Friday, November 10, 2000
Here's What They're Saying…Poisoning The Political Atmosphere…
“The problem is that potential remedies, such as a new election in Palm Beach County, seem politically unsound and legally questionable. The sad reality is that ballot disputes and imperfections are a feature of every election. It will poison the political atmosphere if presidential elections, in particular, come to be seen as merely a starting point for litigation.” New York Times, Editorial, 11/10/00
“We say yes to counting a little more, but the legal action about which Mr. Daley spoke elliptically should be approached with enormous caution and restraint. Absent more than is currently known, our sense is that either a lawsuit or a repeat vote would raise at least as many questions as it would likely resolve; the courts in the end can't legitimize the results.” Washington Post, Editorial, 11/10/00
“Senator John B. Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat, questioned the Gore campaign's wisdom in challenging the Palm Beach result. The right thing, Mr. Breaux said, ‘is to count the votes and respect the decision,’ without lengthy litigation. And Senator Robert G. Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey, warned against getting mired in the courts…
“‘I want Al Gore to win the election,’ Mr. Torricelli told reporters, ‘but more than that, I want somebody to win this election. There is going to have to be a very compelling case for anybody to take this into a court of law.’” “Democrats Widen Attack -- Recount Seems to Erode Bush's Edge,” by R. W. Apple, Jr., New York Times, 11/10/00
“Some folks are even calling for a rerun of the Florida election. It is important to decide this election by the rules that 100 million Americans understood -- or should have understood -- when they entered the voting booth Tuesday. This is not just about fair play for Al Gore and George W. Bush. It is about defending a system that regards voting-day verdicts as the final word, a concept that distinguishes this nation from most others in the world.” San Francisco Chronicle, Editorial, 11/9/00
“‘You know, I don't think the ballot was a problem, Bill and I'll tell you why-is that there's one section I don't know if people are really looking at, which relates to electoronic or electromechanical voting. And in that particular case, what the law says down here, it says 'Voting squares may be placed in front of or in back of the names of candidates and statements.'” Greta Van Susteren, CNN's "Crossfire," 11/09/00
Gore Camp Calls for Bush To Drop Federal Suit
Bush Seeks End of Manual Recount
By DAVID ESPO
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (Nov. 11) - Republicans sent the 2000 presidential race into the federal courts Saturday at the same time election officials in one of Florida's 67 counties completed a laborious hand recount sought by Vice President Al Gore. ''We're all in limbo,'' said George W. Bush at the end of a week of unprecedented political turmoil.
A federal judge set a hearing for Monday in Miami on the Bush campaign's request for a court order blocking the manual recounts from continuing in Florida's improbably close vote.
The Texas governor holds a narrow lead after an unofficial recount, with an unknown number of overseas ballots yet to be counted. The winner of the state stands to gain an electoral college majority and become the nation's 43rd president.
The GOP suit cited a need to ''preserve the integrity, equality, and finality'' of the vote. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, said that with a manual recount, ''human error, individual subjectivity, and decisions to, quote, 'determine the voters' intent,' close quote, would replace precision machinery in tabulating millions of small marks and fragile hole punches.''
Democrats responded forcefully a few hours later, calling for the withdrawal of the suit and expressing confidence they would prevail in court. ''The hand count can be completed expeditiously and it should be,'' said former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, speaking on Gore's behalf. He added that Bush, as governor of Texas, had signed legislation in 1997 specifying that hand recounts be used to settle certain disputed elections - a position at odds with the current stated preferences of the GOP high command.
Gore emerged from his residence later Saturday to take in a movie, ''Men of Honor,'' with running mate Joseph Lieberman and their wives.
''We're not giving interviews, we're just on a double date,'' Gore said when asked by a reporter about the election saga.
In West Palm Beach, Fla., where officials conducted a hand count of four precincts, the recanvass moved haltingly at first. Officials began the day saying a vote would count if they could see light through a punchhole. But then they changed to a different test, based on how thoroughly the voter had punched a hole in the ballot.
In addition to the manual recount sought by the Democrats, county officials were also re-tallying by the total vote count by machine, this time at the request of the Bush campaign. Results were not yet complete.
The unsettled situation in Florida held the candidates and their supporters in suspense and the nation in thrall, and sent the 2000 election on an unpredictable course.
Republican strategists, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that pending the outcome of the legal challenge, they were considering challenging narrow Gore victories in Wisconsin, Oregon or elsewhere, or possibly seeking recounts in additional counties in the Sunshine State.
''All options are open, of course'' Bush told reporters at his ranch outside Waco, Texas, running mate Dick Cheney at his side.
Christopher, asked later how far he was willing to go legally, offered a noncommittal response. ''We've been considering various other options,'' he said. ''No decision's been reached.''
