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Katherine Harris to Testify Before U.S. Civil Rights Commission

Aired January 12, 2001 - 2:01 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: She is the toast of many Republicans. Many Democrats say she cost them the presidency. This hour, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris will talk about the unusual and unprecedented presidential election 2000. She'll be testifying about the voting irregularities before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, along with the state's attorney general, Bob Butterworth, who will also be testifying.

CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman is in Tallahassee. Gary, what's it all about?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the eight members of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights are trying to determine if people's rights were violated when they went to vote in the state of Florida on November 7th, 2000. And the most dramatic part of their effort will take place about 45 minutes from now when the secretary of state, Katherine Harris, will testify under oath.

As we speak, the Democratic Florida attorney general, Bob Butterworth, has just taken the oath and he is testifying. But its Harris' testimony that is especially awaited, especially considering yesterday's testimony when the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, the brother of the President-elect, was asked, "What did you do before the election to make sure everything would run smoothly?" And he said: "I didn't do anything. It wasn't my responsibility. It was the responsibility of county election supervisors and Katherine Harris."

So, that's why they're waiting to question her. One of the questions they will ask Katherine Harris is why her office spends no money on voter education media campaigns. There's been testimony over the past two days from county officials that they've asked for money from media campaigns and they've been turned down by her office.

Another very important question pertains to the Florida Supreme Court decision to extend the certification deadline -- you may recall that -- when the hand count started again. The Florida Supreme Court said the deadline would be Monday November 27th unless her office was open on Sunday November 26th.

Well, come Sunday it was clear that Palm Beach County might not finish its counting in time for Sunday night. The question these commissioners will ask is why Katherine Harris didn't say, in order to have all the votes count, I'll open the office on Monday instead of Sunday. She opened it Sunday. Palm Beach County hadn't finished its count, and therefore, none of the votes were counted.

There has been no smoking gun whatsoever about any deliberate attempts to influence people's civil rights. However, it is very clear, according to the chairperson of this commission, that a lot of state officials have not worked hard enough to make educational efforts available to the voters.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN live in Tallahassee, Florida.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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