Baker: "Gov. Bush was the winner of the vote"

Text of James Baker's Tuesday afternoon "compromise" press conference.

Published November 14, 2000 6:05PM (EST)

In earlier statements, we have emphasized the importance of achieving some finality to the election process, here in Florida and of course for the nation as a whole. More and more we see uncertainty in financial markets and overseas. I believe that most observers, whether at home or abroad, are troubled by the prospect of seemingly endless counts and recounts until a candidate achieves the result he seeks.

The vote in Florida was counted and then recounted. Governor Bush was the winner of the vote. He was the winner of the recount. There have been no allegations of vote fraud in either the count or the recount. No fraud -- just confusion of some individuals. Yet the Gore campaign refuses to accept the result.

Instead they have proceeded with demands for manual recounts in predominately Democratic counties. Their selective application of the manual recount provisions targeted counties to try to reverse the result of the election. Consider, for example, the three Broward County precincts selected by the Gore campaign for their test count:

Precinct 1F: 1,308 votes for Vice President Gore; 62 votes for Governor Bush.

Precinct 6F: 1,175 votes for Vice President Gore; 52 votes for Governor Bush.

Precinct 6C: 1,071 votes for Vice President Gore; 19 votes for Governor Bush.

This might lead one to suspect that the Gore campaign was more focused on selectivity than on fairness.

Even so, they only picked up four votes through this test manual recount, and the county canvassing board decided not to expand this third vote count to the whole county. Now, having talked for days about letting the local officials act on recounts, the Gore campaign is trying to force Broward County officials to count yet again.

Yesterday, the Florida secretary of state reiterated that Florida law unambiguously requires every county canvassing board to certify its election returns by 5 p.m. today. The Gore campaign, which placed great weight on Florida law when it thought the provisions served its tactics, does not like this Florida law. So they have filed suit to block the application of the statute, and that case is working its way through the courts.

In sum, the Gore campaign has been unwilling to accept any finality: after the vote; after the recount; after the manual recount tests in selective favorable counties; or even after larger selective recounts within the time established by Florida statute. Indeed, the manual recount in Palm Beach County is at least the fourth count of these votes, because the county also undertook a third machine count.

The American people want the parties to find a way to bring this election to an end. Therefore, we make the following proposal to the Gore campaign: Both sides should agree to accept the vote count of all the counties at the statutory deadline -- today at 5 p.m. In addition, both sides should agree to accept the overseas absentee ballots as of midnight Friday in accordance with the law.

We have objected to the manual recount in Florida law. The Gore campaign has objected to the statutory deadline in Florida law. We are offering to accept the manual recount up to the statutory deadline, if the Gore campaign accepts that deadline. If the Gore campaign accepts this proposal and drops its litigation, we will drop our lawsuit, too. Then the courts will not decide the election.

Many people around the country have urged both candidates to reach out to one another with a fair proposal to resolve this divisive and unfortunate process. We are doing just that. We have had counts, multiple recounts and selective manual recounts. It is time to bring this to a close. We sincerely hope that this proposal will enable us to do so.

By Salon Staff

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