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Carol Roberts begins by describing her political affiliation and background, including
how she became a member of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board (1-2). She
gives a detailed description of election day and her interactions with Theresa LePore.
She also talks about the activities of the canvassing board in the recount process and
the changes in the results (2-9). Roberts describes the media and observers during the
recounting of the ballots (5-8). She talks about the intent of the voters and actions
taken by the Secretary of State (10-11). Roberts discusses the problem of security and
threats made to public officials in Palm Beach County (11-12). She describes the
incident whereby Judge Charles Burton asked for an opinion from the Florida Attorney
General and the Florida Secretary of State regarding whether to continue counting
ballots and received two conflicting answers. She talks about the state law regarding
counting ballots and the ambiguity of that law (13-15). She also talks about Kerey
Carpenter's actions during the process (16).
She continues talking about the counting process and the actions of the canvassing
board and the attorneys (16-18). Roberts discusses the standards they used for
counting ballots and how they attempted to determine voter intent on under-votes and
over-votes (19-22). She talks about the accuracy of voting machines and how she
checked her ballot on election day (21-22). Roberts talks about Secretary of State
Katherine Harris's decision to open to accept ballot counts on Sunday, rather than
Monday (23-24). She describes the war room atmosphere and whether the appearance
of chaos had any impact on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision (24-26). Roberts talks
about the actions of Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris and Mac Stipanovich (26). She gives
her opinion on the actions of the Seminole and Martin County elections supervisors and
the judge's decision to not throw out those absentee ballots (26-27). She talks about
County Commissioner Mary McCarty and the Republican Party (27-28). Roberts
continues talking about the counting process and the completion of the counting of
ballots. She takes a trip to Asia and talks about how she was recognized by others (28-
29). Roberts gives her opinion of the Florida and United States Supreme Court
decisions (29-30). She believes that ballot design probably did cost Gore the election
and doesn't believe anyone will ever know who actually won or that it really matters
now. She also talks about the press and their treatment of her (30-31). In the final
section of the interview, she discusses various matters, including new voting machines,
accusations of discrimination, the treatment of Florida and Katherine Harris by the press
and the long-term effects of the 2000 election (31-34).
Interviewee: Carol Roberts
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: December 12, 2001
P: This is December 12, 2001. It is one year to the day from the George W Bush
[U.S. President, 2001-present; Texas governor, 1995-2001] v. Al Gore
[unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate, 2000; U.S. Vice President,
1993-2001] 5-4 Supreme Court decision. I am in Palm Beach County and I am
with Commissioner Carol Roberts. Give me the background of your political
affiliation and the position you held at the time of the election.
R: Background is that I've been married for forty-eight years to the same husband. I
have six children, eight grandchildren. I first ran for public office in 1975 when I
ran for the city commission of West Palm Beach. I didn't realize that when I was
elected, I was the first woman elected as a commissioner in the city of West
Palm Beach. I subsequently became mayor of the City of West Palm Beach, that
is a non-partisan office, as city offices are in Florida. I then ran in 1986 as a
Democrat for County Commission and was elected. I've been a registered
Democrat in Florida since the day I was old enough to register. [I] actually
[registered] here in Palm Beach County. I've lived in Florida my whole life. I
come from a Democratic family. At one point my uncle was Assistant Attorney
General of the state of Florida. I was far too young to remember that. He
resigned to go in the Navy for World War II. I come from, as I said, a heavily
Democratic family. One of my cousins was Treasurer for both Reubin Askew
[Florida governor 1971-1979] and Lawton Chiles [Florida governor 1991-1998
(died in office); U.S. Senator, 1971-1989]. He had gone to both college and law
school with each of [them]. He helped "Walkin' Lawton" when he was "Walkin'
Lawton," and served on a number of boards for governors in the state of Florida.
We've been an active political family, as far as I'm concerned, for many, many
years in the state of Florida.
P: Describe how you came to be on the canvassing board during this election.
