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Former President Carter supports Florida hand count

Electoral College here to stay, he says

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who has often served as an elections monitor, says a hand count of ballots in three Florida counties should go forward.

Carter, a Democract and supporter of Vice President Al Gore, made his remarks on CNN's "Larry King Live" late Wednesday night.

Former President Jimmy Carter talked to CNN's Larry King on Wednesday  

The outcome of last week's U.S. presidential election will be determined by whether Gore or Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the popular vote in Florida and the state's 25 electoral votes. The Gore campaign wants a hand count of ballots in three heavily Democratic counties; the Bush campaign contends a hand count is unwarranted.

Carter, when asked if the hand count should be allowed to proceed, replied, "Well, I think so. And if that is not acceptable, when the courts make a ruling, then I think the final determination -- which should be as a fall back only -- that the hand counting should be conducted in every county in Florida."

Those final tabulations should then be added to the counts of absentee ballots from overseas tabulations, and both candidates should agree in advance that they would accept that result without further dispute, Carter said.

If a hand count were conducted in every county, Carter said, "then I think that the nation could relax even though it might take five or six days to count all the ballots by hand in Florida. Then there wouldn't by any question about the final and accurate results."

Such a proposal could be presented to Gore and Bush by a non- partisan commission. If it were, "I think that both sides would agree to that," Carter said.

King asked whether Carter would be willing to serve on such a commission, particularly if it included former President Gerald Ford, a Republican. Carter said he would be willing to to serve for a few days if he were asked to do so by a "higher authority."

The former president, who served one term in office from 1977 to 1981, said there had been "no allegation at all" that "anything has been done illegally or with deliberate reasons to cause an error" in Florida.

"I think, though, because it is so close and because we do have some very serious fallibilities in how ballots are cast and counted, that that tiny margin has now become the difference between who will be in the White House," he said.

'Inconceivable' to abolish Electoral College

Carter also predicted that the Electoral College would survive, despite calls in the wake of this election for it to be abolished.

"Even if people theoretically don't like the Electoral College," Carter said, "we will still have the Electoral College a hundred years from now, because there's no way that you could get two-thirds of the senators, two-thirds of the House members and then in addition three-fourths of the states to vote to do away with the Electoral College, because small states would not give up their present privileged position in the Electoral College."

For those reasons, Carter said, "to do away with the Electoral College, I think, would be inconceivable."

However, he does favor two changes to the way the Electoral College works, Carter said.

First, he favors awarding a state's electoral votes according to the percentage of the popular vote received by the candidates. All but two states now award all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote.

Second, Carter said, he thinks electors in the Electoral College should be required by law to cast their votes the way their states voted. Historically, most electors have done that, but there have been some electors who voted contrary to the popular vote in their states.

The Larry King program was aired from Los Angeles; former President Carter's segment was taped in Atlanta, Georgia.


Thursday, November 16, 2000


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