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Election 2000: Palm Beach Co. Canvassing Board Votes to Suspend Recount; Florida Officials Differ on Manual Recount Legality

Aired November 14, 2000 - 9:03 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: First we get to what has already been a fast-moving morning, and news that is already breaking on this day, one week after election 2000 after election day.

Let's go first to our Jonathan Karl, who is standing by in Washington D.C. Jonathan, you have news from the Gore camp I understand.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I sure do. The Gore camp looking to case in Tallahassee, their effort to get an injunction to stop the Florida secretary of state from enforcing her 5:00 deadline to have counties certify the vote. We are hearing now that the Gore campaign is bringing in some very big legal guns to help them on what they expect to be an appeal to that decision, whichever way it goes.

The big legal gun coming in, the biggest of them is David Boies. David Boies is the attorney who argued the Microsoft case for the Justice Department. He also represented Napster. He is one of the most high-profile trial attorneys in the United States. He arrived in Tallahassee last night, was briefed by Gore adviser Ron Klain on the situation, on the legal case. And whatever happens at 10:30, however that judge down in Tallahassee at Leon County courthouse rules, whether it is for Bush or for Gore, in terms of allowing the injunction or not allowing the injunction, both sides expect this to be appealed right to the Florida state supreme court. And it will be David Boies who will be arguing the case in court for the Gore campaign -- Daryn.

KAGAN: So, Jonathan, either way, and again it is Judge Terry Lewis that we are expecting this division could come out any moment. And when it does, of course, you will see right away here on CNN, but no matter what, this goes on to the next step. But, of course, there is a natural deadline here and that would be 5:00 p.m. Eastern?

KARL: Exactly. So they expect this to happen extremely quickly. They expect to hear from the Florida supreme court about that appeal shortly after whatever decision comes down. Now, that said, the Gore campaign is confident, they believe that the ruling will go in their favor at 10:30. But they believe that no matter what, the Bush campaign, or Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state, will appeal the decision and the Gore campaign certainly will appeal the decision if it doesn't go their way.

KAGAN: OK, some -- one side or the other is going to appeal.

KARL: Absolutely.

KAGAN: Jonathan Karl. I think we also have news from Mike Boettcher in Tallahassee. Let's bring Mike in -- Mike.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are told that this decision by a representative of the court said that this decision from Judge Lewis probably won't come down until 11:00 a.m. Eastern time now. So that's in approximately two hours. Originally it has been said 10:30.

The judge took all the information he got from the hearing yesterday, said he was going home to work on it. He came back around 8:00 this morning, was going to work on dictating his opinion, it would be typed out, put on the Internet, and also delivered by hand in manual copies to the press reporters who are here.

Now, yesterday, the hearing came in two parts because the judge is hearing other party in the court, even though this is probably one of the most important decisions in the country. The work of law here in Tallahassee must continue, there are other cases.

Now, by his questions yesterday, he asked, it seemed clear that he couldn't see why the state would not delay the deadline until the ultimate Friday deadline, when the overseas ballot are counted, even though state law declares there is a 5:00 p.m. Tuesday deadline for certifications from counties to be brought in.

Still we were told this morning by representatives of the state election canvassing board that they have sent out people to the 14 counties which have not sent out their -- into the state their certified copies of the election. They have sent people out to them to get certifications or to get the latest results, so that there can be this 5:00 p.m. deadline so that it can be met.

So they are proceeding as if this 5:00 p.m. deadline will hold. We are sitting here waiting for the opinion.

One thing about Judge Terry Lewis. We have talked to people around the courthouse here. They consider him a very fair judge, but he is also a novelist.

KAGAN: A novelist, as in someone who writes story?

BOETTCHER: Yes, a novelist, and his last book was entitled "Conflict of Interest."

KAGAN: How appropriate is that. Let's get back to a point that you were making about Judge Lewis, Mike, and the kind of questions he was asking yesterday, going to the point of, well, if we have to wait for the absentee ballots, the overseas ballots to come in later this week, why not go ahead and look at the recount. Does the judge have the latitude to make that kind of logic or it is his job to strictly interpret what the state constitution says? BOETTCHER: I think he was saying that he wanted to interpret what the legislature meant -- the intent of the legislature here in Florida. He thought that the intent, by his questions, and I am trying to interpret this, but by his questions he was asking. He said, if the state legislature passed a law allowing a manual hand count and they only gave a seven-day time limit, which would be at 5:00 p.m. today, it is really impossible in big counties around Florida to do a hand recount in seven days, and certainly that's the case in Palm Beach County and other counties. And he is trying to interpret the intent, what is more important to the legislature, is it that 7-day time limit, or to provide the ability to counties to have a manual recount. That's the basis on which we presume that he will make his argument or his decision, rather.

KAGAN: Once again, as we have learned many times in the past, do not assume too much just by what a judge is asking in the process of trying to make his decision until we actually see that decision.

BOETTCHER: No, absolutely. And this appeal by either side, when his decision comes down, should be immediate to the state supreme court here. So there is a lot of activity upcoming this morning. But again, that opinion probably not until around 11:00 a.m. this morning now.

KAGAN: We will look for it. That means it is a little bit less than two hours from now. As soon as it comes down, again, we will have it for out viewers here on CNN. Mike Boettcher, thank you very much for that report from Tallahassee.

