- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2000

The ballot ballet became theater of the absurd yesterday as 462,000 pieces of cardboard rolled to their destiny in the Florida sun on camera, under armed guard and presumably with a full tank.
"It's not glamorous, it's historic," noted one CNN reporter who dutifully chronicled the odyssey of one small truck on one big mission, as statistics ran on screen: 160 steel boxes, each weighing 40 pounds.
"Oh my God. The whole world is watching," said Florida state police Lt. Jim Kersey, at the wheel of the lead car of the six-car convoy to Tallahassee.
It was a 450-mile parade of ironic icons that have driven America's political/entertainment complex for years.
Even O.J. Simpson thought the whole thing loony and boring, even.
"All I could think of was now I know what people went through when they were trying to watch the basketball game and my Bronco was going up the freeway," Simpson told reporters yesterday.
"It's boring," he said.
All week, journalists, pundits and even lawmakers have gleefully compared the ballot caravan to Simpson's journey in a white Ford Bronco six years ago after he was accused of murdering his wife. Every inch and every moment of the ride was covered by the media.
Now living in South Beach, Simpson watched the ballot convoy on TV just like everyone else.
"In my case, it may have been a little more intriguing because people didn't know what was going to happen," he said. "Here they know the ballots are going to get to Tallahassee."
The cultural crossovers continued, though. Ryder supplied the little yellow truck that could.
The rental company once had unwanted fame when one of their own was stuffed with terrorists' explosives and used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
There was no official designation on the truck yesterday, no sign only a banner across the windshield announcing, "Rent Me!"
Like the election itself, the truck was stuck in traffic yesterday morning. Nevertheless, it trundled from Democratic to Republican territory via the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, buzzed by TV news helicopters and hundreds of reporters eager to connect the cultural dots.
The truck itself became a star. During rest stops, some onlookers ventured close enough to have their photos taken next to it. By then, TV announcers had taken to calling it "the historic truck."
The main players were skittish with all the attention yesterday.
The much-criticized Theresa LePore, West Pam Beach's supervisor of elections, held the truck's driver in her arms just before the journey commenced.
Was he nervous, she asked.
"Should I be?" he replied.
The little truck arrived in Tallahassee in late afternoon eight hours later, but in grand style. Sirens blared. Reporters shouted. Protesters waved signs that said things like "This is a chad-free zone."
There was a breathless moment when the truck took several passes at the garage entrance, then finally made it to the loading dock.
Needless to say, a group of Al Gore's supporters held a "ballot welcoming ceremony" in front of the courthouse as officials fussed with keys and hand trucks within.
"This is abnormal, let's face it," said Circuit Court Clerk Dave Lang, tasked with receiving more than two tons of hole-punched chits.
And today, the whole thing gets repeated. Another 254,000 ballots will be transported from Miami to the state capital this time in two white vans, with a five-car convoy, armed guards and all the other accustomed accouterments.
At first, Democratic and Republican observers were to ride along in the same car. But after due consideration, "they decided it would be better to ride in separate cars," a CNN reporter diplomatically noted last evening.
Despite the hubbub, the ballot cards may not be counted at all. Their fate like some of their chads hangs in the lurch.
Meanwhile, one group is following the ballot saga with much interest.
Richmond-based Diversified Dynamics makes new-fangled electronic voting machines, and the election impasse may just save the struggling company.
They offer a simple, briefcase-sized unit which uses smart-card technology and a built-in memory to record votes, a method they say reduces error and the possibility of fraud.
Now that the public's consciousness has been raised about the foibles of decades-old voting machines, several companies have begun marketing their own electronic panaceas, including one company which offers a touch-screen voting unit.
"An entirely new set of opportunities has come up," said Diversified Dynamics spokesman Thomas Davis.

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