Thursday, November 9, 2000
Following is the transcript of the news conference on the Florida ballot recount held by Fla. Secretary of State Katherine Harris, with Fla. Secretary of Agriculture Bob Crawford and Clay Roberts, the division director for state of Florida Division of Elections.
HARRIS: Good afternoon.
As secretary of state, I am chief elections officer, and I would like to introduce to you the Election Canvassing Commission that will be certifying the state recount results: Commissioner Bob Crawford (ph), commissioner of agriculture, and Clay Roberts, the division director for state of Florida Division of Elections.
We will all remember these times as some of the most critical and defining moments in our nation's history, a time when we as Americans are working to ensure the meaning and vitality of our democratic system.
To that end, here in Florida our local supervisors of elections, our Division of Elections staff, and countless volunteers have dedicated themselves to the accurate reporting of election results.
All of us take this responsibility seriously, given the national implications of this election and our statutory responsibility to ensure the integrity and accuracy of our elections process.
This recount is mandated by Florida law whenever a final ballot puts the margin of victory at less than 0.5 percent. The Department of State requested all of our locally elected supervisors of elections to forward their recount results by 5 p.m. today.
As of 5, the Divisions of Elections reported receiving recount results from 53 counties in Florida. We are still awaiting the results from the supervisors of elections in 14 Florida counties, which by law have until Tuesday, November 14, to submit those returns to the Office of the Secretary of State.
Official certification by the Elections Canvassing Commission, consisting of our commissioner of agriculture, the division director of elections and the secretary of state, will not commence until the original signed forms from all 67 counties, attesting to their certified results, have been received by our office.
As of 5 p.m. today, the unofficial certified results of the recount are as follows: Governor George W. Bush, 2,909,661; Vice President Al Gore, 2,907,877; a difference of 1,784.
The following is very important: Under statutory law, legally cast Florida ballots received from overseas must be counted by the supervisors of elections for 10 days following the general election. That deadline is November 17, 2000.
Hear this: We will continue to perform our responsibilities and this process with all due speed, but with a determination to assure the full accuracy and independence of this process.
QUESTION: Secretary Harris, is your office prepared to vigorously defend what is certain to be a legal challenge about the way that ballot was constructed in Palm Beach County?
HARRIS: Can we address that?
ROBERTS: Yes, we expect legal challenges. Our policy is we are not going to comment on litigation. The secretary will exercise her duty as chief elections officer, and where she is required to legally defend a lawsuit she will do so.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up. On September 7, Clay, you sent a memo to all 67 election supervisors dictating the order of candidates. That was dictated by Florida statute. Did Palm Beach County follow the order as specified in your memorandum?
ROBERTS: As far as I know, they did.
I have not reviewed their ballot, though. I have seen on the television their presidential ballot. I haven't seen any of their other candidate ballots. And that's pending litigation so I am not going to answer you further.
QUESTION: Secretary of State, if you want to certify this, have you gotten word from the Gore campaign that they intend to file suit in order to keep you from finalizing and certifying the recount?
HARRIS: I have not received any contact from the Gore campaign in that regard.
QUESTION: The wire services--it's being widely reported, many more counties in and much closer number. Can you put--can you explain to the viewers why the discrepancy? Why is it we're hearing 61 counties are actually in and we're hearing those numbers and a number that's much closer.
HARRIS: Actually, we've been glued to our TVs as well following your results. I hope they're going to be a lot more accurate than the other night, but--on the polling.
But at any rate, the differences for the viewers is specifically that we are reporting all the unofficial certified results. And they are behind the--when many of the news stations are contacting the supervisors or some of their staff directly and posting those results.
We are not putting any results out until they are unofficially certified. By that, it means that we've received word from them the certified results. But until we have the physical certification in our hands, they are not officially certified. And we're only reporting those that are unofficially certified at the Department of State presently.
QUESTION: What do you think the policy--the manual recount in four counties by the Democrats, how long do you think that may delay these final tallies?
HARRIS: I'm delighted to talk about process, and I don't want to speculate, but actually the request for the local counts is a decision that is made by the local canvassing boards consisting of the supervisors of election--the supervisor of election in that county, the county commission chairman, and a local judge.
QUESTION: If they were to deny that request, does the decision then go to you?
ROBERTS: As far as requesting the manual recount, that is a decision solely within the control of the local canvassing board and there's no appeal to the Secretary of State's Office.
QUESTION: Does the request have any effect on whether or not ballots--whether or not this count is certified? I mean, does it stop that process at all (OFF-MIKE)
ROBERTS: Under the statutes, the local canvassing board has to certify to the State Division of Elections and the Office of the Secretary of State, no later than seven days after the election. Whatever procedure that the canvassing board is going through, whether it's a hand recount, whether it's a machine recount, whatever other processes they want to go through, they must certify within seven days so we can begin our work.
STAFF: At this point, we're going to turn it over to Secretary Crawford, to make his comments.
QUESTION: Secretary Crawford, do you, sir, as an open supporter of George W. Bush feel that you should be in the position you're in in terms of canvassing and affirming the results?
CRAWFORD: Well, I would say that anybody that's going to serve on this commission had to vote for somebody. And I'm a Democrat. I happened vote for George W. Bush. When you serve on a commission like this, it's not about politics, it's about process and the integrity of the electoral system. And that's certainly the most important thing before us, and that's what we're going to stick to.
And let me just say, too, that Secretary Harris and Clay have done a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances. And I know a lot of people in this country are watching Florida right now, and I want people to know that while there's a lot of frustration surrounding this election, nobody ever said that democracy is simple or efficient. But this is democracy in action. If you want simplicity, just go about 70 miles south of Florida and you've got Cuba, and they're very simple. They have no elections.
So it's frustrating, it's confusing, it's perplexing, and it's all worth it because it's our democracy. And we're going to get through it and it's going to all work out.
STAFF: We have a statement available on this side of the room at this point. Thank you all for coming.