|COURTING PUBLIC OPINION|
November 16 , 2000
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It's good to see you all again. We're right in the middle of this. We just heard Governor Bush respond to Vice President Gore's remarks earlier today. And we've just heard the secretary of state say that she will not accept the recount in those other counties. What do you think about what's happening, Dennis?
DENNIS COUGHLIN: I think it's terrific. I think it's a fascinating process, as we find everybody talking about the election. I don't think it should be a Democratic and a Republican thing, but it certainly is breaking down that way. I like to see the process working out. I think it shows what a great government we have, that there's not troops in the city, that whoever is the President I think will be supported. It's a peaceful process. It shows our government works. I'm enthralled by the whole process. I think it's terrific.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Patrick Vann, are you worried at all? Are you enthralled, or is anybody worried?
PATRICK VANN: I don't know. I sigh it a little bit differently. I kind of ask myself every day: How did we ever get to this spot? You know, even though looking at it, they say 59.4% of the people think that we should have the manual recount, you know, and I think each candidate deserves that. You just... I mean it's just appeal after appeal, and now the secretary of state is saying she's not going to accept those ballots. It's like... it's almost an endless process here. It's almost like they need an arbitrator to say, "okay, this is how we're going to do it. Both parties have to agree," because it's just these volleys going back and forth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So Patrick, even though you're a Democrat and you supported Gore, you think it's time to stop it?
PATRICK VANN: No, I don't believe it's time to stop it. I think it's time to add some kind of sanity to this. It's like the lawyers are taking over here.
ANN PADILLA: That's exactly my point. I think that right now instead of the American people and the people in Florida deciding who the President is, we're in a situation where it's lawyers and judges and county commissioners that are doing all this and it's kind of taking it away from us.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Does it, does it make you nervous at all?
ANN PADILLA: It does. It does in the sense that we have had a system that works. It's not perfect. It's not always fair, okay? But it's as fair as... as we could get, and hopefully we can improve on it, maybe at the next election. But I'm really concerned about the process now being in the hands of the attorneys and the judges and the commissioners, instead of the people.
BRENT NEISER: I agree.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Brent Neiser.
BRENT NEISER: I'd sort of like to see the two major candidates try to advance democracy by both taking a step back a little bit. I think this has been a great civics lesson. I think we're ripe for electoral technology reform, like, you know, new voter infrastructure. I think all localities need to look at that. But there's another signal that I think is going to our children. This has been, like, day eight of the national, the dog ate my homework kind of thing. (Laughter) People are asking for more time constantly and it's sort of this kind of institutional whining that we've got going on. So I'd like people to kind of step up, be men, be statesmen, or states people about this, kind of back off. I don't like the idea of them moving in the direction where judges may help pick a President. I think that's dangerous, and I don't know if I want a President that wants to vest that kind of power in the judiciary.
PATRICK VANN: In looking the way Gore approached it versus the way Bush approached it, Gore came out and said, I'm willing to meet with Bush and talk to him and have a meeting of the minds. Bush, just came out and said, you know, in what I saw, was forget it. Okay, I'll meet with Gore after the election. And I mean, that doesn't seem fair to me because Gore said, let's count all the counties. If that's fair, because there's been talk that that's unfair-- selective counties thing like that-- Gore came out and said let's count all the counties. I never saw Bush agree with that and that's disturbing.
BOB CIRABOWSKI: He didn't say that until now, way late in the process, and it's impossible to get the entire state counted by hand in time for the January -- or the December deadline.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yeah, go ahead, Chris.
CHRIS GOODWIN: I think this whole thing, this whole mess so far is a good argument for eliminating the electoral college. I think we really need to move for direct election of the President and make sure it's one person, one vote. And there should be some kind of a run-off provision in there so we don't elect somebody who gets 35% of the popular vote. I think that's something that has to be seriously looked at before the next presidential election.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Jason, you're teaching middle school kids. What are you saying to them?
JASON MUNDY: I think this is the best teaching lesson that I've ever had as a teacher. Every day kids go home, they talk to their parents about what's happening. They see it on television. I'm pleased that... that they see... that they see this. I think this is democracy at its best. We're moving, with each new count, we're moving toward a fair count of the vote and they know now as American citizens, their vote does truly count, in Florida. I think we allow the counties in Florida that want to have a hand count, to go ahead and finish that process. Democracy's in no danger. We don't need, we don't need a President until January. We can wait a week to have a fairer process. And a few votes may decide the President. I think there are, there are a lot of people in America who are going to be kicking themselves, knowing that they didn't vote in this election, when it's so close.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Go ahead, Dee.
DEE CISNEROS: And yet I'm concerned that some votes are not counting.
JASON MUNDY: Right.
