Statement by James Baker on Florida voting

The Bush campaign's Florida representative invokes the memory of Nixon and Ford while pressing Gore to concede.

By Salon Staff

Published November 10, 2000 6:12PM (EST)

The American people voted on Nov. 7. Governor George W. Bush won 31 states with a total of 271 electoral votes. The vote in Florida was very close, but when it was counted, Governor Bush was the winner.

Now, three days later, the vote in Florida has been recounted. Over two-thirds of the state election supervisors overseeing the recount are Democrats.

At the end of this recount, Governor Bush is still the winner, subject only to counting the overseas ballots, which have traditionally favored the Republican candidate. No evidence of vote fraud either in the original vote or in the recount has been presented.

Now the Gore campaign is calling for yet another recount in selective and predominantly Democratic counties where there were unexplained large vote swings in their favor in the recount.

It appears that the Gore campaign is attempting to unduly prolong the country's national presidential election through endless challenges to the results of the vote here in Florida.

Furthermore, the more often ballots are recounted, especially by hand, the more likely it is that human errors, like lost ballots, and other risks, will be introduced. This frustrates the very reason why we have moved from hand counting to machine counting.

Let me say a word specifically about the Palm Beach ballot. There is a rule of law to be followed for elections. The state of Florida has established legal procedures to design, approve, publish and, if need be, to protest ballots before the election. The ballot was designed by a Democratic elections supervisor. She approved it. The Democratic Party did not question it before the election. This "butterfly"-type ballot was used in recent elections in the same county under the same rules. Again, the Democrats did not complain. The overwhelming majority of voters who used the ballot understood it and cast valid votes. Our lawyers have confirmed the legality of this ballot, and we have copies of the relevant Florida statute available for you to see.

The Gore campaign has also tried to make a lot of the fact that double-marked ballots are not counted. A key principle in America is one person, one vote. If we have ballots with two votes, of course we cannot count them or guess about them. Ballots that are double marked can't be evidence of the voter's intent to vote one way or another. No jurisdiction in the United States would accept such a ballot as a valid vote, and Florida law specifically does not. It happens in every precinct in every election. And the procedure is clear: These ballots must be disregarded.

We understand, and I understand personally, that it is frustrating to lose by a narrow margin. But it happens. It happened to the Republican presidential candidates in 1960 and 1976. Both Vice President Nixon and President Ford put the country's interest first. They accepted the vote for the good of the country.

It is important that there be some finality to the election process. What if we insisted on recounts in other states that are very close? For example, in Wisconsin, Iowa and, if we don't win, New Mexico.

Let the country step back a moment, pause, and think about what's at stake. This may be the last chance. There is no reasonable end to this process if it slips away.

The purpose of our national election is to establish a "Constitutional government," not unending legal wrangling. We will therefore vigorously oppose the Gore campaign's efforts to keep recounting until it likes the result. For the good of the country and the sake of our standing in the world, the campaigning should end, and the business of an orderly transition should begin.

Salon Staff

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