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Burden of Proof

Election 2000: Race for White House Turns Into Marathon as Nation Eyes Florida Recount

Aired November 8, 2000 - 12:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Vice President Gore and Sen. Lieberman are fully prepared to concede and to support Gov. Bush if and when he is officially elected president, but this race is simply too close to call. And until the results -- the recount is concluded and the results in Florida becomes official, our campaign continues.

DAN EVANS, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: We hope and believe we have elected the next president of the United States.

(CHEERING)

The latest vote count in the state of Florida shows Gov. Bush winning that state by more than 1,200 votes.

(CHEERING)

They're still counting, they're still counting, and I'm confident, when it's all said and done, we will prevail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF, oh, so close: The race for the White House turns into a marathon. The nation's eyes turn to a recount in Florida. And in Missouri, Democrats and Republicans are feuding over polling activity and spent the evening fighting it out in court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIT BOND (R), MISSOURI: So the Democratic Party in the city of St. Louis wants to perpetrate the biggest fraud on the voters of this state and on this nation that we've ever seen. I believe that criminal vote fraud should be prosecuted by the federal government.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF, with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack. COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

After months of campaigning, primaries and debates, and a nail- biting evening watching roller-coaster polls, America still awaits the results of the presidential election. Now, the focus today is on Florida, where election officials are recounting votes by the state's 67 supervisors of elections.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Florida officials say the recount could be completed by the end of tomorrow. But if results validate a razor-thin edge for either candidate, election officials will likely have to wait for overseas ballots to arrive. Many of those will be from military personnel.

COSSACK: And joining us now from Miami is political science professor Helen Jacobstein. Here in Washington, Susie Sue (ph); election law attorney Mark Braden, also a former general counsel to the RNC; and Edward Correia, a former special counsel to the White House. And in the back, Carla Fuentes (ph) and Randy Rothbaum (ph).

But first I want to go to Sue Blum, who was a voter in Florida.

Sue, yesterday you went to vote. What happened?

SUE BLUM, SOUTH PALM BEACH VOTER: Well, when I went to the polls yesterday they were quite crowded. I got in line, signed in, and then I went to my -- waited for my booth -- voting booth. When I went in there, I looked at the ballot and I thought, this is strange. There was no hole by my candidate's name. It was not -- it was out of line. It was either about a fourth of an inch off. And I looked up above, it was -- I thought, well, if I go above the name it would be Buchanan, and below it would be the other candidate.

So I walked out of the booth and called one of the gentlemen over to show him, because he helps people vote. And I said, I don't know which hole to punch by my candidate. This is out of line. And he looked at it and he put his finger down and pointed to this hole. And I said, are you sure? And he put there again, and I said, I guess so. He walked off.

So I studied it for some time and I thought, well, if I go above -- I had to either go above or below my candidate's name. And if I go above, it's going to be closer to Buchanan's, I go below it's going to be closer to the other candidate. So I did the best I could. I went a little bit above it. And then when I got through, I finished the voting and I walked out.

Well, it bothered me all day long. I didn't know what to do about it. So, anyway, I wasn't going to do anything, I just worried about it. But that night, I heard on television where a lot of these ballots were bad and I knew immediately that mine was. And I thought, well, what can I do? So I called around some friends to see what they thought and nobody could tell me much. But anyway, that's my story.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sue, who did you intend to vote for? Who's your candidate? BLUM: You mean you want me to name him?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes.

COSSACK: If you don't mind.

BLUM: Yes, Gore.

COSSACK: And, Sue, what was the problem? That it was -- that you felt that you were unable to be able to cast your ballot or cast your vote? It was confusing to do it?

BLUM: Well, yes. I could cast my vote, but it was -- there was no -- it was not in line with my candidate. I had to either go above it or below it.

COSSACK: And, Sue, can you tell us what precinct or what area you were voting in?

BLUM: In South Palm Beach.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me go to Helen now, who joins us -- Helen Jacobstein -- joins from Florida.

