I offered to meet with him as soon as possible so that we can start to heal the divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we just passed.
I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country.
Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended, resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy.
Other disputes have dragged on for weeks before reaching resolution. And each time, both the victor and the vanquished have accepted the result peacefully and in the spirit of reconciliation.
So let it be with us.
Some have asked whether I have any regrets and I do have one regret: that I didn't get the chance to stay and fight for the American people over the next four years, especially for those who need burdens lifted and barriers removed, especially for those who feel their voices have not been heard. I heard you and I will not forget.
I've seen America in this campaign and I like what I see. It's worth fighting for and that's a fight I'll never stop.
As for the battle that ends tonight, I do believe as my father once said, that no matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shape the soul and let the glory out.
And now, my friends, in a phrase I once addressed to others, it's time for me to go.
A: Well, I’ve never used the phrase “steal the election.” I think that’s an intemperate phrase. And I think that both Governor Bush and I have an obligation during this period when the votes are yet to be counted to try to pave the way for whichever one of us wins to be able to unify the country.
You know, the only way to avoid having a cloud over the next president is to count all the votes. Because our country is based on the consent of the governed, and the consent of the governed can only come through a vote by the people. And all the people who vote legally have to have their votes counted; that’s the basic principle. If all of the votes are counted, that’s the best way to confer legitimacy on the outcome of the election.
Q: An adviser said, “Al believes passionately in this. Al believes he won. And I believe he’s right. But I do worry that we may reach a point where he’s hurting himself. And that if it appears that this is slipping away, we reach a line where the 2004 calculation” -- your own viability -- “comes into play.” Does that enter into your mind at all?
A: Look. You know, they started speculation about the 2000 race probably three years beforehand. And it’s not over yet. So, I mean, I hope that I’m going to be in a position to consider running for re-election in 2004. But to answer your question seriously, John, whatever concern that I might have about myself is not even on the radar screen compared to the obligation that I feel to the 50 million people who supported Joe Lieberman and me, who believed in the agenda that we put forward, who gave us more votes than any Democratic ticket ever in the history of this country, more votes than any ticket with the exception of Ronald Reagan in 1984. But a higher obligation still, is the obligation I have to the Constitution and to the country to insist that the election have integrity.
A: I don’t agree that it was a tie. I think that when the American people vote, and it’s a close election, I think it matters who they choose.
Q: Did you win this election?
A: I certainly believe that I did. I understand that there’s considerable doubt about that.
Q: Do you think you should be president-elect right now? Do you?
A: Well, look, no, because the votes haven’t been counted. I think that a clear majority of the people who went to the polling places and tried to vote did vote for Joe Lieberman and me. That happened in the country as a whole. I think it happened in Florida. But the votes have not all been counted yet.
Q: You and Joe Lieberman say: Count every vote.
Q: But if this is about counting every vote, if you take the whole country, there are 1.2 million of those undervotes. Why not look more broadly at those undercounted votes?
A: Well, I think any time the election is close enough that ballots that for whatever reason have not been counted could make a difference, they should be counted. In fact, just last week in Texas there was a race that was close enough that they counted the undervote. And in accordance with the law Governor Bush signed in Texas, they looked at the indentations in the ballot or the chad and decided the race on that basis.
Q: But let’s say you get a judge to allow those some 10,000 ballots to be looked at by hand, and you pull ahead in the overall tally in Florida, and eventually win certification, don’t you think that much of the country would look at that and say: That’s not a legitimate result either, because the Gore campaign has essentially cherry-picked throughout Florida, finding counties that are heavily Democratic, to rack up those votes, and that’s not a fair representation of the vote either?
A: No, I don’t agree. First of all, I think this is going to happen. I think the law requires it to happen, and I think it will happen. But I offered a couple of times to have a hand count in the entire state. And when the Supreme Court of Florida raised that possibility, we said, “Fine, let’s do it.” Now, the reason the Bush campaign did not accept that offer, is that I think they believed that if there was a hand count of the entire state, our margin of victory would be even larger than it will be when these votes are counted in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.
This morning we have proposed to the court in Tallahassee a plan to have all the ballots counted in seven days starting tomorrow morning. And to have the court proceedings fully completed one or two days after that. Let me repeat the essence of our proposal today: seven days starting tomorrow for a full and accurate count of all the votes.
Once we have that full and accurate count of the ballots cast, then we will know who our next president is and our country can move forward. Unfortunately, just about an hour ago Governor Bush's lawyers rejected this proposal. Instead, they have proposed two weeks of additional court proceedings and additional hearings right up to the Dec. 12 deadline for seating electors, and under their plan, none of the thousands of votes that remain to be counted would be counted at all.
That is what we seek, and so I urge Governor Bush to support our proposal to bring this process to a fair, expeditious and truly democratic conclusion.
A: We offered to have the hand count take place all over the state, and one thing to remember is that the old and cheap outdated machinery is usually found in areas with populations that are of lower income, minorities, seniors on fixed incomes. For example, if you look at Orlando, the voting machines there are new and modern, and if you make a mistake, then it'll automatically point out your mistake and give you a new ballot. In the places where these older machines are found, you have that kind of problem. But we were perfectly willing — and would still be willing — to have a hand count in the entire state. I know that it's less of a realistic possibility now, but I've always been open to that. The counties selected are ones that have these machines and where there were obvious problems on election day.
