Home Search The American Presidency Project
John Woolley and Gerhard Peters Home Data Documents Elections Media Links
• Public Papers of the Presidents
• State of the Union
Addresses & Messages
• Inaugural Addresses
• Weekly Addresses
• Fireside Chats
• News Conferences
• Executive Orders
• Proclamations
• Signing Statements
• Press Briefings
• Statements of
 Administration Policy
• Economic Report of the President
• Debates
• Convention Speeches
• Party Platforms
• 2012 Election Documents
• 2008 Election Documents
• 2004 Election Documents
• 1960 Election Documents
• 2009 Transition
• 2001 Transition
Data Index
Audio/Video Index
Election Index
Florida 2000
Presidential Libraries

Text: Bush Legal Team Makes Remarks
Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Following is the full text of a Tuesday news conference held by George W. Bush adviser James A. Baker III to introduce senior members of the Buwh campaign's legal team.


BAKER: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Regrettably, the Gore campaign has now filed a lawsuit contesting the certified election results here in Florida. Their aim, of course, is to overturn the outcome of the election after 19 or 20 days of counts and recounts and more recounts.

America has never had a presidential election decided by a contest of the election outcome in the court. This is an extraordinary procedure and we are entering new uncertain and controversial territory.

Therefore, I would like to introduce the senior members of the litigation team who will be defending the vote of Floridians in favor of Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney. I have earlier introduced to you Barry Richard of Tallahassee, Florida, with the national law firm of Greenberg Traurig. Other members of our team are Fred Bartlit and Philip Beck of the law firm of Bartlit Beck in Chicago, Illinois. The other two members of our senior litigation team are law partners of mine at Baker Botts in Houston, Texas.

These five gentlemen are here to summarize our view of the overall contest proceedings and to set the record straight on four issues that the Gore campaign continues to mischaracterize.

RICHARD: We believe that the election contest is without legal substance. I'm very pleased to have this quality group of lawyers to work with, in order to deal with the multiple issues that have been raised in the petition. As Secretary Baker said, we have divided up the issues among the lawyers, and each one here with us today is prepared to comment on a specific issue.

TERRELL: Good morning. My name is Irv Terrell. I'm with Secretary Baker's firm, Baker Botts.

I'd like to talk to you about one of Mr. Boies' pet theories in the case and that is the myth that there are 10,000 votes that are not counted in Miami-Dade County. In fact, those are nonvotes. And, indeed, it is not unusual for people not to vote fully in every election on a ballot.

In fact, those 10,000 nonvotes are about 1.6 percent of the votes cast in that county. If you look at other states and other counties – other states outside Florida and other counties in Florida--you find that in at least 34 counties in Florida, there are higher percentages of nonvotes. And, in fact, in the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Illinois, there are substantially higher percentages of nonvotes.

That makes sense because not every person who comes to an election and who comes to the ballot box, particularly in hotly contested election, chooses to vote. So that when they say that these votes are votes, they're wrong. And when they say that these votes – and I tell you, they're nonvotes – have never been counted, we know they've been counted twice by machines, at least. And in each instance, they've been found to not be votes.

Thank you very much.

BARTLIT: My name is Fred Bartlit. I'm going to talk about myth number two. That's the myth that Miami-Dade would have conducted the manual recount unless they--if it wasn't for a Republican mob that intimidated the canvassing board. Gore lawyer Ron Klain said that a mob stormed the counting facility to stop the count. That's the myth; here are the facts.

The board is composed of independent David Leahy, a supervisor of election for 26 years, a highly experienced individual, and two other sitting judges. What was being protested was a violation of the Florida Sunshine law; the count was moving behind closed doors.

The New York Times was at the forefront threatening litigation if the count wasn't opened. Mr. Leahy said that the demonstration was – all he saw was something that was noisy and peaceful and nothing else. There were babies in the crowd. There were little kids there. There was, in some ways, a holiday atmosphere.

Mr. Leahy and others said that they were not intimidated. They said the count was stopped because they could not possibly – could not possibly – meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court. The air in the room when they made the decision was calm, it was relaxed, there were no shouts. There was no pressure in the room. There were many, many police there. There wasn't a single arrest. No one ever asked the crowd to desist.

A statement under these circumstances about a mob storming a counting facility is desired to heat up the situation, and it really is time to tune back the rhetoric.

Thank you.

BECK: My name is Phil Beck. I'm going to discuss briefly the question of butterfly ballots used in Palm Beach County.

The butterfly ballot, which is a typical ballot used throughout the country, was designed by a Democratic election official in Palm Beach County. It was sent to and approved by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. It was posted in newspapers so that citizens could comment on it. And the law is that if anyone has a concern with the form of the ballot, that has to be expressed before the election, not after the election.

