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Election 2000: The Florida VoteAired December 10, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN election 2000 special report.
The documents are on hand and the briefs have been filed in a case before the Supreme Court that could decide the presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN CHRISTOPHER, GORE CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: There is a long tradition in the Supreme Court of giving deference to the supreme court of a various state in interpreting state law.
JAMES BAKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: Our position therefore is simply, we are very gratified that we got to stay, very gratified that for the second time the United States Supreme Court is going to be willing to review an opinion of the Florida Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Lining up for history, hundreds camp out for the select few seats inside the Supreme Court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most feel this is sort of the last stand. Either way, whoever comes out of there tomorrow successfully will be the next president of the United States.
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ANNOUNCER: And the men who would be president, we'll see how both candidates spent the day before the high court hearing.
Plus, what Americans are saying about this ongoing saga. Both scientific polls and voices from the streets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hasn't made me think differently about the presidency. It's made me think differently about the people that are running and how I feel about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: To our viewers in the U.S. and around the world, welcome to this CNN special report: Election 2000, The Florida Vote, with anchors Stephen Frazier and Joie Chen at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Good everyone, welcome to what may well prove to be the most crucial week of a nearly five-week quest for a resolution to the Florida vote standoff.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The final faceoff may be the one that brings together nine justices, three lawyers, and a series of constitutional questions in a 90-minute faceoff at the nation's highest court tomorrow morning.
First, the latest developments on the eve of the oral arguments: a few hours ago court documents arrived, and lawyers for George W. Bush and Al Gore filed briefs ahead of the presentations, which begin at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. As before, no cameras will be allowed, but audiotapes of the arguments will be released after the session.
Mr. Bush returned to the governor's mansion in Austin from his Texas ranch, appearing relaxed after the nation's highest court put on hold the Florida Supreme Court's order that allowed counting of disputed ballots.
Mr. Gore's highest hopes of jump-starting the vote count are believed riding on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision. Neither man issued public statements today. The vice president was at his official residence in Washington after he attended church in nearby Arlington, Virginia.
In Tallahassee tomorrow, committees of the Florida legislature begin to consider whether to call a special session to name a slate of 25 electors, in the event the courts fail to resolve the dispute.
FRAZIER: Now to what is at stake as United States Supreme Court returns this historic case at that time judicial fast track.
Our senior Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer has been following developments from day one.
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."
BAKER: 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."
CHRISTOPHER: 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.
AKHIL AMAR, 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 (on camera): The justices are expected to rule quickly. Electors are supposed to be chosen by December 12 in order to vote December 18. But no court has ever said those dates absolutely have to be met.
Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.
FRAZIER: Stay tuned to CNN. As you'll imagine tomorrow, we'll have the very latest from this very important Supreme Court hearing. Our special coverage begins at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. That's 7:00 Pacific.
CHEN: Both candidates appeared in public just briefly today while their spokespeople. In a moment, CNN's Tony Clark with a view inside the Bush camp.
First though, Eileen O'Connor on the vice president's day. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A low key vice president attended Sunday services with his family, where the minister led the congregation, praying that the voice of the people be heard. To the vice president's attorneys and aides, that means counting the ballots.
DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I actually think regardless of how the election comes out, the American people are going to be more accepting of the result if they have more facts.
Out in force on the Sunday talk shows, all the vice president's men were critical of the U.S. Supreme Court for stopping those recounts.
CHRISTOPHER: I think looking down the long corridors of history, it will be seen that they did not strengthen the court but weakened it by stopping the vote count at this precarious moment. The court enter this thicket, I think, with a good deal of danger.
O'CONNOR: Protesters outside the vice president's residence demonstrate just how divisive this battle has been. Still, Gore's camp believes they can make the case to the Supreme Court, that manual recounts are called for under Florida law.
DOUG HATHAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: We think the U.S. Supreme Court will agree with the Florida Supreme Court that counting votes by hand is certainly constitutional and that the people's will is paramount.
O'CONNOR: But that doesn't mean that the vice president is not prepared to accept the worst, a decision against him by the Supreme Court.
BOIES: From the beginning, we've said that we are going to respect the rule of law. If the Florida Supreme Court opinion is reversed, and the United States Supreme Court says no more votes will be counted, then that's the end of it.