On a day of uncertainty 96 hours after the nation voted, the recount got underway at mid-afternoon in Palm Beach County, where some Gore supports claim a poorly designed ballot may have caused them to vote inadvertently for Pat Buchanan
Ballots were ferried to the government center under police escort. Election workers brought silver metal boxes in from four precincts, broke the seals and removed the ballots. Six teams of three counters and two observers peered closely at the ballots to determine how they were marked.
''Until we get a court order it doesn't mean anything,'' said Palm Beach County Judge Charles Burton on the recanvass efforts there. ''If we get one we'll read it and we will abide by it.''
In Volusia County, officials put off a hand recount until Sunday, saying they first needed to complete a review of write-in ballots cast last Tuesday. ''The process of counting the write-ins is taking a longer time than expected,'' said Dave Byron, a county spokesman. ''The write-in process is a meticulous process.''
In another area, heavily Republican Duval County, election officials disclosed that about 26,000 ballots were disqualified and never counted on Election Day because they were marked for more than one presidential candidate, or none at all.
The winner of Florida' s 25 electoral votes stands to take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2001 as the nation's 43rd president. An unofficial tally by The Associated Press of an initial recount in Florida's 67 counties showed the Texas governor with a 327-vote lead over the vice president.
State officials said their recount showed Bush leading by 960 votes with 66 counties reporting. The 67th county, Palm Beach, is under a local court order not to certify results after a hearing on Tuesday. The order, handed down by Circuit Judge Kathleen Kroll, is the result of one of eight lawsuits filed by voters who say a faulty ballot design may have caused them to inadvertently vote for Pat Buchanan rather than Gore.
In addition, state officials have until next Friday to tally the ballots mailed from overseas and postmarked by election day.
Both sides had brigades of political aides and lawyers in Florida, ready for any recount or legal skirmishing.
And the pollsters were back at work, four months after the election they worked so hard to plumb. Newsweek released a survey showing that by a margin of 3-1, Americans say it is more important to make sure the vote count in Florida is accurate than to resolve matters as quickly as possible. At the same time, just over half of those surveyed oppose waiting beyond the wrap-up of a recount that includes overseas ballots by the end of next week.
President Clinton sought to calm nerves in his weekly radio address.
''The people have spoken,'' he said. ''The important thing for all of us to remember now is that a process for resolving the discrepancies and challenges to the election is in motion. The rest of us need to be patient and wait for the results.''
Officials in Florida said the suit had been filed in Miami and assigned to U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks, a Clinton appointee.
Election Officials Begin Florida Hand Count
By KARIN MEADOWS
.c The Associated Press
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 11) - Election officials recounted hundreds of thousands of ballots under tight security Saturday and argued over an electoral riddle: When is a vote not a vote?
Supporters of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore - whose White House hopes were at stake - bickered over whether votes should be recounted and how to do it. The Bush campaign went to court in an attempt to block the vote recounting by hand, but a federal judge put off a hearing on his emergency request until Monday.
The fight was most intense in Palm Beach County, a Democratic stronghold and a major source of support for Gore. Election workers conducted simultaneous manual and mechanical recounts, an agonizingly slow process that officials warned could take 12 or more hours.
Workers brought in silver metal boxes from four precincts, broke the seals and took the ballots out. Six teams of three counters and two observers peered closely at each ballot to determine who was voted for. Then they placed each ballot into separate piles.
At times, the recount bordered on the ridiculous.
Election officials spent hours poring over individual ballots and disagreeing over the standard used in accepting a vote.
In the morning, the canvassing board said they would count a vote if any of the corners of the bits of paper punched out of the cards - called ''chad'' - were punched. The board then decided that they would instead use the ''sunlight test'' - if they could see sun come though an indentation, it would count.
However, according to a lawyer for the county, there was a problem with the revised standard. Even if one corner was punched, sometimes the sun wouldn't shine through. So, the standard was revised back to the corner rule, according to the lawyer Leon St. John.
Palm Beach County Judge Charles Burton, a member of the county's canvassing board, said despite the request for a federal injunction, the recount would proceed as planned.
''All of you can go file for an injunction, but until we get a court order it doesn't mean anything,'' he said. ''If we get one we'll read it and we will abide by it.''
The hand recount was supposed to take place in four precincts - one in Palm Beach Gardens, two in Boca Raton and one in Delray Beach. Originally, three precincts were chosen, but another was added Saturday because the first three didn't add up to 1 percent of the vote, as required by state law. The ballots arrived at the government center under police escort.
Elsewhere in Florida on Saturday:
-Workers in Polk County re-scanned ballots in dozens of precincts for a second day.
-Volusia County postponed until Sunday a full hand recount of all the county's 184,018 ballots. Workers sifted the ballots on Friday and Saturday for any write-in votes. The judge will hold up each ballot, show it to the Democratic observer and the GOP observer, then to other commission member.
Democrats and Republicans were bringing in more than 100 people each from around the country to witness the process.
