If Katherine Harris does become an ambassador, Ken Ruebush suggests her posting be . . . Chad.

 Meanwhile, there are a lot of things that are not practical to do to fix the mess in Florida. Foremost: a revote. In the first place, it wouldn’t be fair to Governor Bush, because all those Nader voters, seeing how close it was – or most of them, anyway – would vote for Gore. So that’s out. (Other problems? Well, for one, you’d then have to count the revote, and you know how controversial the counting process is.)

It’s probably also not possible to do much about all the confusion in Palm Beach County, or the voter-intimidation in certain predominantly African-American Florida precincts. I heard of one instance today where a woman was asked for three – count ’em, three – forms of photo i.d. before she was allowed to vote. Were you asked for three? I wasn’t.

So all the Vice President is asking for is that we count the ballots the machines couldn’t read. It’s true, this is not normally done with undervotes in other states. There were something like 2 million ballots nationwide that weren’t counted. But these are not normally counted because it’s not necessary. Why on earth go to all the trouble of a manual count when someone has won by a wide enough margin that it doesn’t matter? Or in a state with insufficient electoral votes to change the outcome of the election? The precise count in California doesn’t matter! Gore won by a very wide margin. The precise count in New Mexico doesn’t matter! Even if it swung New Mexico into Bush’s camp, it wouldn’t affect the outcome of the election.

Where they are necessary, manual counts — slower and more expensive — are done.

Anyway, you’re sick of all that. Yes, we should count the ballots the machines couldn’t read. It’s that simple.

But there’s tons of stuff we probably can’t correct in Florida, so I do not present the three items that follow to suggest that we can. Only to suggest that some Republican leaders’ seeming disdain for even the possibility that anyone in Florida has reason to be upset is . . . well, insensitive. Perhaps even a bit ungracious or divisive.

But you be the judge:

Rabbi Richard M. Yellin of Palm Beach County, FL: ‘I came to my voting precinct at the St. Thomas More Church in Boynton Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida, at 6:30 am on Election day 2000. I was fifth in line waiting for the precinct to open. By the time it opened, about 30 people had already lined up, and by the time I exited from the poll at 7:15, 100+ individuals were waiting to enter a very crowded precinct area. I was fully prepared to vote my choices with my own pre-prepared list of candidate selections and referendum choices. I came early because I had to be at my Synagogue by 8 am to speak at a morning religious service.

‘When I entered the precinct I signed the voter register and received the ‘computerized ballot.’ I went to a cubicle on a desk that had a ‘votamatic’ platform which had a ‘butterfly brochure’ fixed on the platform, with pages of the brochure to be turned sequentially so that candidates and referendum questions could be ‘hole punched,’ i.e., voted for. I followed the instructions placing the ballot into the slot so that it could be properly fixed and aligned under the ‘butterfly,’ so that the holes on the ‘butterfly’ lined up over the computerized ‘ballot.’ At that point I started the voting process. I wanted to vote for Gore/Lieberman. I searched for the Gore ‘butterfly hole’ and could not find it!! The arrows to the right of the candidate’s name, pointing to the proper ‘butterfly hole’ did not align properly!! I struggled to find the appropriate place for my vote, and tried to figure out which one it was by looking at the Bush ‘hole’ and the others on the page. By a process of elimination, I chose the hole I thought was for Gore and Lieberman. I took 3-4 minutes to do this. It made me feel rather stupid, so I hid my stupidity, figuring that I voted my choice. I went on to all the other candidates on the next pages of the ‘butterfly’ and the alignments to the proper holes were arranged neatly and to perfection. I took out my ‘ballot from the ‘butterfly’ and placed it in the ballot box upon leaving.

‘As I left, I heard people complaining that it was difficult to vote for President and V.P. I did not have time to consult with these individuals because I had my appointments. As I drove away, I had a gnawing feeling that something was not right, with the blame on me. I had a sample mock ‘butterfly’ that was mailed out before the election, and I looked at it briefly while driving and I saw that it did not look anything like the ‘butterfly’ that was attached to the ‘votamatic.’ At which point I dismissed the experience and went about driving. At 7:45 am, when I came to my synagogue (of which I am the Rabbi), Temple Emeth of Delray Beach, a 2800 member congregation of retired senior citizens, our parking lot was a bee-hive of activity. A voting precinct is housed in our facility’s auditorium, and it had lines waiting to go in to vote. I went into my office to prepare my sermon and at 8:10, I went out of my office, passing the voting precinct waving to many voters whom I knew. I rushed past the auditorium and went into the Chapel and began the service with a sermonette on the subject of voting and religious freedom. I told my prayers that in order to be religious, they had to vote, because political freedom is the guarantor of religious freedom. At exactly 8:20, my speech was interrupted by a synagogue Staff member who said to me in front of the 60 people in the chapel, ‘There is a problem in the precinct.’ My 7:15 emotions began to gnaw at me again.

