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Special Event

U.S. Supreme Court Considering Bush Appeal of Manual Recount in Florida; Florida House Approves Bush Slate of Electors

Aired December 12, 2000 - 4:00 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: All eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court. Will the court clear the way for one man to claim the presidential prize or will it allow hand counts of Florida votes to resume?

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In much of the Midwest, it's a long, slippery road just to get home, thanks to a big winter snowstorm. One meteorologist predicts it definitely will not be a normal winter.

And hello. I'm Natalie Allen.

WATERS: And I'm Lou Waters. We welcome to this special report on day 35 of Election 2000, all you political junkies.

It is a pins-and-needles sort of day as a weary nation awaits word from the U.S. Supreme Court. The nine justices of the nation's highest court are pondering a ruling in Bush versus Gore. This time yesterday, they had already had heard oral arguments from both sides. The court is considering whether or not manual counts should resume in Florida.

The Republican-dominated Florida legislature, all the while. is moving forward in its process for appointing presidential electors for Governor George W. Bush. The House approved the resolution a little more than a half hour ago by a vote of 79-41. Florida's Senate takes up that measure tomorrow.

ALLEN: And now to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington and the waiting game there.

CNN national correspondent Bob Franken is standing by outside the court looking for any movement whatsoever -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it's kind of hard to see because the justices really operate behind a curtain of secrecy, coming out only for the arguments. And right now, talking to one another -- we being the reporters -- well, what could they be doing?

And it's all speculation of course, but the way that it normally works is that the chief justice tries to build consensus on one side or the other, and, of course, as you know, the decision to stay the recount in Florida was a 5-4 ruling and many in the circles of the Supreme Court believe that there has to be more of a consensus so they won't be viewed as a political decision. So, there is some bargaining going on in probability, bargaining to try and come up with a ruling that appeals to one or two or more of the justices which will create a more united front. It is the normal procedure that goes on with any case, particularly a case of this import. Trying to reconcile the arguments of the Bush campaign lawyers that, in fact, the recounts should be stopped and if that occurred -- if that would be the ruling by the justices, in effect that would be giving George W. Bush the presidency -- reconcile that with our efforts to get the recount going again, which is the position of the Gore campaign or something in-between.

So, there is that kind of negotiation that has been going on and will go on until they reach whatever consensus will be reached and then out will come the opinion. Of course, one day is not the normal amount time that things take, but there is expectation it might come today, so far it has not -- Natalie.

ALLEN: These aren't normal times, that's why. Any word on -- do we know how long they usually wait -- excuse me, work on any given day?

FRANKEN: Well, work a --they usually work a pretty short day. These are not people who like to work into the night. Sometimes, of course they have to. They're on recess, actually, and in fact much of the discussion might be taking place in their homes or at their fax machines. That's what law clerks are for. So, we don't even know if they're in the building and that's one of the toughest things to find out, by the way.

ALLEN: Well, we're sorry you're on that beat because we know it's difficult, but we thank you, Bob Franken.

Now to Lou.

WATERS: While Bob Franken waits to get busy we can tell you it's a another busy day in Florida. We are expecting in about 25 minutes or so at 4:30 Eastern time a statement from the Florida Supreme Court. Craig Waters will step before the cameras about that time. We don't know what it's about, but when it happens we'll bring to you live.

And over at the Florida legislature, they have one eye on Washington and what might come out of the Supreme Court today, but the legislature is proceeding with its mission.

CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher joins us now from outside the state capitol. Mike, what's happening?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the legislature had hoped, especially the House which is voting today, that they would have some word from the Supreme Court before they had to vote, but, of course, they did not get that. They were determined to go ahead and vote and they voted 79-41 to pass that resolution which names a slate of 25 electors for George W. Bush. It's basically -- it is exactly the same slate that was sent to Washington by Governor Jeb Bush a couple of weeks ago in that certificate of ascertainment. So, the legislature has reaffirmed that basically with their vote and named a duplicate slate of electors.

Now, in argument before the full house, the Democrats said this was the ultimate partisan act, according to minority leader Lois Frankel, and she said other legislatures around the country might follow suit and change the will of the people. On the other side, the Republicans said they are affirming the will of the people in Florida, that the last certified vote totals showed George W. Bush in the lead and they are just affirming that.

Now with me now is Van Poole, the former Republican state representative and senator. What is the next step now? What goes on, Van?

VAN POOLE (R), FORMER FLORIDA LEGISLATOR: Well, Mike, tomorrow morning the Senate will meet. They will go in and they will start the same process. They'll start the debate. I think you'll see this will be a much longer process because the Senate doesn't have rules that -- to limit debate other than the 30 minutes. In the House, you know, they agree to a lesser amount of time, but the Senate didn't. So therefore, the vote could come late tomorrow night.