-About 26,000 votes in Duval County were disqualified and never counted when voters punched more than one candidate on their ballot or failed to vote for president. The county is solidly Republican.
-In Broward County, officials said 6,686 ballots were not counted because the computer did not recognize any selection. Broward election officials voted 2-1 to do a hand-recount of three precincts beginning Monday. If there is a change, they also will consider a full hand-recount.
-In Seminole County, Democrats said they heard that Republicans had asked for a hand count of ballots, but the county's Republican Party chairman Jim Stelling said neither party had requested a hand count.
The Bush campaign, in moving to stop the manual recount, argued in its application for a federal injunction there is a need to ''preserve the integrity, equality, and finality'' of the vote. As the vote recount continued, U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks, who was assigned the case, set a hearing for Monday on the Bush campaign's suit.
Democrats wanted a recount by hand so that ballots can be examined more closely. If there is a change in the sample count, county officials will then decide whether to do a recount by hand of the entire county.
Democrats said thousands of votes in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in Florida may not have been counted because the tiny piece of paper punched out for a candidate did not completely dislodge. About 30,000 ballots were rejected in Palm Beach County alone because they had two or more holes punched for president - or computers didn't detect any holes at all.
Palm Beach County Democrats also complain that the county's ballot was so confusing that many Gore voters mistakenly voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan. Florida election officials said Friday the ballot did not violate state law, as several lawsuits filed by Democrats contend.
In response to one of those lawsuits, a circuit judge on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction barring the county's canvassing commission from certifying the final recount results until a hearing Tuesday.
An unofficial Associated Press canvass of the presidential vote in Florida showed Bush with a 327-vote lead over Gore. The eventual winner will take Florida's 25 electoral votes and become the nation's 43rd president.
On Friday, Secretary of State Katherine Harris said Bush had 2,910,074 votes to Gore's 2,909,114, a difference of 960, with one county still to be recounted - Palm Beach County where the AP showed a big gain for Gore.
The totals from the AP canvass were Bush 2,910,198, Gore 2,909,871.
The state could not include the Palm Beach County recount because of the judge's injunction Thursday. The AP canvass included the latest figures from Palm Beach County election authorities. Also, unlike the secretary of state's office, the AP count reflected a small number of federal write-ins in Polk County. The handwritten military ballots can't be scanned by computer.
Bush Considers Iowa, Wisc. Recounts
.c The Associated Press
(Nov. 11) - As the Bush campaign challenges Democrat-backed recounts in Florida's presidential balloting, it also is sending signals that - if the Florida vote continues to be contested - it may seek recounts in states where Al Gore appears to have narrow victories.
The Bush campaign dispatched representatives to Des Moines to try to assess a possible recount in Iowa, where Gore won by 5,069 votes. Possible recounts are also under consideration in New Mexico, Wisconsin and Oregon, where absentee and mail-in ballots are still being counted.
The Bush campaign sought a federal injunction Saturday to block additional recounts in Florida's Palm Beach County. A day earlier, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who is George Bush's point man in the Florida election dispute, hinted that the campaign would respond in kind in other states if the Democrats press for further recounts in Florida.
''It is important ... that there be some finality in the election process,'' Baker told reporters Friday. ''What if we insisted on recounts in other states that ... are very very close?'' He cited Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico.
Here is a rundown on the election results Saturday in the states that possibly could face recount challenges.
The Bush campaign has sent two campaign staff members to Iowa to help assess a possible challenge to Al Gore's scant 5,069 vote lead. Republicans have until absentee ballots arrive - Thursday or Friday, depending on the county - to seek a recount.
Andrew Malcolm, a Bush campaign spokesman, said that the two staffers were sent to Iowa to ''scope out the scene and monitor developments.'' A request for a recount must be made within 72 hours after the final voter canvass Monday or Tuesday.
Under a recount, each county would have 18 days after its canvass to complete the new tally, said Sandy Steinbach, the state elections director. A statewide recount could cover as many as 1.3 million ballots, although the request could be made just for specific counties.
Staff members at state GOP headquarters pored over county vote tallies during the weekend in preparation for a possible recount request, said Ann Dougherty, a GOP spokeswoman. Party officials are lining up Bush supporters in each of the 99 counties to represent Bush on county recount boards.
''If they want to start looking at Iowa, then I say, 'Make our day.' We don't have anything to hide,'' said Tom Slockett, the auditor in Johnson County, where 53,400 ballots might be re-examined if a recount is requested.
-- New Mexico
Neither party has done anything to suggest a recount would be demanded. But absentee ballots continue to be counted and Bush now leads Gore by 17 votes. Gore had led Bush by 6,825 votes on election night. A recount must be requested within six days of completion of the final canvass.
As many as 370 special absentee ballots await counting next week.
