Update On Elections in Florida -  Sept. 13, 2002

For three days, the post-Primary Day contest for the Democratic nomination for governor in Florida has been a less-than-welcome echo of the post-Election Day contest for president in Florida in 2000. Today, one candidate, Janet Reno, went so far as to do what many Democrats wish Al Gore had done back then. Ms. Reno demanded a statewide recount of a primary in disarray.

Her request was rejected by a state commission appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush even as her lawyers were announcing it at a news conference at her headquarters. Ms. Reno's aides, clearly not surprised, said they would not appeal the ruling, as the state board moved toward certifying Bill McBride, a lawyer from Tampa, as the Democratic opponent to Mr. Bush. In truth, the outcome of the race is, even if delayed, not in very much doubt, even as poll workers in Miami-Dade County struggled today through a familiar ritual of counting votes in the glow of television lights. Republicans and Democrats alike said that given the margin that Mr. McBride enjoys, 8,196 votes as of this evening, it seemed unlikely that anything that occurs in Miami-Dade would change the results.

But the next few days could very well prove critical in determining just how real a chance Democrats have in accomplishing one of their most tempting goals this year, toppling President Bush's brother from office. The initial delay played to the Democrats' benefit, assuring that the nominee would become clear after the commemoration of Sept. 11 was completed and resurrecting memories of the debacle of 2000 under Governor Bush. But the delay is now pushing the presumptive nominee into perilous and potentially difficult territory.

It now seems more than possible that an election that began at 7 a.m. on Tuesday will not be resolved until 9 a.m. next Wednesday, when the elections canvassing commission meets to certify a candidate. Ms. Reno could end that sooner by conceding, but she certainly seemed in no hurry to do that today, a turn of events that pleased Mr. Bush's aides.

"My whole purpose is to get the votes counted," she said on CNN. "And let the voters speak, not Janet Reno speak."

Mr. McBride, who decided to declare victory on Thursday night, faces the task of getting his campaign going without showing any disrespect to Ms. Reno and her supporters, many of whom were caught in the gears of the malfunctioning elections on Tuesday. That would be a difficult task for even the most experienced candidate — and Mr. McBride is anything but that. That was particularly apparent on Thursday night, when he declared himself a winner but did not talk at all about the problems with voting machines in Miami-Dade. That oversight seemed particularly glaring this morning, when The Miami Herald reported on the extent of the discrepancies in Miami-Dade. (Example: One district reported that just a single person had voted.)

Several of Ms. Reno's supporters said they understood the need for Mr. McBride to get his campaign moving. But at the same time, they expressed concern at his failure to address the issue that had so angered Ms. Reno's supporters, particularly minority-group voters from southern Florida, without whom Mr. McBride cannot possibly hope to defeat Mr. Bush. Beyond that, the contest between Ms. Reno and Mr. McBride had been notably civil. But with each passing day, as both sides know, the risks of an intemperate remark by either candidate or an aide increases.

The argument for Mr. McBride to start moving could not have been more evident today. Mr. Bush began broadcasting an upbeat television advertisement that showed children shouting his praises for traffic light installation. It was a day when he then took a high-profile role in directing his state's response to what turned out an unfounded report of terrorists on the way to blow up Miami. The day was filled with the maneuvering and arcane debate over the intricacies of state election law that have become as identified with Florida as orange juice once was.

Thus, as Ms. Reno was patiently laying out her reason for wanting to count every vote on CNN, her lawyers sent a letter to the Elections Canvassing Commission asking for a statewide manual recount. Until now, Ms. Reno's aides had expressed concern about votes' being missed by a new generation of computerized voting machines only in Miami-Dade and Broward. Today, they raised concerns about 249 Broward districts, where, they said, the count seemed alarmingly low, suggesting that votes cast on the machine had not been downloaded to the cartridge that logs them. Using Reno's list of questionable precincts and factoring in the countywide voter turnout of 32.7%, up to 8,000 votes could have been missed, according to a computer analysis by The Associated Press.

