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Florida Passes Crucial Deadline; Gore Wins Legal Victory

Aired November 17, 2000 - 0:00 a.m. ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to this CNN special report on the Florida recount. I'm Joie Chen at CNN Center in Atlanta.

It is now midnight in most of Florida, where a major deadline in the marathon voting process is crossing even as we speak. By midnight local time, all absentee ballots from overseas must be in the hands of election officials. Now, this would normally mark the final chapter in the routine balloting mechanism, but of course, nothing is routine this year.

The Associated Press says George W. Bush now leads Al Gore by 760 votes in the overall tally. That includes votes already certified by the state, plus the overseas ballots. The AP says Bush picked up 1,057 votes from U.S. citizens living abroad, while Gore gained 597 votes.

Yet Gore picked up gains on two legal fronts today. The Florida supreme court ordered the secretary of state not to certify the election results, as she had planned, at least not before a hearing in Tallahassee on Monday.

Also, a federal appeals court in Atlanta rejected Republican attempts to stop the recounting of votes, in which Gore hopes to pick up enough support to win Florida's 25 electoral votes and a trip to the White House.

And so the recounting by hand continues in Florida's Democratic- rich Gold Coast. In Palm Beach County, where 462,000 ballots are being revisited, teams have stopped for the night now. Officials say they hope to finish by Tuesday, and that is a day earlier than had previously been expected.

Now a closer look at the legal roller-coaster of a day that cleared the path for the counting of ballots tens (ph) after the election.

First to CNN's Deborah Feyerick in the Florida capital, Tallahassee.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPNDENT (voice-over): As the absentee ballot results streamed in, the race for president passed through three courts Friday, the Gore team late in the day winning a temporary reprieve when Florida's highest court blocked Secretary of State Katherine Harris from certifying any vote totals, as she had planned to do over the weekend.

CRAIG WATERS, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SPOKESMAN (on-camera): The court, on its own motion, enjoins the respondent, secretary of state, and respondent, Elections Canvassing Commission, from certifying the results of the November 7th, 2000, presidential election until further order of this court.

FEYERICK: Seven Supreme Court judges unanimously agreed to hear arguments to decide whether or not manual recounts now underway in several counties can be included in Florida's final tally. The Gore team filed their appeal after a district court earlier in the day said the secretary of state could ignore new vote totals.

TERRE CASS, COURT ADMINISTRATOR: On the limited evidence presented, it appears that the secretary has exercised her reasoned judgment.

FEYERICK: But Gore's attorneys argued that Harris, a Republican who co-chaired Bush's Florida campaign, arbitrarily ruled out new votes before knowing what they were.

DOUG HATTAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: The secretary of state here has done everything she can to delay the counting of the votes.

FEYERICK: Harris's lawyer defended the state's top election official, saying she has followed the law.

JOE KLOCK, SECRETARY OF STATE LEGAL COUNSEL: The secretary doesn't have a horse in the race. Her job is to follow the law of Florida and to certify the elections the way they're written.


FEYERICK: Now, while this was a blow to the Bush campaign, both sides will be in court on Monday. They will present their oral arguments to the seven-justice panel, and that could ultimately decide exactly how many votes are certified -- Joie.

CHEN: Deborah, we do notice -- note, of course, Ms. Harris's political affiliation, but the political affiliation of the supreme court justice members has also raised some issues.

FEYERICK: They are all Democratically appointed. They're treating this matter very seriously. Many judges say that their political affiliation doesn't play into sort of what decisions they make. Certainly, they're on the highest court in the land, or in Florida, I should say -- excuse me. And so their ruling will affect the outcome of this.

CHEN: Was this considered, actually, a real blow to Ms. Harris's opinion, or was there an expectation that, after all, hers was an opinion, it was going to be reviewed? Certainly, people knew that there were going to be legal challenges. Should this have come as a tremendous sense of surprise?

FEYERICK: A sense of surprise, no. Probably not. We did speak to the lawyer earlier, and he said that, you know, they're just following the law. They're going about -- they're doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing. The Republicans are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing, and that is trying to get their voices heard, while the Democrats are doing the same thing. So surprise? No, probably not. This is definitely just challenge after challenge after challenge. And being here in Tallahassee, it's really almost like watching a tennis game. You see it go to one court, and then it lobs over to the next side, to the other court, and then it goes back to one court and back to the other court. And so it's not surprising. This was really all part of the little legal process.

CHEN: And even Monday, then, might not be the end of the volley.

FEYERICK: Monday may not be the end of the volley, exactly, because then again, there could be another appeal to an even higher court. And several of the lawyers have said that it would be no surprise if ultimately this really does end up in federal court, in the U.S. Supreme Court.

CHEN: Deborah Feyerick for us in Tallahassee, watching that match go on.

On the other side of the Sunshine State, CNN's Martin Savidge is in West Palm Beach, keeping tabs on the recounting in a very key region there -- Marty.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Joie.

