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Ed Jennings, Jr.
Representative Edward L. "Ed" Jennings, Jr., Democrat, was elected to the Florida
State House of Representatives, District 23, in 2000 and was reelected in 2002. He
lives in Gainesville and is President and CEO of Jennings Development Group, Inc., a
real estate development business. He was born July 25th, 1968 and graduated from
the University of Florida with a B.A. in Political Science in 1993. He was a Gainesville
City Commissioner from 1993-2000 and was Mayor from 1996-97. Ed Jennings begins
his interview by describing his election day activities (1). He comments on the activities
and decisions of state officials (1-8), including whether Katherine Harris, Florida
Secretary of State, should have recused herself (2-3) and whether she was pressured
by Governor Jeb Bush or the Bush Presidential Campaign (5). Jennings also assesses
Governor Jeb Bush's partisanship (6-7) and his decision to recuse himself (7-8).
Jennings discusses the Florida Supreme Court, including whether the court was biased
toward Al Gore (8-10). He looks at the Florida legislature's reaction to the court's
decisions (10-11). He discusses the US Supreme Court's involvement and gives his
thoughts on the role of the legislature and courts in the election process (13-15). He
talks about manpower issues during the recount, and mentions the legislature's role in
setting and clarifying election standards (16, 19-20). He talks about problems with
under and over votes (17) and voting equipment (18, 20).
Jennings comments on whether Ralph Nader took votes from Gore and assess Gore's
strategy (21). He shares his opinion on who won the 2000 Presidential Election (22).
Jennings discusses the motivations behind the turn-out of minority voters (22-27) and
the disenfranchisement of those voters (25). He talks about the impact of Jesse
Jackson on the election (25-27).
Jennings talks about a re-vote (27-28) and reflects on the situation in Miami and Palm
Beach after the election (28-30) and the potential for violence (29-30). He discusses
the Election Reform Bill passed by the Florida legislature (30) and goes into detail on
the elements of the bill that he believes will be most significant, including voter
education (30-31) and provisional ballots (31-32, 35). He talks about the right of felons
to vote (32-34), disabled voters (34), and the "Motor Voter Act" (34-36). He offers his
reaction to the list of voter rights and responsibilities that came up as part of reforming
the voting system (36-38).
Jennings discusses the results of the protest of Governor Jeb Bush's "One Florida"
initiative by Tony Hill and Kendrick Meek (38-39). He shares his thoughts on the Florida
legislature's actions during the election, including appointing electors while the election
was being fought in court (39-43). He talks about the Joint Committee on the electoral
process appointed by Governor Jeb Bush (43-44) and the potential for a filibuster.
Jennings discusses the issue of the use of law enforcement on election day (45). He
also looks at the problem of people being incorrectly placed on a felon list (33-34, 46-
48). Jennings talks about the impact of the Motor Voter Bill on minorities (48-52),
criticism about state-level leadership that appeared in the Civil Rights Commission
report (52-53), and the class-action lawsuit filed by the NAACP (53-54).
Jennings talks about Republicans being allowed to add voter ID numbers to ballots (54-
56) and issues with military ballots (56). He discusses voter intent (56-57) and shares
his opinion on taxpayers paying for Secretary Harris' private lawyers (57-58) and the
ending of the second primary (58). He talks about the impact of the media calling the
election before voting was complete in the Florida panhandle (58) and the coverage by
state and national media (58-59).
Jennings contends the US Department of Justice should have investigated the election
(59). He discusses fraud (59-60) and the long-term impact of the election in Florida (60-
62). He concludes the interview by saying the 2000 election has been a great civics
lesson, and the "One Florida" sit-in was one of the most "incredible" civil rights
demonstrations in modern Florida history (62).
Interviewee: Ed Jennings Jr.
Interviewer: Julian M. Pleasants
Date of Interview: November 5, 2001
FEP 5 B
P: This is November 5, I am with Representative Ed Jennings, this is Julian
Pleasants and this is the second part of our interview. One event that we did not
talk about last time was when Tony Hill and Kendrick Meek were protesting this
initiative on the part of the governor One Florida to do away with affirmative
action and they ended up in Governor Jeb Bush's office. Would you tell me a
little bit about that event and what impact that might of had on the campaign.