But her campaign seemed unprepared for the firestorm that the move for a manual statewide recount set off, particularly with its request that the recount include "overvotes and undervotes," language that evoked a difficult period in the state's recent political history. Her advisers, by way of an explanation, said under their reading of the election law, as amended since 2000, they needed to request a manual statewide recount by 5 p.m. today to make sure that the Elections Canvassing Commission did not refuse to consider reconfigured counts from Miami and Broward.

Miami-Dade officials said they would not release details about the recollection of votes from voting machines until Tuesday, the state deadline. They were examining machines from the whole county, including those where Reno workers questioned shockingly low turnout. In one precinct, computers registered 900% more votes than there were eligible voters, while no votes were recorded in several precincts with thousands of voters. On Thursday, Miami-Dade's elections chief David Leahy said workers examined four polling stations that originally showed a total of 96 votes. The review boosted the total to 1,914 votes, although officials didn't say who got the votes.

The delay is reminding many of the five weeks it took to straighten out the 2000 presidential election in Florida. The state and counties spent millions on new technology to prevent a repeat of the debacle with paper ballots, but the computers caused all new difficulties. Maurice Cason voted for Reno at Miami's Shadowlawn Elementary School in the Little Haiti neighborhood and watched from her nearby home as hundreds of others streamed to the polls. The precinct has 1,416 registered Democrats, yet county officials recorded no votes from the school. "I always used to say my little vote didn't count," said Cason, 76, a black woman. "The last time in the presidential mess, I don't see where I counted then. This is the second time we've had this mess."

County officials have complained about a lack of training for poll workers on the new machines. Dorothy Walton, precinct clerk in Miami's predominantly black Liberty City neighborhood, said she was only given three hours of instruction. In her precinct, which has 1,406 registered Democrats, the machines initially recorded only 87 votes. Later Wednesday, election officials raised that total to 610 votes after checking the machines.

Florida officials said that under the law a recount could be authorized only if there was less than a 0.5 percent difference in the machine count between the top candidates. There is, the officials added, no discretion beyond that. Ms. Reno is not near that figure. For all that, Ms. Reno and her advisers made clear that they would take the case only so far, and she took pains to praise Mr. McBride and say she would enthusiastically campaign for him when his effort starts.

"Bill McBride would make a great governor," Ms. Reno said, "and if he is the nominee, I intend to work very hard for him and campaign for him."

For his part, Mr. McBride began to try to make that transition from being one person in a primary to being the nominee. He visited his headquarters in Tampa to thank volunteers, and he planned to give a speech on education on Saturday in Orlando. Significantly, Mr. McBride did at his headquarters what he did not do at his "victory speech." He expressed concern about the problems that Democratic voters faced.

"What we need to do," he said, "is make sure that everybody got their votes counted, and the people who meant to vote."

But his advisers, surveying the difficult road ahead, said the only way he could really begin to address those problems in a way that might ensure that Ms. Reno's voters will join him in November is to campaign at Ms. Reno's side in the very neighborhoods where her voters encountered closed polls and broken machines. As of now, that is one campaign visit that seems at least a few days away.


Florida Primary Elections Destroy Voter Trust
  • Across the county and the state voter confidence in the election process has been eroded to an all time low.
  • Another "Rigged" Election?  Maybe not, but it sure looks like it was....
  • $32 million dollars worth of more problems.... Was incompetency the order of the day?

By Ralph F. Mariano Editor, STReport Magazine
September 11, 2002

(If you are truly interested in correcting these grievous wrongs, email a copy of this article to Florida's Secretary of State Jim Smith. Or, send his office a Telegram telling him exactly how you feel)

Jim Smith, Secretary of State
Florida Department of State
PL-02, The Capitol
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250
(850) 245-6500


After Having great hopes for a swift, accurate election returns process, by midnight September 10, 2002 that was all dashed against the rocks of sheer incompetency, indications of rigging, obvious lack of ballot security and just plain manipulation of the electoral process.

For the first time in years, there were hopes the voters would finally be accurately heard through the electoral process. But it was not to be. In Duval County, among the worst,

  • There were a number of polling places that, incredibly, closed at 7pm, claiming they were never notified of the two hour extension of closing time 'till 9pm thus leaving scores of voters standing in line not being permitted to vote.

