By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
In a report sent November 9 to the state’s Division of Elections, Duval County Supervisor of Elections John Stafford and the Duval canvassing board explained the unusual voting pattern to Tallahassee officials. “While not a problem with the accuracy of the final vote count, it is noted that 21,942 voters cast votes for more than one candidate for President” and that those votes were not counted, the report said.
While Harris‘ office was notified, Democrats were out of the informational loop. Mike Langton, the Gore-campaign regional chair, says he was told by Stafford around lunchtime on November 9 that there were only “a few hundred” voided ballots. “He claims it was a misunderstanding, but he misled me -- I don’t say I know his motives.” Stafford declined to speak with the Weekly but told another paper he thought Langton was asking about absentee ballots; Carlberg, not present at the encounter, says he‘s sure Stafford wouldn’t have misinformed Langton. A Democratic Party lawyer confirms the core of the Langton version.
By the time Langton learned, through a Times-Union reporter, that there were over 25,000 invalidated ballots and conferred with state Democratic strategists the next day, they had little time to act, and too little information to act on. The legal deadline for a recount request was coming up at midnight that Friday. They weren‘t sure whether the voided ballots helped or hurt Gore in a county W. carried by a better than 4-3 margin.
Strangely, a detailed picture of the disallowed ballots had to come to Florida Democrats through Los Angeles. The data that could have shaped their decision was already posted on the Web, where West L.A. election buff and computer programmer Bruce Adler noticed the anomalies in Duval. Once he discerned that the voided ballots came disproportionately from strongly pro-Gore precincts, Adler tried to notify Democrats on the scene, but all lines were busy at Gore headquarters, he says. He then spread the word to national and Florida media, but it was not until Sunday morning that Adler reached Langton and explained that it was Gore who was hurt the most by the ballot invalidation.
Democratic Party shot-callers plotting strategy for the “recount team” -- as focused on the friendly terrain of Miami, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale as any gang of frat boys on spring break -- continued to dismiss the importance of Duval even after finding out that the disenfranchised were Dems. “We explained to Langton that a hand count doesn’t fix overvotes,” says attorney Marc Herron, the Democratic National Committee‘s specialist on Florida election law. Herron agrees that there are grounds for a contest to the Duval results, but sees it as an uphill battle. “We’re not discouraging private citizens from taking up this matter, like in Palm Beach,” explained Nick Baldick, senior consultant on the recount team, “but for us, any additional issues would be too much to handle.”
Stafford told the Times-Union at the end of election week that his office‘s computer could not determine the impact of voided votes on the presidential race, but that a hand count might be done in a few precincts the week of November 13 to judge their effects. However, Stafford’s deputy, Dick Carlberg, told the Weekly last Friday that no hand count had been done nor was one contemplated.
And, just in case you thought all of this might be of interest to Florida Director of Elections Clay Roberts, think again. Roberts, a Republican, told the Miami Herald last week that he had not seen the Duval ballot. He said no one in his office “is going to opine on this right now.”
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