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Plaintiffs' Attorney in Florida Speaks Out on Their BehalfAired November 14, 2000 - 3:20 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BOBBIE BATTISTA, "TALKBACK LIVE": All let's take you live now to Gary Farmer, who is an attorney for a plaintiff. And I'll be honest with you: I'm not sure which lawsuit we're talking about. But we'll listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GARY FARMER, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: And we believe that that determination of that ultimate goal can only be reached by virtue of this manual recount. We again applaud Theresa LaPore and the Palm Beach County Elections Canvassing Commission for initially ordering the recount and we are hopeful and cautiously optimistic that upon their meeting today at 4:00 that they will in fact order that the manual recount continue.
Judge Labarga needs to be credited, too. I mean, here's a judge who was brought in literally on a moment's notice due to the unique nature of this case and the recusals that occurred here today. We very much appreciate his time today and his studied consideration of these issues, and again, we are very pleased with his ruling today.
The injunction became less important once Commissioner LaPore -- or excuse me, Supervisor LaPore ordered that the recount would take place. I mean, that was really one of the purposes of the filing of the emergency motion for injunction in the first place.
We did not want the votes of Palm Beach County to be certified until such time as the votes have been accurately counted. And we believe that a manual recount is the only way to ensure that we have an accurate count and creditation of the votes of the voters of Palm Beach County to the candidates for whom they intended to vote.
I'll take questions now if anybody has a question.
FARMER: Well, that's next. I mean, we still have alive count two of our complaint which challenges the legality of the butterfly ballot used in Palm Beach County. We feel very strongly that the quagmire we now find ourselves in generates solely from the use of that butterfly ballot.
The judge's order today in no way affects that determination. We did not argue the ballot issue per se today because it was not a part of the stated purpose for today's hearing. Today's hearing was scheduled solely for the determination of whether the injunction would be extended, modified or dissolved. And the judge has dissolved the injunction but he has done so with the added order that the manual recount is lawful and we are very happy with that.
We disagree very strongly with secretary of state Harris' advisory opinion that manual recounts are illegal. They're specifically spelled out in the statute. They are certainly appropriate and necessary, we believe, in this particular case.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the secretary whether to accept the manual recount?
FARMER: Judge Lewis in Tallahassee has ruled that Secretary of State Harris may certify results as final today but that she may not arbitrarily decide that she will not consider any subsequently submitted manual recount votes.
We are very hopeful that Secretary of State Harris will continue those votes, and if she does not voluntarily do so, that a court will order her to consider those votes.
It is extremely inequitable in an election as close as this one that a winner be declared with such grave concerns over, one, the legality of the ballot down here; and two, the determination of who really won the election down here, And we're confident that these manual recounts will be considered and they will be determinative of who receives Florida's electoral votes either by virtue of court order or by a decision by Secretary of State Harris.
QUESTION: But didn't the judge give her discretion, and so you're saying that it would automatically -- she don't have the right to recount it. But it sounded like the judge said that she did have the discretion to whether accept or not accept those votes.
FARMER: The judge did say that there was some discretion, but he also said that that discretion may not be arbitrarily exercised and it must be exercised in light of all the facts and circumstances.
We believe that the manual recount results are a compelling fact and circumstance that must be considered by Secretary of State Harris in determination of the actual final certification of who won the election in Florida, and we believe that she would be acting arbitrarily if she did not consider the results of the manual recounts going on across the state.
QUESTION: What impact is the Florida Supreme Court ruling going to have when they hear the case from Butterworth and Harris?
FARMER: Well, you know, I guess it depends on the outcome of that litigation or that action.
You know, the problem here is that the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, and I made this comment in court today, essentially had a gun held to her head. By virtue of the advisory opinion by Secretary of State Harris, who is technically Theresa LaPore's boss at the state level, Theresa LaPore's hands were tied. She'd made a determination to undertake the manual recount, yet her boss then told her it was illegal to do so, and that generated some of the litigation which has since been filed.
But now, you know, we're getting sort of technical here, but advisory opinions by the secretary of state, or the attorney general for that matter, are just that, they are advisory, they are not binding, they are not precedential in the sense a court has to follow them. They are persuasive, a court of law can follow them or not. Judge Labarga essentially determined that he would not follow Secretary of State Harris' advisory opinion, and in Judge Labarga's opinion the manual recount is lawful under the Florida statutes. And we think Judge Labarga is correct.
BATTISTA: All right, Gary Farmer is obviously one of the attorneys representing some of those confused voters down in West Palm Beach, who had problems with that butterfly ballot down there.
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