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Special Event

Election 2000: The Florida Vote

Aired December 10, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's only a matter of hours now. The undecided election reaches the highest court in the land. Will the U.S. Supreme Court provide a guiding light?

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: In Tallahassee, Florida, lawmakers plan to talk about electors. What if the state were to send two competing contingents?

Also ahead...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hasn't made me think differently about the presidency but differently about the people that are running and how I feel about them.


CHEN: On the eve of the high court showdown, the voice of the people.

Hello and welcome. I'm Joie Chen.

FRAZIER: I'm Stephen Frazier. We're welcoming you to an election 2000 special report: The Florida Vote.

What could be the final act in the presidential drama is set to begin tomorrow when a sharply divided Supreme Court hears the Florida ballots case.

Today, the Gore and Bush campaigns filed legal briefs in the case, a case that could trigger another Florida recount or effectively end the battle for president with Bush the apparent winner.

On the eve of that showdown, we begin our coverage with CNN senior Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer -- Charles.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): State police delivered records from the Florida Supreme Court as the U.S. Supreme Court prepared for a second look at the Florida recount.

The justices must decide if Florida's recount should be permanently halted or allowed to resume. Governor Bush's attorneys say the Florida Supreme Court's vote counting regime: "would be conducted according to varying -- and unspecified -- standards, by officials unspecified in Florida's election law, and according to an ambiguous and apparently unknowable timetable."

JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: You don't do it in effect, by changing the rules after the game has been played.

BIERBAUER: Not so, Gore's attorneys contend. "The Florida court did not 'make law' or establish any new legal standards that conflict with legislative enactments."

WARREN CHRISTOPHER, OBSERVER FOR GORE CAMPAIGN: There's a long tradition in the Supreme Court of giving deference to the supreme court of the various states in interpreting state law.

BIERBAUER: Bush contends the Florida ruling violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution: "Voters who cast identical ballots in different counties will likely have their ballots counted differently." Gore counters: "The Florida Supreme Court expressly granted petitioners, (meaning Bush), the relief they sought with respect to a statewide recount."

MARTIN FLAHERTY, FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL: The court well may send the case back to the Florida Supreme Court with the direction that a recount can continue but only if there are uniform state-wide standards.

BIERBAUER: The court was unanimous when it first told the Florida court to better explain its rulings. Saturday's 5-4 order to halt the recount showed the court divided, perhaps on ideological lines.

AMEL AMAL (ph), YALE LAW SCHOOL: It is very important, if they are 5-4, that the five have very good reasons.

BIERBAUER: The justices worked through the weekend. And dozens camped out on the court's sidewalk hoping for the few public seats in the courtroom Monday. The Supreme Court is rarely thrust into a spotlight this intense.

RICHARD SEMIATIN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think that they're caught in this cauldron of political events, this tempest that we're seeing today in our political system.


BIERBAUER: The justices are expected to rule quickly, electors chosen by December 12 in order to vote December 18. But no court has ever said those dates absolutely have to be met -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: Charles, that Professor Flaherty who spoke in your report there talking about starting up the recount again -- sending it back to Florida. Who would then determine the standardized methods that they would use across the state. Would that be the Supreme Court or would it be the Legislature there? BIERBAUER: Well, that's a very good question, but I'm not sure I know the precise answer to. It would be on his proposal or suggestion something that this court would have tell the Florida court to lay down very specific standards. The objection that's been raised of course has been that they are not determinate -- that they vary from county to county. It would seem that if they allowed the court to do that they would expect the Florida court to make that decision.

FRAZIER: Charles Bierbauer at the Supreme Court. Thank you, Charles -- Joie.

CHEN: More on the subject of the legal questions now. Joining us from Washington is constitutional law professor Mary Cheh of George Washington University.

Professor, we appreciate your being with us.

Can you talk first just about for all of us laymen lawyers as we've been made out in this whole business, what is the distinction between what the court heard the last time around and what they will hear tomorrow morning?

MARY CHEH, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, in particular terms, there may be some overlap because they will have to decide whether the Florida Supreme Court overstepped its bounds, whether it either interpreted what the Legislature required for the naming of electors or whether it made up new law. And if it made up new law, then it deprived Legislature of its role under the Constitution to set what the method is for establishing the electors.