BOETTCHER: What if they changed even one comma? Does it have to go back to the House.

POOLE: Yes, if they change one comma or one word and that's always the fear of the House and that's why the House said -- I don't know if Speaker Feeney said be on standby. Keep in touch with your leader because you might have to come back here Thursday if the Senate makes change to the resolution at all.

BOETTCHER: Is there a potential that could happen?

POOLE: Oh, yes, always -- that's always the case because you have two separate deliberative bodies and that has been the case here forever.

BOETTCHER: Well, it should be interesting. Tomorrow it convenes at the Senate at 10:00 a.m. The vote, as we said was 79-41. That means that two Democrats switched over to the Republican side of the aisle. They were Democrats elected in districts that voted for Governor George W. Bush in the presidential election. There were about a dozen Republicans who were in districts that Gore won, but they stuck on the Republican side of the aisle. So, that final vote, 79-41 -- Lou.

WATERS: And Mike, what, if any, effect would a Supreme Court ruling today have on the Florida Senate tomorrow?

BOETTCHER: Well, the Senate has always been the more cautious body. They've been a very deliberative body on this. The House has really wanted to move much quicker and the Senate has held them back. They will keep an eye to Washington like the House did and would probably go into recess just like the House said they would if that happened. We also want to show you the time of this vote. It happened about 20 minutes ago.

Let's take a look, Lou, 20 minutes back when this vote came 79- 41.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM FEENEY (R), FLORIDA HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm not sure that much of America will remember what we said here today, but I think they will remember that 120 of us in a very respectful way tried to discern what our duty was, and 120 proud, patriotic members of the Florida House that did their duty. And I'm proud of all of you, whether you were for the resolution or against the resolution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOETTCHER: That was House Speaker Tom Feeney speaking to the membership just after the vote. So, Lou, tomorrow they will be keeping an eye in the Senate on Washington just as the House was doing, but if a ruling doesn't come down from the U.S. Supreme Court by tomorrow, it looks like the Senate would go ahead and vote. That's the latest from here, that can always change, though, when you're talking about deliberative bodies and members from many different districts.

WATERS: Oh, so true. Mike Boettcher in Tallahassee today -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, so if you're wondering where we stand in the chronology of events leading to finalizing a winner in this presidential race, here's what it's supposed to look like. Today, December 12th, is the day for states to certify their electors.

On December 18th, next Monday, electors are scheduled to cast their votes for president from their state. December 27 is the deadline for the electoral votes to be delivered to Congress. On January 6th, Congress meets in a joint session to count the electoral vote, and finally January 20th is Inauguration Day. We're supposed to have one person inaugurated on that day, ready to go.

WATERS: We may have someone by then.

The past five weeks, though, have been a crash course in American due process, to be sure. And to the likes of CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack, the past couple of days have been the Olympics of lawyering. Roger joins us now from the U.S. Supreme Court, where he waits along with the rest of us.

Would you fit into that category of those who expected a decision by now from the Supreme Court, Roger?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Lou, I certainly would, and it shows you how little I know. I, like most of us around here, thought that the Supreme Court might even have come back late last night. We were on duty until late last night awaiting the possibility of a verdict, and I thought by noon today we would hear.

But I think that what we've heard earlier, the fact that this is such an important, important issue and a decision of such great importance that the justices are probably trying very, very hard to speak with as much of one voice as they possibly can. We know there is a divisiveness among them and we know that they are trying to come up with an opinion that would have many of them able to sign on that opinion, because clearly it gives more weight. A 5-4 opinion is not as weighty as one that would be 8-1 or 9-0. So the fact that they haven't come up with one just, to me, indicates how hard they are trying, and we'll just have to sit and wait.

WATERS: So what I hear you saying is there is concern about the reputation and integrity of the Supreme Court of the United States as they are about the important matters they are deliberating?

COSSACK: Well, I would say that the -- look, this is the United States Supreme Court, and we have seen polls that indicate that, you know, Americans believe that -- and have a great deal of confidence in this institution, and I think the Supreme Court believes that about themselves, and I believe that they understand where they are and that they're the one that is most likely going to make the ultimate decision in this case, and I -- we know how seriously they take it, and they should, and I just think my job and all of our jobs is to sit and wait for them to tell us what the decision is.

WATERS: All right, you keep doing your job there, Roger. Stay with us as we bring in another voice, that of Karen O'Connor, who is professor of government at American University and a former department chair, she teaches constitutional law.