R: The Florida statutes require that a canvassing board have the chairman of the
county commission, a judge appointed by the chief judge, and, automatically, the
supervisor of election [on the board]. I was not the chairperson of the county
commission in 2000. The chairperson was on the ballot and Florida law says if
you are on the ballot, you cannot serve on the canvassing board, therefore it
could be a designee of the chairperson. The chairperson, in February before the
March presidential primaries, asked the Board of County Commissioners if they
had any problem with me serving on the canvassing board. I had served before
on many canvassing boards, including the canvassing board that hand-counted
[Buddy] Mackay [Florida Lieutenant Governor 1991-1998; Acting FL governor
12/1998-1/1999]-[Connie] Mack [U.S. Senator, 1989-2001; U.S. Representative,
1983-1989] race. I think [that] was 1988. So, I've had experience in a race that
was a statewide race and [involved] hand-counting. The board made some
interesting little remarks because I had served many times and said, Roberts
likes to do that, we'll let her do that; she doesn't mind staying up all hours of the
night for a presidential primary. That's really how the board approved the chair's
choice to have me serve on the canvassing board. That was in February of the
P: Did you request that position?
R: No, I did not. The chairperson came to me and asked me through the board. I
had no problem doing it. I know that most of our board members at that time
thought it was a pretty boring position to have. I had served many times, many
times. Different people, when they were chair, said, Roberts, you like to do this,
will you do it? I probably had served ten or more times on a canvassing board.
P: Describe your experience during election day. You voted at 8:00 and you had no
R: I actually voted earlier than that. I was at the polls probably about 7:20 [am]
because I wanted to go into some of my senior areas, specifically over to Century
Village. I didn't have a problem voting. I had looked at the ballot as it came
home and realized obviously that the holes weren't there, but I had decided
obviously who I was going to vote for. [I] had gone through the ballot, was
accustomed to looking at the Vote-O-Matic machines, particularly because I had
served on many canvassing boards. I did not have a problem, mainly because I
understood that you follow the arrow and the arrow was where the hole was.
Even though Bush was the first hole and if you switched your eyes, [Pat]
Buchanan [unsuccessful presidential candidate, 1992, 1996, 2000] was the
second hole and the arrow pointed there, and Gore was the third hole and then
you went on down in number, I did understand that. I did not have a problem
voting. I did not notice in my particular polling place that other people were
having problems, but of course it was early. Most of the people in there were
people on their way to work and they were probably younger people. I was in
and out of there quite rapidly at South Olive School, that's where I vote. Then I
went over to Century Village. When I got there, I went to the synagogue and I
had hardly set one foot out of my car when I was mobbed by a number of people
who said, we're so glad you're here. There is a terrible problem at the poll. It's
very difficult for people to vote and understand the ballot. I walked in and [they]
said, what can you do? I said, really there's not very much I can do. Let me go
over to the other polling place. There are two polling places with a number of
precincts housed in the two polling places in Century Village. When I got to the
other polling place, I again was really mobbed by people. [I] went inside the
polling place, was told that they couldn't get through to the supervisor's office, the
phones were busy. I took my mobile phone and I called the Supervisor's private
number, which I had, and told her there was a tremendous problem. I did get
through, I don't know after that if anyone got through. I also asked what to do.
There was a woman that insisted that she had voted in the September election,
that she was not being allowed to vote in the November election. I advised the
person at the polling place who was in charge to let her use an affidavit and let
her vote. [I] answered a number of questions and realized that we were having
some problems and went back to my office. I was probably back in my office
around 10:00 or 10:30 in the morning.
P: What was the response of Theresa LePore [supervisor of elections, Palm Beach
County] when you called and told her about the circumstances?
R: She was aware that there were problems. That was basically her response. She
was trying to figure out what to do because it was still early.
P: When did you realize that this was going to be such an extraordinarily important
election and that Palm Beach County was going to be at the center of it?
R: Probably not until we actually finished the counting, which was at 4:00 or so in
the morning. I really didn't pay much attention to the national elections. In the
Supervisor's office, I had a lot of friends who were running for various offices.
They would be calling me and saying, where am I now? Some were running in
multi-county races. I was really watching a lot of local races. [I] didn't really have
an opportunity to go sit in front of the television, because you really had to look at
the national scene. When I got home, I kind of collapsed, it was probably around
4:00 in the morning, turned on the television and went, oh my gosh. [I] didn't
realize that Florida was so crucial. [I] didn't really even then realize that Palm
Beach County was going to be crucial, because I knew that Gore had won Palm
Beach County by over 120,000 votes and that's a large majority in one county. I
think it was probably the next day, on Wednesday, the Supervisor had received a
press release. She had never received an official notification by the Secretary of
State [Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State, 1998-present] to do a recount.