A: I said during the election that I didn't think the polls mattered, and on election day sure enough, contrary to the polls, Joe Lieberman and I carried the popular vote nationally by 300,000 votes. I'm quite sure that the polls don't matter in this because it's a legal question. And the principle again is a very simple one: When people cast votes, the votes should be counted. And there are more than enough uncounted votes to decide the outcome of this election. There are thousands of them. And the margin is in the hundreds.
I'll tell you what's wrong with not counting the votes. If you ignore the votes, you ignore democracy itself; you ignore the will of the people; you ignore the basic principle upon which our whole system of self-government is based. That principle is the consent of the governed. And the consent of the governed is expressed in elections, through ballots, votes that are cast by the people. And if those in charge of the election machinery, for whatever reason, decide that in this county or that, in this area or in that, they are simply going to ignore the votes and not count them, then the will of the people has not been fully and fairly expressed. And as a direct consequence, the consent of the governed has not been fully and freely given. So every vote should be counted.
On that one day every four years, the poor as well as the rich, the weak as well as the strong, women and men alike, citizens of every race, creed and color, of whatever infirmity or political temper, all are equal. They're equal, that is, so long as all of their votes are counted.
A vote is not just a piece of paper, a vote is a human voice, a statement of human principle, and we must not let those voices be silenced. Not for today, not for tomorrow, not for as long as this nation's laws and democratic institutions let us stand and fight to let those voices count.
And this would be over long since, except for those efforts to block the process at every turn. In one county, election officials brought the count to a premature end in the face of organized intimidation. In a number of counties, votes that had been fairly counted were simply set aside. And many thousands of votes that were cast on Election Day have not yet been counted at all, not once.
There are some who would have us bring this election to the fastest conclusion possible. I have a different view. I believe our Constitution matters more than convenience. So, as provided under Florida law, I have decided to contest this inaccurate and incomplete count, in order to ensure the greatest possible credibility for the outcome.
This is America. When votes are cast, we count them. We don't arbitrarily set them aside because it's too difficult to count them.
Two hundred years from now, when future Americans study this presidential election, let them learn that Americans did everything they could to ensure that all citizens who voted had their votes counted. Let them learn that democracy was ultimately placed ahead of partisan politics in resolving a contested election. Let them learn that we were indeed a country of laws.
I want to make it very clear that this really is about much more than which candidate wins and which candidate loses. It is about the integrity of our system of government. And that integrity can only be assured if every vote that is legally cast is actually counted according to the laws of America including the laws of Florida. And that's really the principle that we're standing upon. And under Florida law the law says when votes haven't been counted, you go court and say "Look, here's the situation. Take a look at it and do the right thing." And that's essentially what we're doing.
A: I think that it is important for the integrity of our democracy to make sure that every vote is counted. Especially in a close election because the foundation of our constitutional self-government is the consent of the governed. That consent must be freely given in accordance with the procedures outlined in our Constitution. And it is given in presidential elections by voters who express their will at the ballot box. And it is a relatively simple principle that lies at the heart of our democracy that every vote that is legally cast must be fairly and accurately counted in accordance with the law. That is a relatively simple principle, it seems to me, and it is a principle that must be upheld in order to make certain that the will of the American people is not only expressed but heard and abided by.
A: I doubt very seriously that will happen. I feel certain that all the votes will be counted in accordance with the law in the one state where the election is still going on, Florida, before Dec. 18, indeed before Dec. 12 when the electors are designated by the states.
A: If a full and accurate count of the votes results in my election, I will go to extraordinary lengths to build bridges to Republicans and independents and others. I will select an administration that is not purely partisan in cast. I will reach out regularly and often to the bipartisan leadership of the Congress and to political and civic leaders from across the spectrum throughout the country. There is ample precedent in American history for the winners of close elections to unite the country. This controversy in the year 2000, as difficult as it might seem to us, is nothing compared to the election of 1800, where Thomas Jefferson finally prevailed after 36 ballots in the Congress, if my history serves me correctly. John Kennedy's election was by a narrower margin in the popular vote than the 300,000 margin that currently exists here. The resiliency of our democracy is often underestimated, but it is always proven out in the end.
Q: You said you would seek an administration that was not purely partisan. Does that mean you would ask one or more Republicans to serve in the cabinet?
Q: You would ask one or more Republicans to serve in the cabinet?
Q: Does the current situation make it harder? Were this obvious two weeks ago, you could by now have asked some of them. This gets in the way of certainly inviting people from the other party. I presume it does for Governor Bush as well if he had that intention.
A: I have been proceeding, very quietly, without any public show, with transition planning. I think that it is in the national interest for both Governor Bush and I to proceed with transition planning, quietly, without using it for political display, without using it for political show, but thoroughly and meticulously, so that time is not lost that can be important ensuring the success of the next administration, no matter which one of us heads it.