  • Some Precincts failed to open before 11am resulting in many voters turned away fuming.

  • Oddly enough the early closings, in all but a few in Duval County seemed to have occurred in the predominately black voting precincts.

  • There were numerous reports of the new machines "not working", in some instances polling officials had not turned the machines on, in others the machines were "jammed". How many voter ballots were "lost" to jamming?

  • Mangled ballots have to be hand counted.  How many were "hand mangled?"

  • Voters were given the wrong ballots to vote with.

  • Registered Independent Voters were told by Poll Officials they had to declare being either Democrat or Republican to be able to vote.

  • Voters were upset because Ballots have lost the privacy factor since they had to be placed face up for all to see as they were placed in the scanners.

  • Ballots had to be hand collected, hand delivered to central counting areas and once again counted by hand thus allowing the possibility of ballot "manipulation".

  • Supervisor of Elections Office in Duval County was unreachable via telephone, the telephone systems were "out of order".

At 9am September 11, 2002, the final tallies are still not in and at this time, its being reported that it may take "days" for the final results to be tallied, including the Governor's race. In this reporter's opinion the entire election should be scrapped and a new one called with US Marshals supervising each election polling place. "Its almost as if the chaos was purposely introduced to allow the outcomes of the various races to be manipulated by those currently in power." claimed a large number of extremely upset voters.  Others exclaimed; "Are we now going to be fed a litany of lame excuses and unbelievable justifications by Tallahassee?"

Results delayed by voting chaos

Bush: Bungles shameful after overhaul costs

By Binyamin Appelbaum and Rachel Davis Times-Union staff writers

Election officials across the state scrambled to keep precincts open until 9 p.m. yesterday, delaying vote tallies in an attempt to salvage the integrity of another Florida election jeopardized by equipment failures and poorly trained poll workers.

Gov. Jeb Bush ordered the two-hour extension shortly after 2 p.m. in response to a petition from Secretary of State Jim Smith, the state's top election official. Smith cited problems in precincts from Miami to Jacksonville, including a polling station at Springfield's Mary Singleton Senior Center on First Street where voting did not begin until 8:20 a.m. because workers didn't realize they were supposed to turn on the machines.

Bush, who said he extended the election ''out of fairness," had sharp words for elections officials statewide.

"It's shameful," the governor said. "The state put up money -- significant sums of money -- for training, for machines. ... There's no excuse for not having precinct workers in a precinct for voting, no excuse for not turning on the machines.''

Duval County could not locate the voting equipment, ballots and results for the last of its 285 precincts. Police and election officials said the precinct clerk could not be located at her home, and nothing was found at other government offices. They were checking accident reports because the clerk is considered reliable. The elections office shut down its counting operation until 9 a.m. Wednesday. They hoped to have found the results by then, and canvass an estimated 500 provisional ballots. They anticipated little impact on county election results. They were uncertain early Wednesday what would be done if the results were not located. John Stafford, supervisor of elections for Duval County, said staff would be replaced at precincts where particular problems were reported.

"We had some clerks not following directions and we're eliminating these people," Stafford said. "You can't prevent what's happened but you can make a change."

Florida changed its voting laws after the 2000 presidential election, forcing most counties to purchase new voting equipment. Yesterday's primary was the first large-scale test of that equipment. While most voters cast ballots without incident, problems began cropping up statewide promptly at 7 a.m., when precincts were supposed to open.

The widespread problems were different from those experienced in 2000. But once again, despite two years of preparation and plenty of notice, Florida bumbled its way through the most basic of democratic processes. And once again, residents were left fuming while the nation watched and shook its head.

"We're still at square one," said Carlton Howard, who was turned away from his Miami-Dade precinct three times before it opened. "If they took out something that wasn't working, why did they put in something that works even worse?"

Broward County saw the worst of the difficulties. Dozens of poll workers failed to show up yesterday morning, machines broke in many precincts, and some Democrats were given Republican ballots.

In Miami-Dade, 68 poll stations were closed at 9 a.m., two hours after they were supposed to open, Mayor Alex Penelas said. One precinct did not open until 1 p.m.