O'CONNOR: And aides say the end of the line for the vice president's efforts to recount the vote, making these arguments before the court possibly Al Gore's last stand.
Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.
TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Tony Clark in Austin, Texas.
Governor George W. Bush returned to Austin, from his Crawford, Texas, ranch, smiling and waving to cheering supporters, and seemingly closer to becoming president-elect than at any time since the Florida ballot battle began a month ago.
With the manual recounting halted in Florida, Monday's hearing before U.S. Supreme Court could be the final hurdle to getting the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
BAKER: Our position therefore is simply: We are gratified that we got the stay, very gratified that for the second time, the United States Supreme Court is going to be willing to review an opinion of the Florida Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.
CLARK: The Bush campaign sent plane loads of workers from the Austin headquarters to Florida Friday night, when manual recounts were ordered. They're staying there even though the recounts have halted, just in case the Gore campaign launches a new attack.
BAKER: They are contesting everything. They're protesting everything. They're filing lawsuits to overturn the results of a certified election after the election has been held, and after Governor Bush has been declared the winner. First time in modern history, in a presidential election, that that has ever happened. And now they're complaining that we are raising our constitutional rights in the United States Supreme Court.
CLARK: In the Supreme Court, Bush's attorneys described as tired but focused, will argue much as they have before; saying the Florida Supreme Court doesn't have the authority to order a manual recount.
That's left to the canvassing boards and the state Legislature. Senate majority Trent Lott says he and his colleagues will go along with whatever the U.S. Supreme Court justices decide.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, certainly, we are prepared to accept and respect the decision of the Supreme Court. It's hard to say in advance exactly how President Bush or Vice President Gore's team would react to that. But I do think, that, at some point, this has come to an end.
CLARK: Governor Bush is preparing for that end. He has his White House staff lined up and is ready to start rolling out the names of some cabinet picks once the legal battle is over. But aides add there is no victory speech written. The governor isn't in that mode yet. Instead he is described as patient and waiting.
(on camera): Governor and Mrs. Bush are hosting a party tonight at the mansion for the governor's staff and campaign workers. The get together is expected to be a lot smaller than originally planned, many of those invited are still in Florida trying to assure that next year's party is at the White House.
Tony Clark, CNN, Austin.
FRAZIER: As all these legal battle continue, the Florida legislature is poised to step in and name its own delegates to the Electoral College. CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher has more on that from Tallahassee.
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.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CHEN: Who should have the final say in election 2000? In a moment, we'll give you a snapshot of what the public thinks.
FRAZIER: Also, as the spotlight shifts back to the Supreme Court tomorrow, we'll ask an expert what is at issue there and why when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number 81, 64. Jeff, you are 65.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Number 83 and 82.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: Taking a number and camping out overnight in hopes of landing a front row seat to history. Stay with us, we're back in two minutes.
CHEN: The lawyers in the case have a total of 90 minutes to make oral arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court justices tomorrow. Here is how it breaks down: attorney Theodore Olson will again lead the Bush team in a shortened 35-minute presentation. The Bush team had earlier agreed to give 10 minutes to attorney Joseph Klock representing the Florida secretary of state. Attorney David Boies will have 45 minutes to argue all of Al Gore's case.
FRAZIER: We have been 33 days getting to this point, but in just a few hours, the United States Supreme Court could essentially end this presidential stalemate.
And joining us now with more on how all that will work is CNN election law analyst David Cardwell, joining us once again from Tallahassee.
David, nice to see you again.
Why don't we back up here for a minute and just explain how it is we're once again before a federal court. What was it about this resumption of recounts that got us before the Supreme Court?
DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, the issue once again is whether or not the Florida Supreme Court has by its ruling enacted a new law subsequent to the election day. This is a similar issue to what was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court previously, but it's on different circumstances and different facts.
The Florida Supreme Court, when it ruled last Friday, made a point of saying that they were merely interpreting Florida statutes and acts of the legislature and that they certainly had taken into account federal law, but the Bush campaign is arguing that they once again have enacted a new law and therefore, the U.S. Supreme Court needs to review that and determine if it is, in fact, valid, if it is a federal question, that they may have gone beyond what federal law would allow the court to do.