So that question is similar to the question that was decided last time. But there is additional question about whether what Florida Supreme Court did now in requiring hand counts of undercounted votes, whether its lack of standards has created additional problems namely due process and equal protection problems. So it's the same on some part of it but there are additional questions.

FRAZIER: Teaching Constitution law as you do, as a former law clerk yourself, what do you make of you all the concurrent argument and dissent issued along with yesterday's stay?

CHEH: Well, it's not regular for the court to issue a stay and then have separate opinions, so that itself was somehow unusual. And Justice Scalia, one of the justices who wrote one of those separate opinions acknowledged that. It shows you the very sort of divided way the court is approaching some of these issues. To come out five-four in a case of this high profile is actually quite extraordinary. So I make of this what the rest of the nation makes of it -- that is to say we are in an area that is really unique. We haven't experienced this before.

CHEN: So in their comments Justice Scalia and Justice Stevens to his extent seem to be laying down where they stood in this.

Who do you consider swayable by the arguments? CHEH: Well, I would say the typically swing vote on the court has been Justice O'Connor and some lesser extent Justice Kennedy. And since Justice O'Connor has also been a guardian -- a champion really of state prerogatives and state sovereignty, the question about whether the United States Supreme Court should tell the Florida Supreme Court that it went too far in interpreting state law is one on which, in ordinary circumstances, she could be counted on to protect the state role.

Here she might have -- take refuge in the fact that this is a unique situation. But I would imagine that all parties may be focusing on her particular vote since she has been swing vote and since on this issue she may have some sensitivity to upholding what the Florida Supreme Court has done.

CHEN: I have heard some people conjecture that even Chief Justice Rehnquist because of his position on the rights of the states, might also be swayable.

Do you see that?

CHEH: Well, I would be more surprised by that, because he has shown sort of an inclination in some cases, I think to interpret the Constitution in an activist way if he sees that there's some specific constitutional requirement. He may read Article II that gives the Legislature prerogatives over the naming of electors as being a more powerful mandate.

And so, even while could be expected in some cases to protect the interests of the state, here, the state is not monolithic. We are not talking about the state -- a state. We're talking about different parts of the state. He may say the legislature specifically named in the Constitution should have the primary role and the Florida Supreme Court went beyond what legislature would have anticipated in its rulings.

FRAZIER: Professor, help us just with the logistics now. If, for example, they were to uphold the states rights and send this back to Florida. We asked Charles Bierbauer a moment ago who would determine what standards should be used for continuing a count of the ballots.

CHEH: Well, it would depend on what they do. Now, there are two basic questions the Bush people have raised. One has to do with whether the Florida Supreme Court went too far in interpreting what the legislature has required.

But the second thing is that even if they didn't, nevertheless the remedy the hand count and the way the hand count is conducted is itself unconstitutional because it's standardless, it's capricious, it's arbitrary. It only has the standard that the legislature seem to have endorsed, namely try to find the clear intent of the voters.

But the people who are actually looking at the ballots might have different interpretations of that. If the court agrees that it is too standardless, the Bush people might be inviting court identify this as a problem. What would happen then -- it would be remanded to the Florida courts, namely the Supreme Court, to identify a standard. The Supreme Court would then have to identify a standard. Only if the Supreme Court says on this particular point that there is no standard we can think of that would make this work and it's so confusing -- it's so arbitrary, that it would violate due process almost no matter what you did, would they dispense with that at the Supreme Court level.

They will have remand it and say find a standard, so then the Supreme Court would have to come up with some sort of a standard. The Supreme Court thinks it already has a standard, namely discern the clear intent the voter delegating it to court officials, judges or election officials to look at ballots and decide if they determine a clear intent. If they can't determine a clear intent, they have to throw it out.

CHEN: I just want to interrupt you because we are running out of time.

CHEH: Sure.

CHEN: But it strikes me what you are saying is if you could create a circumstance where a standard could be applied, you would almost have to suggest all right then you have go back and recount everything that has been recounted or hand counted again, wouldn't you?

