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Text: Palm Beach Election Official Reacts to Denial of Extension
Sunday, November 26, 2000

Following is the transcript of Judge Charles Burton of the Palm Beach Canvassing Board's news conference following Secretary of State Katherine Harris's denial of his request for an extension on hand recounts.

BURTON: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I just want to make a little announcement, if I may.

As all of you know, we have been working very hard here the past couple of weeks, in an effort to complete this recount. And working through most of the evening last night, we were hopeful that we were going to be able to completely finish this recount.

As you know, earlier this afternoon, we had sent a letter to the secretary of state, seeking their permission to extend the deadline till 9 a.m. Monday. Quite honestly, we felt that the Supreme Court of Florida, in issuing its opinion, had set Sunday evening at 5 p.m. as the deadline, but in addition said that if the secretary of state's office wasn't going to be open that we could have until 9 a.m., or they must accept them by 9 a.m. on Monday.

It seemed to me that the decision was one that afforded the secretary of state discretion. Whether she gets the results at 5 p.m. this evening or she gets them by 9 a.m. tomorrow, I'm not quite sure there's a difference.

Notwithstanding, the secretary of state has apparently decided not to exercise her discretion. And a short time ago, we received the following letter:

"Dear Judge Burton: I am in receipt of your request for an extension for filing amended returns until 9 a.m. tomorrow, as well as your verbal request for an extension beyond 5 p.m. this evening."

And I will tell you that I personally spoke with Clay Roberts, who is the director of the division of elections, explained that there were an awful lot of great people who had been breaking their behinds for about 20 hours a day the past two weeks, and if he could give us until 7, 7:30 this evening, we would be able to finish.

And the letter goes on: "Page 40 of its decision in the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board v. Harris, et al, decided last Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court stated accordingly and in order to allow maximum time for a contest pursuant to Section 102-168, amended certification must be filed with the Elections Canvassing Commission by 5 p.m. on Sunday, November 26, 2000, and the secretary of state. The Elections Canvassing Commission shall accept any such certifications received by 5 p.m. on Sunday, November 26, 2000, provided that the office of the secretary of state, division of elections, is open in order to allow receipt thereof.

"In a memorandum from this office to you dated Wednesday, November 22, you were informed that the office would be open to receive amended certifications up until 5 p.m. on November 26, 2000. This office is in fact open today to receive amended certifications and has received amended certifications during the day both by facsimile transmission and by hand delivery. Moreover, this office will remain open for the purpose of receiving such amended certifications until 5 p.m. today.

"Therefore, in accordance with the explicit terms of the decision by the Florida Supreme Court, your request for filing an amended certification after 5 p.m. today is denied."

So the secretary of state has apparently decided to shut us down with approximately two hours perhaps left to go. And that's how she chose to exercise her discretion.

We believe there are approximately 800 to 1,000 ballots left to count. So unfortunately, at this time, we have no other choice but then to shut down. The supervisor of elections needs to hurriedly gather all the paperwork and prepare to file the returns that we have. We certainly don't want to get anything in there at 5:01, so we're going to the best we can.

Thank you all very much.

(BREAK IN EVENT)

BURTON: I think we are all in agreement that we are going to send the report to the secretary of state as to the returns that we have, and this board has decided that we are going to remain here and finish the recount, and we are going to send whatever figures we have to the secretary of state, and it will be up to her whether or not she decides to accept those,

Yes, sir?

REPUBLICAN PARTY COUNSEL: On behalf of Governor Bush, we very respectfully recognize the hard work of the board, but we must note our objections. The Supreme Court has ruled, and has suggested that these certifications be in at five o'clock. Notwithstanding that ruling, to the extent that we are here, we will sit with you and complete the process, to the extent that you are personally invested in completing this, but of course, Florida law says that the certification has to be in at five o'clock, and I think we must respect that ruling.

BURTON: All right, thank you. Your objection is noted. I appreciate the fact that you are going to stay.

Counsel from the Democratic side, going to stay and join us?

DEMOCRAT PARTY COUNSEL: Yes, Your Honor.

BURTON: All right, thank you all very much. Well, we'll be here, and we will finish this count after five o'clock. As soon as the figures are faxed to the secretary of state, I assume some information will be provided to you as to where we're at. And then the board will remain, and hopefully in the next hour and a half, two hours, complete the process. And as I said, we'll go ahead and send up a return up there, and if the secretary accepts it, that's fine; that'll be up to her, the amended returns, after that.

So thank you all.


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