Q: Does that mean you have figured out whom you might like to have in the cabinet?
A: Yes. Most of the transition that needs to be done at this stage doesn't require much more than that anyway.
I firmly believe that the will of the people should prevail and I am gratified that the court's decision will allow us to honor that simple constitutional principle. The court wisely set a deadline for the conclusion of this counting in order to preserve a reasonable period to resolve any remaining questions.
I want to thank the citizen volunteers, no matter their political party, also the public officials involved in the canvass, all these people who have given enormous amounts of time in an extraordinary effort. They're doing their jobs diligently and seriously, under difficult conditions, as Americans always do. They are rising to the occasion.
Some of my own supporters have emphasized the fact that we won the national popular vote, but our Constitution requires victory in the Electoral College. I completely disavow any effort to persuade electors to switch their support from the candidate to whom they are pledged. I will not accept the support of any elector pledged to Governor Bush.
Both Governor Bush and I should urge all our supporters to refrain from any comments, including comments on this evening's decision by the Florida Supreme Court, that could make it harder for us to come together as one nation when the process is completed.
[Bush's] motion reflects an intense distrust of the laws and courts of the State of Florida and a desire for the federal courts to dictate the details of Florida's electoral process. They offer no allegations of misconduct or bad faith. Instead their entire argument rests upon an imagined scenario in which by availing themselves of procedures which are uniformly applied to all counties, certain county canvassing boards are acting in a manner that will thwart the intent of Florida voters. But Florida's procedures for a manual recount to verify votes do not favor any candidate. The manual recount procedure is available to all candidates and parties in Florida. In this election there were no instances where a manual request that was timely made with a statement of the reason for the request was not granted.
Florida has embarked upon an orderly and structured process pursuant to its statutes to enfranchise voters by carefully and accurately counting the votes cast for Florida's presidential electors. The process quite reasonably includes a combination of ballot counts conducted with and without the assistance of automation.
The Florida process is reasonable and trustworthy. The Florida Legislature exercised its constitutionally reserved discretion when deciding that presidential electors are to be selected by popular vote in accordance with the state's election laws.
There is a simple reason that Florida law, and the law in many other states, calls for a careful check by real people of the machine results in elections like this one. The reason? Machines can sometimes misread or fail to detect the way ballots are cast. And when there are serious doubts, checking the machine count with a careful hand count is accepted far and wide as the best way to know the true intentions of the voters. That is why there have already been partial or complete hand counts not just in two Democratic counties in Florida, but in six Republican counties as well.
We need a resolution that is fair and final. We need to move expeditiously to the most complete and accurate count that is possible.
That is why I have believed from the start that while time is important, it is even more important that every vote is counted and counted accurately. Because there's something very special about our process that depends totally on the American people having a chance to express their will without any intervening interference. That's really what is at stake here.
And so that's what I'm focused on, not the contest, but our democracy, to make sure that the process works the way our founders intended it to work.
Look, I would not want to win the presidency by a few votes cast in error or misinterpreted or not counted, and I don't think Governor Bush wants that either.
So having enough patience to spend the days necessary to hear exactly what the American people have said is really the most important thing, because that is what honors our Constitution and redeems the promise of our democracy.
And for the Republican majority in the Florida legislature, now unfortunately encouraged by Governor Jeb Bush, to say that they are prepared to put their judgment in place of the judgment of the six million voters of Florida, as it is expressed in a process that has been ordained by the highest court of Florida, is just wrong and sets a terrible precedent.
I do think this action by the Florida legislature really threatens the credibility and legitimacy of the ultimate choice of electors in Florida. It threatens to put us into a constitutional crisis, which we are not in now by any stretch of the word. And I just want to appeal to Governor Jeb Bush and the members of the Florida legislature to reconsider this action.
We know there’s a lot of emotion swirling around the election and the results in Florida, but we’re talking here about the integrity of the selection of a president of the United States. We’re talking about history and the precedent that everything we do this year will set for those who follow us in years ahead. I just think it would be a terrible mistake for our country if the Florida legislature and Governor Bush went ahead and did what they said they’re going to do. And I hope they’ll reconsider.
Q: Have you ever doubted yourself in fighting this fight after the election? Have you ever said, “Maybe we should chuck it in”?
A: I honestly have not. I mean, if we come to that moment, we will know it. But this is not about fighting on regardless. Ever since Election night and the next day, all that we have asked is that every vote that was cast be counted. And that’s a simple, and I think very profound, American proposition. And it’s not only important to the people who voted, but it’s important to the next president so he takes office without that cloud over his head. When you’re treated unfairly by the government in the United States of America, what do you do? You go to the courts. And that’s what we’re doing. And we’re not going to carry this on to a point where it will hurt this country.
Q: Do you feel that if every vote in Florida was counted, recounted, they went through everything hand, if they were able to do that, you would win this election?
A: Well, I believe we would. And certainly that’s part of why Al Gore and I are asking for this hand recount--or joining the people in Florida who have asked for it. Remember, we won the popular vote. We’re just three electoral votes short of victory. But on the hand count, honestly, we don’t know how it will end, and that’s why we say just count the votes that have not been counted. And by that, of course, we mean the votes that were put in the machine and nothing registered for president. We think a lot of those people intended to vote, and we just want people to look at them by hand and eye, and decide whether they did indeed vote, and if they did, they ought to be counted.
