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Text: Daschle, Gephardt Press Conference
Monday, November 27, 2000

Following is the transcript of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's news conference following a telephone call with Vice President Gore and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.

DASCHLE: Good morning. Congressman Gephardt and I are here this morning to again articulate the strong support we find in both of our caucuses for the effort Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman to get a fair and full count.

We are motivated by many factors. First and foremost, the belief that the only way to ensure ultimate success in this election is to acquire the best possible count that we can.

We believe, as now most people recognize, that the fact that the vice president has already won the popular vote by some 300,000 votes should be noted. We are motivated by the fact that there are 9,000 in Miami-Dade that have not been counted. We're motivated by the realization that there are 4,000 votes in Palm Beach that have not been counted in the same way they've been counted elsewhere in the state. We're motivated, as well, by the fact that with each count the vice president picks up more votes. We are absolutely confident that if all the votes are counted, the vice president wins.

The vice president not once, not twice, but on three occasions has said very simply: I will live with the results of the entire count within the state. The Supreme Court supported that position. It is with great regret that the Republicans have refused to acknowledge that offer or to accept it.

I think it is important to note that someday, sometime, every single vote in Florida will be counted. At some point, somebody will count all of these votes. We think it's important that it be done before the electors make their decision.

We think it would be tragic for us to come to the realization three or four months from now that the vice president, who had been declared the loser, had actually won by several hundred thousand votes. That fear motivates us to be here today. It is a recognition of the importance of counting every vote now. And we will do all that we can to ensure that that happens.

GEPHARDT: Thanks, Tom.

One of the greatest strengths of our democracy is that we don't decide elections until we know with as much certainty as possible what exactly the American people are saying when they go to the polls and vote. The principle that every vote counts, that the will of the people is paramount is enshrined in our laws, in our Constitution and is at the heart of our experiment with democracy.

We came to Tallahassee this morning because, in my view, the American people need to have confidence that the presidency goes to the candidate who got the most votes. The election results certified yesterday by the Florida secretary of state was incomplete and inaccurate. And it's premature for either side to declare victory or concede, because the fact is all the votes are still not in.

Thousands of people's votes have not been counted or they were counted and ignored in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. So we support the contest filed by the Gore campaign this morning, asking that these votes be duly counted and certified.

This is the right thing to do for the people of Florida, for the people of America, for our democracy.

Let's remember, as Tom said, that Al Gore and Joe Lieberman won the popular vote by over 300,000 votes in the country. And they have a lead; they are three votes shy of a majority of the electoral college. We believe that a full, fair and accurate count will show that they won more votes in Florida, as well.

We are a nation that is governed by laws. The cost of having every vote counted will be measured by our patience, not just as a political party, but as a nation.

We all must continue to be patient so the voice of every voter here in Florida can be heard. Both sides have made clear that this process would continue beyond Sunday's deadline for certification.

Since the Bush campaign brought a case in the United States Supreme Court and filed lawsuits in a number of counties, it is fair and reasonable for the Gore campaign to try to ensure under the law that every vote that should be counted is counted.

I'm also concerned about some of the divisive rhetoric that we've heard here in Florida and the apparent disruption of the vote counting in Miami-Dade. This is not the best way to respect the rule of law. We call on everyone to let the process go forward as allowed by the law, so that we can find out who got the most votes in Florida and who should be our next president. This is in keeping with our democracy, and it's in keeping with the spirit of our institutions and the will of the great people of the United States of America.


QUESTION: If every vote counts, why are the Gore people asking for 50 votes in Nassau County to be deducted to Mr. Bush, Governor Bush and Mr. Cheney? If every vote counts, they're saying that 50 votes should be subtracted from the total that was certified yesterday?

GEPHARDT: I'm not an expert on all the facts. My understanding is that when the last votes came into the secretary of state from Nassau, they simply disregarded 50 or 52 votes that had been in their original recount--I take it, machinery count--in that county. It's inexplicable.

No one can seem to explain why this happened. It goes to our point, we want to see every vote counted that was counted, and not subtraction from votes for no apparent reason.

QUESTION: Don't you think the benefit should go to the voter? I mean, if there're 50 people whose votes aren't going to be counted, who were originally counted, the benefit should go to the voter if there was a mistake. No?

GEPHARDT: No, our understanding was they simply did a recount, I think by machine, I may be wrong, and that showed 52 more votes for Gore-Lieberman. And then when they certified the numbers, sent the numbers to the secretary yesterday, they simply took out the 52 votes for no apparent reason.


QUESTION: Can I ask one general question and one specific question. General question is this: If the Democrats are as united as you say they are, why did you feel the need today to come down here and stage this conference call to then make it appear that you're so united?

DASCHLE: Well, that's easy. We just have felt all along that it was important for us to find ways which to demonstrate our support for the vice president and to his effort. We've done it in other ways before. I have not been done here up until now.

We think this is a critical stage; we think this is a critical moment in the effort. This is not over with until the votes are counted. This is not over with until the courts have decided. And we wanted to say as unequivocally and as strongly as we can that we recognize that it is not over. We couldn't find a better day to say that than right now.

QUESTION: The specific question is this: You mentioned the figure that might have Al Gore up by nine votes. In order to come up with that number, you would have to disregard several hundred absentee ballots from overseas, which add a net of 122 votes for Governor Bush. Vice presidential running mate Lieberman has said that those votes ought to count, the Democratic attorney general of Florida has said that those votes ought to count. Is now the Gore team and the Democrats saying, "No, those votes ought not count."

DASCHLE: Well, your question I think is symptomatic of the situation we're facing right now. You have votes coming in from all directions. And I don't think anybody has an absolute count.

We do know this: We know that the secretary last night avoided counting 537 ballots. We know that in Miami-Dade, the vice president picked up 157. We know that in Palm Beach, he picked up 215 that were not in the certified account. We know that in various counties, including Nassau, there are 174 votes that have not been counted. You take all of those and the vice president is actually ahead.

Now, there are other questions outstanding. And you're right, the military question is one that I think has been largely resolved in terms of how they ought to be counted. Either they ought to have a postmark or they ought to have a signature. The vice president has been willing to take that position, and I believe it's the right now.

QUESTION: For the people who are watching and not partisan on either side and saying there seems to have been a statutory deadline and then a Supreme Court deadline and then a certification, and they're saying: When does this end? Now there's the electoral deadline of December 12 coming up. Are the Democrats prepared by December 12 to call this over?

GEPHARDT: What we want is every vote counted. And everything that has happened has happened according to Florida law. You first have protests; those have been handled, with the Supreme Court getting involved, and other courts. We're through that phase.

Now, as you know, we're at the contest phase, which is all provided for under Florida law. That will take place over the next days.

There is a need, as the Florida Supreme Court set out in its decision, to try to get a resolution for counting all of these votes before December 12, because that's the date on which Florida is supposed to send the names of its electors on for the electoral meeting which takes place I think on December 18.

So that's kind of the time schedule we're on. That is the process that is being followed. But all of this is in law, and all we're trying to do is follow the rule of law.

And as I said in my statement, the Bush campaign has filed lawsuits with the United States Supreme Court and with various courts here in Florida, and they have every right in the world to do that.

So everybody is trying to use our legal process to get to a fair, honest and accurate result.

And as Tom said, wouldn't it be horrible if we just take the numbers that the secretary of state put out last night, without counting 9,000 ballots in Miami-Dade, and then have some academic a month from now, under the Freedom of Information Act, go and get those Miami-Dade ballots and find out that Al Gore and Joe Lieberman really won this election, they had the national popular vote and they had the vote here in Florida.

I don't think we want that to happen in our country, and we can avoid it through these contest procedures.


QUESTION: With the December 12, the reason that's become--and I believe the vice president in the New York Times had indicated that's a day where Florida must, to ensure its electoral--to appoint its electors. Is there a sense that by that date, December 12--I mean, there's always another maneuver on both sides--is there a sense from the Democratic leadership that December 12 is the day where we say Florida must have its electors in, this must be done by December 12?

DASCHLE: I think that this is a matter best left to the Gore campaign and the vice president. He has indicated a willingness to accept the 12th with some finality, but let's look and see what the circumstances are on the 12th.

Clearly, we want to revolve these issues. We don't know how long the Supreme Court will take. We don't know how long the courts will take here in Florida, so there are a lot of questions pertaining to court action that is out of our control. Let's look and see what happens in the courts before we come to any final conclusion about the 12th.

GEPHARDT: Let me just follow up on one point on this whole business of timing. The reason that the votes haven't been counted is because the Bush campaign has been throwing every known roadblock into getting them counted.

And, to go back to what Tom said, if the Bush campaign had accepted two weeks ago what the Gore campaign was offering, which is a recount of all the counties in Florida and let the chips fall where they may, we could have had this done by now.

Miami-Dade finished a fifth of these uncounted ballots and then decided they didn't want to go forward because they didn't have time. They could have done it. It took two days, it's my understanding, to do one-fifth of over 600,000 ballots in Miami-Dade. So if we didn't have all this stopping and intervening and delaying and roadblocking, we could have gotten these votes counted.

It makes you wonder, why don't they want the votes counted? Maybe it's because they think they might not win the vote.

We've got to stop worrying about gaming this thing and trying to figure out who's going to win. Let's just count the ballots and see who wins.


QUESTION: ... having an academic FOIA the ballots and count them. Why wouldn't the party count the votes?

DASCHLE: Well, that's the question. We're being denied the opportunity to count the votes. But somebody will count them, because under the Freedom of Information Act, somebody will obtain all of the ballots and will have the opportunity to do their own meticulous count.

Now, it may happen in January, it may happen in February, but it will happen. And I think that is the fear that most of us live under today.

What if, God forbid, the wrong decision was made simply because we rushed to judgment now. And we'll know whether we rushed to judgment erroneously at some point.



DASCHLE: Well, it may be that. We're not saying that we won't.

QUESTION: Do you sense that the American people are losing patience with this since it keeps dragging on and on?

GEPHARDT: I don't think the American people will lose patience with a process that follows the rule of law and gets to an accurate count. I think everybody wants a fair and accurate count.

Look, if this were a lopsided election, we wouldn't be here. We are here because this was a razor-thin election. This was about as close as an election for president can be.

Now, we've got to be the kind of country, and I think our citizens want us to be the kind of country, that can go through a legal process and decide close elections as well as lopsided elections. That's what we're talking about here, and I think the American people have all the patience in the world to see that this thing is done right and that we get the result that they dictated and that they voted for.


QUESTION: The Washington Post did a survey that they published today; 60 percent of the respondents said Gore should concede, 56 percent said that they're confident that the process has been handled fairly. So why, if the will of the people is paramount, as you have said, should this not be over?

DASCHLE: But the overwhelming evidence among just about every poll taken is that the American people also want a fair and accurate count. Of course they want this over...


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) They are confident the process has been fair.

DASCHLE: Well, I think that when you ask the question, "Do you want a fair and accurate count," the American people overwhelmingly--in fact, Newsweek poll about a week ago, had a poll that indicated it was 72 percent of the American people want a fair and accurate count.

So there may be conflicting data, depending on how the question is asked. But I think the overwhelming sentiment among people all across this country is that they want to be fair and accurate, and that's exactly what we're asking for.

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