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Special Event

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Presides Over Electoral Vote Casting in Tallahassee

Aired December 18, 2000 - 12:03 p.m. ET

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

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to be going through more of the president-elect's rounds in just a couple minutes, but we want to go to Susan Candiotti now. She's in the great state of Florida, in Tallahassee, where electors there are busy at work -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... quite right.

SESNO: Susan Candiotti in Tallahassee, Florida. All right, we'll go to Susan Candiotti...

CANDIOTTI: Joining now in progress the process of the -- we've got the process under way of the casting of the ballots by Florida's 25 electors. Here, of course, is the president-elect's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, now addressing the electors.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

(APPLAUSE)

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Thank you. Please be seated. Please. Thank you.

This meeting of the presidential electors for the state of Florida is called to order. And it is being called to order in a very historic time. I -- over the last month of time here in Tallahassee, apart from the tremendous economic boom that the city has benefited from having so many guest from all across the country, we also have been the focal point of this election.

And I want to, once again, commend both my brother, the president-elect, and Vice President Gore for their speeches of last week to show that this country, in spite of a very hard-fought election, in spite of a incredibly close election, when it all gets down to it, we're all Americans, we're all focused on the rule of law, we all believe and love our country, we believe it's the greatest country on the face of this Earth. And I want to pay my respects particularly to Vice President Gore for his incredibly gracious concession speech so that we are now here without all sorts of other legal issues to deal with. And I know, as electors, you're pleased with that as well.

I also want to say that this election in Florida, at least, was one of the most exciting elections that I've ever been involved in. Many of you all participated in that election and fought very hard for Gov. Bush of Texas. And we know that the other side had an incredible team on the field as well.

And I hope that the sense -- the higher voter participation in our state -- a significantly higher number of Floridians participated in the election -- and the sense of passion of being involved in the political process won't wane. I hope that, in our state, that we continue a tradition of more civic involvement and more participation in the political process. The void will be filled by people that may not have goodness in their heart if we don't continue to participate. And I commend Floridians for their exercise of their responsibility and their right to participate in this political process. And I hope that that healthy aspect of this election will carry forward in the years to come.

Now, I have a particular duty as the moderator of this. But before we do that, I would like you all to rise. And as many before you as electors have done since the beginning of the creation of our republic, I would like for you all to say the Pledge of Allegiance with me.

FLORIDA ELECTORS: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

BUSH: Thank you very much.

I will now have the roll call. If anyone is a substitute elector -- and I don't believe there are any -- please tell me your name when you hear the name of the elector for whom you were substituting -- Ben.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charles W. Cane (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maria de la Meyetta (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sandra M. Faulkner (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here.

SESNO: And you are watching the process from the beginning -- with its roots, rather, to the beginning of this constitutional republic.

Susan Candiotti in Florida, tell us what's happening and give us a little bit of the sense and the feeling behind this. This is Florida, after all, where so much has taken place for so long.

CANDIOTTI: That's right, Frank. This is where the final stages of the election battle took place, where, you recall, because of closeness of the election here, there was a mandatory recount. Eventually, that led to a trial, and on to the Florida Supreme Court, which ordered a counting of the undervotes. That was eventually stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court after that court criticized Florida for lacking what they called a unified standard of counting ballots.

And since that time, once Vice President Gore made his concession speech, in fact, Florida's Gov. Jeb Bush just the other day announced that he was creating a blue ribbon panel to come up with better ways and possible changes to the Florida election code to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, not only in determining a voter's intent when there is a recount of ballots, but also to look for a better system of casting ballots to begin with, and perhaps get rid of those old punch-card ballots.

Now, you heard Gov. Bush say that he commended the vice president on his concession speech. He said we're all Americans, he called this the most exciting race that he has ever been involved in and hoped that it would like to more people participating in this political process.

A long road ahead of unifying Florida's 15 1/2 million residence here, as well as unifying this country. And that's what Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would like to see happen.

For the electors participating in this process, over the last couple of days as we spoke with them, some of them said this was such a stressful situation that many of them could not watch the news since November the 7th not knowing what would happen ahead. And you will recall that it was just last week that Florida lawmakers almost upstaged this process by passing a resolution to make sure that Gov. Jeb Bush would get all the electoral votes. That, of course, wasn't necessary after all.

SESNO: (OFF-MIKE) place here?

Susan, if you're still with me, what are we seeing taking place here right now?

CANDIOTTI: Well, right now after completing the roll call, they have passed out the ballots. Actually, the electors also came in with a blue folder when they got those certificates of ascertainment, as they're called. There are, I believe, six copies in all. They will cast their ballots, and those will be mailed to the nation's capital where, as you know, they will be opened on Jan. 6. And, in fact, they were handed souvenir pens as well with which to write their names to cast their ballots here.

SESNO: Now, Susan...

CANDIOTTI: All of these...

SESNO: Sorry, I was just going to...

CANDIOTTI: All of these have signed a loyalty pledge. Yes, indeed. So while it would not be illegal for them to change their mind, all of the electors we spoke with said that they do not intend to switch sides, though they have received literally hundreds, if not thousands, of letters, phone calls, even e-mails trying to get them to change their mind.

SESNO: And Susan, what we're seeing here are these electors. This is the slate of electors about which there was so much discussion that there could have been competing slates of electors from this very state.

CANDIOTTI: Indeed, although to hear some of the electors tell us, they said that even though the legislators were going to step in, these electors maintain that their names would have stayed in place, and so just to make sure that Gov. Jeb Bush would get all of these votes. Now, some of these are -- they're all members of the party faithful. Some of them are politicians. The House speaker, Tom Feeney, is even among this electoral group here.

And so they're about to announce the results now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... George W. Bush for president of the United States, and 25 votes for Dick Cheney as vice president of the United States.

Mr. Governor.

BUSH: Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you all.

Finally, you're required as electors to execute a certificate of votes. The president of the United States Senate requires six original certificates. Therefore, please come up and sign your name when called on each of the certificates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charles W. Cane.

CANDIOTTI: And so imagine we have a very historic situation here where you have the president-elect's brother, who is the governor of Florida, where so many controversy took place. A lot of people suspected this would be an easy win for George W. Bush here in the state of Florida. Obviously that was not the case, a very close election. But the governor of Florida hoping that, when all is said and done, that Florida -- Floridians will be able to unite and come together after this very controversial election here in Florida.

SESNO: Susan, so much drama here...

CANDIOTTI: And now it is official, of course, all 25 ballots -- that's right -- going to George W. Bush.

SESNO: Susan, so much drama, so much controversy and confrontation replaced by so much relief, it would seem. A round of applause went up as this slate of electors did their constitutional duty here, hearing back that it was all 25 electoral votes for George W. Bush as anticipated, leaving behind as something of a memory all the activity in the courtrooms that you tracked so closely leading up to this.

CANDIOTTI: That's right. And some of these electors were keeping journals of what's been transpiring here. They talk about having a sense of completion and relief, each one of them looking forward to this day, this moment when, finally, they would cast their ballots and, frankly, be done with the process, many of them told us.

SESNO: And we will take our leave from Florida now. Thanks to you, Susan Candiotti, for keeping us abreast of that development with the slate of electors there in Tallahassee.

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