Fifteen hours and counting in this day two of the recount entirely of the county in the presidential election for Palm Beach County. Election workers actually have, for the most part, been sent home today.

Now it is the Elections Canvassing Board that has remained behind with perhaps the most difficult, getting down to the nitty-gritty -- these are the questionable ballots that they are now reviewing at this hour that have been turned up in the recount of the county so far. These are the ballots where those that were the election workers, Republican and Democrat, couldn't make a clear decision or determination as to what the voters' intent was.

So they have left that up to the people on the canvassing board, the three members now carefully reviewing those. They're not alone in there. Very large team of lawyers representing both the Democratic and Republican Party peering over their shoulder as they go about that process at the same time.

It's been very slow and difficult work. We were updated about an hour ago, and they say that so far they have counted 46,126 ballots today out of 462,000. So they're roughly 10 percent of the way in two days. That means, at this rate, it's going to take them about 18 days to finish up here, even though they optimistically said it was going to take about five or six days.

There are problems. They've been occurring. In fact, this is Judge Charles Burton, the chairman of the Election Canvassing Board, talking about some of them.


JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: There's a couple of problems where we had agreed to allow each party more observers than we probably should have because there's too much commotion, running around, and it was getting late into the night. And I know one fellow dropped some ballots, and everybody was kind of hootin' and hollerin' at him and -- so we agreed, fine, we'll just recount all of those and just put them back in, and we'll deal with them.


SAVIDGE: I talked to the judge just a short while ago. He admits that things are moving far slowly than he expected. Even at the end of day two, it is continuing to be a problem that is growing here in Palm Beach County. They also went over the absentee ballots, as did all the counties in the state of Florida. For Palm Beach County, the results from overseas came in as this. There were 13 votes for George W. Bush, 22 ballots that went for Vice President Gore, and 1 ballot that went for Ralph Nader. There were also 17 ballots that were rejected.

Also, when you want to know what the financial cost of this is to Palm Beach County, right now they say it's estimated to be about a quarter of a million dollars. Most of that money in the recount has been going for security.

There was a recount manually going on in Broward County that has finished for the day today. They are expected to resume early in the morning tomorrow and probably will be counting through the weekend. Then Miami-Dade -- that county there voted to start a manual recount by hand. They will be meeting in the morning to figure out exactly when and under what conditions that recount will be conducted.

So they're burning the midnight oil once again here in Palm Beach County, still looking at the ballots -- Joie.

CHEN: Marty, of course, everybody in the country's waiting, watching very anxiously and wanting this all to be over as quickly as possible. And yet for these people doing the actual counting and studying and poring over all of these ballots, there must be a sense of exhaustion. I mean, at some point, they must get slap-happy. How do they deal with this? Are there breaks? Or what happens?

SAVIDGE: Well, they do take breaks frequently. They raise their hand and essentially say that they need to go out there. Usually, the whole team is excused at the same time to give it a sense of continuity.

When you talk to the people when they come out of here, they talk a bit about the fatigue. They talk a bit about the intensity, the pressure that's on them. But most notably, they talk about their place in history. They see this as a critical juncture in history, and they actually feel quite proud, whether they're Republican or Democrat, to have a role in this particular process in this particular time. And they believe that that is really preeminent over every other hardship they may face. They think that what they are doing is very, very important -- Joie.

CHEN: It surely is. Deborah Feyerick, whom we were talking with earlier, was talking about the ping-pong match almost through the court system throughout this day. Are the people doing the counting there -- are they aware of what's going on on the outside? Do they get much information from the outside? Are they just completely focused on what they're doing?

SAVIDGE: Well, they do have television monitors inside. This is an emergency operations center, so it's actually set up for things such as hurricanes, which is why television communications is very important. The monitors are there, but the volume is not turned up, so people can glance at the screen, but they may not hear what's being said.

For the most part, they've tried to isolate themselves from the goings-on in the court, especially in Tallahassee, the chairman of the Elections Canvassing Board saying that they will continue their count until there is a court that tells them to stop or until their count is completed -- Joie.

CHEN: All right, Martin Savidge for us in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Big reason the vote counters are still working late tonight is a court ruling up here in Atlanta. The 11 U.S. circuit court of appeals turned down the Bush campaign's request to stop the manual recounts. The court essentially said this was a state matter, not a federal matter. Justices did not address the issue of whether the hand recounts are constitutional. Court also turned down a separate case against the recounts filed by some Florida Republican voters.

The Associated Press reports that Vice President Gore will win New Mexico and its five electoral votes. With 100 percent of the vote count in there, Gore leads Bush by 481 votes. Those returns will be official when New Mexico's canvassing board meets on November 28th. The race in New Mexico is the closest one outside of Florida.

Now the election stalemate is leapfrogging through the courts, as we've heard, but which one really has jurisdiction in all this? Election law attorney Fredric Woocher joins us from Los Angeles this hour.