With more now, here's Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, also following all of the activity of course is our Bill Hemmer. He has more on the latest with the developments from Florida. he also probably needs another suitcase he has been in Tallahassee so long.

Hi, Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Just some fresh laundry would be OK, Kyra. Good morning to you as well.

Listen, here's the story we're hearing this morning out of the secretary of state's office in Tallahassee. They're indicating to me at this point that 66 of 67 counties have sent back and certified their count right now in all 66 of 67 counties in Florida. The only outstanding county at this point is, again, Palm Beach County. Why is that significant?

Simply because if that 5:00 deadline comes later today, the canvassing commission here in the state of Florida can take the certified results and basically lock them in. What we don't know at this time, and we are still trying to work some numbers right now through the office here inside, is what the margin of difference is according to the latest numbers between George Bush and Al Gore. Hopefully in a couple of minutes we will have that for you. In the meantime, though, you have heard about the circuit court and the state supreme court. The circuit court is across the street to my left over here. The state supreme court is off to my right. So keep in mind, we will be watching both very closely throughout the day.

In the meantime, in Palm Beach County, it was expected that a hand recount would get under way this morning. However, that may or may not happen.

Here's John Zarrella now live in West Palm to update us on what's happening in that part of Florida.

John, good morning again to you.


If you haven't heard about enough courts by now, let's throw a couple of more court actions into the mix. The county here is saying now they would not be able to start the hand recount until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. That's because, about an hour or so ago, in this very fluid situation, they suspended the count. They decided not to count because the secretary of state of Florida, Katherine Harris, who of course is a Republican, issued an opinion. They had asked for two opinions, one from her and from the attorney general, Bob Butterworth, who is a Democrat.

The opinion of the secretary of state was that the county did not have the legal authority to do a recount because it wasn't a machine problem. There's nothing wrong with the machines. And unless you have something wrong with the machines, you can't do a hand recount of the entire county.

Now, just a little while ago, they got a differing opinion from the Democrat, the attorney general, Bob Butterworth, who said basically that the secretary of state's opinion is wrong, that they shall and are fully entitled to, as a county, and have the legal authority to go ahead and do a recount.

So what they means is they are going to have to go to court now to get an opinion from a judge, as to whether they have the legal authority to begin a recount, which would be tomorrow morning.

And the Democratic Party, Ben Kuehne, a legal counsel for the Democratic Party says, they have also gone to court, here in Palm Beach County, because they want the county to count not just all these votes that they are planning on counting, but to count ballots that are called dimpled ballots.


BEN KUEHNE, COUNSEL FOR GORE CAMPAIGN: We call that the dimple situation. Florida laws says, if there is a way to determine if a voter intended to vote, you have to count that vote. Well, this canvassing board obviously needs some help understanding what that law is, and we've gone to court to get that help for the canvassing board. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: Now, what that help would be would be a determination from a judge to tell the canvassing board what a dimpled ballot is, and how you determine that a dimpled ballot should be counted. It's all very, very confusing. And hopefully, one of these days in the near future, we'll get it all sorted out here in Palm Beach County.

Again, no counting today. It's now delayed until at least tomorrow. And of course, so much depends on what happens up in Tallahassee and Leon County in state court there, as to whether it's even necessary to recount after 5:00 p.m. today -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, John, John Zarrella, live in West Palm, keep us posted down there.

Once again want to talk about Warren Christopher, the lead surrogate for the Gore campaign here in Tallahassee. We talked with him live earlier today. He indicates that there has been very little contact between the two campaigns, Al Gore and George W. Bush, between Washington and Austin, Texas. He indicated that there was a brief meeting between James Baker and Warren Christopher on Friday. But then yesterday, just a brief handshake between the two men passing each other inside the secretary of state's office.

We'll watch that for you. We will also watch that court decision out of circuit court here in Tallahassee, expected now at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. That is about roughly an hour and 45 minutes from now.

We will keep you posted, Kyra. Carol Lin was talking the other day that we are all going to need flow charts by the time this thing is done. I think she might be on to something. Back to you now in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: That is not a bad idea. All right, Bill, thank you.

Well, we are going to check in now with the Bush camp for the latest on what's happening on that front. CNN national correspondent Tony Clark joins us live from Austin, Texas.

Hi, Tony, why don't we begin with reaction to the latest news from West Palm.

TONY CLARK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I tell you, Kyra, the confusion, the back and forth, that John Zarrella just talked about is being felt here. Dan Bartlett, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said that they are simply having to sit and watch like everyone else the confusing situation that's going on, the back and forth.

But he did say that he appreciates the, what he called, "due diligence" of the Florida board that is halting the manual count. He said that that was the kind of guidance that they thought was given to the board earlier in the week. He is glad to see the manual count suspended for now. He is hopeful that the board, rather the court later today will uphold the 5:00 deadline, something that they support. He said the Gore campaign has said all along, let the Florida law be followed through. And he said that 5:00 deadline is part of the Florida law that they would like to see followed through.

So, for now, here in Austin, it is simply watch and wait. As for the governor, he is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, obviously watching and waiting as well.

Tony Clark, CNN, Austin.

KAGAN: Tony, thank you very much.



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