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Context of 'Evening, November 14, 2000: Florida Secretary of State Announces 300-Vote Bush Lead as Certification Deadline Passes'

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Katherine Harris.Katherine Harris. [Source: AP/Pete Cosgrove]Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, one of eight co-chairs of the Florida Bush election campaign and the state official ultimately in charge of election procedures, is introduced to the politics of the Florida presidential recount by a ringing telephone. She is awakened at 3:30 a.m. by a call from the Bush campaign chairman Donald Evans, who puts Governor Jeb Bush, George W. Bush’s brother, on the line. Governor Bush asks coldly, “Who is Ed Kast, and why is he giving an interview on national television?” Harris is unsure who Kast is for a moment. Kast is the assistant director of elections, whose division reports to her office. He is on television talking about the fine points of Florida election law (see 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000), when and how manual recounts can be requested, and, most importantly, the driving concept of “voter intent”—if a ballot shows the intent of the voter to cast a vote for a candidate, then that vote will be counted. The governor does not want the media narrative to focus on recounts and voter intent, and has already tasked his general counsel with the job of getting Kast off the air as quickly as possible. (CNN “loses” Kast’s transmission in mid-sentence minutes later.) Democrats have questioned the propriety of having the Florida official with ultimate authority over elections being a state chairman for a presidential campaign before now, and in the coming days, the question will devolve into outright accusations of partisanship and impropriety. Harris has called herself “thrilled and honored” to be part of the Bush campaign, and served as a Bush delegate during the Republican National Convention. During the campaign, she often traveled around Florida representing the ticket. Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) says of Harris: “She is clearly a partisan Republican—and there’s nothing illegal about that. And I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, expecting them to perform their public functions appropriately. But her actions will speak volumes about whether she is qualified. If she does this fairly, fine. But if she acts as an emissary for Bush to steal this election in Florida, she will delegitimize Florida’s vote count.” Harris gives some initial media interviews on November 8, and according to a 2004 Vanity Fair article, “appear[s] overwhelmed and uninformed.” She does not know what county elections supervisors have been doing, and seems unaware of the chaos surrounding the Palm Beach County “butterfly ballot” (see November 9, 2000) and other ballot disputes. The Bush campaign senses trouble and assigns Harris a “minder,” Florida Republican lobbyist Mac Stipanovich, a former campaign advisor for Jeb Bush and a close Bush ally. Stipanovich, the Vanity Fair article will observe, “appealed to Harris’s grandiosity. (Her emails replying to Bush supporters later revealed that she had begun identifying with Queen Esther, who, in the Old Testament, saved the Jews from genocide. ‘My sister and I prayed for full armour this morning,’ she wrote. ‘Queen Esther has been a wonderful role model.’) He told her that nothing less than the course of history rested on her shoulders. ‘You have to bring this election in for a landing,’ he repeated again and again.” Under Stipanovich’s tutelage, Harris quickly learns to stay on message and repeat the given talking points. Stipanovich, who remains out of sight of the media, will later describe his daily routine with Harris to documentary filmmaker Fred Silverman, saying: “I would arrive in the morning through the garage and come up on the elevators, and come in through the cabinet-office door, which is downstairs, and then in the evening when I left, you know, sometimes it’d be late, depending on what was going on, I would go the same way. I would go down the elevators and out through the garage and be driven—driven to my car from the garage, just because there were a lot of people out front on the main floor, and, at least in this small pond, knowledge of my presence would have been provocative, because I have a political background.” [Salon, 11/13/2000; Vanity Fair, 10/2004] Most importantly to the Bush campaign, Harris is a part of the campaign’s message propagation plan to insist that Bush has indisputably won the Florida election (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Donald L. Evans, CNN, Ed Kast, George W. Bush, Katherine Harris, Vanity Fair, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Fred Silverman, Mac Stipanovich, Robert Wexler

