Secretary Christopher and I have been in Florida for 20 hours and I am here to report that what we have learned left us deeply troubled about the fairness of the election count that has been reported. Most notably, it appears that more than 20,000 voters in Palm Beach County who in all likelihood thought they were voting for Al Gore had their votes counted as votes for Pat Buchanan or not counted at all. Because this disenfranchisement of these Floridians is so much larger than the reported gap between George Bush and Al Gore, legally this requires the full attention of the courts in Florida and concerned citizens all around the country. More than 100 million Americans voted on Tuesday, and more voted for Al Gore than George Bush. Here in Florida it also seems very likely that more voters went to the polls believing that they were voting for Al Gore than for George Bush. If the will of the people is to prevail, Al Gore should be awarded a victory in Florida, and be our next president of the United States.
Let me focus on the problems with Palm Beach County. There, due to a confusing butterfly ballot, many voters who believed they were voting for Al Gore had their votes counted for Pat Buchanan. No other explanation for his 3,400 vote total -- a sum three times large than he drew in any other county -- and 10 times the number of registered Reform Party voters who voted -- seems plausible. I am told that even Mr. Buchanan recognizes as much. Based on totals from other counties, there seems every reason to believe that well over 2,000 of these votes were votes for Vice President Gore -- more than enough to make him the winner here. In addition, there were more than 19,000 ballots cast in Palm Beach County that were not tabulated at all because voters -- faced with this confusing ballot -- apparently punched two holes instead of one. And of course, this would have been more than enough to tip the balance our way. These logical conclusions, are reinforced by the phone calls, faxes and other reports, from over 1,000 residents of Palm Beach County that have poured in to us saying that they believe that they were the victims of this ballot confusion.
In response to this clear injustice, what does the Bush campaign say? They totally dismiss the disenfranchisement of thousands of Floridians as being the usual sort of mistake made in elections. They cite legal provisions about published ballots and technical notice. They put a demand for finality ahead of the pursuit of fairness. As for the substance of these responses, let me say that they are in doubt. It remains unclear if the sample ballot published really contained all the elements -- including the alignment of the punched holes that the actual ballot reflected. More importantly, let me be clear about what is at stake here.
Technicalities should not determine the next president of the United States, the will of the people should. Demanding an end to the election is not the same as demanding that the person who the people want as president takes office.
Here is what we intend to do about this: Today the appropriate Florida democratic officials will be requesting a hand count of the ballots, in Palm Beach County as well as three other counties -- Volusia, Dade and Broward -- where we have spotted oddities in the vote. Let's make sure that voters, not machines pick our president. In addition, today I am announcing that we will be working with voters from Florida to support a legal action to demand some redress for the disenfranchisement of more than 20,000 voters in Palm Beach County. We believe that, with some much at stake, steps should be taken to make sure that the people's choice becomes the president. In addition, we are still collecting accounts of other irregularities, voter intimidation and other oddities in other parts of the state. And, if substantiated inappropriate they, too, will be part of this legal action.
Let me address the concerns of those who say that these actions will delay the conclusion of this election or that we are seeking to drag things out. All we are seeking is this: that the candidate who the voters prefer become the president. That is what our constitutional principles demand. That is what true fidelity to our constitution suggests. That is what the American people deserve. Moreover, we will move this matter ahead as quickly as is possible. Though state law might allow us as much as three more weeks to present this legal challenge, we expect to see it filed in the next few days. We do not want delay, but what we want, however, is democracy.
Finally, let me address some remarks to the Bush campaign. I believe that their actions to try to presumptively crown themselves the victors, to try to put in place a transition, run the rush of dividing the American people and creating a sense of confusion.
Let the legal system run its course. Let the true and accurate will of the people prevail. If at the end of that process, George Bush is the victor, we will respect that result.
But, we would expect the same adherence to the rule of law and the democratic process from the Bush campaign. Bold claims not based on the will of the people endanger the orderly transition of power. Taking the time to ensure the people's choice as our president is the best way to respect our democratic values and honor our constitution.