CHEH: Yes. I think that's one of weaker points actually of the Bush appeal, because counting votes is always somewhat imperfect. For example, if you have different counties using different machines, some could say think are being counted differently in fact they are. And indeed perfection is not required here I would be hard pressed to understand how Supreme Court could say that it would violate due proceeds if you have some variations like this. They would put in jeopardy every election in every state for every office. It could all be unconstitutional because it wasn't perfect in every county. I just find that argument a little hard to swallow.

FRAZIER: Well, Professor, we know what your class will be studying tomorrow. Professor Mary Cheh...

CHEH: Thank you.

FRAZIER: ... at George Washington University. Thanks for joining us tonight.

CHEN: A programming note here for you our domestic viewers: CNN's live coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court hearings will begin Monday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

FRAZIER: When their heads hit the pillow tonight, Vice President Gore and Governor Bush are likely to wonder whether tomorrow will finally signal the end of this election. The stakes aside though, Governor Bush appeared relaxed today, and plans to host a party tonight at the governor's mansion in Austin.

CNN national correspondent Tony Clark is standing watch in the Texas capital.

Tony, hello again.


You know, it really is so much different -- the mood that the governor has to be feeling today than yesterday. Yesterday morning, he left the mansion for his ranch about two hours away interest here. At the time, the recounts were beginning in various counties in Florida. Things were looking down for him at that point. He returned this afternoon and when he returned to the governor's, mansion everything had changed. The recount had been halted Supreme Court set hearing for Monday.

The governor was smiling and waving. He was cheered by supporters -- his mood seemed upbeat. The whole situation and something his aides say that they have felt this whole month. They say they have been drained of emotions because of so many ups and downs, but now it appears that they may just be one U.S. Supreme Court argument and decision away from finding out whether or not he will become next president of the United States.

The attorneys -- the Bush attorneys are said to be tired but focused, ready for tomorrow's Supreme Court hearing. Aide that are in Florida and a lot of the people who are going to attend the party tonight -- campaign aides, instead flew Friday night to Florida to help out with what they thought was going to be a recount. They're staying there. Now just because there have been so many twists and turns, they want to be on hand in case something happens. But they are said to be emotionally drained out there. The coffee pots empty, the adrenaline glands squeezed dry. And so, it has been a very tough time. But right now, the feeling here in Austin is that the end may in fact be getting very close -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: Tony, glad for your sake that it may be, too. It's been a long watch for you. Thanks for joining us tonight.

CHEN: Even some of the vice president's supporters can see that tomorrow is a do or die day. Should he lose before the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Gore's chances of winning the White House could suffer a mortal blow.

CNN's Patty Davis follows the Gore camp and she joins us now from Washington -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, the vice president spent a quiet day -- went to church with his family. One aide calls the vice president determined, resolute and focused as he faces what could be his final court battle tomorrow. His lawyers prepare 50-page brief in advance of U.S. Supreme Court arguments and he called them, aides say, to express his gratitude to them for their work so hard all these weeks.

What they will argue, as you've heard, the Florida Supreme Court acted within the law when it ordered those hand recounts to go forward. They will also ask the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate their stay -- allow those votes to be counted. And they feel that there's enough time to get those counts under way and they feel that they can make good progress for the vice president if the votes do get counted in all those counties statewide.

Now, David Boies, Gore's lawyer will be doing arguing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. He argued in front of the Florida Supreme Court. He however said on the Sunday morning talk shows that if no votes are counted, he thinks that this could be the end of the road for the vice president in terms of the contest -- Joie.

CHEN: Patty, in terms of what Mr. Gore would do in the decision does go against him after tomorrow's hearing. Who would be his counsel in this who does he turn to? Who does look for advice and final decision do you think?

DAVIS: He has been getting counsel from his closest aides and his family. Tipper Gore, his daughters, William Daley, the campaign chairman have all been with him at his residence throughout a lot of this ordeal. He would most likely counsel with them.

At this point we are not talking a concession speech. They are still very optimistic. They are hopeful that the Supreme Court might rule in Vice President Al Gore's favor. This has been so up and down, we just don't know exactly what will happen with the United States Supreme Court and Vice President Al Gore is certainly hoping that lit go his way -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Patty Davis back in Washington for us again -- thanks, Patty.

