This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Nov. 11, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: Ralph Nader (search) now wants a recount in New Hampshire. So do the Libertarian and Green Party candidates for Ohio. The Kerry camp scoffs at the idea that this year’s reported election irregularities could add up to anything that could come close to changing the outcome. But the Internet is abuzz with talk of conspiracies and stolen votes.
So who better to consult with the man who wrote a book on election fraud? John Fund of The Wall Street Journal, whose book is called "Stealing Elections."
JOHN FUND, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you.
HUME: I mean is it — it wasn’t automatically triggered because the vote wasn’t close enough, right?
FUND: Well, any candidate can request a recount but they have to pay for it. They get to pick the precincts they think there might be problems. And they pay as you go.
HUME: And they don’t need to make a showing that the change of the outcomes in those precincts would change the results in order to do it. They could just get a recount going because they think the numbers are off, or what?
FUND: For whatever reason, as long as they pay the cost and it’s not borne by the taxpayers.
HUME: And what kind of money are we talking about here?
FUND: Well, for the first round that they want to use, they’re going to need $110,000. That gets them a chunk of precincts. And if they think they find irregularities, they can always go on. I suspect some of these Internet people want to count every precinct no matter what though.
HUME: Well, yes. Are they prepared to put up the money though?
FUND: Well, I actually think this would be very clarifying. If they are willing to spend the money, let’s resolve whatever ambiguities there are. Every election has ambiguities. You know, there are 200,000 precincts in this country, Brit. There are going to be problems. You know, there was a computer in North Carolina that actually ate 4,500 votes.
HUME: What happened to those votes?
FUND: The computer storage capacity was exceeded and they vanished. We can’t get them back.
HUME: And so does anybody have any reason to believe that would change the result in North Carolina?
FUND: There are some local races that it might conceivably affect. So there is going to be some litigation there. There are genuine problems, but we shouldn’t be distracted if we can by Internet fantasists. Luckily, no elected Democrat of any consequence has given any credence to this at all. You have Jack Corrigan, who is John Kerry’s chief legal-beagle, says you know, I wish there would be a way to overturn this. There’s not. They want it.
HUME: Well, what kinds of — let’s take Ohio, which if reversed would make the difference.
FUND: Sure it would. Absolutely.
HUME: Kerry would be the president. All right. Yes. He would have been — he would have lost the popular vote by a considerable margin still, but he would be president. What about the kinds of things that are being bandied about for Ohio, as possible result changing irregularities.
FUND: Well, we have put one thing to rest. Supposedly in Cuyahoga County (search), which includes Cleveland, there were more votes cast in some precincts than there were registered voters. Turns out that was a quirk in the software used by the election system, where they allocated all the absentee votes to one precinct, rather than spread them around. Because you can’t really tell easily what precincts they were in. So that is laid to rest that — that’s gone.
HUME: Didn’t happen?
FUND: Didn’t happen. Now, there were problems, I think, with voter fraud in Ohio because a lot of counties had as many registered voters or more, as there were adults over the age of 18. That is an engraved invitation for people to commit fraud.
HUME: And how many voters are we talking about here?
FUND: We don’t know. But we do know in Pennsylvania — next — neighboring Pennsylvania, by the way, where the margin for Kerry is less than the margin for Bush in Ohio, there were all kinds of problems. We had 12 people registered to vote at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. It was torn down last year. So even if they had bleacher seat residences they don’t have them anymore.
HUME: Well, you know, back to Ohio for a second. I mean obviously that is the key place. Are any of these problems that have been reported in Ohio — obviously if there was a big problem in Cuyahoga County, that is a huge county, went heavily for Kerry. More heavily than it did four years ago. But if, you know, some tens of thousands of votes were to turn up uncounted, there’s no evidence of that there though, correct?
FUND: If they want to pay for the recount, I’m glad that they’re doing that, because I don’t want these ambiguities hanging around the Internet forever. Their basic complaint is this — there were about 88,000 punch card ballots that didn’t register a choice for president, shades of Florida. We have the punch card machines in Ohio because they didn’t like the electronic machines. They thought that they were suspicion, the Diebold machines (search).
