Published January 14, 2015
This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Dec. 6, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: So what has it actually taken to mount a statewide recount in that pivotal state of Ohio (search)? And how much chance is there that an official margin of nearly 120,000 could be reversed? Well, we may have just heard the answer to that.
But for more answers, we turn to Ohio’s top election official, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is nice enough to join tonight us from Columbus.
Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
KEN BLACKWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE, OHIO: Good to be with you.
HUME: How is it that these small parties, who clearly are not going to change the results in favor of their candidates, are able to mount this recount effort, to get it started, anyway?
BLACKWELL: It basically speaks to the fairness of Ohio election law (search). Ohio election law allows two guys, in this case, who received less than 15,000 votes between them. That’s about a quarter of 1 percent, to request a recount and have it granted if they followed the prescribed process for requesting that recount. Which is conducted at the county level in all of our 88 counties. They have to put up the bonding and all of those 88 counties request a recount. And the counties have 10 days to start the recount.
HUME: So it’s almost automatic if somebody wants it, isn’t it?
BLACKWELL: It’s almost automatic if a candidate that has run statewide requests it and comes up with the bonding. What your report indicated is that the cost to the candidates making this request is about one-tenth of the real cost to the taxpayers. And if these folks had a chance of changing the result, I’m sure every taxpayer in the state of Ohio would be in their corner, because they would want to have full confidence in the cleanness of the result.
These guys received less than — you know, about one-quarter or 1 percent of the total vote. And the Kerry campaign is sitting on the sideline; one day they’re in, one day they’re out. Who could tell what their real motivation is.
HUME: Now, when this recount goes forward, this will be done, I assume, principally across the state? It will be a machine recount. Am I correct about that?
BLACKWELL: Well, what they will have and they have requested an observant — they want to observe and examine each of the ballots that have been chosen. They will choose 3 percent. They will do a hand count.
HUME: Three percent of what?
BLACKWELL: Three percent of the total votes cast in those for president in the counties chosen. They will then do a hand count of those three percent then — hand examination and then run it through the machine. And if there are no discrepancies, then they will machine count the rest of the ballots.
HUME: So what will happen now to get this process started if I have it right, is they’ll take a set of ballots, just a sample set, a few of them in each county. They’ll look at them and determine what they show.
BLACKWELL: Right. Three percent.
HUME: Right. Three percent. It will end up to being a fair number of ballots. Then they’ll run them through the machine to see if the machine counts them correctly. Right?
BLACKWELL: Right. That’s right.
HUME: And if there are — and only if there are discrepancies, there will be a further recount in that area, is that right?
BLACKWELL: Or will there be a further recount of the hand examination. They will then run all of the ballots back through the machines. We have experience with this. And we had an attorney general race in 1990 that after they did the recount there was about 146 ballot difference in the total count.
HUME: Out of how many?
BLACKWELL: It was millions of ballots. And so we know that our final canvas process is a very thorough, very meticulous bipartisan process. County by county the votes are audited. Every vote is taken a look at. Then a bipartisan Board of Elections (search), made up of two Democrats, two Republicans holds a public hearing and certify the ballots in their respective counties. Those numbers come to me for the statewide certification. So the ballots are counted at the local level.
HUME: Now, that’s statewide certification you refer to, is that just what happened today? Or is that what happens subsequently?
BLACKWELL: That is just what happened today.
HUME: All right.
BLACKWELL: I was going to say in 2000, we certified on December 11. In 2002, because we didn’t have an Electoral College (search), we certified on December 20. We’re certifying on December 6 today. So this is in keeping with that thorough, very meticulous counting process that’s done at the local level by bipartisan teams. Both parties are deeply embedded in this balanced, bipartisan system.
HUME: So if somebody were to go — if you were to go through a recount statewide and ended up recounting every vote, it would be because of the presence of observers from both sides. It would be very difficult from what you described for anybody to cheat and manipulate the outcome of that. Correct?
BLACKWELL: It’s a very transparent process. That’s what I found to be somewhat ridiculous with Terry McAuliffe’s call today for this commission to study it. All he has to do is call all of his Democratic chairmen in Ohio, county chairman into Washington and ask them what happened. They are deeply embedded in the process. I’ll give you three examples real quick, Brit.
BLACKWELL: In Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, the Democratic Party chairman is the chairman of the Board of Elections in that county. Same goes for Franklin County, where our state capitol is located, Dayton, Montgomery County and Akron-Summit County. So you can see Democrat leaders are deeply embedded in this process.
HUME: I get the point. All right.
Now, the president won by the official count of something on the order of 119-120,000 votes. There is said to be some 93,000 votes still in question. Very quickly, what does that mean still in question? What are those votes?
BLACKWELL: Well, those were over/under votes, where the ballots had votes for more than one candidate for president, that was a spoiled vote for president. Or where the voter chose not to vote in the presidential race. Historically they’ve divided pretty evenly.
HUME: Got you. Thank you very much. Got to go.
BLACKWELL: Good to be with you.
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