(CNSNews.com) - The Bush campaign went on the offensive Tuesday, attempting to "set the record straight" about "myths" the Gore campaign is spreading as part of its post-election effort to win the presidency for Democrat Al Gore.
James Baker appeared before television cameras around 9:15 a.m., with five new members of his senior litigation team in tow.
Said Baker, "Regrettably, the Gore campaign has now filed a lawsuit contesting the certified election results here in Florida. Their aim, of course, is to overturn the outcome of the election after 19 or 20 days of counts, and recounts, and more recounts.
Americans never had a presidential election decided by the court, Baker said, and he called the Gore legal maneuvering "an extraordinary procedure that puts America in new, uncertain and controversial territory."
After introducing the Bush team's five new attorneys, Baker announced they will be "defending the vote of Floridians in favor of Gov. Bush and Secy. Cheney."
"These five gentlemen are here to summarize our view of the overall contest proceedings and to set the record straight on four issues that the Gore campaign continues to mischaracterize."
10,000 Votes in Miami-Dade County
Myth number one is Al Gore's contention that 10,000 votes were never counted, not even once, in Miami-Dade County.
Not true, said attorney Irvin Terrell. "In fact, those were nonvotes, and indeed it is not unusual for people not to vote fully in every election on a ballot. ...In fact, those 10,000 nonvotes are about 1.6 percent of the votes cast in that county."
Terrell noted that in other states and counties, there are higher percentages of nonvotes. That's because "not every person that comes to an election and comes to the ballot box...chooses to vote."
When the Gore team says these votes are votes - "they're wrong," said Terrell. As for claims that these votes have never been counted, Terrell said "we know they've been counted twice by machines at lease and in each instance they've been found to not be votes."
Terrell also criticized the Gore campaign for not wanting a recount in Duval County (Jacksonville) where returns indicate voters went for Bush. He believes that Gore campaign didn't want a recount there because the county is "heavily military."
"We say, you have to check them all if you check them," Terrell said.
Terrell continued, "We believe there is no reason for us to be in court now. It is inappropriate for any single person to sit and decide and try to figure out for some divine inspiration whether a mark on the ballot is somehow intent to vote. But if we're going to do it, why don't we do it in Duval County where there are 20,000 votes which would swamp these Dade votes."
Myth: Mob Intimidation in Miami
It fell to attorney Fred Bartlit to explode myth number two - that Miami-Dade County would have conducted a full manual recount if it weren't for a Republican mob intimidating local elections officials."
Not true, he said. "What was being protested was a violation of the Florida Sunshine law - the count was moving behind closed doors."
Bartlit noted that even the New York Times was threatening litigation if the Miami-Dade vote count wasn't reopened to the public.
Republicans were simply protesting the fact that the count was about to move behind closed doors. "There were babies in the crowd, there were little kids there, there was, in some ways, a holiday atmosphere," Bartlit said.
He said elections officials themselves said they stopped the vote count, not because they were intimidated, but because they could not meet the deadline imposed by the Florida Supreme Court.
"The air in the room when they made the decision was calm. It was relaxed. There were no shouts. There was no pressure in the room. There were many, many police there. There wasn't a single arrest. No one ever asked the crowd to desist. A statement under these circumstances about a mob storming a counting facility is designed to heat up a situation and it really is time to tune back the rhetoric," Bartlit said.
Butterfly Ballot Myth
Attorney Phil Beck debunked arguments that Palm Beach County's butterfly ballot was somehow confusing or unfair. He said the ballot was designed by Democratic elections officials, approved by both Parties, and posted in newspapers so citizens could comment on it.
"The law is, that if anyone has a concern with the form of the ballot, that has to be expressed before the election, not after the election. It is not...fair to wait until votes have been counted, and then if you don't like the outcome, to say that...there was something wrong with the form of the ballot," Beck said.
Nassau County: Myth of 218 Votes
Attorney Daryl Bristow explained what the Bush campaign sees as a distortion involving 218 votes in Nassau County.
"These 218 votes were real votes by real people," Bristow said. "No one, at no time, declared these votes illegal. They are not nonvotes, they are not overvotes, they were real votes, they were counted in the original count."
Bristow continued, "It was discovered on the machine recount that these votes had been displaced and were not counted. The voting machines were checked to make sure that there had been no malfunction. Then permission was asked and received to include those votes in the final certification."
Seminole County: 'Not a Concern'
James Baker said the Bush team is not about Seminole County, where a local Democrat is trying to have all 15,000 absentee ballots throw out - something that could swing the election to Al Gore in one fell swoop.
"We do not think that that claim really has merit," Baker told reporters.