FRAZIER: Now, that review you just described is presumably already under way since written arguments have already been presented to the justices. Tomorrow, it will be very technical, won't it, where the justices will just pick at small elements of those written cases to discuss out loud?
CARDWELL: If it's -- right. If it's similar to what happened the last time that these parties were before the U.S. Supreme Court, I think any one listening to the audiotape that will be released right after the oral arguments and can listen to the arguments before the justices and their questions, they will find that it's going to be a great lesson in the relationship between the states and the federal government, because the questions last time really focused on what was the proper role of the state judiciary, the state legislature, and then the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in injecting itself into this. So I think we're going to find that it's a argument and a discussion at the highest level, which would be appropriate when we are discussing the president of the United States.
FRAZIER: Let's go back to a couple of other basic questions -- this is going to start happening on the 11th, we don't think we're going to get a ruling probably until the 12th, that has been a deadline we have all been talking about for weeks now. Could this simply just -- no matter what the ruling, just use up all the time available, David?
CARDWELL: Well, the 12th is the date that the so-called "safe harbor" provision goes into affect. That's a statute which was enacted in 1887 after the 1876 contested election for president in which Congress said that if a state's electors had been definitively selected by the sixth day before they vote, which in this case is December 18th, that their selection is conclusive and cannot be challenged. But we still have two cases pending in the Florida Supreme Court, the so-called Seminole and Martin County absentee ballot cases.
So it may be that regardless of when the Supreme Court of the United States renders its decision, we're going to miss that safe harbor provision of the 12th any way, and that's something, quite frankly, the Florida legislature is also assuming is going to happen, which is why they are poised and ready to act, as was recently reported by Mike Boettcher.
FRAZIER: They are poised and ready to act, and so too are the teams that would resume a recount should that be permitted after the Supreme Court rules. How quickly were they moving ahead when they were actually counting on Saturday?
CARDWELL: Well, many of the counties said that they were within mere hours of having completed their counts. In Leon County, where they were counting the 9,000 disputed Miami-Dade County undervote ballots, they said they were within five hours of being completed. Several other counties had completed their sort, where they had gone through the entire county ballots and had sorted out the undervotes, and they were just getting ready to start counting when the state order came from the U.S. Supreme Court.
So with perhaps one or two exceptions in the larger counties, the indication seems to be that once they're released to start their count again, that they could be finished within one day.
FRAZIER: And what's enabling them to move so quickly after all those days and days we saw of more laborious counting earlier?
CARDWELL: Well, remember that those recounts you saw before in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade, but particularly Palm Beach and Broward, those were countywide recounts, where they were going through several hundred thousand ballots. The recount that was being done pursuant to the Florida Supreme Court order of last Friday, which then got stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court, they were merely counting the undervotes. So it's a much smaller number and one that -- and as they have seemed to indicate in each county, a manageable number -- in some counties it was just a few hundred ballots and that's why they could get them finished much, much quicker.
FRAZIER: Well, you have been an encyclopedic source of information all through this, David Cardwell, thank you for joining us once again tonight -- Joie.
CARDWELL: Glad to be with you.
CHEN: So should the Supreme Court have the final word in all this? Does the public believe that it should? Well, that is the indication from a new CNN-"USA Today" Gallup poll.
CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us now from Washington to take a look at those numbers.
Bill, what do you see?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Americans remain divided about this election, but here is one thing they are not divided about: 3/4 of the people we interviewed today believe the Supreme Court will rule in favor of George W. Bush. In fact, over 80 percent believe Bush is going to be the next president. Our poll shows that just over half the public actually believes that the justices of the Supreme Court are influenced by their own personal political views when they decide this case.
So do the American people trust the Supreme Court to decide the presidential election? Well, they do: nearly 3/4 say that they would accept a Supreme Court ruling of who is to be president as legitimate. In fact, almost 2/3 of Gore supporters say they would accept it as legitimate. Here is why: there are four institutions that could make the final decision of who is to be the next president -- the U.S. Supreme Court is far and away the most trusted of the four, 61 percent. Only 17 percent would trust Congress with that decision, fewer than 10 percent would trust either the Florida Supreme Court or the Florida legislature. People trust the U.S. high court not because they think it's not political, they think that a political decision is there, but because it's less political and more national in scope than any of those other institutions.
