As I described last night, since Election Day, we have had a single fundamental goal: to ensure a complete count of all of the votes cast in Florida. Not recount after recount, as some have charged, but a single full and accurate count.
That is a purpose that extends far beyond the borders of Florida, because we know that what is done in Florida sends a message as to how we will govern ourselves as Americans.
The American people have shown great patience in these extraordinary days. They understand the importance of getting this election right.
That is why we have asked the Florida courts to recognize what observers of this process know to be true; that is, that the statement of Florida has certified a vote count that is neither complete nor accurate.
I understand that this process needs to be completed in a way that is expeditious, as well as fair. We cannot jeopardize an orderly transition of power to the next administration, nor need we do so.
Two weeks ago, I proposed to forgo any legal challenge if Governor Bush would let a complete and accurate count go forward, either in the counties where it was proposed or in the full state of Florida.
He rejected that proposal and instead became the first to file lawsuits. And now, two weeks later, thousands of votes still have not been counted.
This morning, we have proposed to the court in Tallahassee a plan to have all the ballots counted in seven days, starting tomorrow morning, and to have the court proceedings fully completed one or two days after that.
Let me repeat the essence of our proposal today: Seven days, starting tomorrow, for a full and accurate count of all the votes.
Once we have that full and accurate count of the ballots cast, then we will know who our next president is and our country can move forward.
Unfortunately, just about an hour ago, Governor Bush's lawyers rejected this proposal. Instead, they have proposed two weeks of additional court proceedings and additional hearings, right up to the Dec. 12 deadline for seating electors.
And under their plan, none of the thousands of votes that remain to be counted would be counted at all.
I believe this is a time to count every vote and not to run out the clock. This is not a time for delay, obstruction and procedural roadblocks.
As I've said, I believe it's essential to our country that there be no question, no cloud over the head of the next president, whether it be me or Governor Bush. We need to be able to say that there is no legitimate question as to who won this election, so that we can bring this country together. That is what we seek.
And so I urge Governor Bush to support our proposal to bring this process to a fair, expeditious and truly democratic conclusion.
Thank you I'd be glad to take just two or three questions.
Q: Mr. Vice President, in terms of your challenge in Miami-Dade, what is wrong with Republicans showing up at the election canvassing board and expressing their displeasure at the process?
A: Well, I think we all saw the videotape and audio recordings of that incident, and I think everybody can make his or her own judgment about it.
But that question is going to be decided, or at least looked at, by the court in Tallahassee.
The more important question is: Why not count all the votes?
As I said last evening, this is America. When people vote, their votes are counted. They're not arbitrarily set aside because it's hard to count them or for whatever reason. They're counted.
And these votes were cast and they have not been counted. Why not count them?
Q: Reverend Jackson and Congressman Charlie Rangel are alleging that hundreds of black voters may have been disenfranchised. Heretofore, we've heard allegations that procedures have been violated. Do you believe, sir, that the voting rights law was violated here?
A: Well, the right to vote has been protected by the law, and especially in states with a pattern of such problems.
The NAACP had sessions there, where stories were told and evidence of sorts was presented. I do not know whether they plan to go forward with that or not.
Basically, I don't know the answer to your question. I've heard the same stories that you have. But we did not include those matters in the proceedings that we took before the court yesterday, because the evidence was not there in the same way it was with these other matters.
Q: You keep talking about the importance of fairness. How is it fair for you to support a strategy by your lawyers that would result in the counting of undervotes in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade, but not in Republican counties?
A: Well, we offered to have the hand count take place all over the state, Chip.
And one thing to remember is that the old and cheap, outdated machinery is usually found in areas with populations that are of lower income, minorities, seniors on fixed incomes.
For example, if you look at Orlando, the voting machines there are new and modern. And if you make a mistake then it'll automatically, I'm told I read this in one of the newspapers there that it automatically points out your mistake and gives you a new ballot. In the places where these older machines are found, you have that kind of problem.
But we were perfectly willing, and would still be willing, to have a hand count in the entire state. I know that it's less of a realistic possibility now, but I've always been open to that. The counties selected are ones that have these machines and where there were obvious problems on Election Day.
Q: Mr. Vice President, polls this week suggest that you have that 60 percent of the American public is starting to tire of this. Ad that while they feel sympathetic to your situation and think it's a great idea to count all of the votes, that it's time to move on and put this behind us. You seem to be losing public sentiment. Can you address that?
A: Well, I said during the election to many of you that I didn't think the polls mattered. And on Election Day, sure enough, contrary to the polls, Joe Lieberman and I carried the popular vote nationally by 300,000 votes. I'm quite sure that the polls don't matter in this, because it's a legal question.
And the principle again is a very simple one: When people cast votes, the votes should be counted. And there are more than enough uncounted votes to decide the outcome of this election. There are thousands of them, and the margin is in the hundreds.
What is wrong with counting the votes? I'll tell you what's wrong with not counting the votes. If you ignore the votes, you ignore democracy itself. You ignore the will of the people. You ignore the basic principle upon which our whole system of self-government is based.
That principle is the consent of the governed. And the consent of the governed is expressed in elections, through ballots, votes that are cast by the people.
And if those in charge of the election machinery, for whatever reason, decide that, in this county or that, in this area or in that, they are simply going to ignore the votes and not count them, then the will of the people has not been fully and fairly expressed.
And, as a direct consequence, the consent of the governed has not been fully and freely given.
So every vote should be counted.
Thank you all very much.
Q: Did you talk with Secretary Summers? And did you ...
A: We had a good lunch, let me just mention that.
Q: Was this about transition?
Q: Did you offer him a Cabinet position?
A: Look, I don't think it's right for me to be offering people jobs, because it's obviously a time when, as I've said before, I think that Governor Bush and I, in the interests of the nation, should both proceed with transition planning and activities. I personally do not feel it is appropriate to announce the names of Cabinet members or to formally offer positions.
Now, most of what Secretary Summers and I talked about had to do with economic policy, with the state of the U.S. economy, what is likely to happen in the months and years ahead here and in other parts of the world.
Many of you know what a close friend and close adviser he is, but we spent most of the time talking about economic policy.
Thank you all very much.
Q: Are you going to win?
A: I hope so.