Kerry: People Still Can Be Swayed

KERRY: Well, we have to see what they are and where they are. I don't think there are going to be. I'm expecting a record turnout. I think Americans are determined not to have a repeat of the year 2000. We have 10,000 lawyers that we have enlisted over the last months, all across the country, to guarantee that people's right to vote is protected. We have already challenged efforts to suppress Democratic votes. Democratic registrations were found in the wastebasket in Nevada.

A Republican state senator in Michigan was quoted as saying, "We have to suppress the vote in Detroit in order to win." A list was put out in Florida -- people to be purged from the rolls -- that was knowingly incorrect. We've challenged each of those.

JENNINGS: Well, you brought up a number of subjects -- fraud, disenfranchisement, and the challenge to the election itself. Do you have some percentage in mind? If the vote is, for example, 2 percent separation between you and Mr. Bush, [would that be] worthy of a challenge?

KERRY: Peter, I'm going to wait and see how America votes and what happens, and I'll make a decision when I see what the facts are. I'm not going to speculate.

JENNINGS: And does this mean that you will go for broke if you think a challenge requires it?

KERRY: I'll do what's necessary to protect the constitutional right of Americans to vote.

JENNINGS: You think the bar should be particularly high for a challenge or for a concession, given that the country's at war?

KERRY: I think the presidency of the United States always requires the highest standards and the highest bar, but the presidency of the United States also requires the certitude to Americans that votes have been counted.

JENNINGS: And what if there is a Florida-like situation, again?

KERRY: We've laid the groundwork to be able to protect the constitutional right of Americans to vote. That's what's at stake -- not me, not George Bush -- the right of Americans, the greatest democracy on the face of the planet, to lift people up and show them how democracy works.

JENNINGS: You, sir, and your party have spent a lot of time focused on what you would call the disenfranchisement of some of the voters.

KERRY: Sure. [LAUGHS]

JENNINGS: Republicans see it from another point of view. They think there's a potential for fraud. What have you done, as the leader of your party, to make sure there will be no fraud?

KERRY: There's not going to be any fraud on our part. That's the job of election officials. All I want to make sure is that the duly registered people are, in fact, allowed to vote and their votes are counted, 'cause last time, they weren't.

JENNINGS: Are you saying there's nothing to these Republican claims about fraud, and that they're using this to intimidate your voters?

KERRY: I think they are, and I have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of any instance of fraud. Wherever it exists, I will join with President Bush in taking it to the Justice Department and in making sure that people are duly prosecuted. They ought to be.

Republican Relations

JENNINGS: Your No. 1 commitment is to passing a health care bill. In all likelihood, you'll face a Republican House of Representatives and perhaps a Republican Senate. Talk to us about the real world. Would you rather have all of your health care proposals enacted, or would you be prepared to accept less if it meant you had a bipartisan relationship with the Republicans in the Congress?

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