Q: Senator Lieberman, Vice President Gore told John King today that he thought there’d be a negative reaction if the Florida legislature got involved in this. Do you share that view?
A: Oh, I sure do, Larry. I think that would be terrible. I tell you, one of the most disappointing moments of this whole experience post-election, was the night that the Florida Supreme Court gave it’s decision saying that these hand counts of these counties should go forward and the secretary of state should count them. And folks from the Bush campaign immediately talked about going to the Florida legislature. That would set a terrible precedent. I mean, this is all about the rule of law, established procedures. The courts can interpret statutes then reflect the votes of the people who took the time to go to the polls to vote.
When I say it would be a terrible precedent, if, in fact, as we expect, the Florida electors will be chosen and certified by December 12th, and let’s say they’re our electors because the counts have gone forward and show that we won the state, what an awful precedent it would be for the Florida legislature to go ahead and choose its own electors. Because it would set a precedent that would say in another state in the next election, if the legislature is controlled by one party, the presidential candidate of another party carries the state, the legislature could them come up with some reason to send its own electors to Washington and frustrate the will of the majority of voters in the state. That’s not right.
In thousands of hours of work by hundreds of citizens of Florida, Republicans and Democrats and independents alike are being ignored. What is at issue here is nothing less than every American's simple, sacred right to vote. How can we teach our children that every vote counts if we are not willing to make a good-faith effort to count every vote?
As we have said all along, we do not know who will prevail, after a full and fair count of every legally cast ballot. But the integrity our self-government is too important to cast into doubt because votes that have been counted, or others that have not yet been counted and clearly should be, have unjustifiably been cast aside. That is why we seek the most complete and accurate count possible.
We have an obligation, not just to the 50 million Americans who cast their votes for Vice President Gore and me, but to every American who voted in this election. They all deserve a fair and just outcome that respects their participation and does not diminish the value of their votes. And we have an obligation to uphold the Constitution we are sworn to uphold. The idea of "one person, one vote" is central to our system of government and must never be compromised.
That concession began a chain of legal events that ended with the conclusion by a majority of the justices of the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday — Dec. 12 — that time had simply run out. Florida recounts could not go on after that date, the justices said, even if they could be conducted constitutionally. Yesterday, legal experts of differing political persuasions said the skirmish over what came to be called "the deadline" proved decisive. But some of them said that under federal law, at least, it was not a deadline, but merely advice by Congress to states about how to assure that their voters' choice for president would be honored.
"It is a promise by Congress that if you do three things a state's electors will be conclusive in Congress" should some other slate claim to be the real one, said a conservative constitutional law professor. To win what has been called the Dec. 12 "safe harbor," states must name electors; must do so under rules enacted before Election Day, and must resolve any contests over who the electors are by six days before the meeting of the Electoral College, which is to meet on Dec. 18.
There is no provision of Florida law specifying a Dec. 12 deadline. But the majority of the justices in the US Supreme Court said the Florida State Legislature meant to gain the "safe harbor" protection for Florida's electors. The four justices in the minority suggested that Florida law provided no such thing. And yesterday, legal experts said that central conclusion of the majority was a debatable legal point.
For the Florida Supreme Court to reach that conclusion in the presidential battle, another constitutional expert said, it would have to decide that Florida law said it was more important to obtain the "safe harbor" protection than it was to complete a recount to see which candidate had won.
While acknowledging the clarifying benefits of hindsight, these lawyers and professors said this failure unnecessarily raised constitutional obstacles that made it far more difficult for Florida's courts to fashion a timely remedy that the Supreme Court might have found tolerable. That error, they said, had been compounded by an earlier misstep by Gore's lawyers — a decision to seek more time to complete the first phase of the counting process. The decision, one on which even Gore's lawyers disagreed, greatly shortened the time available in the second phase to seek a statewide manual recount.
"It had the appearance of being manipulative," one legal expert said. "It had the appearance of making it look as if he didn't want a level playing field. I think it seeped into the way the judicial system perceived things."
Lawyers who followed the court case said today that they were startled by Gore's decision not to formally petition the Florida courts for a manual statewide recount. Instead, Gore had only made the offer to Bush in a televised address nearly a month ago. Bush rejected the offer, and Gore's lawyers did not pursue it in court, even though they were invited to do just that during oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court. [Gore’s attorney David] Boies told the Florida justices that the vice president would "accept" a statewide recount, but added, "We are not urging that upon the court."
Later, as today's deadline approached for naming Florida's electors, Gore's lawyers were reluctant to push hard in any court for a statewide recount, they said. To propose so huge an undertaking, they feared, would only provide Bush's lawyers with unlimited possibilities for delaying tactics. "We were reluctant to get involved in anything that could slow us down," Dexter Douglass, another of Gore's lawyers, said. "Our focus was on moving our winnable case."
