Election Dispute Drags On
Hand Ballot Counts, Court Battle Planned

By Alan Elsner
Reuters

WASHINGTON (Nov. 12) - Hopes that the disputed presidential campaign might be resolved any time soon faded on Sunday as four Florida counties moved to recount the vote by hand while George W. Bush and Al Gore prepared to do battle in court.

Florida's Palm Beach County early on Sunday ordered an extraordinary hand recount of all presidential ballots cast there after a sample retabulation of four precincts, representing around 1 percent of the vote, produced 19 more votes for Gore, the Democratic nominee.

According to at least one report, that brought Bush's lead in the crucial state to below 300, raising fears in the Republican camp that the widening recount, if allowed to proceed, could move Gore into the lead and win the election.

Palm Beach officials said if 19 votes emerged from 1 percent of the vote, the complete recount could change the picture by hundreds of votes.

Three other mainly Democratic counties -- Volusia, Broward and Miami-Dade -- were also either conducting or preparing to conduct manual recounts, in which officials examine each ballot by hand to decide the voter's intention.

In some cases, voters did not completely punch holes in their ballots. The officials must decide if incompletely punched holes should count.

Florida's 25 electoral votes would give either man the 270 votes in the Electoral College to win the presidency. Following Tuesday's election, Gore has 255 votes, Bush has 246 and 37 are undecided, from Oregon and New Mexico as well as Florida.

Former Secretary of State James Baker, representing Bush in Florida, said the country was on a slippery slope. He vowed to vigorously fight the manual recounts in the courts.

COURT BATTLE TO BEGIN MONDAY

That process begins Monday at 9:30 a.m., when a federal judge in Miami will hear the Bush campaign's request for an injunction to halt the manual recounts. Whatever the ruling, the decision seems certain to be appealed to the next level, possibly all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Asked if the Bush campaign would appeal if they lose, Baker replied on CNN: "We have said that we will vigorously contest the efforts for a manual recount in selective counties here in Florida. If that means going up, maybe that's what it would mean. On the other hand, maybe we won't."

The Bush campaign has held out the threat of calling for recounts in Iowa and Wisconsin, both narrowly won by the vice president, as well as Oregon and New Mexico, which remain contested. After the latest count in New Mexico, Bush, the Texas governor, leads by 17 votes.

Arizona's Republican Sen. John McCain expressed the growing concern of many Americans that the deadlock could paralyze the country. He said whoever emerged the victor would find himself extremely compromised.

"I think the nation is growing a little weary of this. We're not in a constitutional crisis, but the American people are growing weary. And whoever wins is having a rapidly diminishing mandate, to say the least," McCain said.

Polls found a majority expressing a willingness to wait for an accurate vote count. A Newsweek survey found that by a 72 percent to 25 percent margin, Americans said it was more important to make certain the presidential vote in Florida was fair and accurate than to resolve the election quickly.

A Time magazine survey of 1,154 adults on Friday found that only 27 percent believed Gore should concede before the results of an official Florida recount are released.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli said: "My fear was that we would head to a downward spiral of retribution with lawsuits in different states and different bases ... Unfortunately we have now entered that spiral."

Baker said the presidential deadlock was a "black mark" on the U.S. election process and offered to drop the Bush suit if Democrats agreed to stop hand recounts and respect the result in Florida that emerged next Friday after the overseas mail-in ballots are counted.

"Whoever wins then, wins," Baker told NBC's "Meet the Press." "We will accept that result." There was no sign the Gore camp would agree.

Baker's counterpart on the Gore campaign, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, while not addressing the Baker comment directly, told "Meet the Press" he expected the outcome of the presidential race would be known in "a matter of days."

Former Sen. Alan Simpson said the recounts in Florida should be brought to an end. "At some point in time you have to draw the curtain on this tawdry mess," the Wyoming Republican said in a conference call with reporters.