DEE CISNEROS: And I'm very concerned about our democracy if people are allowed to manipulate the elections, and that's what I feel has... is happening now. It... You can't give people a ballot that, that's confusing. You can't throw something because a machine throws it out, 15,000 votes were lost last election; 19,000 this election. There's something wrong with that machine. I feel that every single vote counts, and I feel that the recount that Ms. Harris should have accepted the recount because what are they afraid of? Why is Bush fighting all this? He's fighting it because he's afraid. They started out at 1700, now they're down to 300. Now that, I think that's very serious. Our democracy is at stake here.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Dennis, democracy at stake?
DENNIS COUGHLIN: I don't agree, no. We're not going to find a perfect system. You take a look at the millions and millions of votes that were counted, not only in Florida, but throughout the United States, the accuracy is 99.9%. To me, that's within an acceptable margin of error, and if you're trying to find the 100% perfect system, you'll never get it. You'll never get it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Joanne, democracy in danger or democracy working?
JOANNE KRON: I personally feel that we are at such an interesting time right now. And with growing cynicism among the youth and throughout the United States, I think that something like this was really, really necessary. It shows the young people of America that voting is important to each and every one of us. And I remember the night of the election, I was glued to my television. Friends were calling me. They weren't paying attention. Friends were stopping by my house and they kind of looked at the TV, "gosh, I guess I should have voted."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bob, do you think it will add to people's cynicism?
BOB GRABOWSKI: No, I don't. I think what's happened is, democracy is working and we are not at a point yet where I'm ready to say that it's in peril. But if we let this continue and we allow the parties go in and very selectivity pick certain counties or certain areas and try to go for the Nth degree in introducing subjective error from human handling of this, then I think we'll put democracy in peril. Right now it's not. The system's working and it should stop while it's still working before we go too far.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you see that danger, Dr. Clark?
MORRIS CLARK: Well, I feel very strongly that the American public really across party lines, across any kind of a line, like to see fairness. And I was very pleased that Vice President Gore came on before Secretary of State Harris and made what I thought was a very conciliatory statement, which was that he would pull off any legal kind of pursuit if in fact, the recount was drawn to a conclusion. And as the Constitution says that the vote will reflect the will of the people. It's not reflected if you're not voting or if your vote doesn't count. Every vote counts and it should count in Florida.
ANN PADILLA: But do we have to count it three times over is my question?
BRENT NEISER: I think we're seeing selective, like, mining for votes, or vote mining. If you're going into like, you've heard of data mining-- well, people are going in and, and they're identifying some of these counties and I understand politically why they're doing it, but I think that that becomes a bit arbitrary and dangerous.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Back to Ann Padilla's point now that whoever wins may not have much of a mandate to govern: What do you think about that? Dennis, where do you come down on that?
DENNIS COUGHLIN: I think it's terrific. If you have very strong feelings on one side and it is a mandate coming in, you're only going to get one opinion. The best government is the government of compromise, and whoever comes in is going to have to compromise. So I think you will find a much more productive legislative session coming up than you would have if you would have had a mandate for either Gore or Bush. So I think this is probably one of the best elections we have had.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Chris, you don't agree with that, do you?
CHRIS GOODWIN: I think that's part of the problem. I think what's more likely maybe is gridlock. I think they might really be at each others' throats in the Congress and less might get done.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You've said it in so many words, but I want to know what just specifically and briefly you think should happen next.
MORRIS CLARK: Well, I think in any event, I certainly wouldn't go back to secretary Harris. I don't know how many of you are aware, but she was the vice chair of Bush's campaign in Florida. I think Americans want to see fairness prevail. And I think fairness would prevail for Bush or for Gore if there was an apolitical, nonpolitical person that was making a call like stop the count. The person that said, "stop the count" was George Bush's campaign person in Florida. That clearly is... excuse me, Dennis, one second. That clearly is something that would cause anyone to feel suspect.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Dennis?
DENNIS COUGHLIN: Doctor, I disagree with that for this reason: Apparently the law in Florida gives her this responsibility, just as the laws give the judges certain responsibilities. So whether she's Democratic or Republican, she is in office according to law, she has that responsibility. And so my conclusion is it's her call. She made it. Live with it.
BOB GRABOWSKI: I think that the demand that was made for recounts was a legitimate demand. The recounts were done, machine recounts, as they were. I think the process should stop there. And I think the votes should be certified and we move forward. Anything beyond that, I think we open it up to too much political influence. It's now no longer the voice of the people; it's how we can gerrymander, how we can pull votes in a certain direction. So stop it where it's at.
DEE CISNEROS: I think that, by doing that, we're not listening to the voice of the people. If we don't do the recount, we're not listening to what the people have said. And I feel that they're going to have to go to court.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, that's it for tonight. Thank you very much.
GROUP: Thank you.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It's good to see you again.