‘I entered the precinct ahead of the lines and I was told by several people leaving that they had trouble voting their choice for President. In fact one person was crying that she thought she had mistakenly voted for Buchanan. I summoned the supervisor of the precinct housed in our facility and I asked her to get the butterfly ballot from one of the ‘votamatics’ and to look at it together with me. Two or three other people gathered around, and it was the identical ‘butterfly’ that I had used at the Church. I said to the supervisor that the arrows are completely misaligned with the holes and therefore the ballots could not be punched, expressing with certainty the intent of the voter. She agreed, and I asked her to interrupt the voting in the precinct and I told her that the precinct should be closed until an announcement was made to all those voting, that ‘the ‘butterfly brochure’ was problematic, and that people should exercise great care.’ I said to her that the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach and in Florida should be called immediately. She agreed. The phone lines to the election board were busy. She made the announcements, and I went to call all the media outlets in the area — 3 TV stations and the radio station of record. At which point, I felt I did my duty and I went into the synagogue office and began listening to people exiting from the precinct who complained that it was an impossible experience, and how they think they voted for Buchanan by mistake because of the ‘butterfly.’ At that point, I too put 2 and 2 together and I think I may have voted for Buchanan, a vote that would be anathema to my whole political disposition.

‘By 9:15 I had meetings in my office and duties to attend to, and thought that others had been sufficiently apprised of the situation and that it was in hand. Wrong, by mid day all hell broke loose in the media.

‘Addendum: On Friday night November 10, I had planned to speak about Kristallnacht, the Rabin Assassination, and Veterans Day. Instead, before 500 people I asked them to shared their voting experience during election day. Several people got up to speak and told their stories that they had trouble with the ‘butterfly’ in trying to vote for Gore, and they think they voted for Buchanan. (It is important to know that my congregation has well over 100 holocaust survivors, and no one would have knowingly voted for Buchanan. I took a referendum on that!) At which point several people in the congregation began to laugh at those who expressed a problem with the vote! I asked those who were laughing to explain their lamentable public ridicule. They said they voted, and it was a piece of cake. I then asked them to explain why it was easy for them. They said their ‘butterfly’ was lined up correctly and all they had to do was follow the arrows for the candidates and punch the holes. In response, those who had the problem, said publicly that they had a DIFFERENT LOOKING ‘BUTTERFLY’ AND THE ARROWS WERE MISPRINTED. I then took a tabulation. ‘If you thought the votamatic was easy to use, raise your hands.’ 50% raise their hands. Then: ‘If you were troubled by the vote and think you may have voted incorrectly for Gore because of your ‘butterfly,’ raise your hands.’ 30% raised their hands. 20% were unsure.

‘The conclusion of this ‘Town Hall’ sermonic discussion? There were two different versions of the ‘butterfly’ or maybe even a partial misprint of the butterflies used by many voters in various precincts of Palm Beach County.

‘I tried the same experiment on Saturday morning to an even larger crowd, dispensing with the planned sermon, asking people to share their voting experiences. The Saturday morning congregation is made up of different people than the Friday night congregation. To my amazement the same thing virtually the same happened again. People laughed, and slowly they came to the realization that there were 2 different versions to the ‘butterfly.’ The tabulation was the same as the previous night. Conclusion: The real problem is the ‘butterfly’ brochure. There were misprints in the alignment of arrows and holes, and there were bad ‘butterflies’ hovering within and mingling with normal ‘butterflies,’ and the way you could predict who received infected misprinted ‘butterflies,’ was to scan the precincts where Buchanan received greater numbers of votes than expected compared to all the other 50+ counties in Florida. It just so happens that the Buchanan factor surfaced most within Jewish and African-American areas and precincts. As an African-American pastor friend of mine said, ‘there is no one in his congregation who would for a moment think of voting for Pat Buchanan.’ Buchanan subsequently went on air saying he knew that these exaggerated votes, close to 3500 in Palm Beach County, ‘should not have gone to me.’

‘The real question for these 3500 suspected votes: Why doesn’t the government impound all the ‘butterflies’ and search for the misprinted ones. The media is totally confused by this, and it is no wonder that the former Secretary of State, The Honorable James Baker, could hold up a normal ‘butterfly,’ and unconscionably imply, that elderly, Jewish, African-Americans, and Palm Beach County citizens, were ‘confused’ (implying ‘stupid’). Mr. Baker, in this case, was really ‘holier than thou,’ meaning, of course Bush voters were not confused because their candidate was the first on the list, and you could not mistake punching the Bush ‘butterfly’ hole because it was at the top of the column of holes, i.e., ‘holier than thou.’ Baker held up the proper butterfly — he never knew about the misprinted one!!

