- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 2, 2002

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Delays at the polls are expected and the legal wrangling has already begun, setting the stage for a general election Tuesday in a state that has struggled through its last two statewide votes.
Officials are already predicting long lines at voting sites in Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Tuesday, the same two Democratic-heavy counties that experienced troubles during the Sept. 10 primary.
The chief reason for the expected trouble is a lengthy ballot, which includes wordy state constitutional amendments and complex local issues, such as bond referendums and charter changes.
"[This] election's ballot is one of the longest this state has ever had, and wait times will no doubt increase accordingly," Director of Elections Ed Kast said in a memo distributed to all 67 of the state's counties.
Heading the ballot, though, is the gubernatorial contest between incumbent Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Polls are now consistently showing Mr. Bush with a lead of up to 8 percentage points.
The contest is expected to draw a record number of voters, many of them first-timers. This is the same scenario that was blamed by some for the Election 2000 fiasco, which required several recounts and Supreme Court intervention before George W. Bush was declared the winner there.
Democratic Rep. Peter Deutsch on Thursday asked the Secretary of State's Office to allow provisional ballots at voting sites for residents whose voting eligibility can't immediately be determined.
But his request was denied by Mr. Kast.
In Miami, a judge yesterday barred a political action committee opposing Mr. McBride's gubernatorial campaign from providing poll watchers in next week's election.
Miami-Dade Judge Eleanor Schockett said the group, called the Emergency Committee to Stop Bill McBride, should not be allowed to supply 456 poll watchers in Miami-Dade County, after Democrats argued that the group might disrupt the election.
Poll watchers can challenge the eligibility of voters. State law allows each party and each candidate to have one watcher in each polling room during the election. A 1986 legal opinion had been cited by the anti-McBride group as justification for seeking to have its own poll watchers in addition to the regular Republican ones.
But the judge said the anti-McBride group was "quite ephemeral" and would be difficult to hold accountable if its members violated the integrity of the election Tuesday.
The county's elections department had approved the PAC's plan to monitor the election at 456 of 553 polling places. It was challenged by a coalition led by former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and U.S. Rep. Carrie P. Meek, Florida Democrat.
"The Democrats are going after this election with the same level of intensity as 2000,'' said George LeMieux, chairman of the Broward County Republican Party. "They are up to some shenanigans to discount those votes again."
There are no "shenanigans," said state Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe, and there will be, hopefully, no post-election courtroom sparring.
"We'd like to win by a big-enough margin so that we don't have to do that," Mr. Poe said. "But the parties, both of them, and the other organizations involved in this election are going to be very cautious because the stakes are so high."
Broward and Miami-Dade counties have drastically revamped their operations after September's primary, when some polling sites did not open until the afternoon, while in some areas poll workers were so poorly trained that they could not operate the new computerized voting machines.
Each county expects a half-million voters to turn out on Tuesday. They hope that they have shortened the lines with around 50,000 voters casting early or absentee ballots in each county.
Poll workers in Broward have been trained fittingly, some might say at the county Emergency Operations Center, and many county employees have been pressed into working Election Day.
At the request of Secretary of State Jim Smith, the U.S. Department of Justice has sent observers to several troubled counties; notably, Broward, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Orange and Duval.
The observers join a host of other special-interest groups, including the Center for Democracy, which is best known for watching elections in developing nations.
Meanwhile, Democratic groups are galvanizing the black vote, just as in 2000. Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for then-Vice President Al Gore and a key player in the Democratic National Committee's appeal to the black voting bloc, has been on the ground for two weeks.
"Getting the black vote is now seen as the one way Bill McBride can defeat Jeb Bush," said one Republican black activist in Palm Beach County. "And they are going about this just as in 2000."
Former President Bill Clinton has recorded a vote pitch for Mr. McBride to black voters and will join the candidate in visiting black churches along the state's southeast coast on Sunday.
Liberal black radio personality Tom Joyner broadcast his show from Sunrise yesterday. The Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak in Miami's Liberty City tonight.
As in 2000, expect a heavy black voter turnout, said Morris Reid a former Clinton administration official.
"And they aren't voting for McBride, they are voting against the Bushes," said Mr. Reid, who was an aide to the late Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown. "There is no question that there is a lot of posturing going on right now. [Democrats] were caught off guard in 2000. They won't be this time."

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