Helen, I was looking at some reports. It says that in Palm Beach County, that Pat Buchanan collected 3,407 votes, which is about 0.79 percent. You study political science. What does that tell us? Anything at all?

HELEN JACOBSTEIN, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: Well, I think it probably tells us that there was something going on there. It's highly unlikely that Buchanan would have gotten over 7 percent of the vote in Florida.

COSSACK: Well, no, what I think Greta is saying is he didn't get 7 percent in Florida, he got three-quarters of 1 percent in that particular area.

JACOBSTEIN: In Palm Beach, yes, exactly. It is not an area which is likely to give that many votes to Buchanan.

COSSACK: What is the demographics of that area, if you can tell us, Helen.

JACOBSTEIN: I'm not particular -- I don't know that particular precinct, but I believe that many of those precincts are heavily Jewish and highly unlikely to be voting for Buchanan...

VAN SUSTEREN: Mark, let me...

JACOBSTEIN: ... most likely to be Gore voters.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mark, let me tell you about another story that has -- that CNN's reporting, that a locked ballot box left behind in a Miami church was discovered by a church employee. It sounds a little funny. We're supposed to have such regular ballot collection and voting. What do you make of this? Is that just business as usual?

MARK BRADEN, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, RNC: Well, it sounds like the normal after-the-election-type stories that you hear all the time. I mean, we have a system that's run, in a sense, by people who only do it twice a year, and there are always mistakes and there will be mistakes, and I'm sure there were mistakes in Florida. The answer is, in most cases, those mistakes cancel each other out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Andy -- Eddie, how much confidence, though, can we have in any state's election? I mean, here we hear Sue Blum claims that she was unsure where she was voting on her ballot, and then I'm reading this story that says there's a ballot box left behind in a Miami church. And I suppose if it were a landslide in either direction it really wouldn't make that much difference to me. But, I'll tell you, with it so close, what does that tell us about our election?

EDWARD CORREIA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: I do think it's a fair proposition that there are usually some irregularities, and we usually let them go because they don't influence the outcome. When you have the situation where Florida, the difference there, is 1,200 votes, 1,600 votes, you have one candidate, Vice President Gore, who's ahead by 200,000 votes in the popular election, the entire next four years in the direction of the government depends on that, then we have to pay more attention to it.

Now, deciding on a remedy and what the courts are going to do about it is difficult, but you can't just dismiss it by saying there are often irregularities.

COSSACK: Helen, what will the state of Florida do to find out whether or not people like Sue Blum had her vote counted or was able to vote correctly? Will they look into what happened there in Palm Beach?

JACOBSTEIN: I'm sure that they will. The electoral supervisors in each of the counties are responsible for the vote, all of it supervised by the state of Florida Department of State; actually the secretary of state in Florida. But they will have to look into any irregularities. And certainly there'll have to be a vote recount because the total is less -- difference is less than 1 percent -- less than half of 1 percent. So this is mandatory.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, and just as an aside, under Florida law, the secretary of state, Katherine Harris, is a constitutionally independent officer elected by the people of Florida as the chief election officer of the state. And, of course, that's to dismiss any sort of curiosity because the governor's brother is down there. But this is elected by the people.

COSSACK: And if she thought she was going to have an uneventful time in her tenure, guess what.

VAN SUSTEREN: We are going to take a break. Last night, Democrats in St. Louis got a federal judge to keep the polls open longer. But an appeals court judge closed the doors to the ballot booth. We'll have the latest from Missouri when we come back.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

176,492 active duty U.S. military personnel list Florida as their state of legal residence. Of those, 149,260 are stationed outside the state. Pentagon officials say that the U.S. military votes at much higher rates than the population as a whole and it is generally believed that military officers tend to be Republican.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOND: Can you believe, can you believe, that anybody would say that a Democratic election board appointed by a Democratic governor in a Democratic city, dominated by Democrats, was trying to keep Democrats from voting? That's an outrage. That is absolutely an outrage and we demand a criminal investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Last night in St. Louis, heavy voter turnout prompted Democrats to get a judge to extend poll closing times by three hours. But an hour later, an appeals court judge overruled that decision. Another legal effort to extend poll closing times in Kansas City also failed.