Simpson said he was puzzled by Christopher's rhetoric on behalf of the Gore campaign. "I know Warren Christopher and this doesn't look like the Warren Christopher I know."

At a raucous early-morning meeting on Sunday, surrounded by political operatives and reporters, Palm Beach County's Canvassing Board voted 2-to-1 for the new hand count.

After spending many hours conducting a painstaking manual tally of 4,500 sample ballots, amounting to 1 percent of the votes cast in the election in the county, the board found a net gain of 19 votes for Gore.

In arguing for the countywide count, board member Carol Roberts said that if the 19 votes Gore won on Saturday were extrapolated throughout the county, there would be as many as 1,900 additional votes for Gore. That could give him Florida's 25 electoral votes and the White House.

The board plans to meet at 10 a.m. on Monday while the judge's hearing is under way to discuss logistics for the full countywide manual recount.

The vote counting in Palm Beach County began on Saturday afternoon and the results were finally announced about 1:45 a.m. on Sunday.

The counters also checked a sample of the more than 19,100 ballots that were invalidated on Election Day because more than one hole was punched. Many voters say they were confused and voted for both Gore and Reform Party candidate Patrick Buchanan.

More than half of the ballots in which people voted for more than one candidate that had holes punched were both Gore and Buchanan.

At the request of Republicans, the canvassing board also ran a new mechanical count of all county ballots, the third so far. It found 269,732 votes for Gore and 152,951 for Bush. That was a gain of 36 votes for Gore and a loss of three votes for Bush, for a net gain of 39 votes for Gore since the last full recount.

As the count was about to begin, the canvassing board was served with the Bush lawsuit, filed against the election boards of Miami-Dade, Volusia, Broward and Palm Beach.

It was the first request for court intervention by either side to settle the presidential election in which both Bush and Gore polled 48.9 percent of the nearly 6 million votes cast in Florida.

17:37 11-12-00

=============================================================

Excerpts From Federal Court Filings

.c The Associated Press

Excerpts from Saturday's Republican request asking U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks to halt manual recounts of some Florida ballots:

"There is a keen public interest in the finality of elections. Without attention to the need for finality and certainty in elections, the election can be transformed from the culmination of election campaigns to just another phase of the candidates' efforts.

"Counting these same ballots again and again will not produce a more accurate result, only more delay and confusion.

"It is inconsistent with both the Constitution and the public interest for select county canvassing boards arbitrarily to reopen the 2000 presidential election in Florida for a third time.

"This court should prevent a standardless patchwork of ad hoc decisionmaking from undermining the integrity of the electoral process and public confidence in election results ...

"Such a recount, without a predicate showing of fraud, corruption or coercion, would unduly extend the election process, introduce the potential for human error or fraud to occur, and impermissibly impede the plaintiffs' constitutional right to have their votes certified in a uniform and evenhanded manner.

Plaintiffs cited a ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in an invalidated ballots case in which an Alabama court ordered "all absentee ballots, whether complying with the formal requirements of absentee ballots or not, to be counted in a statewide election.''

"Applying fundamental principles of constitutional law, the Eleventh Circuit held that to count ballots that were invalid under state law and were historically treated as a nullity would run afoul of the one person, one vote principle. As the Eleventh Circuit more fully explained in its initial confrontation with the case, 'counting ballots that were not previously counted would dilute the votes of those voters who met the requirements...'

"...the votes of citizens across the State of Florida will be unconstitutionally diluted if the defendants conduct a manual recount of only select ballots in portions of four heavily Democratic counties. Under Florida's scheme for discretionary manual recounts, the question whether a vote is subject to a recount and how it is counted is left to the unfettered discretion of the county canvassing boards and will vary throughout the state....

