: Partially yes, partially no. The yes part is that the flexible body does align better so that votes are counted. But also, at the same time, a major ingredient in that was that we wanted to reduce template wear, which will keep the stylus on the chad so that they have clean punches rather than gouges or pinholes or hanging chad.

ZACK: I'm glad you brought that up, because I wouldn't have brought it up had you not mentioned it.

Template wear is important in making sure that you've got a clean vote. Isn't that correct.

AHMANN: Yes, sir.

ZACK: And you tried to get Dade County to buy this stylus, but they refused to, and you would assume from that that the old styluses are causing more template wear. Isn't that correct?

AHMANN: I don't know that for a fact.

ZACK: Now, sir, are you right-handed or left-handed?

AHMANN: I'm right-handed.

ZACK: OK, sir. Can I see the voting -- the Vote-O-Matic for a second, ma'am? And this is going to be very quick, judge. I'm almost through. Almost through, your honor. I'm not going to dump any chads on your desk, sir.

SAULS: We'll have to go get it, Mr. Zack. Take about five minutes -- oh, do you already have it?

ZACK: OK. You know what? I'm going to try to do without it. OK?

SAULS: All right, sir.

ZACK: I just want to move this along, and I know the court is anxious to finish as quickly as possible.

SAULS: Yes, sir.

ZACK: Help me with this, sir. Your statement is that you have developed a machine that has a form of a bottom plastic piece, which I saw, which we all saw yesterday, and chads are allowed to accumulate in that reservoir, correct?

AHMANN: Yes, sir.

ZACK: And you have acknowledged that the Poll Star (ph) is much smaller -- so I'm not dealing with the Poll Star. I'm only going to talk about your piece of equipment.

And you have acknowledged, sir, that the machine is designed in a way that is kind of like a two-part machine in a case, correct? You have the booth itself -- correct so far?

AHMANN: Yes.

ZACK: And you have four legs that are actually located underneath the suitcase cover, that are disengaged, and you put those on the machine, correct?

AHMANN: First of all, everybody keeps calling it a machine. It's a voting device; it is not a machine. There is a substantial difference.

ZACK: From now on, I'm going to call it a voting device, and hopefully everybody else will do the same.

The voting device is used in that way, correct?

AHMANN: Yes.

ZACK: The legs are put up...

AHMANN: That's the booth, the portion you're talking about.

ZACK: That's the booth.

AHMANN: The booth.

ZACK: OK. Let's make sure we all understand each other. That's the booth. We then put together the booth.

AHMANN: Yes, sir.

ZACK: And then we take the device which we saw yesterday, and the device is put in an area in the booth that is designed for the device go in, correct?

AHMANN: That is correct.

ZACK: Sir, when that device is put in the booth, is it dropped from about three feet and lands in the space allocated for it?

AHMANN: No.

ZACK: Sir, would a right-handed person that device into the booth, causing the chads to migrate to the left side so that you have the chad buildup exactly on the left side. which is exactly what happened here? Do you not, sir?

AHMANN: No, sir.

ZACK: You have no ability to migrate chads?

AHMANN: It's possible.

ZACK: You just told me that you could.

AHMANN: It's possible, but the normal method by which the voting device is placed in the vote recorder, because of the placement of the latch, which is at the front of the vote recorder, is that the vote recorder's lifted up, OK, with the back end, the lower part of punch frame, comes up and rests, the latch is pulled, the ballot assembly template is checked, the ballot assembly slipped in, the latch is closed and sealed, if that's part of the requirement of the county and the state.

The vote recorder then is slid forward back into the cavity. So there is never a left movement to reinsert it, because the -- it moves from front to back, not from left to right or right to left.

ZACK: I want to make sure I understand your testimony. There's 7,200 of these devices in Dade County. They are manually handled by individuals doing this. And you are telling the court that you can state under oath that no person handling that device handles it in a way that causes the chads to migrate to the left. Is that your testimony, sir?

AHMANN: I'm saying the normal manner in which...

ZACK: I want you to answer my question, sir. Is that your testimony, yes or no?

AHMANN: It's not impossible, no.

ZACK: Fair enough.

I have nothing further, your honor.

SAULS: Thank you, Mr. Zack. Any redirect?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, your honor.

SAULS: Well, I have one question, if counsel will permit me; maybe two. And you know the rule -- timely object if you have a basis.

I believe that you just said, sir, that if the ballots went through the machine -- I mean, the voting device twice, you said there is no light coming through. What did you mean by that? Is that -- does that mean that if they go through there twice, that there is absolutely no way for any light to come through?

AHMANN: What I was referring to, your honor, was that the reason you have ballots that everyone says have been not counted is because they were never punched. There is no light coming through the hole -- any of the holes -- for the president.

Those ballots that have no vote on them are considered undervotes. And the reason they're undervotes is because no one has punched the chad out.

SAULS: Are the readers that read that so sensitive that there can absolutely -- there can't be any light whatsoever going through, or the light -- what is this now ...

AHMANN: If it sees light coming through, then it counts it as a vote.

SAULS: No matter how minuscule?

AHMANN: There is a limitation. It has to be a certain amount of light. They are sensitive to the amount, but if you have just a dimple there, it will not count it as a vote.

SAULS: What if you had needlepoint going through the center?

AHMANN: It depends on the size of the needle. If it's big enough, it might. If it's hanging -- that's why they say the hanger -- well, I won't get into that, but if it's -- if it's enough light showing, it could count.

SAULS: I see.

AHMANN: And that's why sometimes you'll get a change in results when you run it through because the hanger is there, and maybe it folds back in. We've run recounts where that will actually happen. Unless you peel the hanging chad off, it might have less votes the second time through, because that hanging had may fold back into the hole, whereas the first time it might have been half blocking, or it might have been fully opened.

So it -- you need good clean ballots to run it through a card reader to get accurate results.

SAULS: I thought that your -- in your prior testimony, it was the duty of the clerks, when they were going to -- or whoever the supervisors personnel, when they run those back through that machine twice, one of the things they're supposed to do is if -- even though voters have been told to begin with to do that when they get through voting, if for some reason they didn't, then the clerks or the supervisors clerks are supposed to do that when they run it back through the machine.

But you're saying, notwithstanding all that, sometimes it can happen.

AHMANN: They need to be cleaned before they are machine processed, definitely.

SAULS: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one question to clarify. He said I don't want to get into something. I think it's important that I ask the question so he does get into it so that the court's question can be clearly answered.

Sir, isn't it true that, when you have hanging chads, and particularly in a case where there's lots of them because machines aren't tearing them off correctly, that every time they run through the vote counter, the vote changes because the chads close up, and therefore, to the machine, it looks like there hasn't been a vote where, in fact, there has been, and that's why you need manual recounts. Isn't that correct, sir? Yes or no, sir?

One of the reasons, at least?

AHMANN: You need either reinspection or manual recount where you have that situation, yes you do, if you've got a very close election.

ZACK: Thank you.

SAULS: Either of you have any further questions (UNINTELLIGIBLE) inquired about.

No?

May the witness stand down, then, and be excused without objection. Thank you.

Well, let me ask counsel if this is an appropriate time maybe to have a -- I made a promise that I am going to let our personnel eat. Can we try it again, say, begin back at 1:30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

SAULS: Court will stand in recess until 1:30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

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