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Election 2000: Gore Camp Will Appeal Court's Decision on Florida Vote Count; Overseas Absentee Ballot Deadline NearsAired November 17, 2000 - 1:29 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as we just heard, the Gore campaign is going to appeal a decision today by the state court. Bush aides, though, pleased with today's decision in court.
Let's go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve, who's in Austin, Texas -- Jeanne, Jeanne.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Go, Jeanne.
ALLEN: All right, Jeanne, apparently, can't hear us right now, so we'll try to get back with her a little bit later -- Lou.
WATERS: OK, on the federal level, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals still considers legal briefs on the constitutionality of manual recounts. The Bush camp says the practice violates the Constitution's equal protection clause; the Gore camp says it serves the very essence of the public interest. There's still no word on whether, or when, oral arguments might be scheduled or when a ruling might come down.
At last report, four of Florida's 67 counties have counted their absentee ballots from overseas, and George W. Bush has picked up a net gain of five. The Associated Press says Bush's lead statewide stands at 305 votes out of six million cast.
When the day began, there were roughly 2,800 absentee votes to be tallied, and the secretary of state has said the deadline for sending those results to Tallahassee is midnight tonight.
Florida law, however, sets the deadline for absentee ballots at November 24th. CNN will be watching, of course, as those ballots are counted. We will present a special report at midnight Eastern, tonight.
ALLEN: Let's go now to CNN's Mike Boettcher.
He is outside the state supreme court, and that's where the focus will be next in this ongoing battle -- Mike.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, Natalie, I'll be going there next. Right now, I'm at circuit court of appeals -- rather the circuit court here in Leon county, in front of courtroom 3- D, where soon they will begin counting those overseas ballots. But, ironically, this is the same courtroom where the Democrats lost their argument that Secretary of State Katherine Harris abused her discretion when she decided she was going to call a final tally on Saturday before any hand-counted votes came in, and that she would not consider those.
The ruling on that case was read this morning shortly after 10:00 a.m. by the court supervisor here, Terre Cass.
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TERRE CASS, LEON COUNTY COURT ADMINISTRATOR: On the limited evidence presented, it appears that the secretary has exercised her reasoned judgment to determine what relevant factors and criteria should be considered, applied them to the facts and circumstances pertinent to the individual counties involved, and made her decision -- my order requires nothing more: Accordingly, it is ordered and adjudged that the plaintiffs' motion is denied. Thank you.
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BOETTCHER: Now, technically, let me explain to you what's going to happen with the appeal. First, it will go to the circuit court of appeals, which is about a block and a half away, before it goes to the supreme court. They will pass it through, as they say, to the supreme court, or at least that is what the attorneys for Vice President Gore will be asking.
And right now, they are going to start counting the overseas ballot, which is the next big step in this election. They'll be counted all over Florida. Here in Leon county, we don't know the exact number, but they have a machine set up in there. They'll put the ballots in, and we'll have new totals for this county, as we will for many counties around the state in just a few minutes -- Natalie.
ALLEN: All right, thanks, Mike Boettcher.
WATERS: And as you heard former Secretary of State James Baker say earlier, he discussed the judge's ruling with Governor George W. Bush, who remains in Texas, where Jeanne Meserve now can hear us and reports on what's happening there -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The latest word from the Bush campaign's communication director, Karen Hughes: Everything is in flux, we are in a wait mode. Of course, the campaign was very pleased with Judge Lewis's decision, which said the secretary of state was within her authority to exclude the hand-counted ballots. Former Secretary of State James Baker, the campaign's emissary in Florida, was the first to react to that news, saying that Governor Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, were understandably pleased.
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JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR THE BUSH CAMPAIGN: The rule of law has prevailed. The court applied the rule of law objectively and fairly, upholding, as the judge's opinion states, the "reasoned judgment" of the secretary of state, and the state election commission certification of results on November 15th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: A Bush aide expanding on this a few moments ago, saying: We have always believed that the best way to move through this process is to stand on principle and follow the rule of law. We believe that combination will ensure a fair and accurate and final result.
As we've just heard, of course, this decision by Judge Lewis now going on appeal to the Florida supreme court. Republicans who are familiar with the legal to and fro down in Florida are fairly optimistic that the supreme court will not overrule his judgment.
And here's why: Because, they say, in order to do that, the supreme court would have to demonstrate that Judge Lewis didn't have a clear idea of what a reasonable standard was in his first decision earlier this week. They think it's highly unlikely the supreme court would come to that conclusion.
We're told that Governor Bush remains at his ranch down in Crawford, Texas. He's monitoring events, he's been on conference calls with Secretary Baker down in Florida, transition, for the moment, taking a back burner.
The next big deadline coming up, though, is overseas absentee ballots that are due at midnight tonight. We asked a Bush worker what the prospect was for those ballots. He said: Based on history, we believe they should go to Governor Bush; it is unclear by what margin exactly.
We asked, also, the campaign what they intended to do tomorrow: That if these election returns are certified by the secretary of state, if Governor Bush intended to declare victory. I am told they have not made a decision or given an indication one way or another, one aide saying events that take place 24 hours from now are an eternity away. That certainly seems to be true.
Lou, back to you.
WATERS: All right, Jeanne Meserve.
Still some unanswered questions about absentee ballots, We've been hearing that Friday, midnight -- that's tonight -- is the deadline for oversea ballots, but we also understand Florida law stipulates that November 24th is the deadline for absentee ballots. Within the next 45 minutes or so, we hope to clear that up.
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