By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
8:10 a.m. Visited five polling stations, and nothing unusual. We’re bracing for a storm because there’s been so much concern about an organized push by the Republicans to sow chaos in Broward, the Florida county where the most registered Democrats live. But it’s just another sunny Florida morning, with lots of people standing out on the medians waving signs. Strangely, on the day the national polls open, Florida looks more normal than it has in the past few weeks. The lines from early voting have evaporated. “I think they’re waiting for the right time to strike,” says novelist and blogger Stephen Elliott. “They’re patient.”
9:27 a.m. The massive building housing the Kerry-Edwards headquarters for Broward County looks like a hive, with all the volunteers and paid staffers swarming in and out of the entrances. We sneak past security and make our way into the Boiler Room, the command post for managing voting problems at the polls. Our friend Ivana is recording incidents as they come in. We note a couple items of interest: a deputy shouting at voters; people being redirected to the wrong polling places; teams of Republican lawyers laying ambushes to get people to vote with provisional ballots. Still no sign of the big offensive.
9:50 a.m. Stephen and I go on a wild goose chase down near Hallandale after some supposedly fake ACT fliers with false precinct information. There are plenty of other dirty tricks we’ve seen up close, and this looks like it could be another one to investigate. We discover, once we get there, that the fliers were probably just goofs by ACT.
11:17 a.m. It’s strangely quiet out — where is the barrage of Republican challenges? Like in Aliens, when the motion detector flashes, so they know the creatures are coming, but they can’t see them — we know they’re out there, drawing closer, moving silently through the walls. We’re just waiting to look up and see thousands of Republican lawyers crawling along the ceiling.
4:15 p.m. First serious incident develops. I’ve been catching up intermittently with a group of international election monitors brought to the United States by Pax Christi, which is a great name for a Christian peace organization. They spent Sunday and Monday training for their mission — and litigating with the Supervisors of Elections in order to get access to polling stations in Florida. That was successful; the monitors are having no trouble visiting polls in Broward County on Election Day — until, that is, they arrive at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, where the election officials are making trouble.
First the clerk, and then the deputy guarding the poll, give them conflicting reasons why they can’t enter. “I am just here to make see the rights that your country has provided as guidance to the world are preserved,” says Emily Mogeni, a very nice woman who is there as a nonpartisan observer from Kenya.
Eventually two of the observers make it inside, where a worse transgression of the law arises. This precinct’s clerk, abetted by three Republican observers, is giving provisional ballots to people who had requested absentee ballots but arrived at the polls anyway. Having made a request for an absentee ballot, however, is not grounds for a provisional, so the Kerry-Edwards people dispatch Mark Solomon, a local attorney, who arrives and helps set things straight, but not before 50 people cast provisional ballots.
6:45 p.m. The Bush signs are out in this part of Pompano Beach, at a polling station in an American Legion building just off South Dixie Highway. On recommendation from a Kerry-Edwards staffer, I race there with a few minutes to spare before polls close at 7 p.m. Like most polling places, it seems calm when I arrive. The two Democratic observers outside characterized the day as having been one of “honorable disagreements.”
Those disagreements were the usual: unnecessary provisional ballots; clerical errors and misinterpretations; partisan volunteers calling each other evil. “But from the poll workers we haven’t seen anything malicious,” said Brian DeLaurentis, one of the Democratic observers. “Although we did save a chunk of votes,” added his colleague David Addlestone. “You should have seen it, this one man we helped came out and hugged Brian.” Brian blushed in the dark. “It’s true,” he said. “He was grateful.”
7:23 p.m. I’ve been talking for a half-hour with a very nice but highly delusional Bush supporter named Lynn, when I realize that I’m trying to persuade her not to vote for Bush despite the fact that she’s covered head-to-toe in Bush-Cheney graphics and holding Bush-Cheney signs and she’s already voted anyway. I thank her, she offers to pray for me, we hug and part ways.
8:03 p.m. The Broward County Voting Equipment Center is a faceless building on a small street near downtown Fort Lauderdale. The place is filled with reporters, mostly local television, and as usual, the cameramen are bossy. There are little white monitors showing election coverage, and Tom Brokaw is calling Virginia for Bush. I glance at another monitor and see that Illinois is blue. But who cares about Virginia and Illinois? All eyes are on Ohio and Florida, where early exit polls are showing razor-thin margins that give a slight tilt to Kerry. I’m excited, of course, about John Zogby’s early call of 311 electoral votes for Kerry — props to the one pollster who goes out on a limb — but things could change fast.