- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

The elections supervisor of Broward County, Fla., has apologized for the troubled primary election Sept. 10 and ceded many of her duties for the Nov. 5 general election.
Miriam Oliphant, a Democrat who was elected with 70 percent of the vote in 2000, said Thursday that she has "fallen short in the office when it comes to management."
Her apology came 10 days after voters endured yet another botched election in South Florida, one in which ballots were not counted and some polling stations opened late and closed early.
Sources said it also came as a case was being prepared by Gov. Jeb Bush to remove Miss Oliphant from office.
"They were going to remove her," said a source, a Democrat who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "And she was advised to apologize and step back."
Mr. Bush's office denied that there was any move under way to remove Miss Oliphant.
Until this week, Miss Oliphant, 48, had refused to accept any blame for the fiasco, despite cautions from county officials that her office was not preparing properly for Election Day.
At a Sept. 4 press conference, she said: "I say to all the voters of Broward County that on September 10, we will have a successful election."
Afterward, she blamed Mr. Bush, the state Legislature and the company that sold the new voting system to the county for the problems. But faced with the loss of her job, Miss Oliphant agreed to an arrangement from county commissioners.
The county will assign a trained employee to open and close each poll. County employees will deliver ballots to regional centers and to the main election warehouse for counting.
Miss Oliphant, who ducked reporters and photographers as the voting fiasco unraveled, will maintain her title, but will oversee voter registration, absentee and early voting, and other management duties.
She did not return calls yesterday.
In Broward, though, there were hints of a troubled primary election as far back as early summer.
"We were the first group to say that this election was going to have problems, back in June," said George LeMieux, chairman of the Broward County Republican Party. When his party sent a list of 750 aspiring poll workers, none of them was selected, in favor of an all-Democratic staff.
"We had to meet with her and show her the state provision that requires poll workers from each party be present at each precinct," Mr. LeMieux said.
She did not cooperate with their demands. "We're not doing it the way they used to do it," Miss Oliphant told a Broward County newspaper. "We can't have those disadvantaged communities complaining." She was eventually forced to bring in Republican poll workers.
The Broward County Republicans earlier this year accused Miss Oliphant's office of using a poll worker training video that made Republicans look racist.
The video shows a white male voter attempting to verbally intimidate a black female poll worker.
"We obtained a copy of the video and called her and told her she needed to change it," Mr. LeMieux said. "She refused at first. We went public with it. Then she changed it, and that scene was removed."
Criticism of Miss Oliphant, a former Broward County school board member, has come from both sides of the political aisle.
"I was one of the first to criticize her over what I saw was going to happen in this election," said state Rep. Stacy Ritter, a Democrat whose district lies in part of Broward County. "I realized early on that this was going to be bad when I received calls from my constituents, blaming me for moving polling places. They told me that they first called Miss Oliphant, who said it was the Legislature that did it."
Miss Oliphant said the late formalization of redistricting was to blame for new polling places, which in turn confused some voters.
"Even in her apology, she said that the Legislature has to correct things," said state Rep. Ron Greenstein, another Democrat whose constituents live in Broward County. "Right now, the only question I am hearing from my constituents is: 'What are you going to do with Miriam Oliphant?'"


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