She received a press release saying that the Supervisor had mandated an
automatic recount based on the less than half-percent difference. I questioned at
that particular moment, where the official request [was]. Theresa LePore said
she didn't have any official request, she had a press release. I said, well, isn't
that a bit strange? Don't you get something official from the Secretary of State's
office? She said that was all she had. I suggested [that] before we do the
recount that she call the Secretary of State's office and ask for something official.
The Secretary of State's office said, you have it, that press release. I said [that] I
didn't think that was official. It is a press release. How do you know [where] a
press release comes from? Shouldn't it be on the Secretary of State's stationary
[or] something that says, I officially mandate that there be a recount because it
was less than a half-percent? That was never forthcoming. As a matter of fact,
Commissioner [Mary] McCarty [Palm Beach County Commission, 1990-present]
at this time was buzzing around and was very upset and saying, why aren't you
starting the recount? I said, it seems to me like we need to have something
official. She said something like, if you need something official, I'll get it, and
stormed out. I don't think you'll find any of this in the books because no one has
really ever asked me these questions. We never got anything more official than
a press release, which, to my mind, is somewhat suspect of how you manage an
P: When you said that you were up til 4:00 am on Tuesday counting votes, were
those absentee ballots?
R: No, we did our absentee ballots to begin with. What happens is that we are such
a large county that we have ballots coming in from as far away as forty-two miles
out in the Belle Glade area. We have two areas that the computers count and
then they have to merge together. One in the Delray Beach office and one here.
Normally, with very large elections, we don't finish doing our L&A because you
have to do your L&A after you do an election, as well as before, to make sure
that the machines calibrate the same.
P: Is that a testing of the machines?
R: Yes, it's the testing of the machines. That takes awhile, forty-five minutes or an
hour. Normally you can't start that until you have your final figures. We usually
don't finish when there's a very large election like this until 3:00 or 4:00 in the
morning. We do our absentee ballots very early.
P: About forty-two counties in Florida tallied the totals of the machines for the
automatic recount, but they did not go back and do a manual recount. How did
you respond to that?
R: It's [an] electronic recount. We had to meet as a board and decide whether we
were going to honor the request or not, although we were mandated. We met as
a board, I believe that same day, on Wednesday, and said we would authorize
the Supervisor's office to do a total recount on the next day, on Thursday, and
that we would meet again on Thursday as a canvassing board. Palm Beach
County took all the 462,000-plus cards and recounted every single one of them.
We believe that, and I agree with our supervisor of elections, that when you do a
recount, you do a recount. You count all of the ballots again. We put all of these
ballots into the counting machines on Thursday. When we met on Thursday to
authorize the Supervisor to proceed, we recognized someone from the Gore
campaign and someone from the Bush campaign, because we were formally
meeting as a canvassing board. The Gore campaign asked to have a manual
recount of one percent, which Florida law allows. They are allowed to pick three
precincts and if it doesn't come up to the one percent, then the canvassing board
will pick the other precincts to bring it to one percent. It had to come up to 4,300
votes, which is a little more that one percent of the 462,000-plus votes. The
Bush campaign at the same time made a request to have another electronic
recount. On Thursday, the canvassing board granted both of those requests.
We also had a request from the [E. Clay] Shaw [U.S. Representative, 1981-
present]-[Elaine] Bloom [Florida state representative, 1974-1978, 1986-1996]
campaign to do a recount there.
P: This is Elaine Bloom.
R: Her campaign at that point was about 600 votes difference, which was more than
one percent. It wasn't even a half percent. We felt that it would not be
productive and we said, no, we would not do a one-percent recount in that race,
because we didn't feel that she met the qualifications.
P: In fact in the past, it had been pretty much standard procedure to turn down a lot
of those recounts.