Welcome, Professor.

KAREN O'CONNOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Thank you.

WATERS: I'd like to bounce something off of you that Stuart Taylor Jr. wrote in the current issue of "Newsweek" magazine, and that is that the high court, "the United States Supreme Court now apparently is as divided as the rest of us and risks appearing to become just another bunch of partisan players in the political wars." Would you think that it's reasonable to assume that, that kind of thought on the outside affects the debate going on inside the court?

O'CONNOR: One really never knows what affects the debate inside the court, but certainly there is a tremendous perception that the court is very divided. In a way, it's sort of like a playground analogy, if you will. That, in essence, depending upon what the justices do today, or tomorrow, or whenever the decision is going to come back, they are really picking who the next justices are going to be when they pick the next -- potentially pick the president. So there's a lot of politics going on in here, and I think the court has to be extremely mindful of their role in setting this -- making a decision in this particular case.

WATERS: Would you not agree that the court is damned if it does, damned if it doesn't? Even if it does nothing, doesn't it reflect badly upon the court?

O'CONNOR: To some extent many of us were really surprised that the court even decided to take this case in the first instance, because you are exactly right, no matter what they do, it's going to be a problem. They might, however, try and do something like they did in Miranda v. Arizona and actually send it back to the states with very specific instructions. Anything short of that, in essence, they are really saying who wins the presidential election, which puts them in an extraordinarily political position. And a lot of people have talked a lot about the rule of law, well, is it really a rule of law, or is it just basically partisan politics, and that's potentially what we're going to be seeing quite soon.

WATERS: And, Roger, what are the options here for the court? They could choose to do nothing, could they not?

COSSACK: Well, they could say that they don't have jurisdiction, that there is no federal question, but I think most people believe there is a federal question, whether it be the question of this Article II Section 1, the notion of whether or not the court overstepped its powers, vis-a-vis the Florida legislature, or whether there is an equal protection argument. But they could say there isn't and then they could do nothing. They could find for Governor Bush and have the votes stop, they could find for Vice President Gore and have the votes continue.

I think the way the schedule was set up, by now the votes -- the vote counting probably would have been over. Or they could do what Karen indicates and they could send it back down to the court and say, come up with a standard that we would find that would meet the equal protection argument and would be one that would be consistently used. I find that one to be probably the least -- and watch me be wrong -- but probably the least one that they'll do, I think there is a necessity here for some kind of finality and I think perhaps the Supreme Court is looking for finality and, yes, it's true, what their decision is may decide who the next president of the United States is, but these are the facts that -- you know, of the case that they were sent. So they have to deal with what they have.

WATERS: What do you think, Professor, can the liberals on the court even -- considering the fact that Justice Scalia presumed that the Bush side had a great chance of winning this appeal, can the liberals fashion some kind of agreement to get this back into Florida with some kind of standard and resume the recount, is that possible?

O'CONNOR: I think it's going to be very difficult for them to do that. Clearly, if they turn it back to the Florida courts without giving them a standard right now, we're getting into another time situation, more potential appeals. So with the situation such as this where time is of the essence, I think that they're going to have to either articulate standards right now, or actually come out with a decisive decision, which we know today or tomorrow who the next president of the United States is.

WATERS: OK, thank you both, Professor Karen O'Connor from American University, and Roger Cossack, our own CNN legal analyst. We wait -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And, of course, when the U.S. Supreme Court makes its ruling, CNN will bring that to you live. If you can't tune in, you can always log on. You can get the latest on election 2000 and even sign up for an e-mail alert from us when a president-elect is finally named. That's at cnn.com.

WATERS: Still ahead here, another American icon is headed for extinction.

ALLEN: And the Midwest digs out from under a blanket of white. We'll take a look and find out where the big chill is headed next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Reminder that we expect to hear from Craig Waters here at this podium in about little less than 10 -- well, about 15 minutes from now. He's expected to make a statement on behalf of the Florida Supreme Court. This court has been asked to hear an appeal in a lawsuit asking for thousands of those contested ballots, absentee ballot applications from Florida's Seminole and Martin counties to be thrown out because of alleged tampering. We don't know if he will comment on those -- on that request, but we will bring you his comments live to see what's up.

Well, -- OK, now we're going over to Lou.

WATERS: And I'm going to go right up to New York, Natalie -- Allan Chernoff with a business news report.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Lou.

We did have a gain in the Dow Jones industrial average today, the third gain in a row for the Dow, and once again, it was J.P. Morgan putting in a strong performance. That stock, in fact, has been on fire, up nearly 25 points this month alone. Another theme here on Wall Street: cost cutting.

Some companies that came out with earnings warnings actually saw their stocks climb because they are cutting costs. Eastman Kodak a very good example, saying its earnings were really going to be well under Wall Street's expectations, but the company is cutting expenses by $200 million a year. Also, General Motors to the upside as well, even though GM said it will be cutting out its Oldsmobile line, but the company said it will be cutting jobs by 10 percent all across the country, but that did help the stock.

On the technology side, of course, we had the Nasdaq down and as a result, we did have many of the chip stocks lower. We should have a full screen of some of those chip stocks, show you some of the damage in that sector. You can see the Nasdaq composite off 83 points, and some of those chip stocks really taking it on the chin today. Dallas Semiconductor coming out with a warning, down 8. That was the disaster du jour here at the big board. Vitesse Semi, Novellus, KLA- Tencor -- Novellus and KLA-Tencor, semiconductor equipment manufacturers taking big hits as well. Keep in mind, however, those are extremely volatile stocks.

Now, if you want more details about individual stocks, go to cnnfn.com and click on "STREET SWEEP Shakers," and you'll get more details there.

CNN's special coverage of the election 2000 will continue momentarily. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: This is the other big story we're keeping our eye on. We love looking at it. We're glad we're not in it. The Midwest is digging out from a major snowstorm -- and we mean big one. Snow plows are getting an early workout in cities like Milwaukee, which got more than a foot of snow. The same storm system is bringing high winds to the Northeast and New England, at one point knocking out electricity to hundreds of thousands of people. Now, that's not good.

WATERS: I lived in that stuff for 24 years. And then I got the heck out there.

ALLEN: And you moved South.

WATERS: Right. I'm down here, where it's only freezing.

ALLEN: And we go: Oh, can you believe this weather? It's horrible!

WATERS: Yes.

(WEATHER BREAK)

WATERS: A few important items now from our CNN "Notebook." The Marine Corps has grounded all remaining eight remaining V-22 Osprey aircraft after the second fatal crash this year involving the craft. The Osprey V-22 takes off like a helicopter, then flies like a plane. Four Marines were killed last night when their Osprey crashed near Jacksonville, North Carolina, during a training mission. The Marine Corps says its plans to buy more Osprey aircraft remain on hold during the investigation of that crash and others.

And attention, travelers: One day after a federal judge refused to issue an injunction against the Pilots Union, Delta Airlines says it's cutting its flight schedule by up to 5 percent, or 125 flights a day, this at the height of the holiday travel season. Delta claims the pilots are refusing to work overtime while their contract talks are under way. The court said Delta did not prove union leaders are involved in an effort to slow operations by persuading pilots to refuse that overtime.

ALLEN: And now the latest from the Middle East: a Palestinian man was killed and three Israelis wounded in the latest clashes today. The fighting continued as Prime Minister Ehud Barak today began his campaign for reelection.

Here's CNN's Jerrold Kessel from Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The funeral for the 26-year-old Palestinian a member of the radical Islamic Jihad group, who was shot and killed by Israeli troops on the edge of Nablus, Palestinian-controlled territory. The Israelis say he was using a weapon. Palestinians say he wasn't armed and was hit by 15 bullets fired from a long way away.

(CHANTING)

KESSEL: "Anwah (ph), rest in peace," they chant. "We will continue the resistance." Even as this funeral was under way, Palestinians charged that elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli troops also assassinated a prominent activist of the mainstream Fatah movement, a man long on Israel's wanted list. Palestinians say he was shot 22 times outside his house in a village near Bethlehem.

Three Israelis were wounded in two shooting attacks in the West Bank and Gaza. The after of another shooting exchange on Jerusalem's outskirts: a small Orthodox church damaged in the Palestinian town of Beit Jalla, retaliatory fire Israel says, after an Israeli woman was shot and seriously hurt in nearby Gilo, an Israeli neighborhood built on land occupied in 1967 and incorporated by Israel into Jerusalem.

MAYOR EHUD OLMERI, JERUSALEM: I don't want any of the innocent people in Beit Jalla to be hurt. However, I definitely believe that those who are shooting from Beit Jalla should be shot at back right away and be killed.

KESSEL: Prime Minister Ehud Barak, launching his election campaign, is under repeated criticism for the Israeli army's failure to stop the ongoing shooting incidents in the area of Jerusalem. Mr. Barak, who snap resignation plunged Israel into political turmoil, says he is seeking a fresh mandate to make peace.

"This election," said the Israeli prime minister, "will be a true referendum on how to reach peace and security, end the wars and separate from the Palestinians."

