November 10 , 2000
JIM LEHRER: The recount of the presidential vote in Florida remained officially incomplete today. The Florida secretary of state said two counties had still not reported their totals. But an Associated Press tally of all 67 counties had Governor Bush leading Vice President Gore by 327 votes. That margin had been nearly 1,800 before the recount. In Tallahassee, former Secretary of State James Baker spoke for the Bush campaign. He said ballots from Floridians overseas are still to come in and be counted by next Friday. But he said the outcome is already clear.
JAMES BAKER: Let me begin by saying that the American people voted on November 7. Governor George W. Bush won 31 states with a total of 271 electoral votes. The vote here in Florida was very close, but when it was counted, Governor Bush was the winner. Now three days later, the vote in Florida has been recounted. Over two-thirds of the state election supervisors overseeing that recount are Democrats. At the end of this recount, Governor Bush is still the winner, subject only to counting the overseas ballots, which traditionally have favored the Republican candidates. No evidence of vote fraud, either in the original vote or in the recount, has been presented. Now the Gore campaign is calling for yet another recount. In selective and predominantly Democratic counties, where there were large unexplained vote swings in their favor in the recount, it appears that the Gore campaign is attempting to unduly prolong the country's national presidential election through endless challenges to the results of the vote here in Florida.
Furthermore, the more often ballots are recounted, especially by hand, the more likely it is that human errors, like lost ballots and other risks, will be introduced. This frustrates the very reason why we have moved from hand counting to machine counting. Let me say a word specifically about the Palm Beach ballot. There's a rule of law to be followed in all elections. The state of Florida has established legal procedures to design, approve, publish and, if need be, to protest ballots before the election. The ballot was designed by a Democratic elections supervisor; she approved it. The Democratic Party did not question it before the election. This butterfly-type ballot was used in recent elections in the same county and under the same rules, and again the Democrats did not complain. The overwhelming majority of voters who used the ballot in this election understood it and they cast valid votes. Our lawyers have confirmed the legality of this ballot, and we have with us here today relevant copies... copies of the relevant Florida statutes if you would like to have them.
The Gore campaign has also tried to make a lot of the fact that double-marked ballots are not counted. A key principle in American elections is one person-one vote. If we have ballots with two votes, of course we can't count them, and of course we can't guess about them. Ballots that are double marked can't be evidence of the voters' intent to vote one way or the other. No jurisdiction in the United States of America would accept such a ballot as a valid vote, and Florida law specifically does not. This happens in every precinct and in every election. And the procedure is very clear: Those ballots have to be disregarded. We understand, and let me say that I understand personally, because I've been involved in them, that it is frustrating to lose an election by a narrow margin. But it happens. And it happened to the Republican presidential candidates in 1960 and in 1976. Both Vice President Nixon and President Ford put the country's interest first. They accepted the vote for the good of the country.
It is important, ladies and gentlemen, that there be some finality to the election process. What if we insisted on recounts in other states that today are very, very close; for example, in Wisconsin or in Iowa, or if we should happen to lose it in New Mexico? If we keep going down the path we're on, if we keep being put in the position of having to respond to recount after recount after recount of the same ballots, then we just can't sit on our hands, and we will be forced to do what might be in our best personal interest - but not -- it would not be in the best interest of our wonderful country. And what's happening now, if I may say so, is not in the best interest of our country. And there is a way to stop that. There's a way to bring this thing back before it spirals totally out of control.
JIM LEHRER: As Baker said, recounts were possible in other states. Republicans were exploring new counts in Iowa and Wisconsin. Resident Gore won both by a few thousand votes. He was also the projected winner in New Mexico, but his margins shrunk today to 118 votes, as counting continued in that state. There was still no winner in Oregon, where Gore had a narrow lead. State law there could require a recount as well. Top representatives of Vice President Gore's campaign said today the outcome in Florida was far from certain. Campaign manager William Daley, and former Secretary of State Warren Christopher spoke in Tallahassee.
