Buchanan votes torment Jewish Florida retirees

The New York Times

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — In a precinct made up predominantly of Jewish Democrats from New York and New Jersey, Pat Buchanan, who has questioned the basic facts of the Holocaust, somehow took 47 votes for president.

"Like a jerk," said Robert Rosen, 87, describing the way he felt after he came home from the voting booth at the Lakes of Delray condominium clubhouse in Palm Beach County and realized that he was one of those 47.

A confusing ballot, said Rosen and more than 20 of his neighbors, led them to punch the wrong name on that ballot, and several others said they were still unsure if they had accidentally wasted votes crucial to their candidate, Vice President Al Gore.

It was, the residents here said on Thursday as they milled angrily around this complex of 1,400 condominiums, almost too much to stand. The complex makes up almost an entire precinct in this predominantly Democratic county. It was Buchanan’s strongest showing in Palm Beach County, yet a survey of almost 200 people here found not one voter who had meant to vote for the Reform Party candidate.

The problem, they said, was that they punched a hole on the ballot next to Gore’s name that actually registered a vote for Buchanan. There were many who said they knew they had mistakenly voted for him but had not realized it until they had already cast their ballots. Others said they knew immediately they had made a mistake and punched a second name on the ballot — voiding their vote.

And some said they knew they had cast the wrong vote but did nothing because they said they were either embarrassed, ashamed or did not know what to do. Many did ask for a new ballot before inserting the old one in the box and received a new one, but others said they did not know they could.

Of the more than 1,700 votes cast at Precinct 162G, only 47 people voted for Buchanan, and residents here believe that all or almost all of those 47 votes were intended for Gore. It is a small percentage in this precinct, but in such a close race every wasted vote seemed to cause great misery.

"I figured, ‘How could I go back?’ because I’d voted already, and once you’re out, you’re out," said Natalie Cantor, 71, a retired bookstore employee from New York who believes she accidentally voted for Buchanan.

Once the ballot was inserted in the box, there was no recourse, said these voters.

People here said they criticized the ballots long before they knew that Palm Beach County would become such a big story in the race. On Election Day, they called newspapers, radio and television stations, complaining that the ballot was confusing. They called election officials and state and local politicians.

"This was worse than a wasted vote," said Marcia Kirshner, 76, a retired purchasing agent from New York who said she intended to vote for Gore but, in her confusion, punched her card for Buchanan.

But the residents here — most of them are in their 70s or older — said their confusion was not related to their age, but to the ballot.

"I mean we are not senile; we’re not stupid," said Cantor, the former bookstore employee. "When they keep telling us we’re old and just don’t know, that’s an insult."

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