Mr. Woocher, we watched all this today, and if you hadn't been watching the tickertape of which court things were going on in at any point -- I mean, sum up the day for us. Was there a real winner and loser here? And by how much?

FREDRIC WOOCHER, ELECTION LAW ATTORNEY: Well, clearly, Gore was the winner today just because he got the manual counts to proceed, and that's really what it's all about for him, at this point, is to get more votes counted to see if he can overcome the lead that Governor Bush has maintained now.

CHEN: Will it make much of a difference? I mean, as far as today goes, is it going to -- in the bigger picture of things -- this is going to be a deciding factor, or it's just going to go back and circulate through the courts again?

WOOCHER: No, I think this was a critical day, to the extent that it did allow the vote counting to go forward. I think this was really D-Day, in some respects. I think the way it's going to play out now is there'll be a weekend in which people count votes. We'll come back Monday, see what progress has been made. And I think, ultimately, this is going to come down, as perhaps it should, to what the votes really show. And if -- if at the end of those counts, one candidate has more votes than the other, that's probably the end of the game.

CHEN: One of the decisions made today does go against what the Florida secretary of state had previously opined in all of this. Was it really an undermining of her decision, or is this just part of the process, how this works?

WOOCHER: Not really. I think it was part of the process. You know, really, the decision that she makes, whether she certifies a result or not, was less important than the fact that the count go on and not be stopped. The reason I say that is because if she had certified the results, as she had planned on tomorrow's date anyway, the Gore campaign would have simply filed an election contest, as they're entitled to do under Florida law.

And they would have argued to the court, at that point in time, that the election results should because there were, in fact, more legal votes that had not yet been counted. And they would have used that as the basis for arguing that the manual recount should proceed to try and prove that, in fact, more votes were cast for Gore than for Bush in the entire election. So I think her certification was less important, again, than the fact that the counts are going forward and that we should have some numbers coming out of those counts by the beginning of next week.

CHEN: I'm still a little bit confused, and you'll forgive me, as a layman looking at it all, but I hear a decision coming from the Florida state supreme court. I hear a decision from the U.S. appeals court in Atlanta, the 11th circuit here in Atlanta. And I'm left with trying to figure out which one of them is more important in all of this.

WOOCHER: Well, generally, state law's always more important in election disputes. The law is pretty well established that it's a state court matter, that if there may be ultimate review in a federal court system at the end of the day, the preliminary proceedings, the initial determination is generally left to the state court. I think most legal observers felt that the Bush lawsuit in the federal court was a long shot, to begin with, and it was not unexpected that the circuit court of appeal there in Atlanta turned down the Bush request and let it proceed through the state court.

CHEN: You have been involved yourself in -- in recount discussions before, in cases involving that. Can there be a precedent, do you see a precedent for a case like this? Or does this just go beyond anything anyone could have dreamed up?

WOOCHER: I think it goes beyond anything anyone could have dreamed up, certainly to the extent that you have an election in which almost 100 million votes were cast, and you're down to 400 or 500 at the end of the day.

You know, I've been involved in a lot of close elections here in California. If there was a 300 or 400-vote difference in a local city council race, people would be demanding and obtaining recounts. To have that -- the presidency depend on it -- you know, it's just uncharted territory here. And the people are -- are acting as if that's the case.

CHEN: Now, you are a lawyer. You understand that it is the counsel's prerogative and responsibility, in fact, to pursue every avenue for the clients involved. Where do you see the next round of legal challenges going?

WOOCHER: Well, obviously, we'll be in the state supreme court on Monday. You know, they're having a hearing Monday. I wouldn't expect necessarily that a decision would come down on Monday. I really think that this is going to get decided outside of the courtroom. It sounds to make like the way this is heading, as I said before, is they're going to count the votes and they're going to see what happens.

On the one hand, if by the time they finish the manual recounts or they get almost through with them, it turns out that Bush's lead holds up, I don't think Vice President Gore's going to have a lot of options. I don't think the public is necessarily going to be willing to take a lot of legal challenges to that. There is this issue of the butterfly ballot, voters in Palm Beach County, that's going to work its way through the court system.

But I think the main battle's going to be played out right there with the county and the ballots. And I think if you see Gore ends up overtaking Bush's lead through the preliminary counts that are announced at that point, it'll be very difficult for a court to say to ignore those ballots.

CHEN: Fredrick Woocher, our analyst and expert on the legal maneuvers of the day. We appreciate your joining us from Los Angeles this evening.


CHEN: Ahead on this CNN special report, a busy day in the courts for election 2000. We'll find out what the Bush and Gore campaigns have to say about the latest legal developments in their fight for the White House.

Later here, man versus machine. Which is better when it comes to counting ballots?


