November 28, 2000
|Kwame Holman reports on the latest developments in Florida.|
JIM LEHRER: Kwame Holman recounts this day of contest, the 21st after the presidential election.
KWAME HOLMAN: Vice President Al Gore spoke to reporters this afternoon, and laid out his plan for a speedy resolution to the legal fight in Florida.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: This morning we have proposed to the court in Tallahassee a plan to have all the ballots counted in seven days, starting tomorrow morning, and to have the court proceedings fully completed one or two days after that. Let me repeat the essence of our proposal today: Seven days, starting tomorrow, for a full and accurate count of all the votes. Once we have that full and accurate count of the ballots cast, then we will know who our next President is, and our country can move forward. Unfortunately, just about an hour ago, Governor Bush's lawyers rejected this proposal. Instead, they have proposed two weeks of additional court proceedings and additional hearings, right up to the December 12 deadline for seating electors. And under their plan, none of the thousands of votes that remain to be counted would be counted at all.
I believe this is a time to count every vote and not to run out the clock. This is not a time for delay, obstruction, and procedural roadblocks. As I've said, I believe it's essential to our country that there be no question, no cloud over the head of the next President, whether it be me or Governor Bush. We need to be able to say that there is no legitimate question as to who won this election, so that we can bring this country together.
REPORTER: Mr. Vice President, polls - (network difficulty) - sympathetic to your situation and think it's a great idea to count all of the votes that it's time to move on and put this behind us. You seem to be losing public sentiment. Can you address that?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well, I said during the election to many of you that I didn't think the polls mattered. And on election day, sure enough, contrary to the polls, Joe Lieberman and I carried the popular vote nationally by 300,000 votes. I'm quite sure that the polls don't matter ( laughs ) in this, because it's a legal question. And the principle again is a very simple one: When people cast votes, the votes should be counted. And there are more than enough uncounted votes to decide the outcome of this election.
KWAME HOLMAN: It was the second time, in less than 24 hours, Gore sought to explain his legal fight. Last night, in a five minute, prime-time speech, he asked the American people to be patient.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Ignoring votes means ignoring democracy itself. And if we ignore the votes of thousands in Florida in this election, how can you or any American have confidence that your vote will not be ignored in a future election? That is all we have asked since election day, a complete count of all the votes cast in Florida, not recount after recount, as some have charged, but a single, full and accurate count. We haven't had that yet.
KWAME HOLMAN: In Austin today, Governor Bush's spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, responded to Gore's comments.
KAREN HUGHES: Earlier this afternoon, Vice President Gore made some additional comments about his challenge to the outcome of the election in Florida. Having failed to make his case with the American people last night, he apparently felt the need to restate his arguments. The Vice President said today that he wants the process to arrive at, and I quote, "a fair, expeditious and truly democratic conclusion." As people across America are realizing, it already has.
KWAME HOLMAN: This morning, Bush adviser, James Baker presented a phalanx of new lawyers-- each assigned to refute a different point in the Gore case.
JAMES BAKER: Regrettably, the Gore campaign has now filed a lawsuit contesting the certified election results here in Florida. Their aim, of course, is to overturn the outcome of the election after 19 or 20 days of counts and recounts and more recounts. America has never had a presidential election decided by a contest of the election outcome in the court. This is an extraordinary procedure, and we are entering new, uncertain and controversial territory.
REPORTER: I'd like to talk to you about one of Mr. Boies' pet theories in the case, and that is the myth that there are 10,000 votes that are not counted in Miami- Dade County.
FRED BARTLIT: I'm going to talk about myth number two. That's the myth that Miami-Dade would have conducted the manual recount unless a-- if it wasn't for a Republican mob that intimidated the canvassing board. A Gore lawyer, Ron Klain, said that a mob stormed the counting facility to stop the count. That's the myth. Here are the facts: The board is composed of independent David Leahy a supervisor of election for 26 years, a highly experienced individual, and two other sitting judges. What was being protested was a violation of the Florida sunshine law; the count was moving behind closed doors. Mr. Leahy and others said, that they were not intimidated. They said the count was stopped because they could not possibly -- could not possibly-- meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court.
DARYL BRISTOW: I'm Daryl Bristow, and I want to talk to you for a moment about Nassau County, and the suggestion that 218 votes earlier declared illegal were counted on final certification. These 218 votes were real votes by real people who did what they needed to do to express their will. No one, at no time, declared these votes illegal. They are not non-votes, they are not over-votes, they were real votes. They were counted in the original count. It was discovered, on the machine recount, that these votes had been misplaced and were not counted.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Bush team also will attack a lawsuit by Palm Beach County voters seeking a revote there. The voters say the county's butterfly ballot was so confusing it was illegal.
PHIL BECK: The butterfly ballot, which is a typical ballot used throughout the country, was designed by a Democratic election official in Palm Beach County. It was sent to and approved by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. It was posted in newspapers so that citizens could comment on it, and the law is that if anyone has a concern with the form of the ballot, that has to be expressed before the election, not after the election.
KWAME HOLMAN: At a news conference in Tallahassee this morning, a group of Palm Beach voters recounted their experiences with the butterfly ballot.
LINDA ERLICH: I pushed the stylus into the slot, the Gore-Lieberman slot and as I normally do I punched it in three or four times in rapid succession. It seemed to me there was something strange, the stylus did not punch through. What I now know is called a chad, I called it a tab at the time. I removed the card from the voting machine, and saw that in fact it had not gone through. So I put the card back in. I punched the Gore slot several more times. I was fighting with the card.
CUFALA FRAZIER: I went in and I tried to vote. When I punched that card for Gore, it was hard to punch. I punched it very hard again, so I don't know. It may be counted and maybe it didn't.
KWAME HOLMAN: Also today in Tallahassee, civil rights activists asked the federal government to investigate complaints that black voters and others were harmed by election day irregularities.
REP. JOHN CONYERS: We have shocking allegations of discrimination and that's what the Voter's Rights Act of 1965 is about. As a member of the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives, its ranking member, I appeal to the Department of Justice to move on the most important case that they have had in the eight years that they've been there.
KWAME HOLMAN: Down the street, a special committee of the Florida legislature met to discuss its options if the legal battles continue beyond the date electors must be named.
JOHNNIE BYRD: Today, we need to know our options -- to serve Florida well today, we need to know. And we must take whatever action is necessary to do our duty to protect and defend the great state of Florida in the electoral college.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Democrats on the panel questioned the need for the meeting.
KENNETH GOTTLIEB: I'm concerned that this could be seen as a sham. Are we meeting to set the stage for a special session to guarantee the presidency to George W. Bush? We should not serve as an insurance policy for a Bush presidency.
KWAME HOLMAN: And finally also in Tallahassee today, a state court heard arguments in a lawsuit by a Seminole County Democrat charging the Republicans improperly altered applications for absentee ballots. The Bush campaign is helping fight the suit; the Gore camp is not involved in the case.