J: I think it was an extraordinary day in the history of Florida. I happened to be up
there that day, the next day I was up there I sat in, so I happened to be there. As
a matter of fact it was the day that I was getting ready to qualify to run for office,
so I got a chance to be in [Tallahassee] around the event. I think the whole
community was abuzz, all [of the] state was abuzz. I think as a result of those
events, as a result of Kendrick and Tony making that stand, the entire African-
American community and also portions of the labor community, and those folks
who are affected on a gender capacity were mobilized to vote in last fall's
elections. I think as a result, Arrive With Five came out of that movement.
Around a month later we had the march in Tallahassee, where they have had
varying counts, [and] I am not a statistician but I would say at least 15,000-
20,000 people were there. I was there that day as well. It was an incredible day,
it was really the first event in my lifetime [that I saw a] modern-day civil rights
struggle, [with a] sit-in and what it really means, and to have an impact. I think
they mobilized people and that was a major event and had a lot to do with the
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kind of turn-out we had in the fall election last year.
P: Was it true that the governor said, you need to kick their asses out?
J: I was not there, so I cannot respond to that, I can tell you I have heard that from
several accounts. I have not heard have anybody say that [it] did not happen,
but I was not there to hear those comments, so I could not verify that.
P: The governor said it was directed at the news people.
J: I am sure he hopes it would be, but I think if he said it, regardless, it would be
inappropriate to whoever he said it to.
P: I want to talk in some detail about the Florida legislature's action during this
election. Some legal scholars during this time said it would be inappropriate and
unconstitutional for the Florida legislature to meet, to appoint electors while this
[election] was being played out in the courts. Yet, that is exactly what happened,
at least in the house. Tell me the details of that procedure.
J: The Speaker of the House at that time believed, and the leadership believed that
the Constitution uniquely sets forth the process for elections, the authority to do
that is done by legislature.
P: Is this the U.S. Constitution?
J: The Florida Constitution, [it] uniquely gives us that authority. So the result of
that, if there is a question about [an election], his feeling was that in regard to
that, we had to make that call. I did not agree with that call, I believe that as with
all types of debates or issues of legislation the sections that are arbitrated, the
courts were the proper vehicle and proper arbiter for that decision. I think
Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 3
President [John] McKay [Republican from Bradenton] called [the Florida Senate]
in session, had them recess because I think that he was not excited about
making a constitutional call like that himself either. As a result, what would have
happened if the Senate [had] agreed, we would have chosen the electors for
Florida and I think that would have been [an] additional constitutional challenge,
to find out whether we had the right to do that or not. I did not think we did, I do
not think that was our role, the courts always made those kinds of calls, and I
thought that was inappropriate. The process as it was that we were going to [go
through], [was that] the legislature was going to pick, I guess around twenty-five
people that were our electors and send those names up. So when they arrived
at the Electoral College they would have the stamp of approval, the legislature
should not have any other questions.
P: One of the issues was this December 12, safe harbor. They wanted to make
sure that in case it was still in the courts by December 12, Florida would not lose
P: And what would have happened, just theoretically, since the legislature never
really did anything, just the house. What would have happened if Gore, in the re-
count, had won the election. Would the Florida legislature then have gone back
into session, and produced twenty-five Bush electors?
J: I do not know what would have happened. I think that, depending on where in
the process that it happened, the Supreme Court [would] have ruled in favor of
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FEP 5B Page 4
the Florida court and what it had done. I think it would have been hard for our
legislature to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the state of what
they should be doing. I think that if we had voted for Bush electors and then the
race [had] been challenged or the votes [had] gone Gore's way, you would have
had a constitutional situation where at that time the Electoral College would have
had two sets of electors, and then would have had to say which one are we going
to take. As I understand it, every one has to have the signature of the governor -
I am not sure what else the criteria are, to find out which ones had the most
veracity and that would have been a heck of a challenge.
P: Well, it probably would have been party-line all the way, would it not?
J: Well, the Electoral College is a little different because I think at that point any
challenge goes to Congress to make that call. So, I do not think that would have
been a strictly party-line [vote]. I think people realized that the weight of the
decision we were making had humongous historical implications, and that you do
not make those kind of calls strictly on [a] party-line [basis], and I think the
Congress would not have done that solely.