Election workers in Orlando said 42 percent of Orange County's ballots would have to be counted by hand because they were tearing as they were fed through optical scanning machines.

Jacksonville precincts experienced similar problems on a smaller scale. At least five reported broken machines or insufficient ballots. Some people said they were turned away when they failed to show proper identification or attempted to carry non-partisan materials into the polls. And a few precincts distributed the wrong ballots to some voters.

"The names [on the ballot] were slightly familiar, but I didn't find most of the people I was looking for," said Stephen Bowen, among those who brought ballot problems at East Pointe Baptist Church in Arlington to the attention of election officials.

The accumulating problems statewide led Bush to issue his executive order. Word of the extended hours, however, reached precincts in patchwork fashion or not at all. Workers at St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Hendricks Avenue were notified of the extended hours by the Times-Union. Other precincts received calls from families watching news reports.

The instructions bemused many poll workers. Most arrived at 6 a.m. yesterday to set up equipment and the majority encountered no problems during the day. By evening, they were tired of standing and wondering whether the governor was planning to pay for dinner.

Nonetheless, only a few precincts statewide reportedly closed early. Most were in South Florida but one Jacksonville precinct, Darnell-Cookman, was among them.

Voters generally welcomed the extended hours. Those voting in Jacksonville between 7 and 9 p.m. said they were taking advantage of the added time because they got caught up in other things or simply made a late decision to participate.

"I was working in Georgia and I had hoped I would get a chance," said Cole Strickland, who walked into his precinct at 7:01 p.m.

The general happiness late in the day contrasted with angry reactions among voters subjected to various problems earlier yesterday. Jack Anderson, whose ballot was placed in a box after a machine broke at Guardian Lutheran Church on Haley Road in Mandarin, said he was struggling with deja vu.

"I didn't know whether my vote was counted in 2000, and I don't know whether or not my vote was counted today," he said.

Also yesterday, a half-dozen disabled residents of Duval County gathered outside the Supervisor of Elections Office to protest the lack of audio balloting machines for visually impaired voters.

Elections Office senior official Robert Phillips said the machines are on hand, and should be certified in time for the general election in November.

Gov. Bush orders voting hours extended after elections system problems
Executive Order Number 02-248 - Extending Poll Hours

By BRENDAN FARRINGTON Associated Press Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- Gov. Jeb Bush ordered polls statewide to extend voting hours Tuesday after problems were reported in the state's first test of its revamped elections system. As the primary elections got under way, polls in some places opened late, election workers had problems starting up new touchscreen voting machines and others had troubles with ballots that wouldn't scan.

Bush's action came at the urging of Secretary of State Jim Smith, the state's top elections official. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who hopes to challenge Bush in November, had earlier sought a court order to extend polling in four large urban counties where some of the worst of the problems were reported.

Polls will now close at 9 p.m., meaning voting will not end until 10 p.m. Eastern time because parts of the Panhandle are in the Central time zone.

The state changed voting laws and outlawed punchcard ballots after the 2000 presidential election debacle. Tuesday's primary was the first statewide test of an election system touted as a model for the nation. But problems were reported from Miami to Jacksonville. In one precinct in a predominantly black Miami neighborhood, voting didn't begin until 11:45 a.m., nearly five hours after polls opened. Officials estimated about 500 people left the precinct without voting.

Reno herself was delayed at her Miami election precinct while election workers struggled to get the new voting machines up and running. "Any time you have a new system, you're going to have problems. We expected problems, but not to this magnitude," said Gisela Salas, Miami-Dade County assistant supervisor of elections.

Reno, one of three Democrats hoping to challenge Republican Bush in November, voted without any other problems after election officials started up the machines one by one, each taking at least six minutes to get running. Touch-screen machines purchased to replace punchcard ballots, which were the focus of the 2000 election recount, were installed for more than half of Florida's voters. In the 2000 election, some votes were not recorded as the cards were not punched all the way through.

In Broward County, which has more registered voters than the state's other 66 counties, some precincts didn't open on time because poll workers didn't show up and one opened nearly two hours late because workers didn't have the right equipment. State election law requires that polls open at 7 a.m., but doesn't say anything specific about what happens if they don't.