David Boies, Gore's chief lawyer, said, "Obviously we think the dissent had it right," [referring to the 4 Supreme Court justices who voted against the stay]. "But the fact of the matter is that the basis of the stay is saying: We don't want this count to go forward and then have us overrule it, because that will be something that will cast in doubt the legitimacy of the presidency."
The split between the two camps on the high court was complete, with Justice Stevens, writing for the minority, arguing that granting the stay might well "be tantamount to a decision on the merits…. Preventing the recount from being completed will inevitably cast a cloud on the legitimacy of the election."
Even delaying the recount could cost Gore his chance to demonstrate by Tuesday's deadline that he is entitled to Florida's electoral votes. Federal statute requires that electors be definitively chosen by Dec. 12 if they are to be immune from challenge, and a final ruling from the Supreme Court cannot now come in time for the manual recounts of thousands of ballots by then.
Added another Gore aide, "This is what we wanted to see—people counting votes." The aide said the Gore camp was particularly delighted that the Miami-Dade ballots would be counted by judges, which would help remove any taint of partisanship.
A: This case is going to wind up in the Florida Supreme Court, one way or another. I think the American people understand that. And that’s certainly where we’re headed. As for what the U.S. Supreme Court did today, I think that it made it very clear that it was neither agreeing or disagreeing with the Florida Supreme Court, but merely sending it back for more clarification. And as a result, I don’t think it’s a win for either camp. I think it’s a no-decision, and leaves this questions for another day. And that day is not some day off far in the future, but a day that’s coming very soon, when this entire matter is brought to the Florida Supreme Court for its resolution.
Q: In the end, this U.S. Supreme Court decision has to be a disappointment. I mean, your reaction has to be something of disappointment that we’re not moving forward.
A: I don’t consider it a disappointment or a positive development; I consider it a neutral development. This court could have done one of three things: It could have ruled for us, it could have ruled against us or it could have done what it did today, which is to say there isn’t enough here for us to decide, go back to the Florida Supreme Court, get a clear ruling from the Florida Supreme Court, and then we’ll look at it then. And from our perspective, that’s neither good news or bad news, it’s just no news. And so, we’ll proceed with what is the heart of this matter, which is the counting of those 14,000 ballots that are yet to be counted. We’re before Judge Sauls on that.
VOTING MACHINE EXPERT KIMBALL BRACE: Yes. Each machine has a plastic template. And it’s important to look at the usage around the plastic template, particularly in various spots on the template itself. What I was observing, particularly in one particular precinct that had a very high undervote, was, in fact, scratches on the template, which is caused by the type of stylus that is used in West Palm Beach with those equipment. I observed on several of the devices, scratches on the ballot page itself, which would indicate a ballot being put on top of it. In fact, the other observation that I made is that on the Palm Beach butterfly ballot, that if you place the ballot on the card on top, and you go to push for Al Gore, which is number five, the arrow points to that seven position. And when you push on that seven position, it would create a dimple.
ZACK: I want you to answer specifically the ways that an indentation can be made, from your own personal observations.
BRACE: Yes. From my own personal observations, there’s actually four ways that an indentation could be made. We just demonstrated one of them, when the ballot is placed on top of the machine. It is also possible that an indentation is made if in fact the machines are not cleaned out on a regular basis and there’s chad buildup, and therefore the voter may not be able to push down as firmly. The third reason is that those rubber strips, if they’re not properly maintained, may become old, brittle, hard and keep a voter, particularly an older voter, from pushing all the way down.
And so the rubber strips could cause an indentation by being too hard and your not being able to push through the chad. And then, finally, the throat on that template is like a funnel, and I have observed that if you put that stylus in on a slight angle instead of straight up and down, then that will actually create a dimple, an indentation in the card, but you’re kind of caught part way into that throat and you can’t create the full vote by pushing out the chad.
The critical question is are there votes out there from which a review of the ballot can discern the intent of the voter. A manual review of the ballot can discern the intent of the voter, that the machine can’t read. And we know that [from numerous expert witnesses and case law].
In Miami-Dade we have two groups of ballots. We have the 338 ballots that the Miami-Dade Canvassing Board counted. The second group of ballots in Miami-Dade are the 9,000 ballots that have never been counted by a human being. These are the ballots that have been counted only by machine and the court knows from the undisputed evidence before the court that the machine is going not to count a significant number of ballots from which the clear intent of the voter can be discerned. So what needs to be done with those 9,000 ballots? We think the answer’s obvious. They need to be counted. They need to be reviewed.
JUSTICE O’CONNOR: It had to register somehow with the Florida courts that that statute was there and that it might be in the state’s best interest not to go around changing the law after the election.
TRIBE: Well, Justice O’Connor, I certainly agree that if the Florida Supreme Court adverted to 3 U.S.C., Section 5, and, as Justice Kennedy asked earlier, got it wrong, then there would be a federal issue for this court.
O’CONNOR: Well, is there a federal issue if the court doesn’t advert to it?
TRIBE: No. The answer is no.
O’CONNOR: And [the Constitution’s] Article II, which, after all, does give the legislature plenary power and must have wanted to have the laws in place so that Florida wouldn’t risk losing its electoral votes. And perhaps the Florida court has to be aware of the consequences to the state of changing the rules.