So are Americans ready now for Al Gore to concede? Well, a majority still say yes, though it's a slightly smaller majority than a few days ago. And what if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Gore? Then the majority becomes overwhelming, almost 80 percent. In fact, 64 percent of Gore supporters say he should concede if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against him.
You know, Joie, Americans want closure. The Supreme Court may not be totally about politics, but the court has more authority than any other institution to bring this matter to a close.
CHEN: Which is interesting, Bill, because I note that you told me this weeks ago now that you thought the Supreme Court could be and should be the final arbiter and that at least the public would feel that way. What does the public want the Supreme Court to do specifically to lay down and say specifically after tomorrow?
SCHNEIDER: It's really amazing. You ask the public, should the Supreme Court allow or require a manual recount or not, and they are split right down the middle just like they are over the presidential election: about half say they should order a manual recount, and about half say they shouldn't. In fact, you can see the politics of it right there, 90 percent of Gore supporters say the Supreme Court should order a recount, 90 percent of Bush supporters say no way, the Supreme Court should not order a manual recount. The public is divided over this, they think the Supreme Court is going to decide in Bush's favor and they are willing to abide by that decision, just bring this matter to closure.
CHEN: As we have heard, though, we understand that a lot of counties had at least come close to being able to complete the hand counting.
Suppose the Supreme Court says tomorrow, OK, that's it, it's over, it's done, there will be no more counting, but in the end it turns out that the numbers had swung to Mr. Gore's favor when we hear everything from all the counties, what will the public's reaction be then?
SCHNEIDER: Well, of course, there will be a lot of questions raised by the Bush people, by Republicans about what were the standards used in that count, were they fair, were they reasonable. You're going to find people counting these ballots, but again, these figures that we just presented indicate that Americans are willing to accept the U.S. Supreme Court's judgment as conclusive and final in the matter.
There will be a lot of people who are disturbed, but look, let me give you an indication of why I think they would accept it as final -- when we asked a few days ago, do you know who won the national popular vote, 2/3 of Americans say, yes, we know who won, Gore won, and you know what? It didn't seem to have any impact. They know that Gore led Bush in the national popular vote, but they are still willing to accept Bush as the legitimate president. In fact, among those who say they know Gore won, over 80 percent say they would accept Bush as the legitimate president. The rules are the rules, you do the best you can to give a fair and final count, and you have to accept it. Americans are willing to accept it.
CHEN: Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider -- thanks for being with us, Bill.
FRAZIER: Bill was talking about results of that latest public opinion poll, but in addition to that it seems just about everyone has something to say on top about this election and its messy aftermath.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick hit the streets of New York for some straight talk.
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: Well, if you think the United States has problems in the election department, wait until you see the troubles they have in the rest of the world. Bruce Morton shows us just how bad it can get, when this election 2000 special report continues.
FRAZIER: As you can see there, action on two fronts in the morning. Briefly, here are the latest developments now in the Florida recount saga. The United States Supreme Court hours away from the beginning of a second round of oral arguments to decide whether the recount should be permanently halted or permitted to resume. Maybe Vice President Al Gore's last hope in his bid to overtake Governor Bush's electoral lead suffered a setback when the high court halted, stayed the recount of disputed ballots. Neither the vice president or the governor issued public statements today.
Bush returned to Austin and the governor's mansion and ranch. The governor contends the Florida ruling violates the equal protection clause of The United States Constitution because standards for determining what constitutes a vote differ from county to county.
CHEN: Electors' votes may echo those cast by the people of their state but in some 24 states there is no law that says they have to. Electors in those states can cast ballots any way they wish, so some politicians think some votes of conscience could work in Al Gore's favor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIO CUOMO (D), FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: But after the Supreme Court would beat Gore there's no guarantee that 3 on or 4 electors previously supposed to vote for Bush, won't turned around out of anger and confusion perhaps and say, we are going do go with Al Gore. CHRISTOPHER: The vice president never said would engage in that kind of activity and I'm sure he won't.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Will he discourage Democrats from engaging it?
CHRISTOPHER: Yes, I think he'll discourage it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: All the nation's electors are to cast their ballots on December 18.