P: The vote in the house was 79-41 and that was pretty much on party-line, was it
J: That was on party-line, on party-line on our level and based on, to some extent,
[that] some of the Democrats that voted with Bush were supporting their district,
how they voted in the election. There were a couple Democrats whose districts
supported Bush. That is why they voted [the way they did], they said well, if we
Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 5
are going to do this, if we are going to choose electors, I need to vote on behalf
of the plan that supports Bush because that is what my community did.
P: Was Kendrick Meek one of those?
J: No, that was in the House, Kendrick is in the Senate. I am not sure which two
members that was.
P: Dwight Stansel [Florida state representative, 1999-present] was one of them.
J: Stansel, it might of been Will Kendrick [Florida state representative, 2000-
P: Yes, that is who it is, Will Kendrick.
J: Will Kendrick and Dwight Stansel would have been the two. I am talking about
[on] the congressional level there had been a lot of constitutional scholars
debating that, and I think that the party-line issue may not have been as strong.
P: One writer said that this was example of Republicans practicing brass-knuckle
politics, and that the popular vote, not politicians should decide the election. Do
you think that is an accurate comment?
J: I think that the people in leadership should have believed that they have the
authority to do it, to make that call. I think that the final question [of] their
veracity, or integrity in regard to their believing, as we talked about earlier in
regard to some of the appropriation issues, I believe that there are true
philosophical beliefs that they have, that they hold to a period [please
clarify?]. I do not agree with many of them, but that is what they believe. I do
Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 6
believe though that the popular vote should have been the one that is counted
and I still think it has not been counted, probably will never be counted, and I
think that we [would] not be in that situation if the election process had gone the
way it should have all along.
P: Do you think that the Florida legislature has established a precedent? At another
time if the Democrats control the House and the Senate and there is an election
they do not like, they could put up a slate of electors as well.
J: I think that the good thing was that this never came out, it never passed. I think it
would have been a terrible precedent if both houses of the legislature had voted
for it, since that did not happen it think people will lean less on it as their
P: What about the committee that Bush appointed, the joint committee on the
electoral process. What was that committee about and what were they supposed
J: I think they are looking prospectively They did not look at any serious [issues],
they did not do any investigating. I will put it this way, if there are any flaws in the
election process, they thought through new technology and new laws we could
deal with [those problems]. They made recommendations in regard to using the
optical scan, using the new technology for voting, also putting in the provisional
ballots that you can get on the day of the election. Many of the things that we
voted on came out of that process [are] going forward. I think the thing they did
not do that to me was a shortcoming, was [that] they did not have any
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FEP 5B Page 7
investigative power to make any recommendations about what happened
improperly and say if there was any punitive action that would be taken against
the parties [who] were the perpetrators of the [improper] actions.
P: So this is a little bit of political cover you think?
J: I think it was a set up more to say, yes I am doing [something], I recognize there
is a problem and I am going to do something prospectively. I think it definitely did
provide some political cover for [Jeb Bush].
P: One question somebody proposed at one point, was that the Democrats should
have filibustered this vote in the House, did that ever come up as a possibility?
J: No, but I think we did set up structure for debate with structured time, so I do not
think there would have been an opportunity to filibuster. The majority and
minority were given a certain amount of time to allocate to their sides and as
many people who wanted to speak could speak but they would be given two
minutes [or] three minutes, and we were all timed, [to] make those comments.
P: I remember a couple of Democrats, I think Lois Frankel [Florida state
representative, 1986-1992, 1994-present] was one of them, at least when they
were debating it, who said they did not have enough time, that it was an
J: I think everyone pretty much got the amount of time that they wanted to have in
being able to speak, so I do not think the ability of the filibuster was going to be
P: And that was done by concurrent resolution, was it not? Is that the way you
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FEP 5B Page 8
were going to get these electors appointed?
J: Yes, it would have been a joint resolution by the House and Senate.
P: Let me go to another issue and this is something that is still being debated. The
Civil Rights Commission, as you know, did a report based on a lot of complaints
and allegations about discrimination against minorities. Several issues come up
in that report, one is a law-enforcement checkpoint in Leon County. What was
your reaction to those accusations, did you feel like that activity was, in fact, an
attempt to people from voting?