CHEN: In our CNN special report on the Florida recount, we're following the reaction from the Bush and Gore campaigns to today's court action. Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is back in Austin, Texas, where Mr. Bush arrived this afternoon -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, indeed, the governor is now back in the governor's mansion for the holidays. They tell us his two daughters are coming home from college to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. But as for the news of the day, there was obvious disappointment in the political arm of the Bush camp here in Austin. They called the news out of the state supreme court barring the secretary of state from certifying tomorrow's elections "surprising." One of them said, we had hoped for some finality tomorrow. They obviously are not going to get that. They also, of course, lost their bid to try and stop the hand recount in the appeals court in Atlanta. So two big disappointments.

On the ground in Florida, the legal team, headed by James A. Baker, tried to make the best of it.


JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: As the Florida supreme court stated in this recently issued order, the court's action is designed to maintain the status quo until its hearing on Monday. The court issued an order that neither side requested. Nevertheless, its action is not an order on the merits of the case. We remain confident that for all of the reasons discussed by the trial court in its two opinions, the supreme court will find that the secretary of state properly exercised her discretion and followed the law.

In addition, while we are disappointed, of course, that the federal court of appeals for the 11th circuit decided not to step into the dispute at this time, that is, while it is before the Florida courts, they specifically noted that we are free to return to the federal courts to present our constitutional challenges to the selective and subjective manual recount process at an appropriate time in the future.


CROWLEY: The Bush team had hoped that by certifying vote results tomorrow, the secretary of state would, at least in the minds of voters across the nation, again show that George Bush was the winner. But of course, the supreme court in Florida has blocked that certification, so now the Bush team is looking ahead to Monday's big day in the state supreme court. As one aide put it, "We've been on this roller-coaster for 10 days. We're getting used to it. We'll be up again" -- Joie.

CHEN: Candy, we'll ask you to stand by for a moment here. We want to talk now about Vice President Gore's view. He's in Washington. On the latest from his side, CNN's Patty Davis is covering that, and she joins us now -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, speaking of roller- coasters, Gore aides are calling that this day exactly that, a roller- coaster ride. First bad news for the Gore campaign. That was Judge Lewis's ruling that the Florida secretary of state could go ahead and certify the election, as she planned to do. Then the good news for the Gore campaign later in the day, the Florida supreme court saying that she would have to wait to certify that election until further notice.

Here's what Vice President Al Gore had to say about it.


ALBERT GORE (D), VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: As I have said all along, we need to get a fair and accurate count to resolve this election. The American people want to make certain that every vote counts and that every vote is counted fairly and accurately. The citizens of Florida surely want the candidate who received the most votes in Florida to be determined the winner of that state. That's why I'm very pleased that the hand counts are continuing. They're proceeding despite efforts to obstruct them. And that is why the decision just announced by the Florida supreme court preventing the Florida secretary of state from certifying the election results tomorrow is so important.

I want to be clear. Neither Governor Bush nor the Florida secretary of state nor I will be the arbiter of this election. This election is a matter that must be decided by the will of the people as expressed under the rule of law, law which has meaning, as determined in Florida now by the Florida supreme court.

Thank you.


DAVIS: Tonight Gore and his wife, Tipper, attended a wedding rehearsal dinner for the son of his campaign chairman, Bill Daley, here in Washington. Aides say he has been a rock through all of these legal ups and downs. What they have now is what they wanted most, though, and that is that the recount, the hand recount can continue in Florida.

Now, as for those absentee ballots, George W. Bush is gaining among those as they are counted in Florida, but Democrats say not as much as the Republicans had been hoping for. And they say that they could easily overcome all of those absentee ballots, they believe, with the hand count, if it is accepted and added to the final tally -- Joie.

CHEN: Patty. I want to bring back Candy Crowley here, as well. We'll talk to you a little bit about what's going on and something of the spin and positioning of this. Patty, you made mention of this sort of photo op tonight, that Mr. Gore and his wife were going out to attend a rehearsal dinner. I want to ask, Candy, what do you think the positioning is going to be this weekend? Will we see any sort of public appearances for Mr. -- for Governor Bush? Anything out with the family? Anything like that? Or is it time to stay behind closed doors?

CROWLEY: I don't expect, actually, to see Governor Bush. And you know, he'll surprise us over the weekend and make a liar of me, but I don't expect to see him. What I would expect is that when these overseas votes are in and when the total is final, if, as we expect just looking at what we have so far, that it shows that Governor Bush has widened his lead, I expect the campaign will make something of that and say, "OK, now we have yet another total that shows George Bush in the lead."

Now, obviously, what they much would have preferred to have had was that the secretary of state of Florida came out and said, "OK, he's still in the lead. I certify these results." They're not going to get that. They'll go for the next best thing, which is just to make note of the fact that another count is in, and George Bush is still in the lead.

CHEN: Patty, let's talk about this. I mean, it's starting to look to a lot of us layman viewers that this is sort of a game of chicken here, which side is going to back down from these series of legal challenges that have come and cropped up all over the place. Is either side talking about an exit strategy? Does anybody have a plan for that?

DAVIS: Well, the exit strategy that the Gore campaign wants is a win...

CHEN: Yeah.

DAVIS: ... in Florida.

CHEN: That is side one. That I guessed!

DAVIS: That is the final goal here. And they say that they're going to pursue this. Obviously, all eyes are on Florida, the supreme court. The oral arguments come Monday. They don't even want to talk about options past that. They're putting all of their eggs in that basket right now.

CHEN: Candy, is it "Never say die" on the Bush side, as well?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, not "never say," but they're certainly not at that point. Look, the problem with coming up with some sort of end game strategy is they never know where the next move is. I mean, they were as stunned by this supreme court ruling in Florida as anybody else was. No one had asked for the ruling. So it immediately changed the tenor of the day.

They were up. They had a trial judge saying, "Hey, the secretary of state really does seem to have," you know, "done her job as she's supposed to do it, so she can go ahead and certify them." And two hours later, you know, wham, they're hit with this supreme court decision in Florida, which says, "Well, no, but she can't certify them." So it's hard for them to get an end game when they don't really know where the chess pieces move next.

CHEN: So Candy, if they can't get a look ahead, is there a lot of sort of hindsight and worry, recrimination over the things that might have been, things that might have been done differently that wouldn't have led both sides up to this point, to begin with?

CROWLEY: I just don't get the feeling they've had time for that kind of reflection. What's going on here, as I'm being told, you know, giving a description of what's going on inside campaign headquarters here in Austin, is, you know, they get a briefing from the lawyers. They've got, you know, thousands of reporters calling in. They try to get back to the reporters and say, "OK," you know, "here's our take on what's just happened."

And they're sort of half-way through that, and there's another legal -- either a legal challenge or a legal decision, so they have to go back into a conference meeting with all the lawyers from Florida, with the governor on the phone, and sort of get a feel on that.

Remember, these people are political operatives. They're not lawyers. So they have to get this filled. And then they start all over again. So there's not a lot of room in there to say, "Boy, I really wish we hadn't gone to California," or, "Gee, I wish we'd," you know, "picked somebody else as a vice president" or any of that stuff. I don't hear it, and I honestly believe they're not doing that at this time because there simply isn't that kind of leisure time to sit around and say, "Gee," you know, "maybe if we'd done that, we wouldn't be in this fix."

CHEN: What might have been. Candy Crowley in Austin, Patty Davis in Washington, both working late for us. We appreciate that.

All eyes are on Florida, of course, but how is the rest of the nation handling all this? We'll put an ear to the ground in California when this CNN special report returns.


CHEN: As we continue our special look at the Florida recount, how does the rest of the country feel about the goings on in Florida? CNN's Jennifer Auther joins us now from Los Angeles with opinions from that other coast -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, we're at the Universal City Walk. And here, really people come to get away after a long work week. A lot of tourists also come here. We have a couple of Democrats lined up along with a couple of Republicans to find out just exactly that.

First, we're going to introduce you to Brian Stacey (ph) and Alma Yeppez (ph). They are the Democrats. Tell us specifically what your reaction is to the judge's decision to say that the secretary of state of Florida will not certify the race in that state tomorrow as she had planned. ALMA YEPPEZ: It's actually just frustrating because we've been waiting for this for a while. And I think if the Republicans have nothing to worry about, then they should go ahead and just let them count it the third time and just go ahead with it and see who won fair and square and evenly so we can get a president, get him in the White House to do his job the way we expect him to do.

AUTHER: But what would you say then, Brian, to the Republican argument that they've counted and they've recounted, and how many recounts do you need?

BRIAN STACEY: Well, I just -- they've recounted but I just -- I don't feel that they had a fair, official recount. I mean, there's been a lot of numbers that they've thrown out for like the holes weren't punched correctly or something. And I just think with the Buchanan votes, the Ralph Nader votes and everything that they feel that may have went for Gore. I just think that, you know, like you said, what's fair is fair. And if Bush truly won the election, then I don't think he should have anything to worry about with the recount. He should feel confident in his vote.

AUTHER: What do you feel is going on in Florida? Do you trust what's going on or do you think that Gore is handling himself well by contending that, you know, we should take our time and do this longer?

STACEY: I've had my suspicions. I know that the people like the secretary of state or whatever, I guess they're for Bush. And that makes me kind of suspicious, you know.

AUTHER: All right, well, thank you very much, Brian and Alma.

We've got to give Republicans equal time, so now we will move over here to Mike Schmidt (ph). He's of Los Angeles. And Jim McCarter (ph) visiting us from Atlanta, Georgia.

Wanted you to react to the judge's decisions that the secretary of state of Florida, Katherine Harris, cannot certify that race as she had planned tomorrow.

MIKE SCHMIDT: I think the legislation was already clear. It should have been certified. And they're just dragging it out. And it seems they're going to exhaust every effort until they turn the results to what they want to see. It's become overly political, which is not what it should be at this point.

AUTHER: What are your reactions to all of the different lawsuits that are going?

JIM MCCARTER: I don't think it's right. I don't think it should go to the Supreme Court. I mean, they should let Florida handle it itself. I think it's bad for the economy. I think it's bad for foreign investment. I think it's going to be bad for fourth quarter returns for big companies, which is going to hurt the stock market, which is going to hurt the economy overall.

AUTHER: When you talk to your friends about how long this is going on, I mean, none of us could have guessed that we'd be now 10 days after the election with still no president. What are you hearing?

SCHMIDT: Most people are kind of dumbfounded. It's actually turned into this kind of political he said-she said. It's really kind of beneath the office of the way it should be handled. I mean, it's an important job.

AUTHER: Do you feel that Bush, in fact, has -- right now, I just heard the latest count, 650-plus votes for Bush. Do you think that in the end, George W. Bush will be the next president?

MCCARTER: He definitely should be. I think he will be as well. You know, they test those machines that they counted the votes in the first place before they vote so I know they're accurate. And I think he should be the next president. I think he will be.

AUTHER: All right, that is what we're hearing out here from Universal City Walk. And this is certainly a place where a lot of people have the presidential election on their minds. Reporting live, I'm Jennifer Auther in Los Angeles. Back to you, Joie.

CHEN: All right, Jennifer. Glad to see somebody's still having a good time staying up late with us tonight here in Atlanta. Our Emory University political science professor Merle Black with airs who does polling for the Republican Party, and "Atlanta Constitution" editorial page editor, Cynthia Tucker. Her newspaper, we should note, endorsed Vice President Gore. Thank you all for being here and staying up late with us. We thought tonight was going to turn out a little bit differently, that we would have something of a more definitive answer.

But I have to start out by asking you guys -- and this comes straight from the heart. You know, all politics is local. Well, local to me is my mother. And my mother, who is a big watcher of the news and all things political, said to me tonight, "I have turned off the TV set. I don't want to know until you have an answer." Is this what's happening now?

MERLE BLACK, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think a lot of people feel like that. They don't want to follow it day to day or hour to hour, minute to minute. I mean, some people do that but a lot of people don't. And the more it gets involved in the courts, the more the lawyers take over, I think more cynical Americans become about the outcome.

CHEN: Do you think my mother's missing anything? She's not watching TV.

CYNTHIA TUCKER, "ATLANTA CONSTITUTION": Well, you know, the good news is next week is a holiday week. Thanksgiving is up; people start thinking about travel and family. And I'm not sure most Americans want to wake up Monday morning after Thanksgiving and find that this is still being talked about then. It hasn't been resolved. I think Americans have shown a great deal of patience so far. I think people do want a sense that there has been a fair and accurate account however they perceive that. But I think that by the time this drags past Thanksgiving if it goes that far, people will start running out of patience or perhaps that just reflects my own feeling, Joie.

CHEN: As a member of the news media, you can speak for all of us and say that we're exhausted.

TUCKER: ... I think I'm running out of patience.

CHEN: But you know, I mean, we do laugh about it , Whit, but it is a very serious thing.


CHEN: We are talking about the leadership of the free world.

AYRES: It is. I think Cynthia's right. I think the American people have been very patient up to this point, but we're starting to see some evidence in the polls that the patience is running out. One poll done just last night indicated that 57 percent of the American people wanted this thing to end quickly. Only 40 percent wanted the full case to be made in court. So I think there's a limit to the time they can drag this out without having the American people run completely out of patience.

CHEN: Where do you think their frustration is? Is it in the legal process? Is it in the court challenges, or do you think it's really in the business of the counting or -- somebody said, Cynthia, earlier, it's getting too political? It shouldn't be political?

TUCKER: Well, you know, again, speaking for myself -- and I can't imagine that average Americans feel that much differently -- I'm just sick of the dueling press conferences. If, in fact, each candidate is going to press his case -- and let's face it, at this point, no matter what they say about principle, each candidate wants to win. So each candidate is trying to press the case that he thinks is going to get him the most votes. But every hour or so, we have these dueling press conferences, names are called, tempers flare. I think that if this process is going to continue for the next week or so, surely, both camps could turn down the rhetoric a little bit again and let us have a relatively peaceful holiday week.

CHEN: Whit, what about that frustration?

AYRES: We've looked forward to midnight tonight, actually yesterday now, as the deadline for counting the overseas ballots. That was sort of in people's minds, I think, the time when this was going to be over.

CHEN: Right, they're turning on their TV sets now thinking we're going to tell them what the answer is.

AYRES: Exactly. And now, we have a situation with the Florida Supreme Court today postponing this whole thing until Monday at least. And who knows how farther after. I think we're living on borrowed time now, because I think people want a full and fair count but there's a limit to the time they're willing to give that. And I think people are starting to believe that we're reaching the end of the reasonable period.

TUCKER: By the way, one of your reporters said this evening, at the rate that the Palm Beach County canvassing team is going, this count will last 18 days...

CHEN: Right.

TUCKER: ... at which point I nearly became hysterical. I mean...

