November 9, 2000
JIM LEHRER: The recount of the Presidential balloting in Florida neared completion late this afternoon. Governor Bush had led Vice President Gore by about 1,800 votes before the recount. The results cannot be certified until some 2,000 ballots from Floridians overseas also come in and are counted. The deadline for that is next Friday, November 17. The recount news came amid claims of irregularities in Florida's voting. Kwame Holman reports.
CROWD: Revote! Revote! Revote!
KWAME HOLMAN: West Palm Beach near Miami today, hundreds of protesters turned out to draw attention to voting irregularities they say occurred here on Tuesday: The primary one, the Palm Beach County ballot, which many voters say confused them. County officials disallowed more than 19,000 ballots, about 3% of the county total, because they indicated votes for more than one presidential candidate. Critics say that happened because the ballot's design induced Al Gore voters to punch both holes next to his name. But only one was designated for Gore. The other was for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, whose name appeared in the adjacent column. And other Palm Beach voters say they punched only the Buchanan spot, thinking they were voting for Gore.
LORA IDE, Palm Beach Voter: I was looking at Democratic. I saw a hole opposite the Democratic. I did not look for number 5 and the arrow. And of course that is my mistake. However, my vote was stolen.
KWAME HOLMAN: According to the results, there were more than 3,400 votes for Buchanan in Palm Beach county, a far higher number than he received anywhere else in the state.
PAT BUCHANAN: Those are probably not my votes in those precincts in Palm Beach county. The outsized nature of my vote. And I've looked at that ballot, and it is on the left side, it is Bush and then Gore, 1 -- 2. But if you... The dots 1, 2 are Bush Buchanan. And so my guess is I probably got some votes down there that really did not belong to me.
KWAME HOLMAN: Reporter: Meanwhile, in Florida's capital, Tallahassee, about 200 college students held a sit-in.
R. J. HOWARD, Florida A&M University Student: We are here in silent protest, not about the results of the election but about discrepancies in the election process. We will sit here until our concerns are heard.
KWAME HOLMAN: And there are charges of irregularities in other Florida counties. In Osceola, more allegedly confusing ballots. In Broward and Dade Counties, ballot boxes that didn't arrive at counting houses on time. In Pinellas, 400 ballots missed in the recount that began yesterday. A second recount is under way there. In Escambia, reports of forged absentee ballots and in Leon and Hillsborough, charges of police intimidation of African American voters. Today, the NAACP called on the Justice Department to investigate what it called "disproportionate disqualifications of black voters." Earlier today, however, Attorney General Janet Reno cautioned against quick federal intervention.
JANET RENO: One of the issues that is important to recognize is that the Justice Department and the Attorney General have an obligation to pursue matters carefully and thoughtfully and cannot let issues be politicized. I'm going to try my level best to make sure that that doesn't happen, that we recognize that it is a matter basically of state law, and that we come together in what has to be one of the important moments of this nation's history, not to engage in recrimination, but to really address this issue thoughtfully.
KWAME HOLMAN: As of late this afternoon, at least two voter lawsuits had been filed seeking a new vote for President in Palm Beach County.
JIM LEHRER: The Bush and Gore campaigns had teams of lawyers and other officials in Tallahassee to monitor the recount. Ray Suarez has our report.
RAY SUAREZ: Governor Bush asked former Secretary of State James Baker to represent his campaign in Florida during the recount process. Today, Baker met with Florida's secretary of state, who's overseeing the recount, and then spoke with reporters in Tallahassee.
JAMES BAKER: We had a full discussion of a lot of the issues surrounding this recount process. It's... I know the position as secretary of state is certainly the position of Governor George W. Bush that we would like to see this process carried out in a very transparent, open, deliberate way, as expeditiously as possible of course, given the national interest, but in keeping, fully in keeping with the requirements of the law of Florida. We feel quite confident that that's the way the process has been conducted so far, and we're hopeful of course that that's the way it's going to be concluded sometime during the course of the day.
REPORTER: Is there any evidence of fraud?
JAMES BAKER: I have not heard any-- I have certainly not seen any evidence of fraud, and I have not heard any specific allegations of fraud.
REPORTER: What about the ballot in Palm Beach County some voters said was confusing?
JAMES BAKER: The ballot in Palm Beach County that has been alleged to be confusing is a ballot that has been used before in Florida elections. It is a ballot that was approved by an elected Democratic official. It is a ballot that was published in newspapers in that county and provided to the candidates, to the respective political parties in advance of the election in order that complaints, if any, could be registered. And hey, guess what? There were no complaints until after the election. So it's not... so it's a ballot that's been used before. It was approved by an elected Democratic official, and there were no complaints when, in accordance with Florida law, everybody had a chance to complain.
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, what about Broward County, 14,000 punched ballots that don't count in Broward? Not Palm Beach, Broward County.
JAMES BAKER: Well, you're raising the very same question. But let me just say, on the issue of ballots that are disqualified, if that's what your question is, there's not a jurisdiction in this democracy of ours that does not discard ballots where a voter votes twice for two different candidates for the same office. That's what happens in our democracy. If that's what happened here, I don't see how you can count those ballots.
REPORTER: What does this do, this controversy going on, in our ability or standing in the world, do you think right now?
JAMES BAKER: Well, it's... we cannot argue that it is good, but our democracy is strong. It's one of the real strengths of this country is the fact that we pass power, we transition power peacefully. We resolve our disputes in a responsible way. That's why it is so important that we complete this process today and that we, following that-- and by the way, I have not heard one complaint about the conduct, at least as yet not one, about the conduct of the recount. There may be some complaints, but I haven't heard them. That's why it's so important that we complete this, because the presidential election of course is on hold, and that affects the position of the United States in a number of different ways, particularly internationally.