"Voting is a fundamental right that cannot be subject to arbitrary or inconsistent treatment. Yet the question whether to hold a manual recount, and whether to count a ballot if such a recount is held, is not guided by any standards, much less standards that ensure fair and equal treatment of all votes. Simply stated, under Florida's scheme, identical ballots in two different counties will be treated differently. For example, where there is a partial punch for one candidate, a ballot may be counted where the county board has decided to conduct a manual recount and, pursuant to wholly subjective perceptions, has determined that the voter 'intended' to vote for the candidate. An identical ballot in another county will not be counted for that candidate in a county that has refused to engage in the manual recount.

"This violates the equal protection rights of all voters to be treated equally and makes the exercise of a fundamental right turn on the arbitrary and unfettered discretion of government officials. It is well-established that even with respect to matters that do not involve fundamental rights, the government cannot engage in arbitrary distinctions among similarly situated citizens.

"Defendants may argue that the proposed manual recounts should be allowed to proceed, and that this court should rule on the merits of this action only if it so happens that these repetitive recounts alter the result of the election. Any such delay would be wholly inappropriate. If defendant's threatened manual recount occurs, ... and a changed result happens to occur (however unlikely), the tainted result will be broadcast to the nation. Any subsequent invalidation by this court will not be able to cure the serious damage to the legitimacy of the presidential election. Any such taint, and the perception of multiple reversals in outcome, will interfere with the orderly transition of constitutional government.

Excerpts from a second filing before Middlebrooks, this one asking for a declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction against further recounts:

"Though perhaps carried out with the best intentions, the manual counts would not be more accurate than the automated counts. Indeed, they are less fair and accurate. Human error and individual subjectivity would replace precision machinery. ... If this recount does not yield the desired result, perhaps another, in yet another county, might. Indeed, the process appears to permit repeated counts. And no uniform procedures or standards govern when or how it might happen.

"If enough human hand counts are conducted, with enough potential human error, the result could presumably change - and perhaps even change back. But the changed result would not be the most accurate result, simply the most recent one.''

Source: Case No. 00-9009, CIV-Middlebrooks, Nov. 11, 2000

AP-NY-11-11-00 1824EST

=============================================================

Text of James Baker's Remarks

.c The Associated Press

The text of remarks by former Secretary of State James Baker III in Tallahassee, Fla., announcing a request on behalf of Gov. George W. Bush for a federal injunction to block an additional recount of ballots in Florida's presidential election. The transcript is provided by eMediaMillWorks, Inc.

-----


Good morning again, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me begin by repeating what I said yesterday: The vote in Florida has been counted, and the vote in Florida has been recounted. Governor George W. Bush was the winner of the vote, and he was also the winner of the recount.

Based on these results, we urge the Gore campaign to accept the finality of the election, subject, of course, to the counting of the absentee, the overseas absentee, ballots, in accordance with law.

They obviously have decided instead to proceed with yet a third count of votes in a number of prominently Democratic counties. This course of action is regrettable.

Moreover, in recent days, supporters of our opponents have filed a number of lawsuits - at least eight, by last count - challenging, in different ways, the results of the election.

I said yesterday that we would vigorously oppose the Gore campaign's efforts to keep recounting until it likes the result. And therefore, this morning we have asked that the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida preserve the integrity and the consistency and the equality and finality of the most important civic action that Americans take: their votes in an election for president of the United States. We feel we have no other choice.

The manual vote count sought by the Gore campaign would not be more accurate than an automated count. Indeed, it would be less fair and less accurate. 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. There would be countless opportunities for the ballots to be subject to a whole host of risks. The potential for mischief would exist to a far greater degree than in the automated count and recount that these very ballots have already been subjected to.

It is precisely, ladies and gentlemen, for these reasons that our democracy over the years has moved increasingly from hand counting of votes to machine counting. Machines are neither Republicans nor Democrats, and therefore can be neither consciously nor unconsciously biased.

There are not even any procedures or standards to govern this third and selective vote count. A manual recount permits the electoral boards in each county in Florida to determine the intent of the voter, without setting forth any standards at all for deciding that intent.