R: Yes. We were kind of overwhelmed with doing the Gore and Bush [recounts], so
we turned that down. Those three requests came in on Thursday morning as we
were getting ready to do the recount. When we said we would do the manual
one percent, Theresa LePore said that Friday was Veteran's Day and she did not
intend to open her office, the county was closed and we would do that recount on
Saturday. At that point, it seemed obvious that Palm Beach County became a
focal point for the country. I still [thought], Gore won by 120,000 votes in Palm
Beach County, why are we the focal point? At that point it was somewhere
between 600 and 900 votes [difference], because I don't think the Supervisor's
office had [the numbers] down. We still didn't know the final difference [on the
statewide count] on Thursday, two days after the election. We did the mandated
state recount, then we were going to certify those. I don't remember if we
certified them that day or what we did. I guess we certified it and sent it up to the
Supervisor of Elections for the state. Meantime, [on] Thursday my office was
absolutely barraged by calls from media all over the country, actually all over the
world. Friday, a couple of my staff volunteered to work. They had set up
appointments with the media. The media had decided to camp outside of the
county commission. There were hundreds of people on our northern parking lot
with all kinds of trucks and cameras. It was truly mass confusion. Two of my
staff members came into work. We were the only people in the courthouse other
than the press. Literally. I should say our county administrative building. We're
not a courthouse, we're actually an administrative building. People started
interviewing me, I would say at 8:00 in the morning, from [the] German press to
CNN to NBC, ABC, CBS, English press. It was unbelievable. At one point, I
walked outside of our back door. I had a friend with me for an interview that had
been scheduled with CNN. All of a sudden I was surrounded by about three
sheriff's officers. I looked at them and they said, where are you going,
commissioner? I said, I'm going to find CNN. They said, we'll take you there. I
said, why do I need you to take me there? I think I'm capable of finding them
myself. They said, no, we will walk you over there. I kind of shrugged and said
to my friend, I don't know why I get an escort, but okay. We found our way
through the wires and people and went over. I saw Representative [Robert]
Wexler [U.S. Representative from Florida, 1997-present] coming out. He must
have had eight sheriff's [officers with him]. I'm thinking, wow. Rob's getting
pretty impressed with his importance [since] he [has] eight sheriff's officers
guarding him. I owed him an apology for that, because I found out a few minutes
later that Rob had been shoved to the ground and mishandled by a very hostile
crowd. I never apologized because I never said anything. I was thinking that in
my head and then I apologized in my head and realized that the sheriff was
protecting me from the same thing. It was a very hostile crowd on Friday.
P: Theresa LePore said she had protection all the time. Of course, there were
several threats on her life. Did you have anything like that?
R: Yes, I did. None of us got protection until Saturday night. I wasn't aware that
she had any on Friday. I didn't get any and I'll tell you about that. This was
Friday before we hadn't done anything other than the state-mandated recount.
There was a very hostile crowd demonstrating when I walked out. I had been
upstairs on the twelfth floor and really couldn't see what was going on on Friday.
Remember, our building was closed and I was the only county commissioner
[there], [we were] the only office in the whole building that was open. Even
Theresa LePore's office was closed and she wasn't there. I don't believe she
came in for any interviews. As far as I know, I was the only person [there].
Judge [Charles] Burton [Judge, County Court, Palm Beach County; chairman,
Palm Beach County Canvassing Board] had never been on a canvassing board
[and] he really didn't know that much about it. He certainly knows today, he's
certainly an expert today. On Friday I was probably the only member of the
canvassing board that was interviewed. It was an interesting interview with Greta
Van Susteren [anchor, CNN, 1991-present]. Just the day itself was interesting.
Saturday we met again as a canvassing board to authorize both [the] manual
recount and electronic recount requested by the two candidates. In doing a
recount in the Mack-MacKay race [in 1988], there wasn't apparently any interest
in it. There were no observers. There was no one watching over our shoulder.
There was nobody doing anything. We used county staff, a lot of the county
attorneys. We actually counted in two places. This was totally different. By
Saturday, I think every press that exists must have been there. Without
exaggeration, there were 400 or 500 press people, mobbing, pushing,
screaming. We set up certain rules. We accepted observers, which is not in
Florida law. We did not have to have some Democratic observers, Republican
observers. But in fairness to both parties, [we] accepted the suggestions that we
have a Democratic observer and a Republican observer at each of the tables
where the counting was going on. We used Theresa LePore's staff to do the
counting on the one percent. Under Florida law, you must have a Democrat, a
Republican, and/or another party. If you can't find enough Democrats or enough
Republicans you can use [some] other party as one of the two. We allowed one
Democrat and one Republican to sit at the table with the team of two that were
doing the counting. We set down certain rules, that they couldn't touch the
cards, they could object when they saw something they thought was
objectionable. In my naivete, I never realized that we were going to have the
kind of problems that we ended up having. Because Florida law deems that you
have to have members of the canvassing board in rooms when you start the
counting, I stayed in the room that we were going to distribute the manual
recount cards in. Judge Burton and Theresa LePore went in the next room
where we were going to start the electronic recount. We had met with the Gore
and the Bush people and said, is it okay if we take out [some precincts] it
turned out it was four precincts, the county picked one. We just went down the
list, one, two, three, four, five. It was precinct six that had enough votes in it that
took it over the one percent, which happened to be a northern precincts and they
picked three very, very Democratic precincts.