FRAZIER: Should that happen on scheduled and once election gets settled, can the next president be truly effective? We will take a look at that issue with the help of presidential historian Robert Dallek when we come back.
FRAZIER: With all the divisions we have been showing you tonight between people at large, also jurors, jurists on different courts; what kind of mandate to rule will the next president have?
CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace looks at what it would mean to the future president, should a divided Supreme Court have the last word.
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.
CHEN: More perspective now on the Florida recount, Robert Dallek is a professor at Boston University and a presidential historian joins us now from Washington. Mr. Dallek, you say in fact you don't think Supreme Court actually should be the final word, why?
ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Because I think under the Constitution when you have a deadlock election it should go to House of Representatives. Indeed I don't think we will ever know who really won in Florida. I hope the recount will go forward. I think that would be best thing to do. But, if you end up with one candidate being ahead by 111 votes or ten votes or even 2 or 300 votes out of 6 million neither side is going to be satisfied. They lost or other won. I think what you're going to see is a recount continues, you will see two elector slates going to the Congress of the United States and I think that's the best thing in this election to have the House decide who should be the next president of the United States. That's what the constitution recommends.
CHEN: Yes, but you are assuming that recount would continue and that would produce...
DALLEK: Absolutely. If the recount doesn't continue, then obviously the election will be over and I think Mr. Gore will concede and George Bush will be the next president.
CHEN: Let me roll you back here a little bit; don't we have a system of justice that provides for these sort of appeals and remedies which ultimately reach the Supreme Court which, I guess, is where we are going now and we are looking at polls that now suggest that the public really wants to hear this from the Supreme Court.
DALLEK: Well, this is true, but remember, there has never been a presidential election in the history of this country that was decided by a court decision or by the Supreme Court. And you have had some very close elections that -- 1800, 1824, 1876 -- that ended up in the House of Representatives, and that's what the Constitution mandates.
And I think in the long run, when people look back on this, I think they'll be happier that it was decided in the House rather than by the Supreme Court, because if you end up with court decision of 5- 4, I think retrospectively it's going to be seen as very political and it's going to make for a kind of acrimony and a diminutia (ph) in confidence in the court, and that would be unfortunate for the country. We don't want to diminish the court's authority.
CHEN: Looking at it, though, just to understand where this goes, if it were to go into the House, each state would get one vote in this?
DALLEK: Exactly. And the Republicans would vote in George W. Bush, because 28 of the delegations in the House are controlled by Republicans and 18 by the Democrats, four are evenly divided, so right there you can see it's a majority for George W. Bush.
CHEN: And we also see that in the polling on election night that Mr. Bush won 29 states and Mr. Gore 19 states, but that would mean that the result would not reflect either the Electoral College or the popular vote.
DALLEK: Quite so. But what you have, I think, in this election is a deadlock. Nobody is going to ever be able to say who actually won this election. It's clear that Mr. Gore won the popular vote by 336,000, I think was the final count I have seen, but are we ever going to be able to know who actually won in Florida, who really won that electoral count? After all, if Bush gets Florida, he ends up with 271 votes. So I think it's simply too close to call. People have said historians or journalists will go down there and they'll study the votes -- they will, but I don't think they'll ever be able to come up with anything that's going to be all that authoritative, when you have a division of 200 or 300 ballots on one side or the other.
CHEN: Well, I think it's destined not to make anybody very happy in all this, but the founding fathers -- we keep telling our audiences that the founding fathers created the Electoral College because they didn't want folks, I guess, like me, the riff raff to go out and have our hand and be able to directly choose our leader.
So I'm wondering what the thinking was in creating a system where the option now would be to go to the House, to go to the Capitol, rather than to go through courts? Was there reasoning by the founding fathers that would say, it should go this way and not through the courts?
DALLEK: Because they thought, I believe, that would be the most representative way to select a president. After all, the House is the people's House. After the president, which is the only nationally elected -- who is the only nationally elected official in the country, the House of Representatives is the closest thing to a national body and I think it's the most democratic way to get a result, and I believe the founding fathers considered that. It's true they were elitist, it's true they didn't see all these people who vote now, they didn't imagine that there would be such a massive turnout of the populace, the electorate, but it's happened and it's worked generally quite well.