One electoral board may decide to count votes that are not fully punched; another may not. One electoral board may decide that a stray mark indicated an intent to vote for a particular candidate; another may not. One electoral board may try to determine the intent of voters who marked multiple candidates on a ballot, and another may not.

If this new selective recounting process proceeds, the votes in some counties will be counted in a completely different and standardless manner from the votes in the remaining counties. At this point, a changed result would not be the most accurate result; it would simply be the most recent result.

Therefore, we ask that there be no further recounts of already recounted ballots. We regret that we were compelled to take this action.

At some point, however, Florida's voters, and indeed all Americans, are entitled to some finality in the election process.

I keep remembering that day when I was with President Ford following another hard-fought election that was decided by a razor-thin margin. Many in the room advised President Ford to challenge the result with just one recount. President Ford said no. He spoke about the country's interest.

Now, 24 years later, our opponents have lost a vote. They've even lost a recount of that vote. And sadly, they have chosen another course, and so the country has been pushed in a very different direction.

As I cautioned yesterday, there is no reasonable end to this process if it slips away, first in Florida, but potentially in other states as well.

But there is still a fair way to end all this. We urge our opponents to join us, join with us in accepting the recounted vote of the people of Florida, subject, of course, to the result of a count of the overseas ballots, which are greater than the present tabulation of the recounted vote. If they will do this, we will promptly dismiss this action.

Just a minute, just wait a minute.

Yes?

QUESTION: Secretary Baker, was there a concern in the Bush camp that hand counting in a predominantly Democratic, that voted predominantly Democratic in the election, could put your margin at risk?

BAKER: Well, the concerns are those I've just alluded to in my statement. There is much greater chance for human error. The relevant statutes give no standards or objectives to the canvassing boards as to how they are to be guided in determining voter intent; it can be a very, very subjective process.

And indeed, as I think I pointed out in the statement, the potential for mischief in a situation that is not an ordinary vote-counting situation - when votes are cast in a ordinary presidential election, the people receiving those votes have no idea, of course, that their actions could affect the result. This is an extraordinarily unique situation. Now let me make this very clear to everyone here: We are not alleging that there would be any mischief, and hopefully, if this should go forward, there will be none. And we will have our people there.

But the potential is there. And the big point here that I hope everyone will keep in mind is that the nation has left manual counting in favor of machine counting because it is more fair, it is more objective, and it is less subject to human error and potential mischief.

Excuse me, this gentleman had the second question and I cut him off.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, today is Veterans Day, the day that we remember when ... died to preserve freedom and the right to vote. Why are you filing a lawsuit that in a sense deprives some people in their view of the right to vote?

BAKER: We are not doing that. We are preserving, in fact, the right to a constitutional process that has been traditionally followed in this country. That would be the effect, in fact, of this action.

And what we are saying is: There's been a vote, there has been a recount. And a third recount, which would be a manual recount, would be subject to all of the problems that I've outlined in my statement.

Yes?

QUESTION: Secretary Baker, all that may be true, but a Republican official said this morning that such a challenge is, quote, ''on shaky ground,'' because under Florida law, the Democratic Party in Florida has 72 hours to ask for a hand recount, and the law apparently is very clear. What would you say to those who say that you're not willing to go for a lawful recount and that you're afraid of what the outcome will be?

BAKER: Well, we've gone for a lawful recount and we're not afraid of the outcome and we're quite willing to say here today, as we have over the course of the past several days, that we're willing to say that if we should lose the count of the overseas absentee ballots, it's over. We lose. And we're willing to respect the result, assuming that that count has been carried out in a proper manner.

So we've been very forthcoming about that from the very beginning. What we don't want is yet a third recount, a manual recount, if you will, that is subject to all of the deficiencies that I've just outlined here for you.

QUESTION: But isn't it true that a representative of the Bush campaign will be there during this hand recount? And why do you have a problem with that?