Election laws do say that any official who willfully neglects to perform his or her duties is guilty of a first degree misdemeanor.

Ellen Siegel left her polling place without casting a ballot in Boca Raton, where two candidates sued over Palm Beach County's new voting machines. "No one had any idea how to get the machines up and running. I didn't get to vote and there are going to be a lot of other people who won't be able to do it," said Siegel, a 15-year resident of the city.

However, Palm Beach County elections chief Theresa LePore said she had seen few problems. Some poll workers didn't show up, meaning some polls had minimal staffing levels, but all opened on time.

"So far, so good," she said.

State elections officials had initially dismissed many of the problems as common and said much of the commotion resulted from the national spotlight shining on Florida after the state held the 2000 presidential election in limbo for 36 days.

"These kind of happenings are not that unusual in every election and, if people will just work together, we'll get through today fine," Smith had said early in the day.

Problems continue with slowing vote-counting

By Associated Press

FLORIDA(AP) -- The outcome of the Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary remains undecided Wednesday morning, thanks to a slew of problems with the state's revamped election system. The situation has left thousands of ballots UN-counted and others missing. Tampa lawyer Bill McBride has 45 percent of the vote to 43 percent for former U-S Attorney General Janet Reno.

The new machines were supposed to minimize the types of errors seen during the 2000 presidential election. But in Miami-Dade County, there have been 31 precincts not counted as of early today. That's because voting machines had not been shut down properly. Officials are trying to pick up the electronic cartridges that register the votes from those polling stations.

  • In Broward County, elections officials say they can't find 12 cartridges from the touchscreen machines.

  • Several of the county's poll workers made matters worse last night by refusing to keep their poll stations open after the order was given to extend voting until nine. Polls opened late in at least six cities.

  • In rural Union County, workers plan to count ballots by hand today. That's because the optical-scan system that tallied ballots showed that every vote cast was for a Republican candidate.

  • In central Florida, Orange County election officials are recounting ballots from 105 out of 251 precincts, or 42 percent of the county's ballots. That's after optical scanners failed to read them. Many were mangled. They're slated to be counted by hand at noon today.

  • The state changed voting laws and outlawed punchcard ballots after the 2000 presidential election, when results weren't ready for 36 days. It has spent $32 million dollars to reform its election system.

McCaulie, Gooding claim victory

by Mike Sharkey
Staff Writer, Jacksonville Daily Record

Fernandina Beach attorney John Cascone ran a good, clean campaign against Circuit Judge Gregg McCaulie, but Tuesday’s election confirmed that defeating an incumbent judge is one of the most difficult political feats to accomplish.

In another problem-marred election locally and statewide, McCaulie more than doubled Cascone’s votes. With 100 percent of the precincts in Duval County reporting, McCaulie garnered 77,224 votes, or 68.44 percent. Cascone earned 35,610 votes, or 31.56 percent.

In the other judicial race between David Gooding and Dan Wilensky, things were a little tighter — a near dead heat. With all of the precincts in Duval County reporting, Gooding is the apparent winner with 50.98 percent of the votes while Wilensky had 49.02 percent. Gooding amassed 59,499 votes while Wilensky tallied 57,215. The Gooding-Wilensky race may not be over, however. Last week, Wilensky filed suit against Gooding alleging defamation for a pamphlet Gooding sent out that claimed Wilensky broke campaigning laws.

McCaulie’s win earns him another six years on the bench of the 4th Judicial Circuit. It also assures that the local bench will remain virtually intact — barring any retirements, new appointments or any other unforeseen events — for at least the next four years. The last incumbent judge to lose an election was Hugh Fletcher, who lost to Tyrie Boyer in 2000.

Despite a major overhaul, many hours of training, millions of dollars and several test runs, the 2002 primary was marred by problems statewide, prompting Gov. Jeb Bush to order the polls stay open two extra hours. Problems ranged from touch screens not working in South Florida to optical scanning machines not working properly in Jacksonville. Also, voters had to deal with polls opening late, optical scanning machines not being turned on and poll workers who didn’t know how the machines worked.