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), announces she is refusing requests to extend the 5:00 p.m. November 14 deadline for certifying election results (see 5:00 p.m. November 9, 2000) in the interest of what she calls “the public’s right to clarity and finality.” This is her prerogative as secretary of state under Florida Election Code 102.112, though she has the option to extend the deadline. Absentee ballots, by law, can be counted through November 17. Neither Palm Beach nor Miami-Dade Counties have even decided to start recounts yet (see November 7, 2000 and November 10, 2000), and Broward County has not finished the recount it began. Volusia County, also attempting to finish manually recounting all of its ballots (see November 11-12, 2000), sues to extend the November 14 deadline. Lawyers for the Gore campaign join Volusia in the suit, while Bush lawyers file briefs opposing the suit. [Salon, 11/13/2000; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Vanity Fair, 10/2004; Leip, 2008] In light of Harris’s decision, Broward will choose to abandon its recount (see Evening, November 13, 2000); Palm Beach will decide to delay the recount until it can receive clarification (see 8:20 a.m. November 14, 2000), and resume the recounting shortly thereafter (see 4:30 p.m. November 14, 2000). Miami-Dade, in contrast, will begin recounting (see November 14, 2000). Later in the day, Harris issues what she considers a legal opinion concerning the recounts, but her opinion conflicts with a decision issued by Florida’s attorney general. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000] Harris says that no manual recounts should take place unless the voting machines are broken. Judge Terry Lewis finds that opinion not backed by any state law and overrules her opinion. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004] Harris has drawn criticism for her apparent partisanship before now. Warren Christopher, a lead advisor for the Gore campaign, calls Harris’s decision “arbitrary and unreasonable.” Representative Peter Deutsch (D-FL) calls her decision “bizarre,” adding, “I honestly think what’s going on is a strategic decision by the Bush campaign to hurt the litigation efforts.” Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) says: “The only reason to certify the elections at 5 p.m. tomorrow is a partisan one. If she does what she says she’s going to do—certify the elections at 5 p.m. tomorrow—she will have proven her critics correct; she will have proven that she is an emissary of the Bush campaign who is willing to steal an election.” [Salon, 11/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., County of Palm Beach (Florida), County of Broward (Florida), Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, County of Miami-Dade (Florida), County of Volusia (Florida), George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, Peter R. Deutsch, Robert Wexler, Warren Christopher

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Former Reagan administration cabinet member James Baker, leading the Bush campaign’s legal challenges to the Florida recount process (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000), makes public statements recommending that the Gore campaign drop its advocacy of the recounts and accept the 5:00 p.m. tallies (see Evening, November 14, 2000). A senior advisor to the Gore campaign, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, declines, saying, “That’s like offering you the sleeves from your vest.” [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000]

Entity Tags: Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Warren Christopher, James A. Baker, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis upholds Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris’s decision to require complete election certification by 5:00 p.m. today (see 9:00 a.m. November 13, 2000). Harris is the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After). Lewis says supplemental returns can be filed after the deadline, but Harris can ignore them after circumstances are considered and if she uses what Lewis calls “proper exercise of discretion.” Observers expect the Gore campaign to file an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court. Officials in Volusia County—joined later by Broward and Palm Beach Counties—move to appeal Lewis’s ruling. [Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit In and For Leon County, Florida, 11/14/2000 pdf file; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Vanity Fair, 10/2004; Leip, 2008]

Entity Tags: Katherine Harris, County of Broward (Florida), County of Palm Beach (Florida), Terry Lewis, County of Volusia (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

After her self-imposed deadline of 5:00 p.m. for election results certification passes (see 9:00 a.m. November 13, 2000), Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), announces that George W. Bush (R-TX) leads Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) by some 300 votes, based on returns submitted by all 67 Florida counties. The 300-vote lead Bush currently has is substantially smaller than the 1,784-vote lead he had immediately after the election. Harris says she will comply with a judicial order to consider late returns (see Afternoon, November 14, 2000). She gives three heavily Democratic counties still counting votes until 2:00 p.m. November 15 to submit written explanations as to why they want to add their manual-recount tallies after the deadline; all three counties will comply with her request. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000; Leip, 2008]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Katherine Harris, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr.

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Contradicting her previous statement that she would comply with a judicial order to consider the post-election recount tallies from several counties (see Evening, November 14, 2000), Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), asks the Florida Supreme Court to force Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties to end their manual recounts (see November 14, 2000, 3:40 p.m. November 15, 2000, and 4:30 p.m. November 14, 2000) “pending resolution as to whether any basis exists to modify the certified results” after the November 14, 2000 deadline. Harris argues that manual recounts threaten “the integrity of the ballots.” Harris previously imposed a November 14 deadline for all ballots to be counted and results certified (see 9:00 a.m. November 13, 2000). Palm Beach County officials ask the Florida Supreme Court to decide if they can manually recount their ballots. At 5:00 p.m., the Court rejects Harris’s request to stop the recounts. [Consortium News, 11/19/2000; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Leip, 2008] A judge has already ruled that Harris can refuse to consider recount results submitted after her deadline (see Afternoon, November 14, 2000). A Gore campaign spokesman later says that considering the obstacles Harris has placed in the way of the hand recounts, the situation is analogous to a policeman forcing a motorist to pull over, then blaming him for the traffic piling up behind him. Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes counters with the accusation that the counties still engaged in recounts are “no longer counting ballots; they are ‘reinventing’ them.” And James Baker, the head of the Bush “quick response” recount team, accuses the manual recounters of “subjective” attempts to “divine the intent of the voter.” Such recounts, Baker says, present “tremendous opportunities for human error and… mischief.” Both Hughes’s and Baker’s remarks are apparently intended to imply deliberate falsification of vote tallies, and echo similar charges made by Rush Limbaugh and other conservative media figures. Gore officials note that George W. Bush has picked up 418 votes in manual recounts in six counties: Franklin, Hamilton, Seminole, Washington, Taylor, and Lafayette. The Bush campaign, the Gore officials say, was eager to have those votes added in with the totals. Baker’s counterpart on the Gore team, Warren Christopher, says the fact that “Republicans have hand counted in many of the counties themselves” (see November 19, 2000) belies Republican charges that “we have picked out a certain few counties.” The Bush campaign has also picked up 143 votes from recounting in Volusia County. [Consortium News, 11/19/2000; Consortium News, 11/27/2000]