WILLIAM DALEY: As you know, the automatic recount required by Florida law is continuing. To date, that count has shown a considerable narrowing of the margin between Vice President Gore and Governor Bush. When one considers the number of ballots yet to arrive from Americans overseas, and presumably mostly men and women in the military, it seems very clear that the outcome here in Florida remains in doubt, as it will for several more days. In addition, in the past 24 hours three counties have granted requests to have ballots counted - hand counted - at least on a sample basis. These requests were made because of oddities in the computer vote totals. I hope all Americans agree that the will of the people, not a computer glitch should select our next President. The wait to get these results is frustrating, frustrating to all of us in both campaigns, and to the American people obviously as well. But calls for a declaration of a victor before all the votes are accurately tabulated are inappropriate. Waiting is unpleasant for all of us, but suggesting that the outcome of a vote is known before all the ballots are properly counted is inappropriate.
In addition, we continue to explore the questions of what can be done to remedy the unfairness of thousands of residents in Palm Beach County who believe they had were voting for Al Gore having those votes tabulated for Pat Buchanan or not tabulated at all. Our legal team has concluded that the ballot in Palm Beach County was unlawful, it was complained about on election day, a complaint implicitly acknowledged by the election supervisor who put out a flier on election day warning about the problems.
In the end, as frustrating as this wait may be, what we are seeing here is democracy in action - a careful and lawful effort to ensure that the will of the people is done. Our other systems of government may work faster, curtailing voters' rights may get a right that is faster, but no system of government is more just or more enduring than ours. I hope that our friends in the Bush campaign will join us in our efforts to get the fairest and most accurate vote count in Florida. Respect for democratic principles and for the fundamental precept of our Constitution, that the people should decide, requires no less. I think as we move forward it is implicit for all of us and all those concerned that we carefully measure all of our words, recognizing the high stakes involved in these deliberations.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: We are only three days away from the election itself. But our constitutional Fathers wisely provided a period of time after the election and before the electors meet. We're in the early part of that period. I don't see any threat to our Constitution. Indeed, what we're doing is a constitutional process. There is no constitutional crisis. We're proceeding in accordance with the Constitution of laws and will continue to do so. I don't see any threat at the moment to our standing overseas. We've always had this period of interregnum between the election and the installation of a new administration. I think we're proceeding in a very direct way. If there was an escalation of rhetoric on the other side in the last few hours, I just... I'm not inclined to join it. I'm inclined to try to stay on the path of being affirmative about it, trying to carry out our duties here.
REPORTER: Mr. Baker said two things. Mr. Baker said in West Palm Beach County, that they threw out 16,000 ballots in the last election; there is nothing new about this. Secondly, he said you say there is no urgency, however they have an urgency because they have a transition to plan and they want to get on with it.
WILLIAM DALEY: My understanding, and this is what I've been told. In 1996, there were a total of 15,000, both non-voted ballots and double punched ballots. This time there's double that amount. There's about 30,000 ballots that were either not voted or double punched. So it's twice as many. And the bottom line is that mistake, that problem may very well dictate who is the President of the United States, where four years ago, it was not an issue and contention in the state of the nation who was going to win. Oh, on the transition -- I'm sure Governor Bush and his team of very experienced people are well prepared to transition in. They have said that, and I think obviously a great number of Americans believe them as thief said that, and the Vice President is prepared as he has been prepared for eight years in the event of an emergency to transition into the presidency, so I don't see that as a big issue -
JIM LEHRER: Vice President Gore did not make any public statements today. But Governor Bush spoke to reporters at the Governor's Mansion in Austin, during a meeting with key advisers. For the record, that bandage you'll see on his face is to cover a boil.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Each candidate and each team has to do what they think is in the best interest of the country. I think in the best interest of the country, it is in our country's best interests that we plan in a responsible way, a possible administration. And there have been two votes, and... we're pleased with the results of the two votes.
REPORTER: Governor, since you seem so sure that will you win, have you given thought of resigning as Governor of Texas to give your full attention to the transition?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I am mindful that there are still votes to be counted, Tom. And we're... I believe, as does Secretary Cheney, that the responsible course of action is to prepare, and that's what we're doing here in Austin, Texas. We're taking our time in a very low-key manner preparing for a possible administration. I'm sure there are going to be some people disappointed that their man didn't get in, but there are also going to be a lot of people very happy. But our job will be to unite the country. And I'm confident that the Bush- Cheney administration will be able to do so, in a dignified way.
JIM LEHRER: Claims of irregularities in the Florida vote did continue today.