• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Copyright
 Abstract
 Interview






Title: Interview with Ed Jennings, Jr.
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE PAGE TEXT
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00005719/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Ed Jennings, Jr.
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: November 5, 2001
 Notes
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00005719
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Florida Election Project' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: FEP 5B

Table of Contents
    Copyright
        Copyright
    Abstract
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Interview
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
Full Text



COPYRIGHT NOTICE


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Florida.

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
used.

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida










Ed Jennings, Jr.
FEP-5

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









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 2

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
2









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

their votes.

J: Exactly.

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









Ed Jennings Jr.
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

not?

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
4









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-

present].

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


5









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

precedent.

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

to do?

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
6









Ed Jennings Jr.
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

important issue.

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

there.

P: And that was done by concurrent resolution, was it not? Is that the way you
7









Ed Jennings Jr.
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
8









Ed Jennings Jr.
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

to minorities.

P: Also, there was a complaint that more African-Americans were incorrectly listed

on this very flawed felon list.

J: Yes.

P: Do you think that was just error, or were they specifically trying to prevent people

from voting?

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
9









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

supervisors.

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

are implicated.

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
10









Ed Jennings Jr.
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.


11









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 12

P: So what you are talking about here is a cumulative effect of all of these factors.

J: Exactly.

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

disenfranchised themselves.

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

doing.

P: One of the criticisms of this report was that, particularly at the local level, the
12









Ed Jennings Jr.
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,
13









Ed Jennings Jr.
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

responsibilities.

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.


14









Ed Jennings Jr.
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,
15









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 16

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

prevented?

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

happened.

P: What is your reaction to the class-action lawsuit filed by the NAACP on behalf of
16









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 17

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
17









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 18

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
18









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 19

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.
19









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 20

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

elections?

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.
20









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 21

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
21









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 22

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
22









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 23

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

all.

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
23









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 24

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
24









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 25

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
25









Ed Jennings Jr.
FEP 5B Page 26

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.


26




University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs