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Florida Recount Update Links & Messages-- From Red Rock Eater News Service

by Phil Agre Sunday, Nov. 12, 2000 at 4:46 PM

Three messages about the Florida recount. First from is someone who says his mom was a Palm Beach County precinct clerk, second is from Michael Moore about the elderly Jewish voters in Palm Beach County upset at having accidentily voted for Pat Buchanan, third is a provisional analysis of the patterns in the Florida vote recount. Also more links.

Florida Recount Update -- From Red Rock Eater News Service Florida Recount Update Links & Messages-- From Red Rock Eater News Service

Presented By Phil Agre

[I've enclosed three messages about the Florida recount. Although I am obviously comfortable enough about them to send them out, I am not totally comfortable about any of them.

The first is by a guy who says his mom was precinct clerk for Palm Beach County. I have not authenticated this message; I am going on my sense that it's for real.

The second is a letter by Michael Moore about the elderly Jewish voters in Palm Beach County who are upset at having voted for Pat Buchanan by accident. It's good as a reminder of why elderly Jewish voters would be upset by such a thing, but it's excessive in forcing too much of a comparison between our current election problems and the much deeper problems in Germany that understandably made them so sensitive. On the other hand, it's much worse to hear the vicious name-calling and ridicule that the loathsome pundits have been heaping on these people.

The third message is a provisional analysis of the patterns in the Florida vote recount. The analysis was prepared in good faith and is accurate as far as I can see, but I wish that we had more information to go on, for example about the voting methods used in every one of the counties and especially the ones with the strangest numbers.

Here is another batch of URL's relating to the election controversy:

On Election Night, Democrats Called Florida Voters About Problem

Palm Beach Ballot Discard Rate Considered on High Side

Choosing A President: Assessing Online Election Coverage

Was Nixon Robbed?

Doubting Florida Voting Data

Volusia Officials Find Three Suspect Bags of Ballots

It's a Myth That Nixon Acquiesced in 1960

Those Florida Ballots Were Clearly Illegal

Election Workers' Nightmare

Bay Buchanan Sees Something Peculiar in Palm Beach Voting

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections

Authentic 1994 Republic of South Africa Ballots

Republican Spin: Go Home, Al

A Fateful Step Toward Court

Why 19,120 People Voted Twice

With Recount, Having Some Fun

I am quite burned out with the effort of covering this story, but like an awful lot of Americans (hundreds of whom have written to me) I am finding it hard to focus on anything else. I am actually getting some work done amidst the flood of e-mail, but I have started delegating my job here as much as possible, for example asking people to do research or keep track of Web sites. If the controversy spreads to Oregon, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa, and heaven knows where else, then we are going to need a new approach. A lot of people are following the story in fine detail, and it would be great if we could produce a daily scan of the Web sites for all of the relevant local newspapers. But even if people out there are poking at the newspapers and sending me relevant URL's individually, I don't have hours in the day to filter them all. I've had fantasies of putting out a call for volunteers to form work groups -- it certainly seems like there's enough energy out there -- but even organizing that sounds like too much work right now. We'll just have to see what happens next.]

This message was forwarded through the Red Rock Eater News Service (RRE). You are welcome to send the message along to others but please do not use the "redirect" option. For information about RRE, including instructions for (un)subscribing, see http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/rre.html

Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2000 10:33:15 -0800 (PST)
From: Ben Austin
To: sonofapalmbeachprecinctclerk@yahoo.com
Subject: My mother, Palm Beach County precinct clerk

Dear friends,

I don't normally send emails like this to a large block of people, certainly when it comes to my family, and certainly when the import of the issue makes it seem like the letter might travel far and wide. But so many people have asked about this story that it seems important to send it out. This is the true story of my mother, precinct clerk in Palm Beach county, Florida.

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 intially 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 elction, 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 mean time, 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.

Ben Austin

Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2000 18:14:17 -0500
From: "Mike's Message"
Subject: [Mike's Message] The Elderly Jews of South Florida ... and 62 Years Ago Tonight

November 10, 2000

Dear friends,

There was something about yesterday's demonstration in front of the courthouse in Palm Beach County that profoundly moved me. Hundreds of elderly Jewish citizens, many in tears, demanding, begging for someone to listen to them. They tried to explain that the ballot they voted on was so confusing they feared that they had actually voted for Pat Buchanan (a man who once said "Hitler was an individual of great courage") instead the man they wanted for president, Al Gore.

Rather than being heard, they have been ridiculed across the country as being "stupid", "ignorant" or "sore losers". They are portrayed as a bunch of whiners, old people who maybe shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car, let alone in the voting booth. Get off the road, you're messing up the election for the rest of us!

This is the tone of much of what I have heard in the media and on the street: You had your chance, you idiot, you screwed up your own ballot, now shut up.

I find it more than ironic -- actually, downright abhorrent -- that, in addition to the thousands of ballots that have been thrown out, at least a few hundred of these senior citizens' votes, through what appears to be an illegally constructed ballot, will end up being counted for a right-wing, anti-Semitic like Mr. Buchanan. South Florida has perhaps the largest population of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel and New York. Is it just me, or do these good people, all of whom have suffered enough in their lives, deserve not only our respect, but our commitment to see that their vote is counted?

To many of you, World War II and the Holocaust probably seems like ancient history. The truth is, there are tens of thousands of people who lived through that horror, escaped the ovens, and are now living out their final years in South Florida. None of us can imagine what they went through; first to survive, and then to somehow make it to a country where they believed they would be free and their voice would be heard. These immigrants worked hard to raise families in America, contribute to our society, and make this country a better place for all of us. They took their citizenship duties very seriously, to the point where many of us have probably rolled our eyes a time or two over their extreme patriotism and love of America. Silly old people!