"The people are with you, Ehud," read roadside banners held up by Barak loyalists. But the shadow of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has a commanding lead in the polls, looms large. He is bitterly criticizing Mr. Barak's policies. But without changes in the election procedures, Mr. Netanyahu is still not eligible to challenge for the premiership.

(on camera): There's been a flurry of Israeli press reports about secret talks. Top Israeli and Palestinian officials emphatically deny that any ongoing contacts amount to secret peace negotiations. But there is diplomatic activity: for the first time in several weeks, a meeting set in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, between Yasser Arafat and the top U.S. Mideast envoy, Dennis Ross.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATERS: We're waiting for developments. And the next development, apparently, will be an announcement at this podium at the Florida Supreme Court -- that while we continue to watch the United States Supreme Court. We're still waiting on that ruling there. We'll take a break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATERS: Here's Craig Waters with the Florida Supreme Court.

CRAIG WATERS, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SPOKESMAN: I have two matters to announce. First, the court has issued its opinion in the case of Harry Jacobs versus Seminole County Canvassing Board, challenging certain absentee ballots. The trial court in this case found that the evidence does not support a finding of fraud, gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing in connection with any absentee ballots. Today, the Supreme Court affirms this finding.

In doing so, the court does not in any sense condone the irregularities noted by the trial court in the way applications for absentee ballots were handled. However, these irregularities do not require the voiding of all absentee ballots. The vote in this case was six to zero, with Justice Leander J. Shaw Jr. recused.

Second, the court also has decided the case of Ronald Taylor versus Martin County Canvassing Board, also challenging certain absentee ballots. The trial court in this case concluded that there were irregularities, but that they did not reach the level of fraud or intentional misconduct.

Accordingly, the trial court found that the sanctity of the ballot was not impaired.

Based on the rule of law explained in the Jacobs case that I just mentioned to you, the Supreme Court has affirmed the trial court's order. The vote, again, was six to zero, with Justice Leander J. Shaw Jr. recused.

Paper copies of the opinion will be available at the front door as soon as possible, and copies also will be posted on our duplicate Web sites as soon as possible.

Thank you.

L. WATERS: Well, there it is: The Florida Supreme Court has acted on the two ballot application cases that were heard in the circuit court, surrounding charges of fraud in Seminole County and Martin County, the Harry Jacobs case against Seminole County, the Ronald Taylor case against Martin County. No -- there were irregularities, say the court, but there was no fraud, no intentional misconduct.

Greta Van Susteren, CNN legal analyst, watching this in Washington. That's the end of this, right?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly seems to be the end of it. I don't think that it'll go on to the United States Supreme Court, whether the losers will seek a review by the United States Supreme Court, but of course, that's always an option, assuming that there is a question that's not simply a local election law question for the state of Florida: that there is a constitutional issue. Let me point out one thing, Lou, why this is probably not a huge surprise to a lot of people: Although there are these irregularities, remember it wasn't done -- the irregularities weren't done by the voters. And I suspect -- I haven't seen the entire opinion. But I suspect that is something that would trouble the Florida Supreme Court in looking at the case: is that if you threw out the ballots, in some ways you -- I mean, not in some way -- you would be punishing people who simply weren't the wrongdoers.

WATERS: For those folks who don't follow all of this as closely as we do, in a -- give us a thumbnail sketch here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. This had to do in Seminole County with ballot applications, absentee ballot applications. There were some numbers missing, some voter identification numbers missing from the applications: not the ballots but the applications. And the supervisor of elections in both Seminole County and Martin County called up some Republican supporters and had them come in and fix what were defects in the application.

They were not involved in the voting themselves. The applications went out, and people then did vote.

Under the Florida law, which is a law of recent vintage -- it's in the past two years -- is that it is forbidden to do that kind of assistance on securing an absentee ballot application. So, that was the problem.

What was done was wrong. There shouldn't have been that extra help from the Republican supporters to fix those applications. However, there was never a suggestion that they voted for anybody or did anything that would in any way make it look like the voters who actually did vote had any intention of doing anything but exercising the right to vote.

WATERS: One other Florida Supreme Court action that I wanted to ask you about was the answer to the United States Supreme Court and the vacated issue. And some are suggesting that perhaps that may be complicating the discussions now going on at the United States Supreme Court, why this is taking a lot longer than many people expected.

What was the nature of the answer from the Florida Supreme Court?

