September 11, 2002
Florida Election

I used to think that Jeb Bush was a smart guy who would probably not make too bad a president:

State: What a mess: ...Before the scope of the problem became apparent Tuesday, Florida's Republican governor framed the problem in partisan terms. [Jeb] Bush referred to the rival party that now has been snakebit by election foibles in two straight major elections. "What is it with Democrats having a hard time voting -- I don't know," Bush said.

Posted by DeLong at September 11, 2002 09:05 AM | Trackback

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Bush's comments are justified, if you read the story you provided us, for instance:

Democratic candidate for governor Janet Reno showed up at a Miami-area precinct the moment polls opened at 7 a.m. and waited 20 minutes for the new voting machines to warm up. Poll workers elsewhere in Miami-Dade and Broward counties struggled to get precincts open on time and the new touch screen voting machines running, frustrating scores of other voters.


Several dozen precincts in Broward defiantly closed well before 9 p.m.


... Reno campaign officials and other interest groups talked of filing lawsuits. The situation had the makings of an electoral meltdown in a league with the infamous 2000 presidential election, which took five weeks to sort out.

"It's shameful," Bush said. "It's the responsibility of the supervisors of election to be prepared. The state put up money -- significant sums of money -- for training, for machines."


The election came off more smoothly in the Tampa Bay area, where election supervisors in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties reported only scattered problems. Pasco County has the same touch screen system as Broward and Miami-Dade -- the iVotronic manufactured by Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb. But Pasco elections supervisor Kurt Browning speculated that the 12 hours of training he gave poll workers may have made the difference.

Notably, there were also few problems reported in Palm Beach County, which has the same touch screen system as Pinellas and Hillsborough -- the AVC Edge manufactured by Seqouia Voting Systems of Oakland.


At another precinct in a predominantly black Jacksonville neighborhood, poll workers distributed Democratic primary ballots to both Republicans and Democrats for the first 25 minutes.


By 7:30 a.m., Gisela Salas, the assistant supervisor of elections in Miami-Dade County, was on television, pleading with voters: "Please be patient with us. This is a new system. We are aware of the problems, and we are doing everything in our power to get this resolved as quickly as possible."

But some of the problems could not be solved.


By 9 a.m., 68 of Miami-Dade's polling stations still had not opened, according to county Mayor Alex Penelas.

At Jordon Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, a pro-Reno neighborhood of low-income African-Americans, voters were unable to cast ballots until nearly mid-day.


In the Broward city of Dania Beach, meanwhile, poll workers shut the doors at one polling place while they struggled to get their touch screen machines started. Still unable to get them up by 8:30 a.m., they opened the doors and allowed people in the overwhelmingly Democratic precinct to vote on paper ballots. They all received ballots for the Republican primary, but no one noticed until an hour later.

By then, many voters had left. A poll worker said the paper ballots would not be counted, but there was no way for anyone to know which voters had been disenfranchised.


"I was here at 8:30, and they told me the computers were down," said Branley McCartney, 60, who made two trips to the precinct in his wheelchair, including four bus rides, in order to cast his vote for Reno.


The blame for the breakdown quickly focused on Miriam Oliphant, a Democrat and a rookie supervisor of elections in Broward County, and David Leahy, the veteran elections supervisor in Miami-Dade.

Leahy had openly predicted some problems in recent weeks, though not on the scale seen Tuesday. Oliphant, in contrast, kept assuring her critics that everything was fine, even as hints of chaos emerged in her election preparations. She had a prickly response to fellow public officials who questioned her in recent weeks, calling them liars. She was elected to office in 2000 as Broward's first new supervisor of elections since 1968.

And let's not forget that it was a Democrat who designed the infamous "butterfly ballot" that Democrats complained was confusing, in 2000.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on September 11, 2002 02:10 PM

Well, the Democrats may have trouble with their county election supervisors, and Bush evidently made the comment before he realized the magnitude of the iceberg that the "Ship of State" had struck.

However, in a prospective President we might want to see a "Buck stops here" mentality - Bush is the Governor, and it's his state that looks silly. He should have been able to work with everyone, on a bipartisan basis, to make sure this election went smoothly. Unless, that is, he is only governor of the counties that voted for him.

All that said, and since I am NOT the governor: What is it with Democrats having a hard time voting?


Posted by: Tom Maguire on September 12, 2002 06:32 AM

How easy would it be for a Republican governor to work on a bipartisan basis with:

"Miriam Oliphant, a Democrat and a rookie supervisor of elections in Broward County....

...Oliphant...kept assuring her critics that everything was fine, even as hints of chaos emerged in her election preparations. She had a prickly response to fellow public officials who questioned her in recent weeks, calling them liars."

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on September 12, 2002 07:22 AM

As a Floridian who waited 45 minutes to vote in Orange County, I disagree with Governor Bush. Since the 2000 election, he and the Republican-controlled Legislature have failed to put adequate funds and procedures in place to assure voters that their vote counts. No wonder Orange County only had a 33% voter turn out: only 1 in 3 voters apparently think that their vote will get counted accurately!

Now, why did I have a hard time voting (and I'm not a Democrat, but an "other" according to the State of Florida)? Well, I moved and they didn't have my address in the voter roll. My wife was on the roll but I wasn't. So they sent me over to a very old, not extremely bright gentleman getting paid $70 for the day to correct my situation. The fine gentleman pulled out his thick procedure manual and slowly followed along. 40 minutes later we were almost finished until I found an error on the form and corrected it. BTW, I could have easily finished the form without this man's help in 5 minutes.

Now, I would gladly work on election day if I received an amount greater than or equal to my salary that I would give up. But in order to do that, Governor Bush and the Legislature need to allocate funds to compensate me. If Floridians want the best and the brightest to run elections smoothly, then we have to pay for them. My question is: why is anyone surprised that this happened? You get what you pay for.

Posted by: Larry Staton Jr. on September 12, 2002 08:55 AM

Wasn't Theresa LePore, the woman who authorized the butterfly ballot, a Democrat of convenience who switched from the Republicans for election purposes in 1998 or some such -- kinda like my mayor Bloomberg but in reverse?

Posted by: Chris Quinones on September 12, 2002 11:54 AM

Chris, she was. Not that her being a Democrat would somehow make it ok, but still.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on September 12, 2002 11:36 PM

No doubt LePore was a deep cover agent of the Republicans, installed by Katherine Harris in 1996 and activated in 2000.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on September 13, 2002 08:33 AM
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