J: I think that from the level of rancor that came from around the state because of
the issue of law enforcement being used, doing drivers-license checks, [and]
being in and around polls. You are hearing those rumors from all around the
state of Florida. I cannot believe that all of those rumors would be untrue. I think
that for [law enforcement] to pick a day as important as election day to [do] that,
[they] cannot be ignorant to the implications of that. I think that those folks who
were involved knowingly and counting the other places in the state that were
involved had to know that was going to be a distraction to voters, so I cannot look
at them with clean hands. You have to know the potential effects of what you are
doing I cannot say they could not be that stupid, to not know. That really upset
me to know that people had worked so hard to get people to the polls and they
could use some tactic that could limit their attendance.
P: Although they did not specifically target minority drivers
J: I have no idea who they targeted. I think that the presence itself was going to be
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FEP 5B Page 9
a limiting factor.
P: They stopped 150 vehicles in ninety minutes and they gave sixteen citations; ten
to whites, six to blacks.
J: I think the presence itself...
P: The implication...
J: Yes, if you were going to have the police out there looking out at licenses,
looking at information at the polls. I am not saying that they could, because I am
going to pick the fifteen black drivers versus the ten white drivers. I do not think
they did that, I think the presence itself was limiting to all parties but particularly
P: Also, there was a complaint that more African-Americans were incorrectly listed
on this very flawed felon list.
P: Do you think that was just error, or were they specifically trying to prevent people
J: I think there was an attempt to take off as many people who were potential felons
as possible, knowing that was going to have a disparate impact on the minority
community. Looking at the population of our state and population of most states,
those who have felony charges are disproportionally African-American and [of]
minority culture and background, so you knew if you were going to take off that
list of people, that you are going to do that. I think there was not a desire to look
at the veracity of that list. I do not think it was as looked-at and checked twice
Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 10
and three times. I do not think that happened, I think [they said], this person's
name is on the list, this looks like it is closed? If we have problems, we will deal
with them later. I do not think there was a desire to say let us check this three
and four times to make sure [it is correct], because the right of suffrage is so
important that we are going check it. I do not think that happened, so I think they
knew the implications of what they were doing.
P: So it is not so much this organization which was called something like Data
Management Services. It was not so much that they did it, it was the election
J: I think that there is a hand-in-hand issue there. I think [someone] cannot fire you
[for doing] something, I am at fault for hiring you, but you are also implicated
because you are doing the work. They hire somebody to do a job and also have
to give them certain responsibilities to do the job but also, they [need] to have a
certain integrity in their work. If they tell us these twenty, fifty, sixty, seventy [or
one] hundred thousand people should be taken off the rolls, I need to be able to
trust that. [I think] your responsibility as a person working for me [is] to have
checked that out twice, three, four times to make sure the information you give
me is proper, but I also have responsibilities to check that myself, so I think both
P: So this is really Katherine Harris's responsibility?
J: I think both are responsible, I think Katherine Harris is responsible because she
signed the contract and/or her staff signed the contract for I believe, four million
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FEP 5B Page 11
dollars, and the company had a responsibility, both [had a responsibility].
P: Four million dollars, that is a lot of money.
J: That is a lot of money to spend on that issue....
P: For a bad report...
J: Exactly, being inaccurate, that is a big dis.
P: Another question that always comes up in these elections, but particularly to
minority communities, is that people would come to vote and they would have
signed up through the Motor Voter bill, but when they arrive at the polling place
there was no record that they had specifically been on the rolls. That was cited
as another example of discrimination, do you see it that way?
J: I would like to believe that the Department of Highway Safety, Highway Motor
Vehicles, was not using information that it took from their registration points and
not getting it over or not using it in an improper way, using race as a factor. I
think what happened many times, is that it had [been] done inefficiently [and] had
a disproportionate affect on minorities. I do not think that Secretary Dixon, who
is over that department, had inherently a negative or discriminatory practice
mindset. I think that he had a process that did not work and those folks that were
likely to use that vehicle would have been minorities more [than others]. Any
time you make a decision that is not effective, any time government does not
work, it has a disproportionately negative effect on minorities [and] this is another
example of that, as well.
Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 12
P: So what you are talking about here is a cumulative effect of all of these factors.
P: So that we see that African-Americans are ten times more likely than white voters
to spoil their ballots, and of the black votes, 14.4 percent were spoiled. Those
who defend the process say [the problem is] lack of voter education, that people
voted incorrectly and therefore they were not disenfranchised, they
J: I think that is a completely erroneous statement, or way to look at it. I think that
our supervisors of elections as well as our Secretary of State, have responsibility
to make sure that at least our citizens are informed about the process. Who they
vote for is [their] responsibility to get educated on that. I should be educated
on how to vote, on the process of voting. I think the other issue you had,
particularly in Duval County, and in larger urban communities around our state,
was that you had older balloting machines and the [majority were] in
impoverished precincts where people could not vote properly. The situation has
been going on and on because you had older voting machines, [and] that meant
that those ballots were going to be thrown out, and I think no one ever thought
that had been going on for years and years.
P: So that was defective equipment? As opposed to...
J: Exactly, as opposed to the voter him or herself not knowing what he or she was
P: One of the criticisms of this report was that, particularly at the local level, the
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FEP 5B Page 13
election supervisors did not prepare for this huge turnout and they did not have
enough phone lines, did not have enough people in the polling places to help,
and whether or not that is an issue of money or lack of competence, of course is
up to judgement.
J: I think they had no idea that the turnout was going to be as good as it was. I
think also that you had a situation that had a sieve in it or crack in it [which] was
exploded by the pressure. I said that many times, pressure breaks pipes and
what happened was that they had some older voting machines in many of the
minority communities that were already being challenged but then got
overwhelmed by the amount of people that came. So you already have a
situation where a community is being [improperly] served and then with more
people it made the service even worse. That was a decision that was made by
those folks who are making decisions about where the newest voting machines
[were placed]. I think that it always happens that the under-served and minority
communities are served last. That is historically the case in our state.
P: Although four of the seven counties with the highest percentage of black
population had optical scanning.
J: I think the ones [with] the optical scan, you do not have as many problems.
P: That is right.
J: So I think, well, I could be one of them. I think you did not have any problems
with it, and I think so that shows if people have the proper machines, people can
vote properly and will do that regardless of race, creed, color, or anything else,
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FEP 5B Page 14
but when you have defective machines, you are going to have defective voting.
P: One of these situations also occurred in Volusia, when Jesse Jackson came to
Bethune Cookman College [Daytona Beach, Florida], a lot of students went out
to register but they did not include signature, or they did not put a date, so a huge
number were not accepted as a legal registration. When the students went to
vote, once again they were not on the rolls. That is again a combination of the
responsibility of the student to fill out the registration form correctly, but also the
supervisor to help them do that.
J: Exactly, I think you are right there. I think they definitely both have
P: There are some obviously disagreements with the civil rights commission report.
Abigail Thernstrom had the following to say she is a Republican on this
commission. She said the report was flawed, it had anecdotal and
unsubstantiated testimony. She said voter error was the key problem, and that
this sets back the civil rights movement because it inflated the rhetoric. The thing
that perhaps she was most upset about, and I would like to get your comment on,
is that she did not like the word disenfranchisement because that harkens back
to poll taxes, and literacy tests. She thought that was a little bit too toxic a word.
J: I would disagree with her, I think when you use improper machines, older
machines, and you do not give every voter the opportunity to have the ability to
use their franchise, you do disenfranchise them, that is the definition of the word.
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FEP 5B Page 15
When people are treated unequally, that [is disenfranchisement] by definition; I
just think that her assessments are incorrect. I think that is what happened.
P: If you look at the 1983 Civil Rights Act you do not have to prove intent. All you
have to prove is discrimination.
J: Yes, I think it was inherently, I do not think this situation was just the 2000
election. I think this was a build-up, cumulative not only of many factors that
happened that year but [of] decisions had been made year after year in regard to
voting machines themselves.
P: One of the criticisms of the report, and they specifically said in the report that
Katherine Harris was not guilty of conspiracy, nor was [Governor Jeb] Bush part
of it, but it was a lack of leadership, that they did not take charge of an election
they should have known was going to really stress the whole process.
