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Special Event

Election 2000: Martin County Elections Supervisor Testifies at Absentee Ballot Trial

Aired December 7, 2000 - 8:12 a.m. ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back inside the courtroom now, Judge Terry Lewis has come to the bench, this again is the Martin County case that continues this morning after a very late night last evening past midnight last night. Again, Democrats allege that Republicans altered and tampered with applications for absentee ballots, that is the issue here.

Let's listen now to the first witness on this Thursday morning now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to this court room.

PEGGY ROBBINS, MARTIN COUNTY ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR: To the courtroom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am.

ROBBINS: The ballots that were -- and now I did it, I didn't mean ballots, I meant ballot request forms and the sleeves that the request forms were kept in are there, and these are the ones that contain the Republican mass mail-out request forms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now just in a larger sense, can you just quickly educate the judge as to some of the words that you used, first of all the sleeves that you are referring to, can you tell the court what you meant by that?

ROBBINS: We have a form and we have it printed on a sleeve so we can also put the papers that pertain to this information inside the sleeve, and on the outside of the sleeve, it has a place for the voters, and he has a picture of it, a place for the voter's name, address and when they asked for their ballot, when their ballot was issued and when their ballot was returned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, with your honor's clerk's assistance, I'll mark this as plaintiff's exhibit number three for demonstrative purposes. But this is, in fact, what you are referring to, is that correct?

ROBBINS: Yes, that's one of the copies that was made that day that we worked all that long time making copies. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we are going to get to that in a second. And is it your testimony that, in fact, within your custody, all of the applications for absentee ballots that went into your office in Martin County that were on a pre-printed Republican form, all of those applications, in their sleeves, first of all, to your knowledge were transported to this county for the purpose of the trial?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Now separate and apart from that, you made a reference to -- with considerable assistance from your office, an effort made by the plaintiffs to actually make copies of each one of those sleeves and applications, is that right?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just tell the court very briefly the process by which we collectively, with your assistant, did that project?

ROBBINS: The plaintiff sent in six people to watch the six people in my office who were taking out these forms that had -- that were from the Republican Party, and then each one that contained one from the Republican Party was copied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now the originals -- are the originals to your knowledge in these...

ROBBINS: Those are the originals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... very secretive-looking black boxes?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And have those originals, ma'am, been in your custody, or at least either in your custody or somebody that you've delegated's custody, from the moment that you received the subpoena for them for the purposes of the trial?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And to your knowledge, ma'am, are the copy that we made, and that is the plaintiffs, are they true and accurate copies on the records that you maintained there in Martin County?

ROBBINS: To the best of my knowledge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just to, again, walk us through, if you would, this sleeve that you referred to that is, your honor, now on plaintiff's exhibit number three. You can see, by the way, that we agreed, for the purposes of confidentiality, to actually redact out the name of the prospective voter. Is this normally, however, where the name of the prospective voter would be?

ROBBINS: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And on this particular form that you all used in the regular course of your business, as I understand, there is a place where the date requested -- can you tell his honor what that date is meant to signify?

ROBBINS: That would be the date that we received the request.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And you all then -- carrying it over to the general election, either will hand write or type in the date that the application for an absentee ballot is actually requested, is that right?

ROBBINS: That's the first date, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don't know if you can see from there, but it appears to say 10/27/2000, is that right? And again, for this young lady here you have to give us a yes or no, but does that appear to be what it signifies?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And you can see to the right of that, there is a place for a deputy, would that be one of the employees there in your office?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the next line goes across from date issued under the general election and a deputy, is that right?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it appears to be a 10/28 there, I don't know, again, if you can say, but it is a date, in any event, in which there was an issuance made. Can you tell the court what that means?

ROBBINS: That means the date that we issued it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is it fair to say, ma'am, that from you all's records, you can both see the date that there was a request, pursuant to the statute for an application, and you can also see on the next line whether or not, pursuant to that application and pursuant to that request, an absentee ballot was actually sent out?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the third line has date of return and it..,

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. I just a point of clarification, during this line of questioning, she is not testifying as to the legal conclusion. He asked her that under the statue (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's fair enough, your honor. I mean. I do agree that that is ultimately a call that you are going to have to make. But in terms of how you run your office, ma'am, the third line has a date for date returned, do you see that?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And on the right-hand side of this plaintiff's exhibit number three, there is an entry that appears to be 11/1, and an initial that appears to be D. Would the first 11/1 signify the date that the application, or excuse me, the absentee ballot actually came back into you all's office?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And would the deputy be the lady in your office who actually memorializes that event?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So one can take a look at your business -- your records, your business records of the public records that come into your office and be able to construct, number one, the date that an application for an absentee ballot was requested; number, two whether or not it was issued; and number three, whether or not there was a return as far as the application, whether the absentee ballot came back, is that correct?

ROBBINS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now can you tell the court whether, now that that number has gotten to the point of being able to reconstruct, how many ballots were actually returned by virtue of the applications? Do you have records in your office that would tell you, or somebody that was actually going through the data, whether or not the ballot that come back? And that's line three here on the ticket, number three, was actually tabulated or counted in the actual election?

ROBBINS: Would you repeat that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

ROBBINS: I'm almost positive I know what you said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got data in front of us that appears to show, in exhibit number three, that in fact this particular ballot was returned. Do you have other documents in your office that would tell whether or not, once the ballot was returned, it was actually counted as a ballot?

ROBBINS: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a way in which, once you know the name of the voter, the identification number of the voter, whether you can go into any data in your office and reconstruct that question, in other words, whether or not the ballot actually went into the general election?

ROBBINS: We can -- if we are trying to see if that ballot was not counted we could look at the rejected ballots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And that's what I was leading to. Is it fair to say, ma'am, that...

HEMMER: Peggy Robbins is the election supervisor in Martin County in southeastern Florida. She is the witness this morning, the first witness.

And David Cardwell, let's go ahead and draw the distinction for our viewers between these two cases, Seminole County and Martin County, they are relatively similar, but the difference here is that, in Seminole County, Democrats allege that Republicans went into the elections office to complete the applications. In this case, in Martin County, they allege that Republicans actually took the applications home and made the alterations there.

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: That's right. And that raises an issue about, you know, the public record of the absentee ballot requests, it should be retained in the supervisors' office. In Martin County, they were allowed to take it out of the office, complete the putting in the voter ID numbers, and then it was sent back to the supervisor's office. There are also fewer ballots at issue in Martin, though it is still going to make a difference, it is 10,000 versus 15,000.

HEMMER: All right. David Cardwell, stand by here. We'll be back shortly and talk about a lot more things.

CARDWELL: OK.

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