Scrutiny of Florida vote growing

By LARRY MARGASAK

Associated Press

The scrutiny of Florida’s presidential vote broadened today as supporters of Vice President Al Gore compiled examples of alleged irregularities and initiated an Internet campaign to encourage a new vote in Palm Beach County.

While the ballot in Palm Beach County generated the most attention, Democratic Party officials, Gore campaign aides and the NAACP compiled fast-growing lists of complaints.

“We are still collecting accounts of other irregularities, voter intimidation and other oddities in other parts of the state,” Gore campaign chairman William Daley said.

“If substantiated and appropriate, they, too, will become part of legal actions,” he vowed.

Two lawsuits were filed in state court seeking a new vote in Palm Beach County. The Democratic Party and Gore campaign weighed their own lawsuits. In response to the Gore campaign’s request for a manual recount, the county agreed to hand-count ballots in three precincts Saturday.

Other complaints included:

  • Polls closed while people were still in line in Tampa.

  • Voters were denied ballots on grounds that their precinct had changed.

  • Some election officials refused to allow translators in voting booths for Haitian-Americans in Miami.

  • Hispanic voters in Osceola County alleged they were required to produce two kinds of identification when one was required.

    Voters in Osceola County in central Florida said they too were confused by their ballots.

    “We went to vote and the ballot would not line up with the names correctly,” said Joette Tindell, 33, a teacher from St. Cloud, Fla.

    The ballot position that voters were to punch for Gore, she said, was alongside the line that separated Gore and George W. Bush. The confusion may have led some to vote for Libertarian candidate Harry Browne, she said.

    Tindell said she almost made that mistake but her husband, who had voted earlier, warned her.

    Robin Lee Taylor, 18, of Kissimmee, Fla., said she had trouble fitting her ballot in the proper position for the hole punch. “I hope I voted for Gore. I could have punched the wrong hole,” she said.

    The county said it wouldn’t take any official action unless it receives a formal complaint. “We’ve gotten some verbal concerns. It’s really nothing to look into unless they file an official complaint,” spokesman Twis Hoang said.

    The Florida Highway Patrol found itself answering questions after troopers set up checkpoints near a polling area outside Tallahassee in an area with many black voters.

    Troopers said they failed to get approval for the location or to publicize it in advance, but did not intend to scare away voters.

    The checkpoint was 2.1 miles from a polling place at a church in Woodville, in Leon County. Troopers checked driver licenses and equipment between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Election Day.

    “The basic thing is, our troopers were out there working,” Highway Patrol Spokesman Maj. Ken Howes said. “The sergeant had the initiative. I find it hard to criticize him other than failing to file some administrative guidelines, but we’re correcting that.”

    The Bush campaign chairman accused Democrats of “politicizing and distorting these events.”

    “Our democratic process calls for a vote on Election Day, it does not call for us to continue voting until someone likes the outcome,” Don Evans said.

    On the Internet, Democrats.com, an Web site not affiliated with the Democratic National Committee, launched TrustThePeople.com, where voters in Palm Beach could download an affidavit, which they could sign and send election officials protesting the vote. The site had collected over a thousand affidavits by late this afternoon, according to a site administrator.

    Another site, ActForChange.com, offered a form in which Internet users can e-mail Florida election director Clay Roberts directly to demand a re-vote.

    If a court orders new voting in Palm Beach County, it wouldn’t be the first time for Florida.

    In 1998, a Miami judge ordered a new election in that city’s mayoral contest, citing “a pattern of fraudulent, intentional and criminal conduct” involving absentee votes.

    A few days later, an appeals court ruled that no new election was needed. Rather, the court threw out all 4,500 absentee ballots, reversing the initial result of the balloting.

    Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP in Florida, offered her own horror story.

    Nweze said officials in her Miami precinct tried to deny her a ballot because she had been sent an absentee ballot earlier. The civil rights leader said she never received the mailing and demanded to vote.

    “You can take me to jail or let me vote,” she said she told county officials.

    She eventually was allowed to sign an affidavit swearing she had not previously voted.

    Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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