J: The issue of paying four million dollars to get the voter rolls purged in regard to
felons, making sure that being more aggressive and having uniform voting, which
is something we are doing now the other issue [is] that after when these
allegations did occur, I did not get the sense the FDLE [Florida Department of
Law Enforcement] or any other state agency [or] law enforcement were working
[with] the AG [Attorney General], doing any serious investigating. To be able to
say O.K. we are going to go in after this, and look at it and say what has
happened or at least do an assessment of it. I think everybody said well, how
can we improve? I think a lot of people still have a bitter taste in their mouth
because no one was held responsible for any of the decisions that were made,
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and I think that is improper.
P: Katherine Harris went up and testified before the Civil Rights Commission, and
she quite clearly [knew very little] about [election] law, and at that point although
she had made all the decisions earlier, she said it was Clay Roberts' [director,
Florida Division of Elections] responsibility. [Members of the Civil Rights]
Commission were saying you called everything during the election and now you
are saying it is somebody else's responsibility.
J: In regards [to] who makes it, when you are in charge, you are in charge. There
are a lot of people that make calls for Governor Bush all the time [and] there are
people that make calls for secretaries all the time secretaries of agencies, but
you are ultimately responsible for those decisions.
P: So these are problems that could have been predicted, and could have been
J: I think the issue of not having the integrity of purging rolls, making sure this
happens, voting on a county-by-county basis. I think the issue of Jacksonville
and other counties where there were older or imperfect voting machines, or
supervisor of election issues that Secretary Harris had nothing to do with. I think
that was her call, I think it exacerbated a problem, but then the response when
you have a problem, to investigate and look at the veracity of people's claims
was never done, and I think that is something they could have done that never
P: What is your reaction to the class-action lawsuit filed by the NAACP on behalf of
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a lot of voters who claim that their vote was unlawfully denied.
J: Their assessment of their claim is a valid one. I hope that it is heard, and I hope
that some actions are taken because I think you can definitely show [that] there
has been a consistent issue of discrimination that relates to race and poverty. I
think that you can deal with that in a number of areas, whether it was the
supervisor not knowing the rules and the mistake of rules and how they handle
them, whether it was people filling out absentee ballots and certain areas [such
as] Volusia county where I do not fill out something properly and it gets thrown
away, and in another county somebody is filling stuff out for me [a reference to
Seminole and Martin Counties where Republican workers put in voter ID
numbers for Republican absentee ballots]. What is the standard here? How are
we dealing with this? Are people taking absentee ballots outside of the
supervisor of elections office and filling them [out] and bringing them back? I
think that we have got to be able to have a uniform elections process so people's
franchises, so integral to our country, can be used properly and I think that is not
the case now.
P: Let us talk about that it is a good issue because what happened in both
Seminole and Martin counties. Republicans were allowed, at least in Seminole
County, to come in and add voter identification numbers. In Martin county they
were allowed to actually take the ballots outside of the office. Was that a
violation of the law?
J: I think that has got to be, if it is not a violation of the law it should be. Again you
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are talking about integrity of the process. Many of these things go to the integrity
of the process, knowing that I hold you accountable, you being the secretary.
You cannot, once you let something get out of your purview, you have no idea
what happened to it. I do not know if they checked the amount of names that
came, did you start with fifty and you brought in 150, or do you check fifty and
and all you did was clear them up? What [did] you do? I think as soon as those
ballots or as soon as those registration absentee ballots left they became
imperfect immediately, as a result of that. I think that did a disservice to the
people whose ballots were [being] looked at, as well as the rest of the citizens. It
is amazing how you can deal with people differently. Whereas those people got
handled with extra care, other people say well, it is imperfect so we are just
throwing it away.
P: Do you think that in the court decision of Nikki Clark [Leon County Circuit Court]
and Judge [Terry] Lewis, they were right in saying, we have some bad judgement
here but we cannot throw out all the votes.
J: I think in that situation you are in a tough situation at that point, it would have
probably been improper to throw out the entire set of Martin County or Seminole
County votes, period. I think what you did need though, was that those
supervisors of elections that particularly allowed that to happen, should have had
some infractions charged against them for those actions. I think that is at a
minimum, part of the problem in that situation, is [determining] the appropriate
remedies. I do not know and I do not claim to have the answer, but I know that
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there are people who are in positions of power who did not do their job. When
[they] do not do that, you can at least penalize those people. Now, [from] that
election, you may never be able to get back the propriety of that vote, but you
can at least make sure that the people who crossed the line and broke the rules
are punished, and you do it anything else from speeding to everything else.