The presidential campaign of George W. Bush (R-TX—see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) joins in a motion filed by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), to stop all manual ballot recounts in Florida (see 8:00 a.m. November 15, 2000). Harris imposed a deadline of 5:00 p.m. November 14 for all recounts to be completed and all results certified (see 9:00 a.m. November 13, 2000 and Evening, November 14, 2000). The request is rejected by a federal judge later in the day. [Leip, 2008]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Katherine Harris, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), announces that she will not consider any further submissions of recounted election ballots from any Florida counties (see Evening, November 14, 2000). She has already accepted submissions from three counties still conducting recounts (see November 14, 2000, 3:40 p.m. November 15, 2000, and 4:30 p.m. November 14, 2000), and has received written explanations from three counties—Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach—explaining why they need additional time to complete their recounts. Palm Beach explained that it had found serious discrepancies between the results of its machine and sample manual recounts. Broward told of a large voter turnout and accompanying logistical problems. Miami-Dade said it had reason to believe that a manual recount would provide significant differences in its results (see November 7, 2000). Harris announces that she finds all three counties’ explanations insufficient and will not include their recount tallies in her final election numbers. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Vanity Fair, 10/2004; Leip, 2008]

Entity Tags: County of Miami-Dade (Florida), County of Broward (Florida), Katherine Harris, County of Palm Beach (Florida)

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

The Florida Supreme Court bars Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), from rejecting all post-deadline recount tallies (see 9:14 p.m., November 15, 2000) as well as certifying George W. Bush (R-TX) as the state’s presidential winner “until further order of this court” (see 10:04 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. November 17, 2000). It sets a hearing for Monday, November 20 to hear arguments on the recount dispute. The Court says flatly, “it is NOT the intent of this order to stop the counting.” [Supreme Court of Florida, 11/17/2000 pdf file; US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Leip, 2008] Harris is prepared to certify Bush as the winner (see Evening, November 14, 2000), which would give him the electoral votes needed to grant him the presidency (see November 9, 2000). With that no longer a possibility, James Baker, the leader of the Bush “quick response” campaign recount team (see Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000), issues a public threat: the incoming Florida speaker of the House, Republican Tom Feeney, will, if necessary, take matters into his own hands and vote in an independent slate of “electors” who would journey to Washington and vote for Bush in the US Electoral College. Because both houses of the Florida legislature are dominated by Republicans, Feeney could pass just such a bill authorizing that procedure. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004] Bush and his campaign officials harshly denounce the Court’s ruling. Bush accuses the Court of using “the bench to change Florida’s election laws and usurp the authority of Florida’s election officials,” and states that “writing laws is the duty of the legislature; administering laws is the duty of the executive branch.” However, the liberal news Web site Consortium News notes that Bush seems unaware of the duty of the judicial branch, “a fact taught to every American child in grade-school civics class—that it is the duty of the judiciary to interpret the laws. It is also the responsibility of the courts to resolve differences between parties under the law.” [Consortium News, 11/23/2000]

Entity Tags: Tom Feeney, Florida Supreme Court, Katherine Harris, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, James A. Baker, Consortium News, US Electoral College

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

Florida’s presidential vote tallies are adjusted, in line with state law, to reflect absentee ballots (see 12:00 a.m., November 17, 2000 and November 15-17, 2000). The slim lead belonging to George W. Bush (R-TX—see Evening, November 14, 2000) expands to 930 votes; Bush picks up 1,380 votes and Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) picks up 750 votes. [US News and World Report, 12/13/2000; Leip, 2008] After the modified vote tallies are announced, Bush campaign officials begin publicly complaining of manual-recount irregularities. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/17/2000] Three Florida counties are either engaged in manual recounts or are preparing to recount (see November 17, 2000, 3:40 p.m. November 15, 2000, and 3:00 p.m., November 16, 2000).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

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