VAN SUSTEREN: What the Florida Supreme -- first of all, let me back up a second. A week ago, the United States Supreme Court said, look, we're going to vacate the decision in the Florida Supreme Court, because we are unsure of how the Florida Supreme Court decided the issue on whether or not it was OK to extend the deadline for certifying votes in the state of Florida. And they sent the case back down to the Florida Supreme Court, so the Florida Supreme Court could explain how it arrived at its opinion.

What happened was is that clarification came yesterday, and some people now think that that may in some way confuse the issue before the Supreme Court that was argued yesterday. But let me point out something very fundamental. The first matter that went to the United States Supreme Court had to do with what is called the "protest phase." So the clarification had to do with the protest phase. What the United States Supreme Court listened to yesterday, it was a problem arising out of, or a claim of a problem, arising out of the "contest phase." So they're completely different issues, but I suppose it's wise to sort of look at the big picture when you make a decision.

But I'm not sure it really does complicate it, because in Florida, you have a protest and a canvassing board makes a decision there. Then you have a certification by the secretary of state, and then you have a contest that goes to the court. And the proceeding yesterday arose out of the contest, not the protest.

WATERS: And I thought I heard Justice Scalia asking a couple of, or three times perhaps, what is the necessity of having a protest if you're just going to go ahead and have the contest?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, except that's the -- I mean, the question, is who do you want -- who resolves the ballot issue? And in a protest, you go to the canvassing board, they look at it, and then you have the certification and then you can contest the election results. And then, of course, it falls within the jurisdiction of the trial court judge to determine what should be the resolution, if indeed there are illegal votes accepted or legal votes that are rejected. And that's what the judge looks like.

WATERS: How could the answer from the Florida Supreme Court on the protest complicate what's now going on in the court over the contest?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not sure, and that's why I don't think that in any way, you know, it's a wrench in the works. I think that in some ways it got us all a little bit confused, because, you know, we've got so much action going on in these courts, back and forth. But frankly, Lou, I think that those are two unrelated matters that unfortunately the time coincidence has added a little bit of confusion.

But the issues yesterday before the Florida Supreme Court having to do with the constitutionality of the hand count in the state of Florida is a separate issue from what the Florida Supreme Court -- what the U.S. Supreme Court looked at a week ago.

A week ago, what they were looking at is whether the Florida Supreme Court went too far when it said the certification stage, that the deadline for the certification date was moved from the 14th of November until the 26th of November: two different issues, two different phases. They happened to be occurring at about the same time, thus injecting a whole lot of confusing and chaos if you happen not to be following the case -- the case too closely. And it's easy for that to happen, because things change so rapidly in this matter.

WATERS: It certainly is. All right, Greta VAN SUSTEREN in Washington.

Natalie, what's next?

ALLEN: CNN's Martin Savidge is with our Florida election law analyst David Cardwell -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, we've just been going over what came down from the Florida Supreme Court just a few minutes ago, involving the cases of Martin and Seminole counties here. And I'll bring in election analyst David Cardwell.

David, one of the things that had been debated before we heard the ruling here from the Supreme Court was that this is obviously a court that is in favor of counting votes, not discounting votes, which is essentially what the Democrats were asking.

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: That's true. And both of these decisions were unanimous in rejecting the appeal and affirming the trial court. The court also said no rehearing, which means it's final so far as the Supreme Court is concerned. They didn't even hear oral arguments.

So to the justices of the Florida Supreme Court, this was pretty much an open-and-shut case. This one didn't require much effort on their part.

They did find there was wrongdoing, but it didn't rise to the level where you'd want to invalidate any ballots of any voter.

SAVIDGE: It had been thought that maybe this court may wait on ruling on those two particulars cases until they heard something from the U.S. Supreme Court. That didn't happen, obviously.

CARDWELL: Yes, there was some question that they might wait, because one of the issues before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether there's a federal question involved in these cases involving the presidential electors. But they decided to go ahead and clear these cases out.

Let me also note that while we focused on the effect that these two cases would have on the presidential election, they were seeking to invalidate 25,000 ballots for all elections, federal, state and local. So it could have an affect just beyond the electoral vote. It could have an affect on several countywide and local races as well.

SAVIDGE: All right, hold on a second, David.

We want to bring in CNN's Susan Candiotti. She had been following the trail of these two cases as they moved up from the lower court, and then eventually to the Florida Supreme Court.