BAKER: Look, there are no standards. Yes, it is true, there will be representatives of both campaigns there. But there are no standards to guide the subjective intent of the electoral board, or the canvassing board as you call it here in Florida, and they can divine the intent of the voter. They can say, ''Well, I think the voter meant this,'' and they don't have to show any basis for that whatsoever, or any evidence for that.

Yes, right here?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you pointed out yesterday you would be concerned that to continue any sort of legal action on the part of the Democrats simply prolongs what needs to be done. And you questioned whether or not this should not end as soon as possible for the best interests of the nation. Isn't this challenge that you're issuing today prolonging that and going against what is the lawful request for a manual count?

BAKER: I would hope it's not prolonging it. I don't think it's prolonging it. As I said in my statement, if the Gore campaign will simply join us, acknowledge that the votes in Florida have been counted, they have been recounted, the overseas absentees are to be counted, and agree with us that, subject to the count of those overseas absentee ballots, they, too, will respect the result, like we've said we will, the lawsuit's gone. It will be dismissed.

QUESTION: Then, if they continue these legal pursuits, whether it's an individual lawsuit questioning whether someone was able to rightfully vote, or any other legal remedies that they may consider to pursue, is it your suggestion, sir, that in some way this is unpatriotic, unstatesman-like?

BAKER: No, no, no. I haven't said that. I've just pointed out to you the fact that their supporters have filed eight lawsuits challenging the result. And so we were not the first to file a lawsuit. Their supporters filed eight lawsuits challenging the result.

And I have also said, I hope very clearly, that if they would simply say, ''Yes, we will respect the count, the result of the count of the overseas absentee ballots like you've said you will,'' we'll wait those six days and they'll wait those six days, whatever that shows, that will determine the winner in Florida, this action we filed would be dismissed.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Are you aware of any discussion between high-level members of the Gore campaign in Florida and ...

BAKER: I'm not aware of any discussions between high-level officials of the Gore campaign and canvassing board members, no, I'm not. So that's the way I would answer your question.

By the way, ladies and gentlemen, should you desire to have it, we have copies here of the action as well as copies of my statement.

Thank you all very much.

AP-NY-11-11-00 1144EST

============================================================

Baker Presses Gore Camp on GOP Proposal
Christopher Says Settlement In Days

By Carol Giacomo
Reuters

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Nov. 12) - Calling the presidential deadlock a "black mark" on the U.S. election process, Bush campaign representative James Baker on Sunday increased pressure on the Gore campaign to accept a Republican proposal to quickly resolve the dispute.

In an interview with Reuters, the former secretary of state stressed the need for "finality" and fairness in the still unresolved White House race.

"You don't determine the winner on the basis of this flawed process (in Florida) where in four predominantly Democratic counties, the election officials make the judgment," he said.

"That's not a fair way to determine the results of the presidential election."

The state of Florida is in the process of recounting its vote, the outcome of which is expected to determine whether Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Al Gore will become the 43rd U.S. president.

The Bush campaign sued on Saturday in an attempt to halt manual vote recounts in several Florida counties. The suit will be heard before a federal judge on Monday at 9:30 a.m. in Miami.

Baker told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, "We would dismiss this lawsuit promptly if they would agree with us to respect the results of the statewide recount (of Florida votes) subject only to tabulating the results of the overseas ballots," due to be received by Friday.

"Whoever wins then, wins," Baker said. "We will accept that result."

He said that since the unofficial tally of recounted Florida votes showed Bush with only a narrow lead, "there is some risk, I suppose, George Bush could lose when those overseas ballots are counted. But he is willing to say, 'Fine. There should be a cutoff here.'"

"I'd like to know what the Gore campaign response is to that proposal," Baker said.

He expressed concern about the controversy, adding: "I think it's a black mark on our democracy and our process."

Baker told Reuters Republicans have not decided what to do if the court rejects the suit. "We'll have to confer with Austin" if that happens, he said, referring to the headquarters of Bush and his vice presidential running mate Dick Cheney.

