I arrived Sunday, Nov. 19 in Broward County, Fla., as a Republican election observer. I personally observed a lot of irregularities in the hand recount. There were chads falling from ballots as they were lifted from the stacks. Obviously, these chads fell from ballots that were being examined for votes. At one point, I noticed about five chads laying on the table. When I stopped the counting to talk to a Republican manager, the chads had disappeared by the time I turned around again.
While counting absentee ballots, I saw two ballots that had the chad for George W. Bush taped back into place and the chad for Al Gore punched out. The tape was placed very carefully, and it took close examination to discover the ballot modification. The counter called the ballots for Mr. Gore, and I challenged them. These ballots were put in the challenge stack and were eventually examined by the board. My understanding is that they, as well as others, were given to Mr. Gore.
During the counting, I saw a ballot that had the chad for Mr. Bush punched out and a dimple on the chad for Mr. Gore. The counter identified it as a vote for Mr. Bush, but as she passed it to her counterpart who showed it to the Democratic observer, she said “I’d challenge that one.”
When the counter would hold up a ballot that had absolutely no marks, punches or dimples of any kind, it would be identified as an “undervote” (i.e., a vote for no one). The Democrat observers challenged these ballots. These ballots are what Mr. Gore and Joe Lieberman claim were never counted. They seem to believe that anything other than a clear punch for Mr. Bush is a vote for Mr. Gore.
By Wednesday, Nov. 22, we were done, and two days later, on Friday, the Broward Canvassing Board began examining the ballots that had been challenged. About 8 a.m., 70 of us, mostly observers, began a demonstration on the sidewalk outside the courthouse chanting, “let the military vote” and “we’re watching you” to let them know that we were vigilant.
People who either wanted to express their concerns or who heard about us on the radio or television started to arrive. By 3 p.m. there must have been about 500. Parents brought their children, including one 3-week-old baby. There were seniors, Cubans and Haitians. There was an old lady in a wheelchair. Someone brought a boom box. The police had to cordon off the entire block because of the numbers. People lined the main street next to the courthouse and as the traffic went by, cars were blowing their horns in support. People formed a conga line. There were American flags. Just about everyone had a homemade sign. Every hour or so, the crowd would sing the national anthem or “America the Beautiful.”
None of this was planned. It was an amazing sight.
When Rep. Peter Deutsch showed up to give interviews, a crowd formed around him and chanted, “Peter is a Cheater,” “Tell the Truth” and “Let our Military Vote.” When he asked that the crowd be quiet, someone with a bullhorn informed him that this was the new Republican Party, that we would not stand by and allow an election to be stolen and that we were exercising our freedom of speech. He finally was escorted through the crowd by about six Broward County Sheriff Deputies.
The sheriffs created areas for the Republicans and the Democrats to keep us separated. While we had about 500 or more people on our side, there were about five Democrats yelling at us.
Saturday, there were about 500 of us by 10 a.m. The crowd continued to grow. It probably topped out at around 800 at one time. A little girl held a sign that said “Thug for Hire.” Somebody brought a small barbecue from home and made hot dogs and hamburgers. He did this for hours. There were more flags, too. The counting didn’t end until around midnight, and the crowd was there till the end. The Democrats were able to muster about 30 people that day.
On Sunday, we went to the Palm Beach Emergency Operations Center where the Palm Beach Canvassing Board was trying to finish counting before the 5 p.m. deadline. By noon, it looked like there were about 1,000 people. We lined the street in front and filled the driveway into the center. Flags and signs were everywhere. As in Broward, the crowd was filled with children and families. A little old lady was there in a wheelchair on oxygen holding a sign in support of Mr. Bush. A mother held her baby on her right hip and her sign in support of Mr. Bush on her left. The man with the barbecue in Broward had gone out at 3 a.m., bought a new gas grill at Home Depot, put it together and was cooking free for everybody again.
The crowd continued to grow throughout the day. At around 4 p.m., it poured, but people stayed on. They lined the streets, and cars honked in support. There were hundreds of flags, U.S. and state. The crowd again sang the national anthem, and those who wore hats, took them off in respect.
The Democratic side had about 50 people at its height. Their signs were identical and were supplied by the AFL-CIO (it said so on the signs). They sang “Kumbaya” and held candles (I’m not making this up). By 5 p.m., there were only about 25 of them left.
It was an incredible experience.
Shawn McBurney was a Republican election observer in Florida.