The latest count included 37,947 early-voting ballots, 1,762 damaged, hand-counted ballots and 257 previously missing ballots discovered in a locked box at the county election warehouse Friday afternoon.
The state Republican Party had said it was considering legal action because of the temporarily lost ballots, but that was before the margin between Bush and Gore closed dramatically.
There are no reports of Bush representatives coming to Oregon to evaluate a possible recount, although Gore leads by fewer than 6,000 votes out of nearly 1.4 million cast.
With 99 percent of the votes counted Friday, unofficial results gave 702,218 votes to Gore and 696,462 to Bush - a difference of 5,756. A recount would be required by state law if the margin falls to less than one-fifth of 1 percent, or about 2,800 votes. If a recount is called, it is expected to be held in the first week of December.
The counting of about 40,000 votes from the state's mail-in balloting resumes on Monday.
The Bush campaign has not ruled out a demand for a recount in Wisconsin where Gore led Bush by 6,099 votes out of 2.5 million votes cast. There is no automatic recount in Wisconsin, but a candidate may request one within three business days after the last vote canvass.
''We have no immediate plans for a recount in Wisconsin, but it's still under consideration,'' said Bob Hopkins, a spokesman for the Bush campaign.
Rod Hise, executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said the campaign cannot request a recount until all 72 counties turn in certified vote tallies to the state Monday or Tuesday.
The state Republican Party said it has received about 800 complaints of questionable polling procedures from around the state, including 600 from Milwaukee County. The GOP has asked the Milwaukee County district attorney to look into the allegations, which include voters getting two ballots or being told they had already voted.
Do the Right Thing, Mr. Gore
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By Bob Dole
Saturday, November 11, 2000; Page A29
It was a close election, but it's over.
Gerald Ford had narrowly lost his bid for the White House in 1976. A few changed votes in a couple of key states would have reversed the outcome. "Let's challenge it," many senior staffers urged the president. For others, it was a close call whether to demand a recount. But not for Gerald Ford. The quiet man from Grand Rapids would have none of it. He did not believe the country should have to go through a recount. America needed to get on with the business of setting up a new administration. We had already been through Watergate. It was time to set politics aside. It was time to let Jimmy Carter begin planning for the future. And like so many other times, Gerald Ford was right.
I was proud to be Gerald Ford's running mate in 1976. Proud to stand with such a good man. It took a while, but I was proud of Gerald Ford when he did the right thing by not contesting the election.
Twenty-four years later, America faces a similar situation. A close election has just been concluded with George W. Bush holding a narrow lead over Vice President Al Gore. Now, we have had two recounts confirming the governor's lead in the crucial state of Florida, but it seems the Gore campaign is choosing to ignore the clear precedent set by Richard Nixon in 1960 and Gerald Ford in 1976. Rather than bring the country together, they are making every effort to keep the nation divided for weeks with recounts, lawsuits and endless politicization of the election.
The American people deserve better. And the Gore campaign knows it. As someone who could have become vice president in 1976, I know firsthand how difficult it is to accept defeat. I urge Al Gore to put his country's agenda ahead of his agenda; to put the people's interests before his personal interests. There are several good reasons for this.
First, this is bad for the electoral process. America has just endured the longest presidential campaign in its history. In the old days, campaigns lasted a few months. Today, they last two years. And two years is enough. The American people have spoken.
Second, this is bad for the people. By dragging out the process the Gore campaign risks alienating even more Americans. Participation in our democracy continues to decline. More and more people are turned off by politics and are tuning out of elections. It is precisely this type of politicization that continues to disenchant people. They want leadership, not lawsuits. They need someone committed to what is good for the country, not what is good for a post election campaign.
Third, this is bad for the country. We need to get on with the business of the nation. The new president-elect must begin planning his administration. He must prepare a budget and begin selecting a cabinet. He must begin meeting with world leaders and a Congress already bitterly divided. A smooth transition will help to ensure a successful presidency and a more secure and prosperous nation for the next four years.
Finally, this is not good for Al Gore. History looks approvingly upon the examples set by Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and Gerald Ford in 1976. It will not look kindly on the first presidential candidate to challenge his election defeat in the courts. The presidency should be won through inspiration, not litigation.
I have served with Al Gore in the Senate. He is a good man who is on the verge of making a big mistake. One that will not serve him, his party or the country very well. Allowing the vote to stand may not be the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.
Vice President Gore could allay the growing fears and cynicism by clearly stating now that he will abide by the final Florida tally after all foreign absentee ballots are counted, presumably on Friday, Nov. 17.
Former senator Dole was the Republican presidential nominee in 1996.
© 2000 The Washington Post Company
As it stands at the moment, Bush should have 276 electoral votes and Gore 256.
Of Bush's total, 25 are from Florida and 5 from New Mexico while the 11 from
Wisconsin, 7 from Oregon, and 7 from Iowa in the Gore column are in question.