Our coverage of this still contested election continues ahead. The latest CNN Gallup poll on the people's faith in the U.S. Supreme Court.

FRAZIER: Plus, the people speak out. We will hear what they have to say later in the CNN special on the Florida vote.


FRAZIER: There you saw it -- the coverage begins an hour before the arguments themselves before the justices of the Supreme Court, and we plan to continue this election 2000 special with a look at the results from a new CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll dealing with the recount.

Seven hundred thirty-five adult Americans polled today were asked whether the Supreme Court should permit the recount to continue. And you see how divided the public is. Forty-seven percent answering yes ; 49 saying the court should not permit the recount to continue. Fifty-one percent of people polled believe the justices are influenced by their political views, opposed to 42 percent who say they are not. And if the Supreme Court ruling decides the election: 73 percent say they will accept it as a legitimate outcome; 19 percent say they would not.

CHEN: When asked who they trust most to make the final decision, most 61 percent put their trust in the U.S. Supreme Court to make the final decision, followed by 17 percent for the Congress, 9 percent say the Florida Supreme Court and 7 percent say the Florida Legislature.

And 75 percent of those polled believe that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Texas governor George W. Bush; 14 percent say it will be Vice President Gore.

FRAZIER: After this weekend of such dramatic developments in the contested election, what are people actually saying in general about this?

CNN's Deborah Feyerick went to Central Park in New York City for a reading.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a crisp winter day at Woolman (ph) Rink in Central Park, and New Yorkers are weighing in on the election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is really a feeling that the partisanship has gone all the way up to the Supreme Court. It's now no longer a case of justice or of the original values of the Constitution.

FEYERICK: The reason, says this woman, each of the many court rulings appears to have fallen along party lines, dividing the country on whether or not disputed and undervotes should count.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though I'm a Gore supporter, I have no problem if Bush wins, as long as the votes are counted in a fair way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The undervotes are -- they aren't votes. What constitutes a vote? And an undervote is not a vote. It goes back to the responsibility of the public to vote correctly.

FEYERICK: Many feel both Bush and Gore have come out looking badly because of the long drawn-out presidential battle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hasn't made me think different about the presidency. It's made me think more differently about the people that are running and how I feel about them.

FEYERICK: At the Christmas Market, some two miles south of the rink, holiday shoppers are also caught up in election politics, some feeling cut out of the process by the courts and politicians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's taken too long to settle out. And I reached a point where I feel like it's not -- no longer about what the people think, but, you know, now everyone -- the higher being, the courts, are making the decisions for the American people.

FEYERICK: Though there are those who believe America is shaking off years of political boredom by watching the day-to-day drama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there's so much information that people now have. And there's so many people participating that haven't ever participated before.

FEYERICK (on camera): There is the feeling among a number of New Yorkers that the next time there is a presidential election, things will be different, whether it's even more people going to the polls, or perhaps, even changes in the voting system itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that this should wake everyone up to install some sort of standardized voting procedure. Because I think that the biggest problem was that everything is so mismatched.

FEYERICK (voice-over): And voters will be watching.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


CHEN: And ahead here, the signal from the Supreme Court and the reminder that everything in election 2000 remains a close decision.

FRAZIER: So what does that mean for the legitimacy of the next president, and for his effectiveness in office?

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace takes a look at that, when we come back.


CHEN: Just like the latest Gallup poll numbers we saw just a few minutes ago, almost every development in this presidential election reinforces the idea that this is a country that is divided. If the Supreme Court has the last word, some people believe it could affect the legitimacy of the next man to take the Oval Office.

CNN's White House correspondent Kelly Wallace on that.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. Supreme Court may decide election 2000, a decision that may not be unanimous. The high court, in a 5-4 split, temporarily halted the manual recount Saturday, quite a different story from the unanimity in politically potent needle cases of the past, such as 1974, the court ordered President Nixon to turn over secret Watergate tape recordings.

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: I think what the court really has to ask itself is that does it want to go down in history as the most activist, interventionist court in a political matter.