Well, joining us now by telephone is Dane Dingerson, who is a voter in the state of Missouri. Dane, you went to the polls and you had a conversation with a poll supervisor that you found objectionable. What was it?

DANE DINGERSON, MISSOURI VOTER: She told me that God wanted me to vote for Mr. Bush.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where was she when -- I mean, I take it you walked into the precinct to vote, is that right?

DINGERSON: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And where was this poll supervisor in relationship to the voting spot?

DINGERSON: She was sitting behind the desk checking the names and providing the ballots.

VAN SUSTEREN: And what did you say to her when she made that comment?

DINGERSON: I said that I didn't think this kind of illegal electioning was allowed at the polls and she told me that the Christian Coalition had told her to provide this information to the voters.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you report this to anyone, Dane?

DINGERSON: Yes, I reported it to the local police as well as the people who were her bosses.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you have any chance to watch to see after you left her whether or not that this was, you know, a single sort of phantom conversation with you and that it never occurred again, or did you watch her?

DINGERSON: No, along with this she had a stack of Christian Coalition voter guides that she was providing along with ballots and she threw them into the trash at the time, but I kept mine.

COSSACK: All right, joining us by telephone also is Phil Cardarella.

Phil, you are associated with the Democratic Party and you are also associated with the attorney who has filed some lawsuits on behalf of some voters in your state of Missouri. Tell us about it.

PHIL CARDARELLA, ATTORNEY: Well, essentially we were trying to get the polls to stay open a little later. The problem that we have is that because we have a somewhat archaic system, half of the election judges are Republican. And basically, Republicans, by virtue of not allowing, not appointing enough election judges, essentially are able to slow down the voting process in heavily Democratic areas like Kansas City, Kansas City south of the river, the Jackson County part of Kansas City.

COSSACK: I'm sorry, Phil, tell me exactly how they slowed down the voting process by not having enough judges.

CARDARELLA: If you don't have enough judges, OK...

COSSACK: You mean judges who go to the ballot and oversee the voting.

CARDARELLA: ... To process the people so that they can be marked in. We were very careful to make sure no one votes who isn't allowed to. And to process these people through, we were having people waiting two, three hours sometimes, and that's why we were concerned because people simply don't have the ability to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mark, what about that, in terms of keeping the polls -- suppose...

BRADEN: Those are some of the most outrageous remarks I've ever heard. I don't know how you respond to this but laugh at them. These are all precincts and election boards run by Democrats. The notion that somehow the Republicans were trying to slow up the process is just ridiculous and insulting to your audience for someone to make that assertion.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you a hypothetical. If I'm a voter and I go at 7:00 and my poll closes at 8:00, and I show up, and unknown to me that there's an hour-and-15-minute line, and so, technically, I would never make it up to vote, what happens in those instances?

BRADEN: If you are in line, you get to vote. If you are in line when the polls are supposed to close, you get to vote. This was simply an effort to have two standards, longer election hours for Democrat areas than Republican areas. It's just a ridiculous proposal.

COSSACK: Phil, let me just ask you something. Mark says that the elections in Missouri are run by Democrats and, therefore, the notion that these elections, that there wasn't enough judges is just, you know, doesn't make sense.

CARDARELLA: First of all, they are run by boards that are composed of both Democrats and Republicans. The problem is that if you don't appoint enough Republican election judges for the precincts, you can't process people fast enough. He can shake his head all he wants, but that's a fact. And the reality is that that slows down the votes. You know, it's ludicrous to see a United States senator up there talking about voting fraud when what is at issue is getting people who are entitled to vote to have the opportunity to do so. That's not voter fraud.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break. When we come back, we expect to have and will have a statement from the Bush-Cheney campaign that will be right with us when we return. So, be sure and stay with us and listen to see what they have to say.