TRIBE: But Justice O’Connor, under Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, the authority to regulate the manner of the choice of electors is vested in the state legislature. If the state legislature decides from the beginning to exercise that authority by instructing the various institutions -- certainly not just the courts, the attorney general, the secretary of state -- in very particular ways.
Gore attorneys have kept their distance from the lawsuit because they are arguing in other cases that every vote should count. The suit in this wealthy, fast-growing suburban county northeast of Orlando instead asks that thousands of ballots be thrown out.
Behind the problem are the thousands of absentee ballot applications mailed out statewide by Florida's political parties. A printing glitch in a printer used by Republicans stripped the required voter-identification number from about 80 percent of the ballot applications the party mailed out in Seminole County. According to the lawsuit, Goard's staffers set aside the applications missing voter IDs so they could destroyed later. But sometime in October, a GOP official called and asked if someone could come in and add the voter IDs to the applications. Goard agreed. Leach showed up at her office shortly afterward with a laptop computer, added the numbers and turned them in. The applications were processed and absentee ballots were mailed out.
Democrats are outraged, saying Goard had never before allowed anyone outside her office to add voter IDs. A state law passed after Miami's fraudulent 1997 mayoral race says only the voter, an immediate family member or legal guardian may fill out an absentee ballot request. Democrats also say they were never notified about the arrangement and weren't given the same opportunity. There was no indication any ballot applications sent out by Democrats were missing voter ID numbers.
The lawsuit asks that all 15,000 absentee ballots cast in Seminole County be thrown out because there is no way to tell which ones involved applications handled by Leach. GOP candidate George W. Bush received 4,797 more absentee ballots than Gore in the predominantly Republican county. If the lawsuit is successful, the vice president would easily surpass Bush's 537-vote margin in the overall state tally.
Republicans and Goard's attorneys say they didn't break the law. "Any person can assist the voter in filling it out and can present the application to the supervisor's office," said Barry Richard, an attorney for Seminole County.
Whoever wins is not material to may argument. Obviously, we think and hope that the vice president, when they count these votes, will be the winner in Florida. But we don't know that until they're counted, and neither does anybody else. I see where people just seem to assume that if you count these votes our client wins. If you don't count them, [but] hold them off, our client loses, [and] the country loses if we hold this off.
The only fair thing to do, Your Honor, and we urge the court to do it, is to move this on this schedule or one that gives the time to take this case to the Supreme Court, file the brief, have it heard and have them make the final decision on this before the 12th. And then that is the only way we can do this and obtain the final result that will reflect the will of the entire voters of the state of Florida.
I don't think anybody, including Your Honor, thinks that this is the final stop if we can get a final decision. It's going to the Supreme Court and there we will be. That's the basis for our motion to move this expedited scheduling order.
Now, you know, kind of like a football game, it's easier to drag around to get back to the line of scrimmage if you're on the defense and trying to kill the clock than it is to get everybody lined up. And, you know, they do that. And that happens all the time. So it's easier to kill the clock than it is to move the ball. We need to move the ball. And the referee should keep the game going and make them get off the ground or throw a penalty flag.
Such canons effectuate the legislation's purpose; they do not create new law. Hence, this Court has recognized that employing these canons does not constitute forbidden judicial lawmaking, for they are merely "part of the established background of legal principles against which all enactments are adopted, and which all enactments (absent contrary indication) are deemed to accept." ... Nor, of course, were these canons of construction newly minted by the Florida Supreme Court. Long before the instant election, that court was established as the supreme expositor of Florida law.
Moreover, not even petitioner Bush challenges the principal undercurrents supporting the State Supreme Court's decision: the state constitutional right to have one's vote counted and the virtue of reconciling competing statutory provisions. At bottom, all petitioner can really claim is that, in his view, the Florida Supreme Court got Florida law wrong. But a "mere error of state law is not a denial of due process."
A: Well, there may be a difference of opinion about that. You have a situation in which Judge Lewis has already ruled that the deadline that the secretary of state set, which was 5 p.m. Tuesday was an arbitrary deadline. In other words, the only deadline that the secretary of state has set is a deadline that Judge Lewis already has ruled to be inappropriate. That isn't even something that needs to be decided tomorrow. The second point is that I think it's very unlikely that the Florida Supreme Court would have directed that these recounts go forward if all they meant was to do--was to preserve the votes for history. This is a situation in which every time the courts have looked at this issue, the courts have said, "Let the recount go forward, because the people have voted and we want to know how they voted and we want to take those votes into account."
Q: If the Florida Supreme Court has spoken clearly about counting votes, why would they have called it an interim order? And why, given the fact that these votes that they didn't specify? One of the things that you asked was for a clear cut thing to say the secretary of state or the attorney general was wrong. They didn't rule on that at all.
