- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. The outcome of the 2000 presidential election is now in the hands of Florida Democrats.
"These are not people who are interested in the rule of the law," said Palm Beach County Republican Party member Sid Dinerstein, speaking of local Democrats. "They are interested in winning."
Four Democrats are wielding extraordinary power in the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush:
Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol Roberts joined with Democratic colleague Theresa LePore to outvote the panel's sole Republican to approve a manual recount of the county's 462,657 votes. The move came after a sampling of four precincts found that Mr. Gore received a previously unrecorded 33 votes to Mr. Bush's 14.
Palm Beach Circuit Judge Kathleen Kroll granted an injunction preventing the Elections Canvassing Board from certifying Tuesday's presidential election vote until today's hearing in Miami to decide the merits of a Republican request to block manual recounts in Florida counties.
U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks, a Clinton appointee and son-in-law of former Democratic U.S. Rep. Harry Johnston, will consider the Republican petition in Miami.
"It really sounds like they're running things, doesn't it?" said Barni Shuhi, president of the Royal Palm Republican Women's Club, a rare organizational presence in the county.
"Theresa LePore is a Democrat, and her staff is mostly Democrats," Miss Shuhi said. "It [the ballot] was made up by the staff and approved by the staff and the Democratic Party. And now, when their candidate loses, they make these claims. It is truly a partisan situation that is controlled by Democrats."
In a contentious struggle early yesterday morning, Miss Roberts, a commissioner since 1986 and local Democratic fixture since being elected to the West Palm Beach City Commission in 1975, was joined by Miss LePore in voting for the countywide hand recount.
The hand recount of 1 percent of the precincts showed Mr. Gore gaining 19 votes.
"Based on the sample, there would be 1,900 votes that would not have been picked up" countywide, Miss Roberts said, over the dismayed disapproval of County Judge Charles Burton, who had moved to ask the Secretary of State's Office for an opinion before proceeding with the lengthy manual count.
Miss LePore, a lifelong Democrat who moved from clerk to supervisor with the wealthy backing of local Democratic clubs, seconded her motion, giving the recount a majority.
The postelection votes have added up for Mr. Gore. A requisite mechanical recount in Palm Beach County last week found 751 more votes for Mr. Gore. Mr. Bush now has a 279-vote lead in Florida in unofficial returns.
Several lawsuits have been filed by voters whose complaints range from intimidation at the polls to a flawed ballot that, they say, made them vote for the wrong candidate or prompted them to accidentally vote twice.
One of the first suits came from local Democratic activist Andre Fladell, who said his action was not partisan. His suit says he was denied his right to vote by a confusing ballot.
"The Republicans and the Democrats can bang each other's heads together," Mr. Fladell said. He was trying to vote for Mr. Gore but feared he voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan. He also voted for Bill Clinton twice.
And a striking coincidence after the second recount made some Republicans uneasy: Mr. Bush held a lead of 1,754 votes in 53 counties that had been so far the exact difference between the candidates after the initial state count was completed Wednesday.
Kevin McCarty, a state committeeman from Delray Beach in Palm Beach County, said the situation does not look good. He worked with a group of Republican lawyers to go "judge shopping" last week when it appeared the election went awry.
"We ended up with Kathleen Kroll, who is an ultraliberal," Mr. McCarty said. "Then we get Middlebrooks … this couldn't have happened in a worse place, because we have the large retired community and, in this election, had the Lieberman effect."
The "Lieberman effect" is the rallying of the substantial Jewish vote in South Florida's Jewish retirement communities.
Anticipating another round of complaints from the Democrats, Florida Republican Party spokesman Jim Smith cautioned absentee voters who failed to send in their ballots at this point, since the deadline was Nov. 7.
Mr. Smith said at a press conference that "our system has never seen such abuses." Mr. Smith cited news reports that some absentee voters who did not vote were now being encouraged to do so.
He cautioned that to do so would be felonious, and that encouraging others to vote fraudulently is also a crime.
Absentee ballots are scheduled to be tabulated on Friday.
Democrats, for their part, are convinced that the system in Palm Beach County was flawed, and that only a manual count will remedy the situation.
"This is not partisanship," said Monte Friedkin, chairman of the Democratic Party of Palm Beach County. "Gore was going to [trail Mr. Bush] because of the ballot, and the only way to fix it is through a hand count."
It is in the midst of these allegations, maneuvers and exchanges that Judge Middlebrooks will decide if the Republican lawsuit has merit or if Palm Beach County and three others will be allowed to conduct manual hand counts, which could tip the presidency toward Mr. Gore.
Today's decision in Miami is destined for an appellate court. Democrats have so far been the most litigious, backing, at least in spirit, the lawsuits filed by at least eight voters who feel wronged.
Mr. Dinerstein, the Palm Beach County Republican, believes the recount movement is illegitimate, that local Democratic activists are usurping the system.
"When I see people I know, who have been activists for a long time, saying they didn't vote right, I know that things aren't quite right here. But I hope that, ultimately, the law will come down on the right side."

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