WALLACE: But Republicans charge the high court is simply looking at this constitutional question.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: ... of whether you can have an equal vote for every person in Florida if the individual canvassing boards are making different decisions...

WALLACE: Just days earlier, the Florida Supreme Court ordered the recounts of undervotes in a 4-3 decision, yet another example of a divided nation, split down the middle on Election Day and almost equally split about when the contest should end. A new "Newsweek" poll shows 51 percent of Americans favor removing all doubt, while 45 percent want the matter resolved. Both Democrats and Republicans argue the legitimacy of the election and the next president is at stake.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: The way to get to a legitimate president that's accepted by everyone is to count the votes and find out who actually won.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't believe ever before have we had this type of court process to try to reverse a certified winner's result.

WALLACE (on-camera): And so what was already going to be a difficult task for the next president, facing a sharply divided Congress and nation, may become an even bigger challenge if a divided U.S. Supreme Court has the final say.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.


FRAZIER: All right. You heard Kelly Wallace talk about a sharply divided Congress. Now for more perspective from Capitol Hill on the challenges that may lay ahead, we're going to turn to two house members from opposite sides of the aisle.

First, Republican representative James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin who serves on the House Judiciary Committee. Representative, thanks for joining us tonight.


FRAZIER: Let's talk with your agenda. Let's forget presidential politics for a minute and see how you're going to get things done in this sharply divided Congress now. You are from a north and west sections outs outside of Milwaukee.

Who are the people who sent you to Congress? What do they care about? What do they want you to do this term?

SENSENBRENNER: Well, they want me to reach across the aisle as I have done as chairman of the Science Committee to try to work to solve problems that are facing this country but they want to see the budget balanced and they don't want to see Congress going on a spending spree. They want to use the surplus to reduce and retire the national debt.

FRAZIER: Those sound like accomplishable goals. Does it matter which of these candidates becomes president to accomplish those?

SENSENBRENNER: Well, Congress has got the power of the purse and while the president can set the national agenda, the president proposes and the Congress disposes and it's been that way since the presidency of George Washington.

FRAZIER: Our Washington bureau chief has talked about an awful lot of bitterness unlike any he has seen in his tenure there recently. Are you feeling that yourself?

SENSENBRENNER: The bitterness has not seeped into Congress yet. However, if there is an inconclusive decision by the Supreme Court and we face two sets of electors from Florida on January 5, then I think the Congress will experience a nuclear winter. With the close division of Congress, either an awful lot can be accomplished or very little can be accomplished. And I think that how whomever is sworn in as president on January 20, deals with being a humble winner as well as the person who is not sworn in deals with being a gracious looser will set the tone for the Congress in the country as a whole.

So Governor Bush and Vice President Gore, I think really have it in their hands to set the tone regardless of how this dispute on Florida works you out.

FRAZIER: Congressman, that's an evocative phrase you just used there. Nuclear winter. Why would the arrival of votes from two sets of electors trigger that in Congress?

SENSENBRENNER: Because the law requires Congress to choose between the two sets of electors and I would guess the House would choose the Bush electors and the Senate the Gore electors with Mr. Gore himself breaking the tie. The federal law says that when there is a division between the houses in Congress, the set of electors that is certified by the governor of the state is the one that counts. And with the governor of Florida being George W. Bush's brother that is going to set off a firestorm of controversy.

I remember back in 1985 when a man came from Indiana with a certificate of election and unseated after the House conduct add partial recount, that started much of the partisan bitterness that still exists to this day. I would hope this would not being escalated by having Congress resolve a dispute between two sets of Florida electors first part of next month.

FRAZIER: Well, at the beginning of our conversation here congressman, you sounded like the kind of person that would help ease that bitterness. What would you do to make that happen?

SENSENBRENNER: I am going hope and pray that the decision of United States Supreme Court is a clear one and can resolve this problem quickly. Because if the problem is not resolved quickly then the political divisions which were shown by the almost tied election, both for president and for Congress, are going to be spill over in how our nation's leaders resolve issues facing this country.

FRAZIER: It's an awful lot to hope for. You said hope for a clear reading -- that's a lot for ask for now.

