Text: James A. Baker III on Florida
Thursday, November 9, 2000
Following is the transcript of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III,
a campaign adviser to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, on the recount of ballots in
the Florida presidential election.
BAKER: Former Secretary Christopher on behalf of the Gore campaign will be
meeting with the secretary of state later on today, which of course is quite
appropriate and correct.
We had a full discussion of a lot of the issues surrounding this recount process.
It's--I know the position of the secretary of state is certainly the position
of Governor George W. Bush, that we would like to see this process carried out
in a very transparent, open, deliberate way, as expeditiously as possible, of
course, given the national interests. But in keeping, fully in keeping with
the requirements of the law of Florida. We feel quite confident that that's
the way the process has been conducted so far. And we're hopeful, of course,
that that's the way it's going to be concluded sometime during the course of
Now, I'll take a few questions, but I can't be here too long.
QUESTION: At what point, Secretary, do you consider Governor Bush president-elect?
At what point will that come?
BAKER: Well, you're jumping the gun here, because we have to first complete
the recount. And then--and then, we have to--and completing the recount may
very well depend upon what happens with respect to overseas ballots. It depends
upon where the parties--where the two candidates stand at the conclusion of
today's recount. So you really can't answer that question.
QUESTION: ... 10 days after the election, November 17?
BAKER: Well, we don't know that. We do not know at this hour, this afternoon,
whether it will require waiting until November 17 or not. This is a quirk of
Florida law. We're dealing with the law of Florida here, and we're going to
respect it and operate accordingly, as I'm quite confident are the officials
of the state of Florida and the Gore campaign.
QUESTION: Is there any evidence of fraud?
BAKER: I have not heard any--I have certainly not seen any evidence of fraud,
and I have not heard any specific allegations about fraud.
QUESTION: What about the ballot in Palm Beach County some voters said was
BAKER: The ballot in Palm Beach County that has been alleged to be confusing
is a ballot that has been used before in Florida elections; it is a ballot that
was approved by an elected Democratic official; it is a ballot that was published
in newspapers in that county and provided to the candidates, to the respective
political parties, in advance of the election in order that complaints, if any,
could be registered.
And, hey, guess what? There were no complaints until after the election.
So it's not--so it's a ballot that's been used before; it was approved by
an elected Democratic official; and there were no complaints when, in accordance
with Florida law, everybody had a chance to complain.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what about Broward County, 14,000 punched ballots
that don't count in Broward? Not Palm Beach, Broward County?
BAKER: Well, you're raising the very same question. But let me just say on
the issue of ballots that are disqualified, if that's what your question is,
there's not a jurisdiction in this democracy of ours that does not discard ballots
where a voter votes twice for two different candidates for the same office.
That's what happens in our democracy. If that's what happened here, I don't
see how you can count those ballots.
QUESTION: Do you have any plans to meet with Warren Christopher?
QUESTION: Do you have any plans to meet...
BAKER: I'm very hopeful...
QUESTION: ... with Warren Christopher?
BAKER: I'm very hopeful to meet with Secretary Christopher, whom I know very
well, my--one of my successors. We're actually good friends, and I hope to meet
with him this afternoon.
QUESTION: At what time and where?
BAKER: Where we're going to meet with him? I'm going to meet with him this
afternoon. And I'd prefer to have the meeting--make the meeting a private meeting,
and then maybe we can comment, both of us or one of us, after that meeting is
QUESTION: What does this do, this controversy going on, in our ability--our
standing in the world, do you think, right now?
BAKER: Well, it's--we cannot argue that it is good, but our democracy is strong.
It's one--one of the real strengths of this country is the fact that we pass
power, we transition power peacefully, we resolve our disputes in a responsible
That's why it is so important that we complete this process today, and that
we, following that--and by the way, I've not heard one complaint about the conduct--at
least as yet, not one--about the conduct of the recount. There may be some complaints,
but I haven't heard them.
That's why it's so important that we complete this, because the presidential
election, of course, is on hold, and that affects the position of the United
States in a number of different ways, particularly internationally.
BAKER: Thank you.