What we should not lose sight of is this, I think, election -- it's an aberration, it's not a common standard. My guess is four years from now we will get back to what we usually see, which is a victory in the electoral column in a decisive way for one candidate or the other.
CHEN: I think we are all hopeful that it is an aberration.
CHEN: Robert Dallek of Boston University, thanks very much for being with us.
DALLEK: My pleasure.
FRAZIER: Aberration or not, Joie, it still is historic.
And still ahead, we'll show you people braving rain and almost freezing temperatures, dozens of them lining up to witness history.
FRAZIER: Welcome back to our special report on this story that seems never to end, election 2000. Our coverage of the Florida vote will continue in just a couple of minutes.
CHEN: First though, we want to shift our focus to two other countries where the electoral process is also in the spotlight. Israel is headed now straight for a special election after the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Mr. Barak may be stepping down, but he's not planning to leave office.
From Jerusalem, CNN's Jerrold Kessel with a look at the prime minister's political strategy.
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A polite reception for Ehud Barak but in no way a triumphant entrance. The Labor Party's central committee convening in emergency session. The embattled Israeli prime minister seems to have headed off an incipient challenge from moderates within his own political camp. He dually won backing again, unopposed, as Labor's candidate for the new election.
Mr. Barak said the problem of the opposition, Likud, was not who would head the party, but the fact that the Likud did not have a policy which could change Israel's reality. Despite Mr. Barak's protestations, who heads the rival right-wing party is widely perceived to have been a key motive behind his shock resignation, which he handed in to Israel's president. The resignation takes effect Tuesday afternoon and means an election within 60 days.
A colossal gamble, say even his supporters, an attempt to exclude from the election the man absent from the current Likud leadership, Benjamin Netanyahu. Barak trounced Netanyahu in the general election only 18 months ago, but now trails him dramatically in opinion polls. But as the law stands, only a member of the Knesset can compete in an election that is exclusively for the post of prime minister. Mr. Netanyahu is not now a member of parliament and therefore would not be eligible to run in the election as it's shaping up.
LIMOR LIVNAT, LIKUD MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: We see a trick of Ehud Barak. I would even say, a dirty trick.
KESSEL: Convening a news conference, Mr. Netanyahu said Mr. Barak's policies had failed completely, and he was putting forward his candidacy for the leadership of the Likud and for the premiership. But Mr. Netanyahu will only be able to run if the Knesset opposition is able to double trump Mr. Barak's gambit and swiftly pass legislation for early parliamentary elections as well, to be held in conjunction with the leadership race.
Mr. Barak told his cabinet he considers the upcoming election a popular referendum for his peace and security policies. Israel's political turmoil comes as more than 10 weeks of violent confrontations with the Palestinians rages on.
YULI TAMIR, ISRAEL CABINET MINISTER: The prime minister is going to present the agreement or the proposal he made at Camp David as the agenda for peace and we hope that we will get wide support for that agenda.
KESSEL: But if Mr. Barak is counting on a swift peace deal to take to the Israeli electorate, Yasser Arafat's initial response was distinctly reserved.
YASSER ARAFAT, LEADER OF PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: We hope that it will not be -- the peace settlement will not be affected by it. But we have to wait and see to give the accurate answer.
KESSEL (on camera): Whatever form the Israeli election takes, whatever the campaign is fought over, Ehud Barak remains the caretaker prime minister with full powers until the next prime minister is installed, unless in between there is another surprise up his sleeve.
Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Jerusalem.
FRAZIER: Now to Romania, where a one-time former leader is declaring victory in the presidential runoff amid accusations of election fraud. Two exit polls show Yon Iliescu (ph), a former communist functionary, winning in the popular vote, but his far-right opponent Corneliu Vadim Tudor (ph) says Iliescu and his party committed fraud. He says he plans to contest the final tally at the world court in The Hague. Iliescu led Romania between 1990 and 1996.
After all the trouble in Florida, some people there seem ready to get rid of America's time-honored election process, but CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton says don't scrap the system until you have seen how voting works in the rest of the world.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, let's see. In Iran we have Mohammed Khatami, elected president 3 1/2 years ago, frustrated because he doesn't have the power to institute the freedoms and reforms the voters elected him to get. Unelected conservative religious leaders have shut down reform newspapers, jailed dissidents, vetoed reform legislation. So the economy's a mess; people are leaving; and, with elections six months off, the president is saying he doesn't have the power to do much about any of that.