SENSENBRENNER: It's kind of like siting on Santa's knee. And believe me, the whole country should be siting on Santa's knee to hope for a speedy resolution to an election that should have been over with the month ago.

Well, a lot of us have been good, so maybe we will get our wish soon. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us tonight.



CHEN: And on how the Democrats are feeling about the possible challenges ahead? For that we turn to Representative Gary Ackerman who joins us from New York.

Congressman, can we talk first about the Supreme Court and its responsibility or perhaps its role as it makes a decision based on tomorrow's arguments?

REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK: Well, we're hoping that they listen very, very carefully and that they use the reason that they are supposed to have, and that they just go by the notion that every voters should have his other her intentions noted and recorded. We are still hopeful that is going to happen and that one or two of the justices who ruled to have the hearing and to issue the stay will listen carefully and go ahead with the vote count.

CHEN: But I hear 61 percent in the late of the CNN-USA TODAY Gallup poll say they will put trust in U.S. Supreme Court to make final decision about all of this. It almost seems that the country is very dependent on the court coming out with a very clear statement, a decisive statement nonpartisan statement that sets the tone for what happens next.

ACKERMAN: It will depend on was ruling is and how they write it and how much of majority the majority really is. If it's going to be a five-four split and the language is going to be as testy as it was that we have just seen over the weekend, then this would not be very comforting to American people, nor would it be comforting to be those folks within the Congress in the Democratic Party who will feel that we have absolutely been robbed by the fact that the votes were not all counted in Florida.

The Republicans, listening to Secretary Baker today, refused to say that they would abide by the decision of Supreme Court. They said, well, you know, he can't count -- can't speak for the Florida Legislature. They can certainly have their constitutional responsibilities. Or if it goes into Congress, they have what we have also on our side, constitutional responsibility and we can throw this thing in the House just as well. Any one congressman together with one senator can force vote this Congress and this thing can split along partisans lines. We are hoping that everybody could agree to abide by the same rules.

CHEN: You talk about the concerns or the bitterness that Congressman Sensenbrenner just mentioned to Stephen. Do you see a sense that the bitterness that has been -- we have seen in the streets over the last few days.

Is that going to follow you on to the capitol steps?

ACKERMAN: Well, Jim Sensenbrenner is one of those people on the Republican side who does reach across the aisle and he's someone you can work with. And I give him a lot of credit for that. But a lot of people within Republican leadership have not been that way during past few years. We are hopeful we will see sign with a House of Representative that's almost evenly divided. That the committee slots and staffing will be almost equally divided with Republicans have edge, but certainly the ratios narrowed.

And these are things that are going to have to be discussed that they have not been discussing over the past several years. You couple that with the fact that if they are going to insist that it's their way, that they're entitled to the presidentry and will go to any forum, no matter which one it is, even go past the Supreme Court, then you will you see that bitterness continue in the Congress.

Unfortunately, there will be a cloud over whoever is going to eventually be the president of the United States. He will have everybody's loyalty but not -- judging from the look of the two candidates right now, you will need a very strong president with a mandate to really get anything through a Congress that is so evenly divided in both houses.

CHEN: I hear everyone talk about the even division, but doesn't it still appear that you, the Democrats, have the upper hill battle on this?

ACKERMAN: Oh, sure. If you know half a dozen votes behind in the House. But that doesn't mean much. The Republicans have a right- wing of their party that is so extreme that they cannot come to grips with anything, to bring to the floor. We are lame duck Congress right now. We have not finished our work for this year. We're supposed to be finished and out of there.

They haven't brought some of the appropriations bills to the floor because they can't get agreement even amongst themselves. So if they lose three or four members on any given vote they don't have a majority. They don't have a working majority on the floor.

And certainly in the Senate it's at least 50/50 right now we don't know which vice president is going to break the tie after January 20. So it's a conundrum that we find ourselves in and it's going to take a lot of people in reaching across the aisles. So the decision of the Supreme Court, if it's going to be anything -- hopefully it'll be 9-0 with enough room for everybody to agree upon. And the only way I see that happening, is if they let the will of the people of the state of Florida be expressed and let everybody's voted be counted.