Susan, your feelings down there.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, we have gotten reaction from the attorneys representing one of the parties in this case, Gerry Richman, who was involved in the Seminole County matter. He tells us that he respectfully disagrees with this decision. Naturally, he is disappointed by it. And, at this time, he and the other lawyers involved in this case are considering their options: that is to say, whether they will take this even up further up to the road to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And remember, Vice President Gore was not a direct party to this case. However, he would have benefited if the case would have gone had his way. On the other hand, as you recall and as you have pointed out already, the Democrats have been in favor of counting votes, not discounting them -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: Susan, one question before you go: There were no oral arguments in this particular appeal. We had been anticipating that they might have been scheduled, and perhaps even this announcement was going to mention that. Were the attorneys that have you spoken to disappointed over the fact they didn't get a chance to argue before the court on this matter?

CANDIOTTI: Oh, absolutely. This would have been something they would have had wanted to have had one more crack at: being able to argue their case by way of oral arguments before the Supreme Court here. But now that's not going to happen. Also, Justice Leander Shaw recused himself from this matter at this time. We don't know why. And I don't know if we will get a reason for that. But at this time, that is why it was a 6-0 instead of 7-0.

SAVIDGE: All right, Susan, thank you very much.

David, let ask you this: What is the overall significance of what we just heard here in the big picture of the election?

CARDWELL: Well, what it's doing, we are starting to sort of eliminate the lesser cases, except for the one that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases hadn't risen to the prominence of that case going to the U.S. Supreme Court. And so we are sort of clearing out the legal landscape right now. And also, it's interesting to note, that in these two decisions, while they said they did not condone the wrongdoing, they also reaffirmed some of the language in their Beckstrom decision, to where they said that the election officials have to obey the law.

So what they did is, they said instead of throwing out absentee ballots, perhaps there should be some action brought under a provision in the election code that provides for civil and criminal actions, not throwing out the ballots.

SAVIDGE: So right now it means all the more important decision is that decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. We will get reaction from the campaigns in just a moment -- right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: All eyes continue to be on the Supreme Court now. We have said it before, but now we really mean it, since the Florida Supreme Court has now come back with its decision in that issue there in Seminole and Martin counties. So now we await to hear from the United States Supreme Court on where this matter goes next. For the moment, let's find out how the candidates continue to handle the news that comes in. Patty Davis is with the Gore campaign in Washington -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, first, as for the reaction from the Gore campaign to that Florida Supreme Court affirmation of the lower-court rejection on those absentee-ballot applications -- those two cases -- the Gore -- a Gore campaign spokesman just telling me that, first of all, they were not the party to those cases. The quote: "Our focus is on counting those votes -- is on counting those votes which have not yet been counted."

That is their focus at this point. So -- but the bottom line here for the Gore campaign is, what this does is take away one possible avenue if they don't win in the U.S. Supreme Court -- more focus now on the U.S. Supreme Court here, the Gore campaign watching it very anxiously. The vice president himself is said to be relaxed -- resilient, resolute are the words used to describe him. He went to the White House earlier today, in fact.

He stayed for about two hours. And he is now back. He arrived back here at the residence about a half-hour ago. Democrats, meanwhile, are charging this move by the Florida House to approve a slate of Bush-friendly electors. They say it shows that the lengths to which the Bush campaign is going to go, and the partisans, to get Bush elected to the White House. The Gore campaign, however, is still optimistic that it can prevail in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Aides say that they think their lawyers did a good job in arguing their case that the Florida Supreme Court does have jurisdiction, that it made the right decision. It was within the law. And they believe that they ultimately will have a good chance when the Florida -- when the U.S. Supreme Court, that is, comes down with its decision -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And is as anybody with the Gore campaign talking about the fact that many had felt we'd already hear from the Supreme Court, and we haven't?

DAVIS: They are just taking it as it comes. They know that it may be a while more. They haven't really said that they were expecting it to come out earlier today. They are just waiting, as the rest of us -- and hoping -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Patty Davis. Thanks, Patty.

WATERS: And let's see if there is any reaction out the Bush campaign to the Florida Supreme Court's ruling. If anybody knows about reaction from there, it would be our own national correspondent, Tony Clark, who is covering us in Austin.

Tony, what is going on?

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, they are pleased. You know, these cases -- the Seminole County, Martin County cases were really wild cards in this election battle. And so Dan Bartlett, spokesman the Bush campaign saying it is a ruling that they can praise. He said: We obviously believe that the lower court ruling, the circuit court rulings, were well-thought out decisions.

And he said: We were obviously pleased. We thought the law was crystal clear -- that they were gratified that the cases have been handled this way by the Florida Supreme Court. As for the governor, he has had a quiet day, working at the mansion all day long. This morning, he had his security briefing from the CIA. He had a -- met with Andrew Card, his designated chief of staff in a Bush White House. They talked about transition. There was a call to Jim Baker and to Don Evans, his campaign manager.