In Romania, the election worked smoothly enough, and there will be a runoff between an ex-communist and a nationalist described as resembling Russia's flamboyant Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and whose magazines attack Jews, Gypsies, Hungarians, and other groups, voters apparently tired of the centrist coalition which had been in power.
In Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide won re-election, sort of. The opposition boycotted the vote. The government said turnout was more than 60 percent, but news accounts said 10 was more like it. This is the same Aristide the United States helped restore to power after a coup interrupted his first term. In Haiti, democracy has never been easy.
In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to early elections after the Likud party rebuffed his efforts to form a coalition government of national unity.
EHUD BARAK, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): And I say to you, you want elections, I'm prepared for elections.
MORTON: The election may well be held as fighting between Israelis and Palestinians continues. At least nothing tried so far has brought peace. The U.S. once elected a president in the midst of a civil war. This may be Israel's chance.
And Canada held an election after a campaign which lasted five weeks, as against the two years or so for presidential campaigns in the United States. The Canadians followed their five-week campaign with a one-day election, and they knew the winner, Labor Party leader, Raymond Chretien, Election Night. Canada has provinces, as the United States has states, but the whole country apparently uses the same kind of ballot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got the picture right in front of you. It tells you what to do. You cross your X. It's not a problem. Yeah. Yeah, I must admit I was looking at those American ones and it looked pretty silly.
MORTON (on camera): So there is democracy, struggling, working, sputtering, whatever, in five countries: Israel, Haiti, Iran, Romania, and Canada. Where on the scale -- working well, working poorly, broken -- would you put the United States?
I'm Bruce Morton.
(END VIDEOTAPE) FRAZIER: No comment to that scale, no.
CHEN: Now we're going to talk about Chad, but it doesn't have anything to do with ballots in Florida or anything else, it's Chad Myers.
FRAZIER: Chad, thank you.
CHEN: Look like it could be cold and pretty miserable in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, where there are a lot of folks at this hour standing around, sleeping in the streets as well.
FRAZIER: Yes, and they are not waiting to see some kind of a rock concert, they want to see history being made, so they are sacrificing comfort now for a seat tomorrow in the gallery of the United States Supreme Court.
Let's take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They give you an index card with your number on it.
Number 81, 64.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeff, you are 65.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Number 83 and I...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm 83.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're number 1.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been here since about 5:15 last night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to have the number on you and you need to be here for roll call, and if you are not here for roll call twice in a row, then you are out of line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm kind of on line, but I'm also able to go to the car, which is really an added bonus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People can go off and, you know, find restrooms, get food, get warm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to give credit to my roommate, he gave me this tent, and I love my roommate for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Kevin and this is my mom Eileen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got our tent, we're camping out. We hope to get to go inside and see some of the proceedings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's going to be an incredible opportunity to see history in action. You know, we are actually discussing and going over the things in a peaceful manner and having a good time in the process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the people would agree this is the sort of the last stand, but either way, whoever comes out of there tomorrow successful is the next president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you could do me a favor and just pull this off, I know you are not supposed to.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just unbelievable that they could stay counting those votes. I think every vote should count.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole thing was pretty much 50/50, so you know, I'm pushing for my guy, but if it goes the other way, I can live with that and I'm sure most of American can, too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guys, I have to leave. Bye.
Have fun. Take notes for me, will you?
CHEN: And those are folks who are committed to democracy.
FRAZIER: Of course, you know how this is going to go, they'll have a terrible night, it will be cold and wet, and they won't get any rest, and they'll get inside and doze off just as the arguments start.
CHEN: You don't have to get a seat inside the high court, though, to know what's going on.
FRAZIER: That's right. CNN's special coverage of the oral arguments before the Supreme Court starts tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.
CHEN: And that's it for this special report on election 2000, the Florida vote. Thanks for being with us. I'm Joie Chen.
FRAZIER: I'm Stephen Frazier.
For our domestic viewers, CNN "SPORTS TONIGHT" is on deck, and for our international audience, "WORLD NEWS" is next.
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