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: The late Governor Mel Carnahan won the Missouri Senate seat with 51 percent of the vote. It is expected that acting Governor Roger Wilson will appoint Carnahan's widow, Jean, to the seat. How do Missouri Republicans say they plan on fighting the results of the election?

A: On the grounds that a candidate must live in the state, a requirement a deceased candidate cannot fulfill. Jean Carnahan's appointment must be approved by the Senate.

(END Q&A)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: The day after the election, Americans still wonder who will be their 43rd president. Our scrutiny is centered on two states: Florida and Missouri.

Eddie, we wanted to give you a chance to comment before we -- on our last subject we were talking about the issue of getting in to be able to vote and keeping polls open later.

CORREIA: Well, that Missouri situation raises an interesting example of what you do when you've got a problem. The election officials had made some mistakes, didn't get people's names on the rolls, forced them to go downtown and wait in line and then come back. The judge found that these people were not going to be able to vote unless they kept the polls open longer, which is what they did.

When in doubt, you let people get a chance to vote. The Republicans were in the strange position of saying: Shut down the polls so these people cannot vote. I think what the judge did was a reasonable thing to do under those circumstances. If they can't vote that night, there's probably no way to fix it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mark, if there's some sort of irregularities, if, let's say Missouri didn't properly plan for the turnout or whatever -- and these problems may be with registration or whatever, and they need to double-check on names -- if there are these problems, and Americans want to vote, what is the problem with keeping it open an hour or two, just so they can register their votes?

BRADEN: Well, that would make sense if you kept Republican and Democratic areas open. But unfortunately, this was sort of selective opening of polls, in keeping only the Democrats areas open longer.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you wouldn't have minded if the judge said all the way across the state...

(CROSSTALK)

BRADEN; If there had been a pattern of a problem with the creation of the ballots or getting the rolls out, keeping all the polls open across the state equally would have made sense.

COSSACK: But Mark...

BRADEN: But not selecting Democrat areas and having longer voting hours for Democrats than Republicans.

COSSACK: But, Mark, what happens if -- I mean, look, let's just see whatever the evidence is. I mean, let's suppose that the evidence is that they go to a judge, and they say: Judge, you know, these particular polls in this particular area -- it turns out to be Democratic area -- there was a problem. You know, people didn't get a chance to vote. I suppose, if it would have been a Republican, the same evidence would have been brought before the judge. The judge would have said: Fine, you know, open it up. Let them vote. We want people to be able to vote.

BRADEN: Well, the good news is they went to three other judges, and those judges rejected this approach.

COSSACK: Mark Braden is against people voting?

BRADEN: No, Mark Braden is in favor of them voting during the polling hours.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me -- all right, well let me ask -- let go on another related question. As long as we are on the state of Missouri, I'm going to you, Eddie, on this. There was a report a number of what they call judges at these polling areas in Missouri -- that they left at 7:00 when it closed, leaving ballots in boxes unattended. Police were later dispatched to the 29 locations to secure ballots and boxes.

I've got to tell you, the idea of just sort of leaving the ballots and running or fleeing or going to have a hamburger whatever to me is quite shocking when we talk about integrity of the process. How do you respond to that?

CORREIA: Well, first of all, I think it is a negligent thing to do. That clearly wasn't the procedure there. On the other hand, these ballot places are staffed by volunteers. They don't get paid for this. They are going to make some mistakes every now and then. So I wouldn't be too hard on them. Again, I think the question is: It likely to make a difference. You find the ballots. You go count them.

Florida, the problems may well make a difference. That's why we have to pay attention to irregularities there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'll tell you, even in Missouri, though, the difference between, I think is about 77,000 votes or something -- between the two candidates. It's all these sort of little problems that leads to rather, you know, disturbing to me. But I get the last word.

COSSACK: OK.

VAN SUSTEREN: Because that's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests. And thank you for watching. Today on "TALKBACK LIVE": Did the media jump the gun last night in its poll reporting? Weigh in and e-mail Bobbie Battista today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

COSSACK: And join us tomorrow, because we'll continue to monitor developments in the presidential race on another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.

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