A: I think what the Supreme Court did was ruled on the only issue that was directly in front of it, and courts are wont to do that. Parties often ask the courts to give them guidance; courts usually refuse to give advisory opinions. What the court did was rule directly on the single issue that was directly presented to it by Palm Beach. And it ruled quite unambiguously that these counts ought to go forward. Yesterday, of course, the Supreme Court rejected the secretary of state's petition that said, "Stop these counts." We of course came out and said, "Well, that means that they mean for it to go forward." The other side said, "No, all it means is that we get to go to a lower court." Here today, the Supreme Court was explicit and unambiguous: Those votes are to be counted.
Q: You believe this includes more than Palm Beach County and you also believe this mandates Katherine Harris to include the Palm Beach County votes in the final tally?
A: No, what the Supreme Court decided was that there was no legal impediment to the votes being counted, and that they should go forward in Palm Beach
Now that the legal hurdles have been cleared, the counting can resume in Palm Beach, continue in Broward, and be reviewed in Dade. We urge these counties to conduct these recounts as quickly as is possible.
The delays have been largely the product of lawsuits filed by Republicans or erroneous legal opinions from the secretary of state. With these obstacles gone, we hope that the counts can be finished in the next few days.
We think it is particularly significant that the Florida Supreme Court sent a clear signal to the counties that their counts can continue, notwithstanding the secretary's efforts to terminate those counts three times in the past three days.
Judge Lewis set aside the effort to terminate the counts Tuesday at 5 p.m. The Florida Supreme Court rejected the secretary of state's application that cut off the counts yesterday morning. And now the court has said that the counts can go forward in spite of the order of last night to cut off these counts.
The Florida Supreme Court has spoken: The counts can continue, notwithstanding the secretary of state's deadline.
In the end, our goal remains clear and simple: Let the will of the people be done by having the votes of the people of Florida. We hope the secretary of state will not try to impose other obstacles in the path of this count and we hope that the counties will complete these counts as fast as humanly possible
A: At this point we have seen plenty of public opinion polls that seem to indicate that the American people are obviously not concerned to the degree that one would think that there's any great urgency here. They understand the system is working. They seem to be very pleased to see, according to the public polls, the system working its way through, and seem to be pleased with the fact that this is being done in the way that it is, open. None of us, I think are pleased that we're in the state that we're in, in that the nation does not know at this point who the president-elect is. But there is a president, there is a system. The Electoral College doesn't meet till the end of--towards the end of December. The inauguration isn't until January. So we don't have a presidential--president-elect yet, but we will have one.
Added another Gore aide, "This is what we wanted to see—people counting votes." The aide said the Gore camp was particularly delighted that the Miami-Dade ballots would be counted by judges, which would help remove any taint of partisanship.
Even in the moments after a judge ruled against Democrats in the Seminole and Martin County absentee ballot cases on Friday afternoon, Gore told his media adviser, Mr. Eskew, that he still thought he would win. Some members of the team were talking about conceding, but not Gore.
"He said, 'I still have a strong belief and confidence in the superior court and I think we're going to prevail,'" said Eskew, who recalled answering Gore with, "I hope you're right."
Before he was proven right late Friday afternoon, when the Florida Supreme Court revived his chances, Gore was being compared to an isolated, deluded Richard Nixon talking to the paintings in his final days in the White House.
Now though, Eskew and others in the Gore camp argue that the determination that has been taken for a stubborn refusal to face the facts will eventually, and more properly, be seen as a sign of Gore's leadership. "It's a sign of being presidential, sticking to your guns despite very bleak days," Eskew said. "I think it may be time for a little revisionism on this guy. Maybe for the last few weeks he's been pretty presidential."
Several aides noted that Gore had always thought that Democrats would lose the Seminole and Martin County cases—though none of them were saying this before those cases were dismissed Friday.
There is no question that Gore himself has been in complete charge of his campaign since Election Day. After a campaign that even some supporters said lacked a coherent message, he not only found one but stuck with it: Count every vote. Some of his own advisers lament that he was not like this more often before the election.
A: It’s late innings, but it’s far from over. We’re waiting for three very important court decisions: first, the Supreme Court of the United States. Second, the proceeding that’s now going on in Tallahassee, Florida, in Judge Sauls’ court, where we’re seeking a recount by hand of the votes cast in two important counties. And third, there is still the proceeding there in Tallahassee before a different judge involving the absentee ballots from Seminole county and another county in Florida. So it’s certainly far too early to concede with those three proceedings going forward.
Q: If [Judge Sauls] rules against you down there in Florida, then will Al Gore say it’s time to go?
A: Either way Judge Sauls’ court goes, it will probably be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. And then the Seminole County matter, which is in a different court, that could have a very important result as well. So, as I say, it’s late innings, but the contest is not over. I can assure you that the vice president, when the time comes, will concede in a very gracious way. He understands his obligations to the people of the country.
At the very time the hearing was going on in Miami this morning, Florida's secretary of state told us she intends to claim authority under Florida law to stop the counting of ballots in the presidential election. She's going to stop it, she said, tomorrow evening. We regard this action as being both arbitrary and unreasonable, particularly in light of these three facts.
First, the hand counting of voting here in Florida is proceeding under Florida law, as the secretary of state herself has acknowledged.
Second, due to the need to count the votes coming from overseas, the election results themselves cannot be certified until at least next Saturday.