CHEN: I'm sure you're not the only one. I want to talk about the frustrations of the voting public. I mean, this is a public that had had a great deal of frustration with the president and the presidency in the last couple of years. This was supposed to be a new start. Does it tear at what we believe in? Does it, do you think, make for even more disaffected voters?

BLACK: Well, the country is terribly divided on this issue. And in state after state, we saw very, very close outcomes, you know, only a few thousand votes separating the winners and losers in lots of states. And here in Florida, we've got a situation where the count is really taking place only in a small number of the possible candidates in Florida. These happen to be Democratic counties that are controlled by Democrats. And we've got almost a chaotic process in Florida where there's no state authority that's exercising control over this, so counties essentially freelance on this. And it may well be unless they count every -- do a hand count for the entire state of Florida, if Gore were to win on the basis of these counties, you still have an open question about how the count would have gone for the entire state rather than just these four counties.

TUCKER: Although I have to say, Joie, not disagreeing with Merle, let me also say that I think that the process is the same. Doubts would be in place if Bush were to end up in office without a complete recount. Let's face it. Based on the division in the country, either man is going to have a very hard time establishing credibility, legitimacy governing, quite frankly. In fact, I think we are at the point where either man could lose by winning, quite frankly.

CHEN: Right.

TUCKER: Looks like a very difficult road ahead whoever takes the Oval Office. But I think that the Bush camp's insistence that the hand count stop also raises suspicions certainly among Democratic voters. But I think in more general terms, let me say one more thing about how I think this process has affected the voters. The good news and bad news is it has spotlighted the mechanics of voting and the irregularities that are commonplace. Whenever an election is held throughout the country, we have this very antiquated technology.

CHEN: Yeah, but it may raise a lot of suspicions for us in the future.

TUCKER: Absolutely. I think from now on until this process is fundamentally changed, people are going to wonder about every vote, every election that takes place, counties, cities, state, wherever.

CHEN: And everyone that came before as well. We're going to ask you all to stand by. We have to take a little break here. And we're going to come back. We have much more to come here in the CNN Florida recount special. We'll hear more from our guest panel and a look at the accuracy of all those counts from our correspondent Brooks Jackson. Special observation there coming up.


CHEN: Welcome back.

And back to our panel discussion with Merle Black from Emory University, Republican pollster Whit Ayres, and "Atlanta Constitution" editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker.

Whit, I want to pick up with you on a notion that Cynthia raised here a moment ago about how the winner wins, really, in this.

AYRES: The winner wins when the results are legally certified by the secretary of state and a winner is declared. After that point, it becomes very difficult politically, I think, for the loser to keep pushing into the courts, keep raising the issue again. So the legal certification becomes a critical benchmark here for when this thing is over.

CHEN: But what if the other side isn't satisfied with this being the legal certification.

AYRES: Well, they can continue to file suits all day long, but I think then the loser ends up jeopardizing whatever goodwill he may have gotten by doing well. For example, Mr. Gore outperformed expectations on November the 7th. He did far better than most people thought. He's now the undisputed leader of the Democratic Party, and if he loses but goes out graciously and gracefully, he then becomes the odds-on favorite in 2004 for the Democratic nomination for a rematch.

CHEN: Well, we could see this rematch once again, which I'm not sure people will be all that enthusiastic about.

AYRES: But if he fades, if his goodwill gets dissipated, then it's goodbye, Al, hello, Hillary.

CHEN: And that raises an interesting question. But, look, I mean, how do we do this? I mean, is there somebody beyond the two candidates themselves and beyond their own partisans who could come out and say, "All right, gentlemen, we have tried every way we know to do this as fairly as possible. Now it is time for you to be the loser and you to be the winner"?

AYRES: No, I don't think we get anybody else who has that kind of stature. President Clinton wouldn't get involved, I think, in that process. He would not be seen as a credible figure on that. I think what we need is a good winner and a good loser.

CHEN: Would President Clinton not be a good figure even if the loser was Mr. Gore? I mean, couldn't he come out?

AYRES: Well, he could but, you know, Bill Clinton's got a huge problem here in terms of personal approval. Only about a quarter of Americans approve of him as a person. They don't look to him for moral leadership or this kind of thing. They approve of him in the way he's performed in office but they don't look at him as a kind of unimpeachable moral figure here who could kind of say, "OK, here's the way it goes."

TUCKER: But it is also true, I think, that both figures are going to face pressure from inside their parties depending on what happens next to bow out gracefully. Whit is right, I think, that the certification is enormously important. That's the reason the Bush camp wanted it today -- it's now Saturday -- so much. And the Gore camp wanted so much to postpone it because that is a benchmark. That's a high hurdle to overcome in the public's mind, I think.

If, in fact, the Supreme Court -- Florida Supreme Court ends up saying to Katherine Harris, "You must include the hand count," I think from within the Republican Party, there will be pressure on Bush to bow out gracefully. Same with Gore. If he loses before the high court on Monday or sometime next week, there was already pressure building on him in the Democratic Party not to push this too far, not to go beyond the public's approval such that the entire party is hurt. So I think both candidates will be facing that kind of pressure from their parties.

