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Election 2000: Gore Campaign Spokesman Discusses Legal Wrangling Over Florida Recount

Aired November 15, 2000 - 12:17 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Election 2000 and quite likely the next president of the United States to be shaped, in large measure, by what the courts in the state of Florida decide.

We are joined now by Doug Hattaway, a spokesman for the Gore campaign. We have some questions for you Doug.

Doug Hattaway, before I come to you, I do want to tell our viewers that we had also asked Mindy Tucker of the Bush campaign to join us. We had a confirmation of that interview. But we got late word that Mindy Tucker was unable to do this interview. Want to explain to our viewers why we're just hearing from one campaign here.

So Doug Hattaway to you. Your campaign is going to the state supreme court there in Florida, as is the secretary of state. You are both asking the state supreme court to consolidate all these cases. What's the difference between the two positions? And to what end are you asking to petition that court?

DOUG HATTAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, we've asked the state supreme court to decide itself to settle all the questions around the actual vote counting, and, in the meantime, let the vote counts continue. That's the bottom line here. People's votes ought to be counted, and we want it to be a quick process. We've asked them to set a deadline to clear up the standards, the all important Chad question, and what constitutes a vote.

What the secretary of state asks was that -- she went to the supreme court but asked them to send it to a trial court here in the capital, which we think would take longer and drag out the process further. She's also asked that the vote counting be halted while they decide.

Again, we think the vote count should go on. The secretary of state and the legal maneuvering that she has done have dragged this out long enough. We think the Florida supreme court is the best place to settle the questions around the counting of the votes so they can be completed, and we think that can be a matter of days.

SESNO: And what is your position as to what constitutes a vote?

HATTAWAY: Well, what the supreme court can clear up for everyone is the questions about the chad. Basically, if a person can look at it, and, based on the evidence that's on the ballot, ascertain who the voter intended to vote for, they call the vote for the appropriate candidate. The other side...

SESNO: So you think a simple mark or indentation, from your point of view, is sufficient to determine intent, and that's what you'll be arguing?

HATTAWAY: I think our papers that the lawyers are working on now will lay our case. I don't want to get into here, not being an attorney, but, basically, there are local standards that people have been following. The other side's been trying to cast aspersions on the process and say that there's something wrong with hand counting, which has gone on since the founding of this nation.

We think that the supreme court's the appropriate place just to settle it once and for all so that we can stop jumping through the hoops that the secretary of state is setting up. We think that if...

SESNO: But what if...

HATTAWAY: Go ahead.

SESNO: Sorry. Let me jump in here. I want to ask you very quickly before we run out of time, the clock is always our enemy here, about Broward County. It's switched its position. It's now hand counting or is going to hand count those ballots if it can. Aren't you at all concerned that this is simply going to look blatantly political, that it decided yesterday not to do so and now, just as people in the Bush campaign would charge, it could appear that the Gore folks, Democrats in the state, are looking for wherever they can for those votes that it'll take to put their guy over the top?

HATTAWAY: Well, the local canvass board had voted not to do a count because of a faulty legal opinion by the secretary of state, who happens to be Governor Bush's campaign co-chairman here in Florida. She muddied the legal waters and they needed some clarity on what the situation was. She told them incorrectly that they could not do a hand count unless the machines themselves had malfunctioned. Well, that's not true.

They decided that they want to move forward, now that they're clear on the law, with a hand count. We think that the secretary of state, if she wanted to simplify things, could stop muddying the legal waters like that and just let the people's votes be counted. That's what it's all about.

And having the supreme court settle all these questions once and for all will get us past all the legal maneuvering by the secretary of state and reach a full, fair and accurate account as quickly as possible. Everybody wants it done quickly. This is a step to do that.

SESNO: Doug Hattaway, I appreciate your time from Tallahassee.

Once again, tell our viewers that we were to have heard from Mindy Tucker, we were expecting that from the Bush campaign. We got late word that she was unable to do the interview.

Let us go, though, to Austin, Texas, where Jeanne Meserve has been following the campaign.

Jeanne, not much coming from that campaign, as I understand it today, but what can you tell us?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you that I spoke to a member of the campaign staff a few moments ago and was told they are still formulating their response to the proposal made by Secretary Christopher just within the hour.

I can't predict, of course, what the response is going to be. But I point out that these two camps have agreed on absolutely nothing so far.

You just heard Doug Hattaway spelling out the differences between what they put forward and what the secretary of state in Florida has done.

I can tell you that a campaign spokesman told me earlier today that they welcome the secretary of state's proposal that they felt this would give some clarity and uniformity to what's happening in the state of Florida.

I can also tell you, Frank, they are not happy about Broward County and its decision to go forward with a hand count. As you suggested in question to Mr. Hattaway, they feel the Democratic officials are jumping through hoops here, going to great extremes to try and come up with a result which will benefit Mr. Gore -- Frank.

SESNO: All right, a day of intense maneuvering. Jeanne, thanks an awful lot. Good to see you.

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