‘I do not believe in conspiracies! I am a registered independent voter who learned as a child: ‘It is not who won or lost, but how we played the game.’ In this election, the voting machinery was flawed, not the electorate!’

*

Ben Austin: ‘My mother was a precinct clerk in Palm Beach County, Florida, election day of 2000. Mom’s very good friend Leah was a precinct clerk as well. Both of them were incredibly upset during and after election day, before anyone knew the import of these specific voters. And my mother was convinced there were serious irregularities long before they gained national prominence, and she called me to say so.

‘I note this because some Republicans are now asking if there were these irregularities, how come they were not raised until after the election? In fact, my mother and the other precinct clerks raised these issues from the moment that the polls opened in the morning; the problem is that the person they initially called on was Theresa LePore, elections supervisor of Palm Beach County. She was the source of the ballot confusion, and was uninterested in the issue.

‘First, the paper ballot was extremely confusing to these voters. Although both major parties got a chance to review the card layout, it is not clear if any had a chance to put the actual ballot in an actual machine and punch the holes. The card is laid horizontally as you vote, and it is hard to see the holes as you punch them. And my mother, who supervised the precinct she was in (this is a paid position, and she reported directly to Ms. LePore) said the card did not even fit correctly in the ballot machine, so the holes in the card did not line up with the ballot.

‘Anyone who thinks this was minor voter confusion has never dealt with retirees in a West Palm Beach retirement village in Florida, I promise you.

‘My mother, following the rules, said the poll workers had been told not to help people with the cards, as it might bias the voters. My mother witnessed many, many people who voted incorrectly. Some stayed on a second line and had their cards re-done, some punched the second hole (and thus were probably thrown out), and some found out they voted for Buchanan after they had deposited their cards in the ballot box, and there was thus nothing they could do.

‘Mom called me up to complain about this after the election, and she called me up again on Thursday, very upset after reading a story in the New York Times (Nov. 9 2000, p. B6). The Times story states:

‘After numerous complaints were received on Tuesday morning, Ms. LePore issued this directive to the county’s 106 precincts: Attention all poll workers. Please remind all voters coming in that they are to vote only for one (1) presidential candidate and that they are to punch the hole next to the arrow next to the number next to the candidate they wish to vote for.’

‘Mom never received this directive, and she believes that if anyone knew they could have helped people vote their preference, the outcome would have been very different. Instead, my mother and the others were trying to do the right thing, and they felt that helping explain the ballot to these people would have been helping them to vote for Gore, something she didn’t feel was proper. These women are honest to a fault.

‘Leah did receive the directive, but not until 4pm on election day, and only by accident; someone was coming to visit from the main office and told her about it. In the meantime, my mother and Leah (and most of the precinct clerks) had been desperately trying to call the county office. They had been given a phone number by Ms. LePore and told that the phone line would be staffed throughout the day. They were told to call if there were any problems. Mom tried to call starting at 7:30am, calling straight through when polls closed, but she got a busy signal the entire time. But Mom was at a polling station with only a pay phone, so she had to deposit coins each time, and with long lines waiting for her, she was becoming increasingly frustrated.

‘Leah was precinct chief at the retirement village where they live, and ran a polling station at the clubhouse. Having a more modern facility, Leah tried on the phone as well, and when she couldn’t get through, she called the operator to ask her why the phone was busy. Leah had the presence of mind to get the operator’s number (history is made by people like Leah) when the operator told her the phone was off the hook, meaning nobody was on the line the entire day. Evidently, the supervisor’s office just didn’t want to hear the complaints.

‘Leah then faxed the supervisor’s office with her concerns at noon and again at 2pm. Nobody called Leah back until 5pm, when she heard from Ms. LePore, with the following words ‘don’t bother me.’

‘So as this news starts to be spun and re-spun, let me tell you a few things I am certain to be true: I can’t argue intent either way, but the supervisor’s office in Palm Beach County is at the very least unable to carry out an election in which these people have their say.

‘These people started trying to fix the problem from the moment polls opened, and were fought along the way. This is not about crying about the election once it is over.

‘It pains me to see the issue being politicized by both sides. Gore has no place having his advisor Daley make statements that after a recount, Gore will emerge victorious; and Bush has no place saying that he is the victor, or setting up a transition team. In fact, the idea that Bush and his brother were together on election night, with Jeb Bush promising to ‘deliver Florida,’ draws a picture at least to me with the semblance of impropriety, especially now that we have seen the results so askew. I hope everyone will pay attention to the facts here, and let the people of South Florida have the same opportunity to vote that the rest of us had. You are free to send this to anyone you wish.’

*

Susan Guberman-Garcia: ‘I spent several hours this morning watching the NAACP public hearing on the Florida vote on C-SPAN. Having done so, it is very clear to me that there was a systematic and calculated effort to lessen the Gore vote by denying the franchise to as many African Americans as possible.