CHEN: And lot more to talk more, but unfortunately, we are out of time. We appreciate all three of you being with us. Thanks for your insight.

BLACK: Thank you.

CHEN: Both sides in the election dispute say they want the most accurate result possible, of course. So just how reliable are the count and the recount and the hand count. We'll look at all of that. Here's CNN's Brooks Jackson.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is a machine count enough? The plain fact is punch card reading machines routinely make small errors.

ROBERT SWARTZ, CEO, CARDAMATION CO., INC.: : It would be rare to have these types of cards fed through and have a large, large number of cards without there being some minor discrepancy.

JACKSON: Swartz's company provides punch card equipment and services to universities and businesses where he says multiple machine counts are routine and hand counts of cards are not uncommon.

SWARTZ: We make sure we run them through twice and compare the results for a hundred percent accuracy. If we're getting a difference, we then examine the cards to find out what the problem is, whether it's the card reader's problem, something's jammed in there or whatever.

JACKSON: If counting machines were perfect, you should get the same count every time a given batch of ballots is run through, theoretically.

RICHARD SMOLKA, ELECTION ADMINISTRATION REPORTS: Theoretically, you should, but you'll probably get a slight variation because all the chad are not clearly detached. So the reader may or may not see enough light or have enough -- may not be able to read what the voter did.

JACKSON: Smolka has covered vote counting controversies for 30 years.

SMOLKA: We haven't found an infallible vote counting method yet.

KIMBALL BRACE, ELECTION DATA SERVICES, INC.: Machines are always suspect and they can have problems to them. You need to have that double check and cross check of a hand count. That is allowed in almost every single state of the nation.

JACKSON: Would hand counting damage the cards? Not according to this expert.

SWARTZ: The cards are designed to be handled by people. That was the purpose when IBM developed these cards and they're useful also to purposes where they are handled by people.

JACKSON: Vendors of vote counting equipment say accuracy can reach 100 percent given proper maintenance and exacting procedures for handling ballots. But even a tiny error rate can make a critical difference.

(on-camera): There were nearly six million votes counted for president in Florida. And error of only 1/100th of one percent would amount to 595 votes, enough to change the outcome.

(voice-over): And machines are all too human. Brooks Jackson, CNN Washington.


CHEN: Ahead on this CNN special report, a public relations effort like no other before as the Bush and Gore camps make their way through post election, sort of, territory. We will examine their strategy next.


CHEN: Aside from some rather well scripted appearances, George W. Bush and Al Gore both kept low profiles of the last week. They've allowed their lieutenants to do most of the talking. As CNN's Kate Snow explains strategy aimed at winning over public opinion.


VICE PRES. AL GORE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I propose this evening a way to settle this matter with finality and justice.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aides say Al Gore had wanted to make a speech for a couple of days, but he waited until Wednesday night when he felt the timing was right.

LES FRANCIS, DEMOCRATIC MEDIA CONSULTANT: As people were getting home from work and getting ready to have dinner, they turn on the news and the vice president was on making a statement.

SNOW: In this uncharted post-election territory, both the Gore and Bush teams are carefully calculating not only the message, but when and how to deliver it, knowing that ultimately, public opinion may mean more than any legal decision. Gore spoke from a podium brought over from the White House. No official seal but the look was presidential.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All Americans want a fair and accurate...


SNOW: A few hours later, George W. Bush followed suit, staring directly into the camera. Bush aides say he had the larger audience in primetime.

TOM EDMONDS, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT: I think both of them are trying to win the popularity contest with the public and seem like the reasonable individual. George Bush, I think, is especially trying to look presidential, and I think to a large extent, is succeeding.

HALEY BARBOUR, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: And they were holding up ballots to see if you could see sunlight through it. It reminded me of Johnny Carson like Carmac (ph) the great saying, "Oh, I believe this one was for Gore."

SNOW: Part of the public relations strategy: Let surrogates do the tough talking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why we have hand counts because machines make mistakes.

SNOW: In Florida, two senior statesmen, James Baker and Warren Christopher, often field questions. In their absence, both campaigns have teams of spokespeople guided by attorneys.

FRANCIS: They're not only having to convey a public message, that is a message to the voting public nationally, but they also have to do that with one eye cocked on what's going on in terms of litigation.

SNOW: All the while, both men are trying to look relaxed: George W. Bush bringing his dog to a news conference last weekend; Al Gore chatting on a radio show Thursday morning.


GORE: Because I think that it is a time for me and Governor Bush to try to calm the rhetoric a little bit. You know what I'm saying?


SNOW (on-camera): The stakes are high for Bush and Gore, but analysts say most Americans aren't likely to be forming new opinions at this stage, simply reinforcing the impressions they formed before the election. Kate Snow, CNN Washington.


CHEN: And we'll be back in a moment.




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