CHEN: A reminder and a warning from Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York. Thanks for being with us, sir.

ACKERMAN: Thank you, Joie.

CHEN: There is much more ahead on this election 2000 special. FRAZIER: A little break here, but when we return Mike Boettcher brings us the latest from another front in this whole episode: the Florida legislature.


CHEN: Deadlines and decisions -- even with the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court may decide the nation's 43rd president, the Republican-majority Florida legislature is not playing the waiting game.

CNN's Mike Boettcher tonight on that.


MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lot has happened since the Republican-dominated House and Senate on Friday adjourned their special session for the weekend.

Friday afternoon, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a new recount. Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered it stopped. Uncertainty still reigns and uncertainty is the reason Florida legislative Republicans have argued they will act.

JOHN MCKAY (R), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: I cannot abandon my constitutional duty. We cannot abandon our constitutional duties and let the 6 million Floridians who voted for the candidate of his or her choice not be heard.

BOETTCHER: Florida's vastly outnumbered House and Senate Democrats do not have the votes to stop their Republican counterparts from naming a slate of electors for Governor Bush.

But they will argue again as they did two days ago that the Florida legislature is being used as a Bush backstop.

TOM ROSSIN (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: The House leadership instigated this special session, not to guarantee Florida's electoral votes are counted, but instead to make sure George W. Bush's votes are certified, even if in the end it turns out Vice President Gore was the people's choice in Florida.

BOETTCHER: But if the legislature acts and names its own electors, there is no certainty that it will be the slate that will become Florida's voice in the presidential election.

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION ANALYST: Florida legislature will not be appointing their slate of electors until at least December 13. If they have not selected electors as of December 12, then those electors go into jeopardy, so to speak.

BOETTCHER: The legislature will begin the week debating the matter in committees. On Tuesday, the full Florida House will take up the issue, debate it and vote. On Wednesday, the full Senate will do the same. And if everything goes by the Republican leadership's timetable, the legislature will make history by that afternoon, selecting its own slate of presidential electors.

(on camera): But the weekend's events have further polarized the Florida legislature. When the debate begins, expect the rhetoric on both sides to be sharper and more heated than it was even two days ago.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Tallahassee.


FRAZIER: We'll all learn here the kind of detail on how things work in the choosing of a president that only professors of American studies used to know. Even those, however, don't know for sure what would happen if there were two sets of Florida electors.

CHEN: Joining us to discuss some of the possible elector and congressional scenarios is Richard Semiatin. He is an assistant professor of government and political science at American University.

Thanks for being with us.

First of all, Professor, do you think that that's really a very likely possibility given where things stand now, that there would be two sets of electors? Isn't -- in the current circumstance, there isn't a road for there to be Gore electors, right?

RICHARD SEMIATIN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Yes. I really -- at this point, if the Supreme Court makes a definitive decision, I really don't see this being a problem. However, it seems that we do live in the world of "Alice in Wonderland" and anything is possible.

FRAZIER: Now, you will be watching closely tomorrow as oral arguments are made. Of course, we should point out that a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the written briefs, so these oral arguments are almost like haiku, they're hard to decipher, aren't they?

SEMIATIN: Well, oral arguments are very important. Oral arguments can help clarify issues before the court about -- that exist in the briefs. Oral arguments are also a way for the judges to communicate with each other through the attorneys. So, oral argument can be extremely important, because it can help clarify issues before the court, particularly if one of the justices, or two of the justices, has any doubts.

CHEN: Now, we should say here that you are a veteran of -- I read -- 36 Supreme Court arguments, which either makes you a Supreme Court historian, or a groupie, I'm not sure which -- but tell us what we're going to see tomorrow. I mean, there is not really going to be a reading of the briefs, the justices get their chance to just go at these lawyers.

SEMIATIN: Yes. It's really like an oral examination, and what happens is that the justices have read the briefs, and really, the attorneys, both the petitioner and the respondent, have just a little bit of time to really present their cases, so they have to make their two most important arguments before the court, they can't focus on three, four, or five arguments.

And the justices will constantly interact with the attorneys to try to make a point. Sometimes, in fact, the justices ask questions of the attorneys knowing what answers the attorneys will give to communicate a position to their colleagues on the bench.