RAY SUAREZ: About two hours later, Gore's representatives, campaign chairman William Daley and Baker's counterpart former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, spoke to the press.
WILLIAM DALEY: Secretary Christopher and I have been in Florida now for over 20 hours, and I'm here to report that what we have learned has left us deeply troubled. Most notably, it appears that more than 20,000 voters in the Palm Beach County who, in all likelihood, thought they were voting for Al Gore, had their votes counted for Pat Buchanan or not counted at all. In response to this clear injustice, what does the Bush campaign say? They blithefully dismiss the disenfranchise of thousands of Floridians as being the usual sort of mistake made at elections. They cite legal provisions about published ballots and technical notice. They put a demand for finality ahead of the pursuit of fairness. Here is what we intend to do about this: Today, the appropriate Florida Democratic officials will be requesting a hand count of ballots in Palm Beach County, as well as three other counties: Vallucia, Dade and Broward. In addition today, I'm announcing that we will be working with voters from Florida in support for legal actions to demand some redress for the disenfranchisement of more than 20,000 voters in Palm Beach County. We believe that, with so much at stake, steps should be taken to make sure that the people's choice becomes our President.
In addition, we are still collecting accounts of other irregularities, voter intimidation and other oddities in other parts of the state, and if substantiated and appropriate, they, too, will become part of legal actions. Now, let me address the concerns of those who say that these actions will delay the conclusion of this election or somehow we are seeking to drag this out. All we are seeking is this: That the candidate who the voters preferred become our President. That is what our constitutional principles demand. That is what true fidelity to our Constitution suggests. That is what the American people truly deserve. Moreover, we will move this matter ahead as quickly as is possible. We do not want delay. What we want, however, is democracy fulfilled. Finally, let me address some remarks to the Bush campaign. I believe that their actions to try to presumptively crown themselves the victors, to try to put in place a transition, run the risk of dividing the American people and creating a sense of confusion. Let the legal system run its course. Let the true and accurate will of the people prevail. And if at the end of the process George Bush is the victor, we will honor and obviously respect those results. But we would expect the same adherence to the rule of law in Democratic process from their campaign in return.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: To shorten this up and to enable you to get to your questions, let me just associate myself with Chairman Daley's comments. If I could put it in a single sentence, we've come to believe that there are serious and substantial irregularities resulting from the ballot used only in one county, that that ballot was confusing and illegal and arising out of this is the need for redress in order to make sure that the will of the people can be properly honored in this situation.
REPORTER: Please respond to the contention of Florida Governor Bush and other Republicans that there was plenty of time to say something about these Palm Beach County ballots, the way they were constructed. They were approved by Democrats.
WILLIAM DALEY: Yeah, but as was stated, that should not negate the right of the voters when they go to the poll. A party official of either party doesn't have the right to disenfranchise thousands and thousands of voters in a county in Florida. I don't think anyone would believe that. And there is some question as to the exact comparison between the sample ballot that was published and the actual ballot and the look of the actual ballot that the people went into the polling place and used. Yes, sir?
RAY SUAREZ: Secretary Christopher was asked if the delay in announcing a winner is affecting America's interests abroad.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: I've had the ill fortune to serve in administrations after losing an election, as well as after winning an election. Let me assure you that the presidency goes on until January 20 in a vigorous way, and none of our allies are in any doubt as to who's in charge of the government until January 20. There'll be a new President then but not before.
RAY SUAREZ: Late this afternoon, Bush campaign chief strategist Karl Rove gave a pointed response to Gore campaign chairman Daley's concerns about the so-called butterfly ballot. Daley is a native of Cook County, Illinois.
KARL ROVE: The Gore campaign has been handing out a somewhat hazy and fuzzy copy of it, so we are making available to you and can do so electronically, as well, a relatively clean and clear copy of the butterfly ballot, which indicates that this is not as susceptible to confusion as Chairman Daley indicated. In fact, I really thought it was ironic that Chairman Daley went to great lengths to decry the butterfly ballot as confusing and undemocratic because I have here a copy of the cook County, Illinois, judicial ballot, which is a butterfly ballot. This has been used in a number of states, in a number of counties, and it's historically been used in Cook County, Illinois. Maybe Mr. Daley's in a better place to decry democracy and confusion in Cook County than he is in Florida, if that's really the case. I believe that we have an election day for the purpose of having an election, and in this country at least, we don't follow the practice of some other countries in the world and hold elections and hold elections until somebody gets the outcome that they desire.
RAY SUAREZ: Rove said Florida's recount is not the only one on the horizon. There is one underway in a New Mexico county, and recounts are possible in Iowa and Wisconsin-- Gore narrowly won all three states.
JIM LEHRER: On the Florida recount, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, made this announcement a few minutes ago.
KATHERINE HARRIS: The divisions of elections reported receiving recount results from 53 counties in Florida. We are still awaiting the results from the supervisors of elections in 14 Florida counties, which by law, have until Tuesday, November 14, to submit those returns to the office of the secretary of the state. Official certification by the elections canvassing commission, consisting of our commissioner of agriculture, the division director of elections and the secretary of state, will not commence until the original signed forms from all 67 counties attesting to their certified results have been received by our office. As of 5:00 P.M. today, the unofficial certified results of the recount are as follows: Governor George W. Bush, 2,909,661. Vice President Al Gore: 2,907,877 -- a difference of 1,784 votes. The following is very important: Under statutory law, legally cast Florida ballots received from overseas must be counted by the supervisors of elections for ten days following the general election. That deadline is November 17, 2000.