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Saturday Morning News

Florida Lives Up to 'Battleground State' Designation

Aired November 11, 2000 - 7:18 a.m. ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: For weeks before Americans went to the polls this past Tuesday, Florida, the Sunshine State, was also considered a heavily and hotly contested battleground state. And even now, four days after Americans voted, it is still a battleground state today.

Going to talk now with Jim Smith, a former attorney general here in the state of Florida, former secretary of state as well. There's reports from the Associated Press, as you well know, that George W. Bush has given James Baker permission, if needed, to go ahead and pursue an injunction against the hand recount in certain parts of Florida.

You believe that's a good thing to do. Why?

JIM SMITH, FORMER FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: I would encourage that. Florida's had the regular election. We've had the mandatory recount because of the closeness of the vote. I think that stands for itself.

You know, we're in this unusual situation because of the tight race, 327 votes, that we're waiting on the overseas ballots, because that could change the outcome of the election. So we have 10 days where people can run around and have opportunities for mischief.

HEMMER: Is it possible, though, that the legal challenges right now are too premature, possibly not only from Austin but also here, until the numbers are added up?

SMITH: I would encourage that we, you know, stand with the recount, wait and see what the overseas ballot shows. Volusia County, obviously the situation we're going to have into, because of the discovery, apparently, or allegedly, of some bags of votes. But there, I mean, you just think, three or four days ago, there was a report all over the place, not CNN, I don't think, but some of the networks that they found a ballot box in Miami, a locked ballot box, lot of mystery. And they opened it up, found out it was full of voters -- voted stickers.

And so I think we need to stop maybe rushing to judgment, give people time to check things out. Let's really find out what the real situation is and then take it from there.

HEMMER: Let's talk about today. What's happening inside these rooms when the hand recount takes place?

SMITH: As I understand it, they'll have, you know, somebody representing the Republican Party, the Democrat Party, an independent person. They'll hold the ballot up and they'll ascertain, you know, how that voter cast their vote and count them up that way.

HEMMER: Where is this all headed? As we look at things right now, there's supposed to be an inauguration on the 20th of January. Does it look increasingly like this could be a protracted situation, or do you believe next Friday, the 17th, which is the deadline for the overseas ballots, that we will have a resolution, not only here in Florida, but for the rest of the country?

SMITH: I think we will have a resolution by the end of next week. I think it will stand on the recount and what happens with the absentee overseas ballots. Florida has never voided an election. Florida has a very tough standard to, you know, require that an election be voided, and then to have another election, that has never happened in the history of our state.

I haven't seen any facts that would indicate any of these court challenges can meet that standard, and I'm satisfied that the recount and the overseas ballot count will count by the end of next week.

HEMMER: Jim Smith, appreciate your time. You've been here all week, really appreciate it. Jim Smith, former secretary of state, former attorney general here in Florida.

Also want to point out, if you go back and look at history, we mentioned inauguration day on the 20th of January. In 1876, when they also had a similar contested battle between the electoral college and the popular vote, the ultimate decision was decided two days before the inauguration, before the next president was crowned (ph) here.

But again, here in the state of Florida today, four different counties still in question, Volusia will have a hand count today, Palm Beach County will have a hand count today. On Monday, Broward will hand recount. Then it's also possible Miami-Dade will do as well in the first part of next week.

Right now, I want to bring in spokeperson for the Democratic National Committee here in Florida now, Jenny Backus. Good morning to you.

JENNY BACKUS, SPOKESPERSON, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Good morning.

HEMMER: You heard the questions of Jim Smith, you know the reports out of Austin. What is your reaction to the possibility of an injunction being filed that would freeze the hand recount in certain parts of Florida?

BACKUS: I think I would be very surprised if Austin chooses to do that. What we're looking at right now is simply making sure that we have a fair and accurate count. There were times (inaudible) were concerns about going to this process, that they could have raised them with the county canvassing board, and you would then see the secretary of state questioning the judgment of her local county officials, who she's been citing, and rightly so, and complimenting for trying to do the best the can under this very extraordinary and unusual circumstances right now.

So I would be, frankly, very surprised if sort of in the dark of night or at the last minute they tried to stop the process. What I do disagree with your previous guest just a little bit on is where we stand with this count. We -- the numbers have changed. I mean, I think anybody who's been watching CNN for the last three days have seen these results go from 300 votes to 500 votes to 1,000 votes, (inaudible), I mean, there's nothing that's been solid.

I -- we don't really know exactly what the final results of this election are, and all we're asking for right now is in certain counties with just a few thousand votes in some -- not just a few, a 10 -- a couple 10,000 votes in a couple of the bigger counties, to take a look, to go quietly and carefully through in a relatively expedient manner, and just see what the count is.

HEMMER: The Bush campaign contends that just like machines can make mistakes, human beings can make mistakes as well. And that appears to be the basis upon which they're basing this injunction and possible for the court action. Would you not agree that even humans by hand can make mistakes in this case?

BACKUS: What I would agree, I think what everybody needs to start thinking about, though, is the voters. I mean, what was the voter intent? Is a machine mistake better than a human mistake? Is a human mistake better than a machine mistake? Why don't you just double-check it? Why don't you just triple-check it? You have time under the statute. You have time to move forward.

And I think everybody deserves to make sure that their ballot was -- their vote was counted. I mean, how would you feel if you got up at 7:00 in the morning, dropped your kids off at school, drove down, stood in line for 25 minutes, voted, and then it wasn't counted? I think I would be furious.

HEMMER: Quickly, we are led to believe that Florida will have an ultimate decision next Friday. Do you still believe that deadline will be met, or will it possibly go much later than that?

BACKUS: Everybody wants this over as soon as possible. We need to make sure that these hand counts go forward and that they're finished in the timely manner. And then we'll -- then we wait for the absentee ballots and move forward. So I'm hopeful that we get it.

HEMMER: All right, Jenny Backus, spokesperson for the Democratic Party, appreciate your time this morning.

Again, it's a chilly fall morning here in Tallahassee, Florida. The issue continues. Who knows where we will be not only later today but the first part of next week, not to mention next Friday? TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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