FRAZIER: Why would they do that? Why don't they just talk to each other?

SEMIATIN: Well, that's not really the procedure of oral argument. The idea is to provide a forum so that each individual can be represented in the court of last resort in the country, it's really a very democratic principle, but it's just a way that the court itself can make its positions known and it makes it somewhat easier for them to communicate with each other once the justices discuss the case in conference.

FRAZIER: One last question, Professor, as we thank you and say good bye, do you have any kind of a leg up on a seat in the courthouse tomorrow?

SEMIATIN: No, I don't. Although, one of my students was second on line last time, so he was there for about 27 hours. That was really something.

CHEN: Yes. I don't know if it's going to be worth that to go sleep outside, but we appreciate your joining us.

SEMIATIN: Thanks for having me.

CHEN: Richard Semiatin of American University, thanks for being with us.

We'll take a short break here.

FRAZIER: And when we return, a look at some other news of the day, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's resignation and what that means.



FRAZIER: Chad, thank you.

Now, while we have been telling everyone about this political roller coaster in our country, another one may be starting its run now in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak tendered his resignation Sunday, that's a move that has many questioning his political strategy.

Here's CNN's Matthew Chance with details of that.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His resignation is on the table, but the protests continue against Ehud Barak, these Israeli ultra-nationalists angry at what they say are concessions made to the Palestinians have been campaigning for months for the prime minister to step down. Now there is frustration because the man they favor to take office, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, may not be allowed to stand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm outraged because I realize, as all the people of Israel realize, that this is a political maneuver so that Netanyahu won't be able to run against him, because the law is such that only one who is in the Knesset could run against Barak now.

CHANCE: Analysts say the resignation and the sudden call for new elections may backfire.

CHEMI SHALEV, POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very much in character for Mr. Barak. He's a daring man. He's a man who loves to think of the surprising ploy. He has that from his army days. He shocked the entire Israeli political community. But we've learned from his time as prime minister that many of these brilliant moves fall flat, and ultimately, he emerges the loser.

CHANCE: Now, even one-time supporters of Mr. Barak appear disappointed with the man who many feel has led Israel into crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not vote for Ehud Barak again. I will not vote for him.

CHANCE (on-camera): Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If -- I don't trust him. I don't -- I just don't trust him. He lied about -- about many things. He changes his point of view every second.

CHANCE (voice-over): Failure to reach a peace deal or to limit clashes with Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza has undermined the credibility of the Barak administration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no hubris there. There's no pride. You don't see any pride. He says we're strong. He keeps saying we're strong -- he doesn't show it. What does he do with our strength? He hides it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think I can vote for anyone because they don't offer much. I just don't know who I'm going to vote for because I -- they just don't give anything, no answer, nothing.

CHANCE: But the hope of peace, however distant, still promises to dominate the election campaign. Polls say 60 percent of Israelis support some kind of peace deal with the Palestinians. Those are figures few politicians in Israel can afford to ignore.

(on camera): For Ehud Barak, this coming election is a referendum on a peace plan that many people feel has already run its course. His biggest challenge may be convincing the Israeli public his strategy can still deliver.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Jerusalem.


CHEN: And we'll return with an update on election 2000, the Florida vote, when we return.


FRAZIER: Just to bring you up to date now on the day's developments in the battle over counting Florida's ballots. Lawyers for George W. Bush and Al Gore have filed written arguments with the United States Supreme Court. Those attorneys will make their presentations before the justices, as you saw a moment ago, tomorrow morning at 11:00 Eastern. They will argue why the manual count of disputed Florida votes should, or should not, continue.

Meanwhile, the special session of the Florida legislature, which began Friday, continues tomorrow with House and Senate hearings. Republican lawmakers are pushing to select a slate of electors for George W. Bush. But the GOP leadership indicated today it may delay action until after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling.

And that's all from us for this special report on the Florida vote. Stay with CNN for the very latest on what happens next.

CHEN: And go to our Web site at for regular updates as well. Stay tuned now for a one-hour special with Jeff Greenfield on election 2000, next.



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