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Florida 2000
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Text: Fla. Secretary of State Spokeswoman
Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Following is the transcript of Donna Blanton, a spokeswoman for Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, on the judge's decision to hold counties to a deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday for hand counting ballots.

BLANTON: Good afternoon. My name is Donna Blanton. I'm an attorney with the law firm of Steel Hector & Davis here in Florida. We represent the Department of State.

I'm going to read a short statement. We'll have copies available for you. There also will be a later statement this evening, probably by Secretary Harris or someone from the Division of Elections.

From the beginning, the secretary of state has acted in accordance with existing Florida law and statute. Her decisions have been motivated by a respect for these laws as enacted by the Florida legislature on behalf of the people of Florida.

The secretary is pleased with the decision by Judge Lewis today, but not surprised. The judge recognized that the law requires any county canvassing board to certify their returns by 5 today. The secretary expects all 67 county canvassing boards to do so.

But, as Judge Lewis indicated in his opinion, if any county canvassing board subsequently desires to amend their return, the secretary will evaluate that request on applicable facts and circumstances.

From this point forward, it is the intention of the secretary to preform her duties in connection with the certification of this election in the normal manner of any election for any office in the state of Florida. Therefore, the secretary continues to anticipate the final certification of Florida's presidential election after certification of the overseas ballots due on midnight Friday.

I'll be happy to take a few questions.

QUESTION: Right here. Right here.

QUESTION: Could you...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I've been working with you guys for a week now.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: How long do you feel that you have to consider taking these--if someone has a hand count and brings it in? Up until Friday, is that the time? Do you think under the order you have to keep considering it?

BLANTON: I think what the order says is that the secretary will consider each situation based on the individual facts and circumstances of that situation. We anticipate the results being filed by 5 today by all the counties. If there are counties that do not do that, we'll consider the individual circumstances that are raised in that request. We don't, at the moment, know what those are.

QUESTION: This judge seems to have some put it in your discretion. It has been your--the secretary's discretion before that Palm Beach, for example, should have their ballots in by 5. Should that be an indication of where the secretary's discretion is on this issue?

BLANTON: The law says, and the judge upheld this in his order, that the county canvassing boards, their results must be in to the state by 5 today. That's what we've said all along and the judge upheld that.

He then said, if there are situations where they cannot get it in by 5 and they want to get it in later, it's then in her discretion to consider all the facts and circumstances surrounding that request that they be considered after the fact. And she'll certainly do that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)...

QUESTION: "Facts and circumstances," quote, unquote, don't mean anything to most people who are watching this. What specifically would cause the secretary of state to allow some manual ballots to come in? And do you still anticipate that on Saturday you'll know who won Florida?

BLANTON: We do anticipate at this time that we'll be able to certify the election after the overseas absentee ballots are in. Obviously, we can't predict--this has been a very strange process, we've all been a part of. So we can't predict everything that might happen. But we're not going to speak to what facts or what circumstances would constitute her to exercise her discretion in a particular fashion, because, we don't know at the moment what counties may say to us after 5 today.

We anticipate they'll all get their results to us. If they don't, I'm sure they'll have an explanation as to why they cannot. And at that time, she'll evaluate each of those requests on their merits.

QUESTION: Is what you're saying essentially these counties may have perhaps until Friday to get their manual counts in, if the secretary deems that appropriate, but on Saturday, we're going to know who won the state?

BLANTON: We anticipate knowing on Saturday who won the state, when all the absentee ballots are in.

QUESTION: Should we take this as an understanding that she will consider her discretion to allow until Friday for the votes to come in, she will count those, and that there will be no abdication of discretion?

BLANTON: She anticipates them coming in by 5 today. And I want to be very clear about that. If they don't come in at 5 today, I assume the counties will come forward with a reason why they did not, and she will evaluate those reasons based on what the counties tell her.

But we anticipate that the counties will comply with the law and get the results in by 5 tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Will she now consider them in a different way than she would have before the ruling? Before, she said it was ironclad, nothing after. Now, she seems to be saying, no ironclad.

BLANTON: I don't think so. I think what we've said all along is that she believes the legislature said what the law is about 5 on Tuesday, and that we had some discretion under the law to exercise. The judge agreed with that. So I think our position is essentially the same.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) something that she considers in her discretion? Is that something that she feels she's already addressed?

BLANTON: The manual recount, basically, is addressed in the statute. It's a provision that's up to the county canvassing board, not up to Secretary Harris.

STAFF: Thank you very much.


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