Now they are being told to take a hike. I could understand the derision if it were 50 spoiled ballots, or 500 spoiled ballots. But 19,000???


Are we going to just discard these senior citizens with a big shrug and a laugh? They were already discarded once in their lives. Being stripped of their vote is not the same as being stripped of their life, but then why are we remembering our veterans on this Veteran's Day if not for the fact that they risked THEIR lives so that people like these survivors could have the right to vote? Are we really going to do this to them?

When Al Gore named Joe Lieberman as his running mate -- the first Jew to run on a national ticket for a major party -- it created a wonderful rush of pride within the Jewish community. If there had been any doubt that they, as Jewish Americans, were not fully welcomed at the table, this one act on Gore's part made that doubt virtually disappear. I remember watching on the news that day a story about Lieberman's wife, Hadassah. She is the child of two Holocaust survivors -- her father, an inmate in a Nazi slave labor camp, and her mother, who miraculously survived Auschwitz.

As I watched Hadassah's story, I paused to think of those in her family who did not survive the camps to live to see this momentous day. I thought, if only it had been possible, in the final moments before their deaths, for someone to whisper to them that this madness will indeed end, that the Jewish people will not only survive but see the day when a child of theirs is married to the man running for vice president of the United States! Whatever small comfort that could have given them to alleviate their pain and suffering before their lives were exterminated, I wish... I wish... they just could have known that their death was not in vain.

These elderly survivors and relatives of survivors in Palm Beach County deserve our fight for their voice to be heard. This is a national shame and dishonor. Everyone knows the truth here: 19,000 people could not read the ballot. I don't care that the local Democrats had approved the ballot. Like most Democratic party hacks, they blew it. So what. Does that mean these elderly have to pay the price? The Republicans have now resorted to spewing incredible lies, such as the "same number of ballots were spoiled in the 1996". That is a bald face lie. The number of spoiled ballots was HALF what it was this year, and I have been told that voters in the '96 election DID complain but no one listened because the spoiled ballots did not effect the outcome.

Look, I personally did not vote for either Gore or Bush. I think Lieberman's politics and campaign contributions are appalling. But I and others have made these points throughout the election -- and the majority of Americans have chosen to dismiss them for now. That is their right. But if the campaign for Ralph Nader was nothing, it was, at its very core, about trying to stop the disenfranchisement of the American people. For us not to speak up now -- even though OUR will did not prevail -- would make everything we stand for lack credibility.

I am asking all who read this -- Nader supporters, Gore voters, Republicans with a conscience -- to stand up and resist this theft of our election. Someone has set up a website calling for spontaneous demonstrations in numerous cities at 1pm tomorrow, Saturday, November 11 (click here for the list: http://geocities.com/countercoup/). Take one hour, just one hour, of your time tomorrow and go down to where the rally is happening in your town. Do not listen to those who are saying we have to put this behind us and get on with it. Get on with what? A democracy that does not respect its most basic and cherished right, the right to have your vote counted?

If the person who got fewer votes is installed as president, it will inspire so much cynicism amongst the citizenry that I fear even MORE people than the 100 million who chose not to vote will sit out the next election. They will just say, "What's the use? It's all rigged!" Progressives and Greens and everyone must understand this danger -- and how much more difficult it will be to organize if more of our fellow Americans just give up.

Please, do this for the sake of our country. Do it because it is right. Do it because those senior citizens in Florida deserve our respect and our help in their time of need.

Sixty-two years ago tonight, the Holocaust began in full force on what was called Kristallnacht. The German government sent goon squads throughout the country to trash and burn the homes, stores and temples of its Jewish citizens. Seven years and 6 million slaughtered lives later, the Jewish people of Europe were virtually extinct. A few survived. I will not allow those who survived to come here to this "land of the free" be abused again. They are our fellow citizens in our great democracy, and their voice, if I have anything to say about it, will never be snuffed out.


Michael Moore

Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2000 16:41:38 -0500 (EST)
From: "Robert S. Thau"
Subject: Re: Skewed county results in recount

By now, it has been widely reported that Gore picked up about 1400 votes in the Florida recount, reducing the margin to a bit over 300. However, there is a very strange pattern to the results which has not been widely reported.

Most of Gore's pickup is from a very few counties --- the majority, in fact, from Palm Beach and Pinellas:

  • Palm Beach: Gore picks up 643
  • Pinellas: Gore picks up 478
  • Duval: Gore picks up 168
  • Gadsden: Gore picks up 153
  • Polk: Gore picks up 129
see http://foxnews.com/fn99/elections/florida_recount.html for the raw data.

There's no obvious pattern among these; they don't all favor Gore (Duval went roughly 3:2 against him, as did Polk, by a lesser margin), nor are they all large (Gadsden had 14,502 votes *total* after the recount). Also, Gore picked up very few votes in Miami-Dade, a large urban area which, IIRC, uses punched card voting, so that doesn't seem to be the controlling factor.

Population, in particular, does not seem to be a great influence; the vote total changed by 26 in Miami-Dade, by 19 in Hillsboro, and by one in Broward, to cite three fairly populous counties.

FWIW, there are two counties where Bush picked up roughly 100 votes, Martin, where he picked up 105, and Seminole (IIRC, the last to report), where he gained 98. Everything else is pretty much in the noise --- the seven counties with more than 100-vote shifts account for 1368 net votes gained by Gore; the rest of the state as a whole, only 89 more.

It is difficult to see how random statistical fluctuations could give rise to this pattern --- a small number of counties with unusually large shifts in votes (I can find only two with net changes between 50 and 97 --- Nassau and Orange), with the largest tending consistently in the same direction.

This, in turn, raises the troubling question of whether there was discrimination against Democrats in the initial count, and if so, whether it was completely wrung out in the recount.


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