P: But they were not.
J: But they were not and I think that part was inappropriate, I think that would have
required state's attorney's to file charges. This never happened.
P: One expert told me he did not think it was a violation of election law but he
thought it was clearly a violation of public records law.
J: Well, I think that is where you have to have the state's attorney involved to step
up and file charges. That did not happen, at least to my knowledge, in any of the
six or seven counties in our state.
P: Another issue you bring up is very relevant. In the military ballots, the
Republicans were demanding strict adherence to the law and were challenging
every vote in Palm Beach County and Broward County, but in Okaloosa County
and other counties, some of these military ballots were counted seven days after
the date they were due. Two of them were sent by fax, there were all kinds of
problems and they went back and re-counted these votes after the initial
automatic count. So here were some ballots, as you indicated, that were allowed
to be processed and put in on the totals, most of them for Bush, whereas other
votes were not.
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J: I think that if we truly had leadership in our state, in our country at that time
dealing with the situation, because I think you have federal civil rights suffrage
issues that were at play as well as state ones, that what would have happened in
all the counties and all the areas [where] we had questions on the ballot, we
would have had public workers coming in and taking the time, I would say, even
to allow for some of those ballots to be counted, and have them all counted, let
us look at the veracity instead of throwing these ballots away, let us bring in the
amount of public service people need to make sure we have a uniform system
and do it properly. Say whoever voted, we are going to count your ballot if you
made the intent to get this [right], we are going to do everything we can to make
sure that happens, and that did not happen.
P: Currently the Secretary of State's office are going around the state holding
hearings about what the intent of the voter should precisely be. Do you think that
is a job that the legislature should deal with or should it be supervisors of
J: I think we need to have uniform standard. I think the supervisor of elections can
only make a standard and send it up to us. I think it has to be codified by us
because we are the ones that set the statutes for that. It better be looked at, I
think those people on the front lines are the ones that can educate, [and] are the
experts on these issues, so they can make a recommendation to us and work
with Secretary of State's office to do that but then we have to pass it. I think we
need to have uniform standards statewide.
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P: Should the taxpayers have had to pay and I forget what the final figure was but it
was well over million dollars, for Secretary Harris's private lawyers, when she had
her own legal staff?
J: I think that any time you have a government official who is acting in their capacity
to work as a representative of our state, we have to support that process by
hiring the attorneys on that issue. I think that I had a problem that it cost as
much as it did to get there, but I think that we had no choice but to pay for the
attorneys because she was operating properly or improperly in her capacity in
her official capacity.
P: A part of the reform act of 2001 ended the second primary, at least temporarily,
and a lot of people have said that was done because of the 2002 gubernatorial
election. What is your reaction to that?
J: I cannot imagine it not being done because of that reason. We all are looking at
2002, we know it is going to be an important date, [an] important time, and I think
a lot of them had reasons to do it, but I think that was probably the main one.
P: What impact do you think the media had by calling the election before the voting
was complete in the panhandle?
J: I think anytime you tell people a decision before it is official, which was officially
official. I think you have two issues. You have people that either will not vote, or
you have people who will vote for that person because [people] have a human
tendency of wanting to vote for a winner. One of those things had to have some
impact, I do not know the grade of impact that it had, but I know it had to have an
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impact on those voters who knew that. [People may have] said, I do not need to
vote because the decision has already been made, or I want to make sure if I am
going to go to vote I am going to vote for the winner.
P: Do you think the state media, the editorialists, were fair in their coverage of this
thirty-six day election chaos?
J: Probably as fair as anybody could be because I know it got not only statewide
coverage, it got national coverage, so there was not too much of anything that
didn't get dealt with. The only call that I wish that had been made that did not
happen was [that] I think on a federal level the Civil Rights Division [of the]
Department of Justice should have come in.
P: Janet Reno?
J: Janet Reno's office should have come in and done an investigation at that level
because I think those are the issues we were given. [It was a] major issue and I
was surprised that the Gore team did not call for that and it was a tough situation
because he was the sitting vice-president and there [were] a whole lot of ethics
issues that we had to deal with. But I think that need have been done. I think that
was a major card that should have been played that was not played.