It is not according to law. And it is not fair to wait until the votes have been counted, and then if you don't like the outcome, to say, that the ballot – there was something wrong with the form of the ballot.

BRISTOW: Good morning. I'm Daryl Bristow, and I want to talk to you for a moment about Nassau County and the suggestion that 218 votes earlier declared illegal were counted on final certification.

These 218 votes were real votes by real people who did what they needed to do to express their will. No one at no time declared these votes illegal. They are not nonvotes; they are not overvotes; they were real votes. They were counted in the original count.

It was discovered on the machine recount that these votes had been misplaced and were not counted. The voting machines were checked to make sure that there had been no malfunction. The permission was asked and received to include those votes in the final certification. The board unanimously voted, including two Democrats and that included the supervisor, that this should be done to express the will of 218 people who had really cast their votes.

BAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, any one of us up here would be glad to respond to your questions. I would be glad also. But I hope that if you have questions for the attorneys with respect to any of these issues, you would just address it to them.

QUESTION: What about Seminole County? You're not concerned about those votes?

BAKER: We're not concerned about Seminole County. We do not think that that claim really has merit. And we will be delighted to talk to you specifically about that at a later time if you want.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that this contest election and contest trial will go passed the December 12 deadline and, therefore, it will all be thrown in the state legislature, making this moot?

BAKER: Well, we're concerned that there is a contest after the election results had been certified. So, therefore, we would be concerned, of course, if it dragged on to December 12 or thereafter.

QUESTION: While this is going on, the legislature will begin the process today of calling a special session. What would your advice be to the Republican leadership in the house and senate about how to proceed or if to process with the special session to name the...

BAKER: Well, I don't really want to get into that here. I would like to spend the time we have, whatever time we have here, addressing the question of the contest, that's why all of these gentlemen are here. We'll be glad to take some questions from you about legislative problems or approaches or solutions at some other time.


QUESTION: This is a question for Mr. Terrell. It seems to me that you folks have offered two different explanations on the Dade County votes. One explanation which you just offered is, it wasn't really a vote; these are nonvotes. The alternative explanation is, they might be votes, but there's no difference between how those machine votes are run through versus how they're run through in any other place in Florida.

Let me ask you this QUESTION: If you're right and these are nonvotes, what's the problem looking at the ballots and ascertaining that, yes, indeed, they are nonvotes?

TERRELL: It depends on how you look at the ballots and it depends on which ballots you look at. You raise a very important point. One of the 34 counties that I was addressing in Florida where there's a higher nonvote is in Duvall County, heavily military.

It's 9.07 percent. There is well in excess of 20,000 nonvotes in Duvall County. So if Mr. Boies and his client, Mr. Vice President Gore, wanted in fact to check the ballots, why don't they want to check Duvall County ballots? Is it because of the military issue that they seem to be afraid of? I don't know. But we say that you have to check them all if you check them.

But you're correct. That is alternative. We think there's no reason for us to be in court now. We believe that the certification was done properly and that due difference must be given to the people who counted the votes, the people who certified the votes, and that it is inappropriate for any single person to sit and decide and try to figure out, through some sort of divine inspiration, whether a mark on a ballot that is improper is somehow intent to vote. But if we're going to do it, why don't we do it in Duvall County where there are 20,000 votes, which would swamp these Dade votes?


BAKER: I didn't respond to your Seminole County question, but Barry Richard here is prepared to do that, and I think you deserve an answer to that.

RICHARD: As those of you have been having these extended conversation with me for the last several weeks know, I don't generally like to try a case outside the courtroom. But I am pleased to tell you what our position would be on the Seminole County issue when we file it.

Seminole County did not involve – the challenge doesn't involve ballots; it involves an application for absentee ballots. Under Florida law, any person – let me back up a step.

The problem, as I understand the challenge, is that there was some information that was left off the application. The supervisor's office permitted the persons who were presenting it to come in and add that information back in.

Now, under Florida law, any person can assist the voter in filling out an application for an absentee ballot. The voter who is requesting the ballot must sign the application, and the information on the application must be related to that voter. But any person can assist the voter in filling it out and can present the application to the supervisor's office.

Now, what happened here was, there was information required that was inadvertently left off of the application. The supervisor permitted those persons who were presenting it to come in and add the information back in in the office. That's really a nonissue.

Those persons could have taken back all of those applications, gone back to their homes or their offices, filled it in and resubmitted it, or could have simply told the supervisor to discard them, prepared new ones and brought them in.

Instead of going to that trouble, the supervisor simply permitted them to come in and add the information. It is perfectly lawful. It does not require the voter to put the information in.

The information was not in controversy. It's information that is – I don't, frankly, remember whether it was the person's Social Security number or the zip code or what it was that was added in, but it was not something the voter would exercise any judgment over.