Baker is not expected to be in Miami for the court hearing. That is being left to Attorney Ted Olson of Washington and other Republican lawyers.

CHRISTOPHER SEES DAYS NOT WEEKS

Appearing on the same NBC program, Gore adviser Warren Christopher, also a former secretary of state, did not embrace the Republican proposal. But he said he believed the disputed election would be settled in "a matter of days," not weeks.

Christopher previously had urged the Bush campaign to withdraw its suit on the manual recount.

In a move that added fuel to the partisan fire, Palm Beach County on Sunday ordered a hand recount of all presidential ballots cast in the heavily Democratic county.

The board voted two-to-one for the new hand count, after a laborious manual count of a sample of more than 4,500 ballots on Saturday. The sample amounted to 1 percent of the votes cast in the election and yielded a net gain of 19 votes for Gore.

Supporters of the countywide manual count said if the 19 Gore votes are extrapolated through the county there would be as many as 1,900 more votes for Gore. That could give him Florida's 25 electoral votes and, if no other states changed, the White House.

In the Reuters interview, Baker said the "confusion" seen in televised images of the Palm Beach County hand count on Saturday dramatized Republican concerns.

"It's the principle that we're complaining about, the fact that you have here a situation where local election officials are given the power to interpret ballots," Baker told Reuters.

12:26 11-12-00

============================================================

GOP Wants N.M. Results Impounded

By RICHARD BENKE
.c The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Nov. 12) - With George W. Bush holding a tiny 17-vote lead over Al Gore in New Mexico, state police have begun impounding ballots from Tuesday's election in case they're needed for recounts or review later.

The police action comes after GOP lawyers asked the courts to order protection for early voting and absentee ballots cast statewide.

``It's not to impound all the ballots, but all the paper ballots - the early voting and absentee,'' said attorney Mickey Barnett, a Republican official in Albuquerque.

He said he and lawyer Duncan Scott planned to file impoundment petitions in all of New Mexico's 13 judicial districts Monday to impound ballots within their jurisdictions.

``There's no allegation whatsoever in this impoundment issue that there's any fraud or anything,'' Barnett said. ``I think it's much more pro-forma than suspicion. I'd just like to know two weeks from now, if something does happen, that they (the ballots) are all there.''

So far, he said, there have been no challenges or calls for a recount.

State police Sgt. Royleen Ross-Weaver said officers already have begun impounding ballots in Catron, Sierra and Socorro counties under orders from state District Judge Edmund Kase.

State Democratic chairwoman Diane Denish said she had no comment but would like to know who paid the fees for the impoundment petitions.

She said she believed the cost would amount to $25 per precinct, for a total cost of $37,500. She wanted to know if the Republican Party was paying.

Barnett said the impoundment bid was not motivated by any particular race, but the presidential election was among those that were of concern.

Republican Bush moved into a 17-vote lead over Democrat Gore in New Mexico as 355 damage ballots were hand-counted Friday.

AP-NY-11-12-00 1353EST

=============================================================


It's Not Chicken Little Vs. Chicken George

Among my reservations about George W. Bush concerned his will
to fight the kind of struggle against the ruthless adversary
we face. One of his father's shortcomings was a desire to get
along with liberals to much too great an extent, and it cost
him dearly. After all, it was they who passed the tax increase
they blamed on him as a violation of his 'read my lips' pledge
for 'no new taxes.'

The Texas Governor has made much of his ability and desire to
work with the other side. That is of course necessary --
Democrats have shown little capacity to do that -- but it is
is not good if one must compromise oneself to do it. And in
the wake of the election, W. has shown that he is not going to
to be intimidated by bullies. George W. Bush has shown himself
to be anything but squimish against the slings and arrows
of Al "the sky is falling" Gore.

Return to beginning of ejps
Return to beginning of this issue