And then throughout the day, the governor has been on the phone several times with his running mate Dick Cheney and Clay Johnson. They're in Washington at the transition headquarters. They have been talking about White House staff, Cabinet positions, a possible Bush administration, and trying to get ready for it, as they have day after day. We often see the governor head off to the gym around midday. But he didn't do that. Instead, he stayed at the mansion, stayed in there working.

And aides say he is also doing what so many of us are doing: simply waiting for the Supreme Court decision. They have also said time and time again that he is doing a better job of waiting for these kinds of decisions than they are. While they can be emotionally wrung out, the governor, they say, is patient, calm, and simply hanging on, waiting for that decision to be made -- Lou.

WATERS: OK, Tony Clark in Austin, Texas.

We're going to call upon our political analyst, Bill Schneider, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Time to talk with CNN's political analyst Bill Schneider, who joins us again today from Washington.

Hi there, Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Natalie.

ALLEN: I think the first question is how in the world can Bush be -- quote -- "calm" and Gore be -- quote -- "relaxed" through all of this. They must be the only ones.

SCHNEIDER: I guess we're all on edge here. You know, I used to have a full head of hair, and then this happened.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN: Well, I just find that extraordinary, but let's talk about the developments from this day. Just now learning that the state Supreme Court isn't going to take action in the absentee ballot applications. Anything surprising there for you? SCHNEIDER: No, not really, because that would be punishing the voters if they had decided to discard those ballots. That has happened in the past, but that would be an extreme penalty, because those were the legitimate voters who cast their ballots honestly. They were simply mishandled. The ballots applications were mishandled by party officials.

Someone -- there are irregularities, someone is culpable, but it's not the voters.

ALLEN: This afternoon we've also seen the Florida legislature take that expected action: the House voting for its own slate of electors. The Senate votes tomorrow. What has this done to the whole equation now?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Democrats think the fix is in for the legislature to name George Bush the winner in Florida, and for Congress, at least one of the houses of Congress, the one controlled by Republicans, the House of Representatives, to name Bush as the winner. The legislature claims it is doing that in order to enfranchise Florida's voters, to make sure that their electors cast ballots and are counted. But of course, Democrats claim, no, they're disenfranchising Florida voters because the legislature is usurping the power of the voters, naming the winner before all of the votes are counted. So there it is.

ALLEN: So in all the while we wait, everyone waits to see what the United States Supreme Court would say. Are you amongst those that thought we'd already know this decision and do you have an idea of why we still sit here and wait?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I thought, you know, we're two weeks before Christmas. This election was supposed to be long over.

ALLEN: Five weeks ago.

SCHNEIDER: So it's hard to make predictions about anything right now. Why are we...

ALLEN: We don't have anything else to do!

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: Well, the only signal that it suggests is that the court is trying to find a broader majority than the 5-4 majority by which it stopped the Florida recount on Saturday. That's a very -- the narrowest possible majority, and on an issue of this magnitude, my guess is they're trying to find a greater consensus so it won't look like a narrow politically motivated decision. That would be my guess.

ALLEN: Well, that's what others have said as well. When this thing is, you know, over -- and it could be over, you know, sooner than later at the point -- what does -- what does the man that's tapped to be the next president need to say to the American people to make everyone feel better after all of this? SCHNEIDER: Well, obviously, he needs to say that he understands what the voters were trying to say. I don't think that this country is divided into two-armed camps. I think they want a government of the center.

He has to appear to be as nonpartisan as possible. There've been some signals from members of Congress, like Tom DeLay, the House majority whip, that this would be a great opportunity for Republicans if they have the White House and the House -- and they eventually will have the United States Senate -- they can put through their agenda. I don't think that's the message people want to hear from the new president.

They want to hear the new president is going to be cautious, he's going to be considerate of the opposition, he wants to send signals that he knows that he knows that he doesn't have an enormous mandate, but he is determined to govern and to govern authoritatively.

ALLEN: Bill Schneider. Thanks again, Bill, from Washington.

We'll take a break. We'll be back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATERS: Well, as you probably know by now, the United States Supreme Court continues to deliberate on the Bush v. Gore appeal on the manual recount issue in Florida. That decision has yet to be rendered. We are waiting on all points around this network to bring you the latest developments on that when or if it happens today. It could come tomorrow. Who knows?

ALLEN: But stay close.

WATERS: Yes, close is good.

ALLEN: Thanks for staying tuned in. I'm Natalie Allen.

WATERS: I'm Lou Waters. INSIDE POLITICS is next. Stay tuned. We'll be waiting for a decision from the United States Supreme Court. Take care.

ALLEN: See you later.

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