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Florida Recount: Democratic Attorney Kendall Coffey Makes Statement on Miami-Dade Recount

Aired November 22, 2000 - 11:20 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: But we want to move on because we have someone standing by in Miami. Kendall Coffey is making a statement there in Miami, outside of the emergency center, we understand.

KENDALL COFFEY, DEMOCRATIC PARTY ATTORNEY: There will be a new rumor and accusation by the hour. But let's believe in this system, let's believe in ourselves, let's get on with the recount, and let's vindicate the will of the people so that we can know who has been truly and rightfully elected president of the United States.

QUESTION: Mr. Coffey, can tell us what happened to Mr. Geller?

COFFEY: Well, we believe that Mr. Geller, who by the way is not being detained by anyone at this hour, he is home. He was briefly being, I think, escorted by security personnel because of concerns about demonstrators.

All of us saw that demonstrators are now packing the aisles. And apparently what happened -- and it is going to be confirmed very quickly -- is that he obtained a sample or demonstrator ballot. And any of you can obtain sample or demonstrator ballots so that you can find out how the system works. He was in the process of obtaining one. Some Republican workers saw it and began to make outrageous accusations about some kind of electoral impropriety or fraud.

There are going to be those kind of allegations by the hour. And let's have calm, let's have patience. Let's believe in ourselves, and let's believe that the system will sort these things out.

Unfortunately, the Republicans were able to spend an hour or so putting out a baseless allegation. I think it has now been resolved. Let's get on with the recount. Let's find out the true will of the people of Florida.

QUESTION: They're only going to count the undervotes? How do you feel about that?

COFFEY: Well, I think if that is what can be done, in the discretion of the canvassing board, then I think all of us should know that the undervotes are the key votes, in the sense that that's what the machines have been kicking out.

What we have talked about for the last two weeks is why Florida developed a system, like many in the country, so that when machines discard ballots, those voters are not going to be disenfranchised. There's going to be an opportunity for human beings to participate in the process and make sure that any ballots in which the voter's intent is reasonably discernible is counted. The core group is...


COFFEY: Those are the ballots that are automatically kicked out. And we know statistically that in optical-reading counties that there is going to be a very small number of people that don't register a vote for president of the United States.

In punch card counties, such as Dade and Broward and Palm Beach, you're going to have a much larger percentage of ballots where no one in the machine system is going to see the votes. That's why we have people who ultimately -- a nation of people, and I think it's great for the system, that people with integrity and dedication are counting those ballots, so that we're going to know the true expression of the will of the people of Florida.

Thank you very much.

HARRIS: And so says Kendall Coffey, Democratic Party attorney who is there at the site of the counting that has been going on this morning in Miami. A raucous scene there just a few minutes ago, within the last hour or so. We were talking with out Frank Buckley who is there now, and he described incredible scene there.

Frank, can you tell us exactly what's been happening, and what did Mr. Kendall Coffey just now say?


One thing we should out, he mentioned Mr. Geller. He's speaking about Joe Geller, the chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. Joe Geller was briefly detained, or at least held -- I guess "detained" is the correct word. He was surrounded by police here at county building, crime tape was put up. Republican observers accused him of taking a ballot. That's what Kendall Coffey was talking about. He said that that was actually a sample ballot and not an official ballot. But that's what was happening for a while. He was surrounded by Republicans, surrounded by police.

Republicans here have been very angry about the change in the position of the canvassing board here. The canvassing board deciding to, instead of counting all of the 654,000 ballots by hand, will now only concentrate on the 10,750 so-called undervotes. Those are votes when it appears as though someone did not vote for a president. They will go through the ballots one by one to determine voter intent on all of those separate ballot. Republicans have been outraged by. This they feel it's a changing of the tactic. Some called hijacking the presidency. Others have suggested that this is just simply improper and an attempt to buy the Democrats -- to pull a fast one.

At one point today, the Republicans tried to get into an area on the ninth floor where the canvassing board decided to move its operation. They were initially working on the 18th floor with the 25 teams of observers and also county employees who were going one by one for the ballots. After this morning's decision, they decided to move it upstairs to the 19th floor to an office area that was not easily accessed by either the observers or the media. People were kept out of the area. But after a raucous protest by the Republicans. The canvassing board decided -- reversed itself on that position, and decided to move back downstairs to the 18th floor, which is where it is presumably resuming its operation. we have not been able to go up there to see yet, but we believe it will be resuming operation if it has not done so already -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Frank, in the end, in the room that they happen to be in right now on the 18th floor, number one, is that room a room that can be -- where the actions of the board that is counting these ballots, their actions can be seen or can be monitored by both observers of either party and the press as well, or is this, again, an area where the press and the parties are not going to be allowed in?

BUCKLEY: No, this is exactly the same room where it has been happening since Monday, where the -- both the observers...

HARRIS: I'm sorry, it looks apparently we have lost Frank Buckley on his -- to the cell phone he was using there.

But again, to wrap up, he was reporting from the scene of where there seems to be quite a bit of physical confrontation going on now in the counting center down in Miami-Dade, where they are trying to get a handle on what's going to happen next with the ballots that have been contested so much of late. Of course we'll try to get back and get a hold of Frank again to see exactly what's going on and get you the latest from there and from all other points around Florida.



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