And, finally, under Florida law, the secretary has discretion to delay the certification of the elections. She has authority to suspend the time, to agree to a longer period of time. It's hard to understand why, under the circumstance, the secretary of state would act to deny thousands, and perhaps more than that, votes that Floridians have asked to be considered. Her plan, I'm afraid, has the look of an effort to produce a particular result in the election, rather than to ensure that the voice of all the citizens of the state would be heard. It also looks like a move in the direction of partisan politics, and away from a non-partisan administration of the election laws.
We intend to seek a court order not to deny the counting of votes, but rather to allow the lawful counting to go to its completion. And I emphasize that we are making our move in the state court, not in the federal court. We're making a move we think which is essential to protect the right of votes to be counted in this state. We want only enough time to permit the completion of the hand counting of the votes, which may only be a few days.
Let me tell you what we are doing and are going to do. We've entered the action today that was filed by Volusia County here in Tallahassee. We're going to be joining the county in asking the court to stop the secretary of state from ending the vote counting on next Tuesday night, tomorrow night.
We participated in a hearing this afternoon before the state court judge. And at his direction, we're going to be filing additional papers later today.
We call upon all the counties that have begin to have hand counts to continue just as they are now doing--Volusia, Palm Beach County, Dade and Broward County. We want them to proceed with the procedures that each of them has annunciated, which, as you know, are at different parts of the process.
I want to conclude here, I want to stress several facts. First, Al Gore is ahead in the popular vote with the largest number of votes ever cast for a president in a presidential election, save in one instance. Second, Al Gore is leading at the present time in the electoral count. And finally, we believe down deep that if the views of the Florida voters is truly known, it will turn out that Al Gore has more votes than others here in Florida.
He ticked off a series of electoral miscues and official acts that he alleged resulted in a persistent and pervasive pattern of discrimination against minority voters by a redneck establishment. "They still keep these chains," local voting officials operated under the nostrum of "your pain, my gain," contended the rhyming preacher. "We deserve better than that. We will never surrender."
No bloc is more outraged by the pattern of official conduct in Florida than black America, which voted better than 9 to 1 for Gore. Jackson and millions of others seem convinced that black votes were systematically excluded in Florida.
No doubt some of the complaints about Florida can be written off as sour grapes. First-time voters confused by the infamous "butterfly ballot" or unaware that they shouldn't vote for more than one ticket are out of luck, and better luck next time. But other complaints are more substantial. Just why did the police set up a traffic stop that halted 150 cars on the road leading to a black church where thousands of blacks were voting? Why didn't authorities do something about the long lines and inadequate number of voting booths in predominantly black districts?
And details are just emerging about the systematic effort by Katherine Harris, the Republican secretary of state, to purge the voting rolls of thousands of registered black voters, using an obscure state law dating from the post-Civil War Reconstruction era that bars felons from voting. Some black voters guilty of no more than a misdemeanor were wrongly excluded, and in some cases innocent voters were stripped of their right to vote, caught by surprise at the polls.
"It's maddening -- just outrageous! – that you work your head off, you win it, and then you're told, 'Sorry, you don't make it to the White House,'" Michael S. Dukakis, who ran for president and lost to Bush's father by 7 million votes in 1988, said when asked about Gore's plight.
"What is it like to lose? The answer is lousy," said Dukakis. "But this is different. Gore won. I feel worse about this than my own loss."
The Washington Post reported yesterday that its computer analysis found the more black and Democratic a precinct, the more likely a high number of presidential votes were not counted. About 2.9 percent of Florida’s presidential ballots, roughly 180,000, were not counted because no candidate was chosen, two candidates were picked, or a ballot was not clearly marked. Traditionally, 2 percent of ballots cast nationwide do not record a presidential vote. In Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, roughly 3 percent of ballots were excluded from the presidential tally. But in precincts with a black population of 70 percent or more, about 10 percent were not counted.
“I think both campaigns have filed legal actions and we have the time to have those heard,” said Clinton, who endorsed Gore’s position in the dispute. “I believe that it certainly is important that every American have the confidence that his or her vote is counted and certainly in Florida there are questions about votes that haven’t been counted. I think those should be resolved,” she said.
America’s government institutions, including the presidency, are “strong and resilient” enough to weather the current dispute, Clinton said. She added that Gore as well as his Republican rival, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, would “certainly be able to hit the ground running” after taking office.
President Franklin Roosevelt once said, "Democracy is not a static thing; it is an everlasting march." Our founders may not have foreseen every challenge in the march of democracy, but they crafted a Constitution that would.
The people have spoken. 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.
I want to congratulate both Vice President Gore and Governor Bush for a vigorous and hard-fought campaign. Once again, the world has seen democracy in action.
The events unfolding in Florida are not a sign of the division of our nation, but of the vitality of our debate, which will be resolved through the vibrancy of our Constitution and laws. Regardless of the outcome, we will come together as a nation, as we always do.
The above quotations are from the Gore Campaign on the Florida Recount.
Click here for quotes from the Bush campaign.
Click here for Supreme Court and other official quotes.
Al Gore on other issues:
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