‘The hearing was orderly, well run, and transcribed by a court reporter and was presided over by NAACP President (and former Congressional Black Caucus chairman) Kweisi Mfumi. The hearing was much like a Congressional hearing (but without the wordwaste and puffery that usually dominates Congressional hearings), there were several panels of witnesses, 2 to 4 people per panel. The witnesses included voters who were denied the right to vote, NAACP activists who worked the get-out-the-vote effort all day, NAACP phone-standby volunteers who worked the phones fielding election-day complaints, poll workers and news media people. The witnesses were all credible and impressive, their information detailed and often accompanied by notes with names, dates, places. I would not hesitate to call any of these people as witnesses if I were handling a lawsuit on their behalf. Witnesses testified that they (and family members and others in their presence) were denied the right to vote because they ‘were not on the rolls’ even though some of them had their voter registration cards as well as identification showing their names and addresses. This violates Florida law. In many cases, the poll workers who refused them declined to make any effort to validate their status and told them to ‘come back later.’ Some poll workers were sympathetic and attempted to get approval for the voters to go ahead and vote but were denied by ‘headquarters.’

‘THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: Two poll workers testified that they had been instructed by ‘headquarters’ that they should apply ‘qualification’ procedures VERY STRICTLY and if there is the slightest doubt, DENY THE REQUEST TO VOTE. They were also told to refrain from giving out any written verification of the refused voters’ requests, including affidavits (this is illegal; the law REQUIRES that any voter whose attempt is challenged be given an affidavit of challenge signed under oath by the poll worker). And in fact, many of the denied voters asked for an affidavit or something in writing to prove they had attempted to vote and ALL such requests were refused. NONE were given the chance to cast a ‘challenge ballot’ (which I gather is similar to the ‘provisional ballot’ that is used in California when there is a dispute as to whether someone is entitled to vote or not). Witnesses testified that they and others who were African American (but not white) voters were asked to provide BOTH photo ID and a current voter registration card and many who could not do so were denied the right to vote even though the law does not require that the voters present both ID and voter registration cards. A newswoman who spent all day at various polling places witnessed the above time and time again. When she tried to intervene, she was threatened with arrest. This newswoman (who happens to be white and a former policewoman) accompanied one black voter to SIX polling places as she was turned away time after time because, despite her having a voter card and ID, she was told ‘this is not your polling place. Finally, she returned to her original polling place and was allowed, finally, to vote.

‘The newswoman testified that at one polling place in Healdsberg County, there were numerous police cars who were stopping African American voters and asking for ID and ‘what are you doing here?’ She saw them stop one elderly man after he left the polls, order him to ‘assume the position’ and question him, as he tried to explain he had just voted (and was wearing a button that said ‘I voted’). When she tried to intervene, she was told to move on or she would be arrested, and when she did so out of fear for her safety, she was followed for several miles by a police car. This newswoman, who is white and a former policewoman, broke town in tears because she was ashamed that she left the scene. The newswoman testified that she was leaked a list of over a thousand absentee voters by an election official. This was a list of absentee voters who were disqualified for being ‘felons’ (their votes were not counted but they were not informed of the rejection of their vote or the opportunity to challenge it the Republican commissioner who leaked the list told the newswoman that the instructions were to NOT notify the rejected absentee voters of their disqualification. The newswoman happened to know one of the people on the list and it is someone she knows has never been convicted of a crime, let alone a felony.

‘Many witnesses testified that people who came in to vote were required to answer a litany of questions even though they were on the rolls and had ID, the questions had to do with whether they had been convicted of a felony since the last time they voted, was their address correct, etc. Only African Americans appeared to be asked these questions. A police lieutenant testified that a box of ballots was sitting in the police station. Someone called in that it had not been picked up. The police department claimed that they had tried to call the election commission on Friday but nobody answered because it was a holiday. As of now (actually, the hearing was Saturday but C-SPAN aired it this morning), the box is still sitting in the police evidence room, sealed with evidence tape. A minister testified that nobody ever came to pick up the box at his church (a polling place for his precinct) and STILL HAS NOT DONE SO!!

‘The president of Haitian Women of Miami testified that she was threatened with arrest for attempting to enter the polling booth to help first time Haitian voters who needed translation assistance, and even though she presented a copy of the statute that permits such assistance inside the booth she was told that she would be arrested if she did not leave and the police were actually called. None of the Creole speakers who asked for Creole ballots (which were printed for the first time this election) were given them and although there were Creole speaking volunteers present to assist those voters, they were denied the right to do so. Handicapped people were able to get into some polling places but the polling booths were not acceptable to them and requests for special ballots or other assistance was denied in African American precincts, according to the witnesses.’

*

What a fine mess this is, Ollie.

 

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