QUESTION: Isn't the issue, though, that there was access to the ballot after a signature was already put on it?

RICHARD: It had nothing to do with the ballot.

QUESTION: I mean, access to the application, rather, after a signature.

RICHARD: Well, anybody can have application to the--they can have access to the application. The information that was included was not information that a person could manipulate. It was information that the supervisor compares to the name of the voter to make sure that this is the same person that's on the registration rolls. So if an individual had access and put the wrong information on, it would have been rejected. This is not something that was a risk of security because somebody could manipulate it.

As I said, the same persons who presented that information could have taken it back, added the information and resubmitted it. The voter doesn't have to be there when this information is submitted. So there's really no issue here about anybody doing anything that was either illegal or suspect.

QUESTION: Two quick things: Is there any thought on your part of withdrawing your case in the Supreme Court? And, two, is there a sense amongst all the lawyers that David Boies is giving a sense that this is something that could take days? Among the people here involved with the litigation, knowing the issues involved in this contest, is there a sense of how long this is going to take to be properly done, the contest?

BAKER: How long what's going to take, the contest?

QUESTION: The contest, and then also if you could comment on the Supreme Court.

But how long will this take? I mean, the Democrats are trying to get across that this is something that can take a couple of days to litigate this. They can go through it and get an appeal done. Is there any sense...

BAKER: Look, we've got quite a bit of accumulated years of trial experience behind me here, and I'm going to let one of them answer your question about how long it might take to resolve this contest. But whoever answers it – and, perhaps, Barry, if you don't mind, if you'd answer it, I would like you to speak as well to the question of gathering evidence, presenting evidence, going through a full trial and then the question of whatever appeals might be taken therefrom.

QUESTION: The Supreme Court issue, is that something that is being considered, withdrawing that?

BAKER: No. The answer to that is no, assuming, of course, that Vice President Gore is not willing to dismiss all of his litigation, including the first ever contest of an election outcome in court after certification.

RICHARD: This issue arose in court yesterday. It is not our intention or desire to unnecessarily delay the contest proceedings.

However, as I told Judge Sauls yesterday, the fact that we're dealing here with the presidential election doesn't justify suspending due process or normal rules of procedure. Those rules allow us to expedite a hearing, but there still needs to be a reasonable opportunity for us to know who the witnesses and what the exhibits are that are going to be introduced against us, for us to have an opportunity to prepare our own witnesses and our own exhibits, for us to be able to engage in the most rudimentary discovery with respect to deposing witnesses on the other side and also making ours available for deposition. So things are going to have to happen, even if it's truncated, because we don't rush to judgment without an adequate opportunity to prepare for what happens to be a very important evidentiary hearing.

I might also mention that the reason that we find ourselves in this situation, this case could have been--this contest could have been filed after the original certification. The reason that we find ourselves with less time available now is because the Gore legal team made the strategic decision instead to seek an extension of time to continue the recounts before they filed their contest. But that doesn't justify depriving my client of the opportunity for the normal time – not the normal time, but a reasonable time to prepare for an evidentiary hearing for a trial.


BAKER: We're going to take one more question, and you're going to ask it, and then we got to get out of here.

QUESTION: A question for Mr. Terrell, with all due respect, sir, you didn't really answer the question about the 10,000 votes. Have you seen those votes? How can you guarantee that there aren't votes there?

TERRELL: All right, let me try to answer your question. The machines count them in such a way that they determine whether or not they're punched out. You know that. They have been considered historically in Florida, as no votes, nonvotes.

In fact, if you look at the secretary of state's unofficial results put out yesterday, the Division of Elections, it calls them "no votes,'' and there are over 175,000 no votes.

QUESTION: Have you seen them? Do you know what they look like?

TERRELL: Obviously, I have not seen them.

QUESTION: So how can you guarantee, just because what the machine says, that there's no vote there?

TERRELL: I don't think that even our worthy opponents contend that somehow the machines missed punched-out ballots.

BAKER: May I just add to that?

Of course we cannot guarantee that, any more than we can guarantee that all of the nonvotes that have been thrown out in Duvall County and in all of these other states across the United States, in greater percentages than were thrown out in Miami-Dade, are nonvotes for sure. But we have a system, and there's a proper procedure for conducting our elections.

It is wrong, simply wrong, and I would submit not fair to say, as our opponents do over and over, that these votes have never been counted. They've been counted just like all of the other nonvotes, not only in other counties in Florida, but across the United States of America have been counted. They've been counted, and they've been recounted by machines. They have not been manually counted, but neither have all these other votes that were thrown out in other counties in Florida and cross the United States.

Thank you all very, very much.

© 1999-2014 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project
Locations of visitors to this page