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The Florida Voter editor Jim Kane on the Florida election

November 15, 2000
10:30 a.m. EST

(CNN) -- Even though Secretary of State Katherine Harris has certified the election results in Florida, giving Texas Governor George W. Bush a 300 vote lead over Vice President Al Gore pending the results of the overseas count, the election confusion in Florida continues. A series of court battles on the issue of hand recounts in several primarily democratic counties has yet to be decided.

Jim Kane is the editor and chief pollster of the Florida Voter. A pollster in Florida for 25 years, he joined the staff at the Florida Voter about seven years ago.

Chat Moderator: Welcome to Allpolitics Chat, Jim Kane. We are pleased to have you with us today.

Jim Kane: Well, welcome to Florida, chaos city. Right now Florida could not be a more interesting place to be, politically speaking.

Chat Moderator: Do your polls show that most Floridians support a manual recount?


Jim Kane: The simple answer is there have not been any statewide polls I am aware of, however, they are not likely to be much different from national polls in that most would like to see an accurate count of the ballots in Florida.

Question from D in MA: Mr. Kane, do the Palm Beach voters' suits have a chance?

Jim Kane: If the question is do they have a chance of changing the election results, yes; it is possible that a manual recount of the ballots in Palm Beach could eliminate the 300 vote deficit that Gore currently faces in the overall state total. There are always ballots not counted by machines, which is sometimes referred to as the undercount. And those ballots usually go in the same proportion as the original outcome in that election district. The only questions at this point are how many are there, and how many can be actually counted by inspecting them visually.

Question from Alexis: Jim Kane, hello. Good morning, I was wondering if there is the slightest chance there will be a statewide recount, or if this might lead to a national recount?

Jim Kane: Yes, legally speaking, the deadline for requesting manual recounts in the other counties has come and gone. But that I think Secretary of State Katherine Harris could have the legal ability to request a manual recount of all counties, not just Broward, Palm Beach and Volusia. But it would seem she would need agreement of the two parties before she would undertake something like that.

Question from MrSurf: Is it possible that Florida's 25 electoral votes will not being counted?

Jim Kane: It's possible. It's happened before. It happened in 1876 when Florida and Louisiana's electoral votes were not counted. But that seems highly unlikely in this circumstance. By the time we get to December 18th when the Electoral College meets, these vote recounts should determine who won Florida.

Chat Moderator: Has the Florida legislature indicated whether it will ban butterfly ballots in future elections?

Jim Kane: Our legislature meets once per year in the spring. I think there will be legislation that will make ballots uniform, throughout the state, and perhaps address the way in which ballots are counted as well. As it stands right now, each of Florida's 67 counties within the statute can determine how the ballot is laid out. And how they count the ballots at the end of the day. That's likely to change after the legislature meets this year.

Question from Hadiqa: How many absentee ballots will be turned in by Friday?

Jim Kane: We don't know. There are estimates from 1500 to 3500 ballots, but we don't know how many will be returned by this Friday. They are likely to favor Bush, however, because they are generally military personnel, such as officers and ranking enlisted men, who have favored Republicans in past elections.

Question from Eraser: Is the feeling in the state of Florida that voters have been discriminated against or are they just ready to elect a president?

Jim Kane: Both! There are some voters, particularly in Palm Beach County, who feel that the so-called butterfly ballot mislead them and that their vote may not have counted. There are also isolated reports that some voters were turned away at the polls for various reasons and that their vote did not count. But in addition, there is a genuine sense among voters that this needs to come to an end. And we can all go on doing other things other than watching the moment-by-moment ballot counts being shown on every network.

Question from BarkBark: Jim, any predictions on what the Florida Supreme Court will do with this mess?

Jim Kane: I'm guessing--it would seem to me this is an issue of great importance and that Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris' request to consolidate all the cases before the state Supreme Court is likely to get serious consideration. How they will ultimately rule is impossible at this point to predict, due mainly to the fact that we are, legally speaking, in "uncharted waters." Most of these statutes related to election laws have been on the books for decades. And the sorts of challenges being made around the state are in many cases, unique to this particular election.

Question from NoMoreGore: Mr. Kane, do you think that manual recounts are fair to the rest of the country? My vote was counted by machine. How do *I* know it tallied my vote correctly?

Jim Kane: That's a good question, not only by the fact you live outside of Florida, but because we have machine tabulations within most of the counties in Florida. And they are not going to be counted by hand, as it stands right now. So one could make the argument that if we are going to do selective recounts by hand of machine ballots that it should occur throughout the state in order to be fair to both candidates.

But we have state statutes that address the timeliness of those requests for hand recounts, and the Republican Party chose not to request hand recounts of ballots in counties where they had strong majorities. Even though I think, ultimately, George W. Bush will be declared the winner in Florida, the decision not to ask for a hand recount in those counties where George W. Bush did well was a major tactical blunder.

Question from Flavoted: Mr. Kane, do you know if there are really 22,000 ballots in the discard pile in Duvall County?

Jim Kane: Well, there have been news reports that, like Palm Beach County, there were significant numbers of rejected ballots in the Jacksonville, Duvall County. And those reports say that 22,000 were rejected for either double punch holes, or the voter chose not to cast a vote for president. If those reports are true, it's very surprising because Duvall County did not use the so-called butterfly ballot, which many believe led voters to choose either the wrong candidate, or to vote for two candidates, which invalidated their ballots.

Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today?

Jim Kane: Yes, the election in Florida has put a spotlight in how we elect presidents in this country. And, ultimately, I believe there will be a move to change our election system from an Electoral College to a popular vote. In the end, though, it's unlikely that those people who are opposed to changing the system -- for various reasons -- will allow this to happen. Consequently, four years from now when the public is again faced with electing a new president, we are going to be very much aware of how important our individual vote is in the outcome.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Jim Kane.

Jim Kane: I've enjoyed it. And I wish you all a wonderful day and hope we have a decision in the Sunshine State very soon.

Jim Kane joined the chat via telephone from Ft. Lauderdale. CNN provided a typist for him. The above is an edited transcript of the chat, which took place on Wednesday, November 15, 2000.

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