November 17, 2000
Betty Ann Bowser reports on today's election news from Florida.
| JIM LEHRER: The Florida Supreme Court late today stopped
a Presidential election end game. It ordered Florida Secretary of State
Katherine Harris not to certify a final vote tally tomorrow, after overseas
absentee ballots are counted. The court said hand recounts in some counties
could continue, and it set a hearing for Monday afternoon on what happens
next. Earlier today, a lower court judge ruled Harris had acted properly
in deciding to disregard late hand recounts. The conventional expectation
has been that without the hand recounts, George w. Bush would win Florida's
25 electoral votes, and the presidency. With them, al Gore would win.
Betty Ann Bowser recounts the day's events.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: With these words, a Tallahassee circuit court delivered a blow to the Gore campaign.
TERRE CASS: "On the limited evidence presented, it appears that the secretary has exercised her reasoned judgment to determine what relevant factors and criteria should be considered, applied them to the facts and circumstances pertinent to the individual counties involved and made her decision. My order requires nothing more. Accordingly, it is ordered and adjudged that the plaintiff's motion is denied."
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Democrats had hoped Judge Terry Lewis would allow all the manually recounted ballots to be included in the state's final vote tally. But Lewis upheld the decision of Florida Secretary of State Harris two days ago not to certify them. An hour later, the Bush campaign's representative James Baker read a brief statement without answering questions.
JAMES BAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, I have just spoken with Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney. They are understandably pleased with Judge Lewis's opinion. The rule of law has prevailed. The court applied the rule of law objectively and fairly, upholding, as the judge's opinion states, the "reasoned judgment" of the secretary of state and the state election commission certification of results on November 15. We now look forward to the prompt counting and reporting of the limited number of uncounted overseas absentee ballots so that the process of achieving a final result to the election in Florida is not subject to further delays.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Secretary of State Harris also hailed the decision. In a written statement, she said: "I am pleased that Judge Terry Lewis has supported my authority to exercise the duties assigned by law to the office of secretary of state. We will continue to follow the election procedures provided by Florida law, and we anticipate receiving the certifications of the overseas absentee ballots from all counties by noon tomorrow." At an early afternoon news conference, Gore representative Warren Christopher said the Democrats were disappointed.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: We continue to believe that Secretary Harris was wrong to certify the election result before the recounts were completed. To the extent that Judge Lewis's decision today is contrary to that, we believe it incorrect and we will be appealing it to the Supreme Court of Florida.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Before the Supreme Court ruling, the Bush campaign said it was hoping the end would come tomorrow.
KAREN HUGHES: There is still the question of these overseas absentee ballots and our men and women in uniform, who are sending in ballots deserve to have their votes counted. And the good news is that by midnight tonight, the votes will be in and we'll all know. We won't have to ask if anymore.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The decision late this afternoon gave the Democrats part of what they wanted. In its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court stopped the secretary of state from certifying the results until further order of this court. It also did not stop the counting of absentee ballots or any other ballots. The court will hear oral arguments Monday afternoon. Late this afternoon, Vice President Gore reacted to the turn of events.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: As I have said all along, we need to get a fair and accurate count to resolve this election. The American people want to make certain that every vote counts and that every vote is counted fairly and accurately. The citizens of Florida surely want the candidate who received the most votes in Florida to be determined the winner of that state. That's why I'm very pleased that the hand counts are continuing. They're proceeding despite efforts to obstruct them, and that is why the decision just announced by the Florida Supreme Court preventing the Florida secretary of state from certifying the election results tomorrow is so important. I want to be clear: Neither Governor Bush nor the Florida secretary of state, nor I, will be the arbiter of this election. This election is a matter that must be decided by the will of the people as expressed under the rule of law; law which has meaning as determined in Florida now by the Florida Supreme Court. Thank you.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Late this afternoon governor Bush returned to Austin from his Texas ranch to await action of the courts. Meanwhile, ballot counting continued by hand in two South Florida counties, and the canvassing board in the huge Miami Dade County, which voted heavily for Gore decided to manually count all of its more than 650,000 ballots.