HUME: So they didn’t use them.
FUND: Didn’t use them. They went to the old punch card just like Florida did in 2000. So then you have the over vote/under vote problem, shades of Florida.
HUME: So they would have to go through all these 88,000 punch cards?
FUND: And do the chad.
HUME: And do the chad. Is this the kind of thing that would automatically get done in a recount?
FUND: Yes, it would if you are — if you’re basically — if it’s triggered and the election is close enough, it absolutely would get done. Now that they are doing it, they have to pay for it.
HUME: Well, so they can have it done.
FUND: They can have it done.
HUME: And we are back to looking at chads and holes in ballots?
HUME: And we’re talking about 88,000. Is there any reason to believe that those 88,000 broke toward Kerry and therefore could change the result of the election?
FUND: No. And besides, Bush’s margin is 136,000. That is why even the Kerry lawyers say this is insane. They’re not going to find the votes.
HUME: What about the provisional ballots that are still outstanding? There are about what, 150,000 of those that are being counted now?
FUND: Yes and less than half of those are being declared valid because there are all kinds of problems. You know, the people were not really eligible or something like that. If you add up all of these ambiguities, and I did some back of the envelop calculations, you still don’t get anywhere near 136,000 to overturn the election. So I think this is an exercise in wish fulfillment.
HUME: What about Florida. Now, Florida is another place where there was suspicion cast on the voting in counties in the northern part of the state. Not in the Panhandle that voted heavily for Bush, but where gasp, registrations were much — were heavily Democratic. Many more Democrats up there than Republicans.
FUND: It’s true.
HUME: And yet they were carried by Bush. I know that’s been explained and explained, but the explanation?
FUND: Well, the Internet fantasists say it is inconceivable that Bush could get so many more votes than the number of registered Republicans. Well, guess what? In those same counties Bob Dole beat Bill Clinton. These are old Dixiecrat counties filled with people like Zell Miller. They normally vote Republican.
HUME: Yes I believe Bush — Bush carried those counties four years ago, correct?
FUND: And Dole even. And he was clobbered by Clinton in 1996.
HUME: So, that is just the nature of the political make up of those counties.
FUND: Yes. There are a lot of ancestral Democrats that have not voted Democratic in generations.
HUME: So they’re still registered as that. Where else are there issues that are being talked about by these — the Internet conspiracy theorists?
FUND: Well, in New Mexico, Governor Richardson, a Democrat is still trying to go through all the provisional ballots, and come up with enough to overturn Bush’s margin in New Mexico, because he wants the bragging rights if he ever runs for president.
HUME: That he carried the — that he helped carry the state.
HUME: What is that, about a 7,000-vote majority?
FUND: I just got off the phone. They have finished the counting. Bush’s lead is gone down to about 5,000 votes, but it is stabilized. It’s not going to change.
HUME: And they are not quite finished but it is...
FUND: They’re finished.
HUME: Oh, they are. So he has got a 5,000-vote majority?
HUME: So it’s reasonable to say tonight, based on your most recent information in New Mexico, is unlikely — in fact, it will not change.
FUND: Right. Exactly.
HUME: So he carried that state. Anywhere else? What about New Hampshire? What are these guys — quickly, what are these guys talking about New Hampshire?
FUND: I have — I really can’t figure out what is going on in New Hampshire, except Ralph Nader is being quirky. But that’s Ralph Nader.
HUME: Of course, Kerry carried New Hampshire.
HUME: That isn’t going to change the outcome in the direction that it matters.
FUND: No. But Brit, the bottom line on all of this is we do have the sloppiest election system of any industrialize Democracy. And even we don’t want to go the Internet fantasy route, there is a whole lot of reforms that need to be done so that we don’t play Russian roulette with our elections. Because remember, a few more votes in Ohio, you would have had litigation hell and 30,000 lawyers in Ohio.
HUME: John Fund, always good to have you.
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