P: Was the national press unfair to Florida with all these Florida jokes and that sort
of negative publicity?
J: I think we looked bad. There is no way around that, and when you look bad
particularly in [what is] probably the most important decision that we make in our
country, people are going to laugh at you. If we cannot handle that, and we do
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not want that, then we need to make sure that never happens. We did not do
that, no one could have ever expected this to happen but if you were treating
people properly at least the part that there was public responsibility for it, then it
did not happen.
P: One element that has not been talked about, there was not very much fraud at
J: In regard to?
P: In regard to the elections. The extra votes, counting votes four times, people
voting eight times. I remember in Chicago some student at DePauw University
bragged that he had voted ten times. And if we look at Chicago and Louisiana,
they have been known for years for fixing elections, as has Miami, but apparently
everything is pretty much open these days. There was not much fraud, which I
think speaks well for the state.
J: I think there are different kinds of fraud. I think we did not have the multiple
[kinds of] voting fraud but there is still fraud there when you have improper
machines. That is a different kind of fraud, when you tell me I am coming to the
polls and I believe that I have punched that card in or put that circle in or
whatever voting measure I am using, and you have perpetrated fraud on me as a
citizen trying to [exercise] my right, and then thrown [my vote] away, at least
having a knowledge of how old these machines are.
P: The argument also is that if this had happened in any other state, there would
have been the same problem. For example, Georgia had a higher percentage of
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over-votes than under-votes than the state of Florida. It just happened to be that
we were in the spotlight. What do you think is the long-term impact of this
election on the state of Florida?
J: I hope that many of the problems that came out of [the] 2000 [election] will be
dealt with. I think you will probably have a whole new series of supervisors of
elections that will be elected or unelected as a result of the situation. I hope and
pray that people will take their right of suffrage more seriously. I think some
people have been disenfranchised to the point that they may never vote again as
a result of this. Largely because of September 11, now looking at that, the
impact of that has been diminished, and to me in a negative way. I do not think
that it will be as much [of an] issue, if we are dealing with terrorism issues that we
are dealing with for the next eleven [to] twelve months, the 2000 election will
comparably will be a blip on the screen. Which I think is a sad day because I
think that if nothing else, from a bad situation, you want extraordinary things to
come out of it and you want people to always remember it and for it to be a
crucible for how voting changed forever in Florida and maybe extended it for the
country. And I think the momentum for that is lost for that. People will also
[wonder] because of September 11, what would be the case or [will] always be a
question from Florida if Gore had been President, how he would have handled
the incredible situation that we are dealing with right now? That question I think
will rack the minds of historians, theorists, politicians, of all kinds of
prognosticators, for the history of our time that how was the world changed by
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that and how would it have been different if things had been different going
forward. I think it is a question that we will never really be able to answer. I just
hope that we do not lose this. I happen to be an eternal optimist, [and hope] that
we do not lose this time in history to make Florida truly be a leader in this
[election reform]. When you have a bad situation, what you can do then is be a
leader as a result of it and set the standard for the country. I do not know that it
is going to happen, but I hope that it will.
P: Is there anything that we have not talked about that you would like to discuss?
Or are there any special stories that you have that you would like to relate?
J: I think that this is probably the most extraordinary civics lesson that not only I
have ever undergone, but the citizens of our state. People learned more about
elections and the rights [and] non-rights than they would have ever learned and
ever did learn. I think that is an extraordinary benefit to our state and to our
country, particularly of the state and citizens of the state of Florida. I know that
there are many of my colleagues that debated the role of the courts and in a
funny way have some good relationships now because going through that
morass together [reinforced] some bonds and also probably broke some bonds
that maybe will never be repaired. I think also, going back tor a question you
asked me earlier, about the One Florida sit-in and what happened after that.
That sense of the sixties probably proved to be the most incredible civil rights
demonstration in modern Florida history as a result of that sit-in and the
subsequent march in Tallahassee, subsequently, to Arrive With Five. I think that
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launched an effort that will never end.
P: So that will impact the 2002 election?
J: I know it will, definitely.
P: On that note, thank you very much. I appreciate it.