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DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS

It's the Law, Florida Official Explains

November 14, 2000|Associated Press

Excerpts from the written statement of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Republican, on her decision to enforce a deadline of 5 p.m. EST today for all 67 counties to turn in their certified vote totals:

"I am issuing this statement to ensure there are no misunderstandings with respect to the statutory schedule for completing the presidential election in Florida. To that end, I met this morning with representatives of the campaigns of Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush, and . . . with the supervisors of elections in all 67 counties.

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"It is the duty of the Florida Legislature to strike that balance and it has done so. In order to serve the interest of individual voters and the candidates who seek elective office, the law provides automatic recounts in extremely close elections, methods for protesting elections and procedures for petitioning for, and conducting, manual recounts. And in order to effectuate the public's right to clarity and finality, the law unambiguously states when the process of counting and recounting the votes cast on election day must end. For this election, that time is 5 p.m., Nov. 14, which is [today]. . . .

"The performance of this duty is mandatory; there are no exceptions provided in the law. In fact, [a] $200-a-day personal fine is imposed on members of the county canvassing board for failing to meet this deadline.

"In this context I am very aware that a few counties are conducting or contemplating additional recounts in the presidential election. . . . I am dispatching personnel from my office to the offices of the supervisors of elections in every county that does not have a certified return on file in my office at the close of business today."

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"[As] Section 102.112, Florida statutes, which deals with the duties of the county canvassing board, provides: "If the returns are not received by the time specified such returns may be ignored and the results on file at that time may be certified by the department by 5 p.m. on the seventh day following an election, all missing counties shall be ignored and the results on file shall be certified.

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"No county canvassing board has ever disenfranchised all the voters of its county by failing to do their legal duty to certify returns by the date specified in the law. I am confident that no county canvassing board will do so in this election."

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