P: Which they legally have a right to do.
R: They legally have a right to do [that].
P: They were in the other room getting ready to oversee the beginning of putting in
the electronic [cards]. The Bush people had agreed that the four precincts could
be counted last so that we could do this concurrently. We started distributing the
cards and they started to count. There are huge windows that look into this area.
It covers both rooms [and] television cameras were leaned up against both of
these. The world was truly watching and they had a good catbird seat to watch
from. I would say maybe ten minutes into the counting, an argument started at
one of the tables. [It was] a very loud argument and I went over. The Republican
and Democratic counter objected to the Republican observer who was objecting
to every single card that was held up. I then read the riot act and said, you're
here as an observer. You're supposed to object to cards that you believe there's
a question about. He then said to me, you can't tell me what to do; I can do
whatever I please. I said, no, you can't. We got into an argument. I finally said,
you do your job and you are not supposed to talk to each other. In the meantime
everybody stopped counting. Judge Burton and Theresa walked in.
P: Could you have removed the observer causing the problem?
P: You chose not to do so.
R: I chose not to do so, because I just thought this was somebody who needed to
have instruction. I didn't realize that they had all been instructed to slow down
[the process] and to do anything they could to keep this count from happening.
P: When you say they, you mean the Republicans?
R: Yes, I do. The Republicans, in my opinion, had been actually instructed and
taught how to delay, harass, and obstruct. I didn't know that at that time. I didn't
even realize it at that time. When Judge Burton came back into the room, I told
him what happened. We had flare-ups all day. The point of what the
Republicans were doing was [that] there [are] three of us that have to do all the
cards that were objected to, so as many of the 4,300 [ballots] that they could get
us to do, the longer it would take to have [the counting] done.
P: You did not do any of the basic counting, you only determined those that had
been objected to.
R: That's right. The more they objected to, the longer it would take us. I have also
been in recounts of local races. Normally, if you take three or four precincts and
you have 2,000 to recount, it should not take you more than three or four hours,
[at the maximum]. We had 4,300 [ballots], so we figured it would take six hours.
It took us twelve hours [because] the Republican observers were picking every
card. Many times the Republican and Democratic counters absolutely lost their
patience and even though they were not supposed to communicate, started
arguments and saying, I want to know why you're objecting to that. We had to
get up and stop looking at our cards. Saturday ended up being early Sunday
morning. Probably around 11:00 at night, we actually finished the counting
process. Maybe it was 12:00 [am]. We decided to take a break. They had to
take the cards from the four precincts now and put them in the machine to count
them. While they took a break, I took Florida law and I went and sat down by
myself. I must tell you that no one from the Gore campaign, including today, has
ever contacted me. I have never been in contact with a single person from the
Gore campaign. Nor did anyone from the Florida Democratic Party. Monty
Atende said hello to me and I said hello and that was the end of that. I never
had anything to do with any of the Democrats. To this day, I don't know anyone
from the Gore campaign. I had never been involved with them and they never
attempted, that I'm aware of, to contact me.
P: You were an Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman [U.S. Senator from Connecticut,
1989-present; unsuccessful Democratic vice-presidential candidate, 2000]
R: Yes, but I also knew I had to be nonpartisan in this, because of the role of a
canvassing board member. I was very up-front. I believe on Thursday I
announced that, as far as I was concerned, I had not been involved in any of the
campaigning. I had a Gore-Lieberman sticker on my car, which I didn't believe
made me part of a campaign. I had gone to one gathering, even though it was a
fund-raiser, I did not raise any money. I did not participate. I really wanted my
husband to meet Lieberman and he was there in town. I did not believe that that
made me a party to a partisan campaign. I am a Democrat. It's well-known [that]
I am a Democrat. I believe I can express who I support without being a part of
the campaign. Unlike the Secretary of State, who was very much a vital part of
President Bush's campaign, I was not part of Gore's campaign.
P: At one point, there was a mistake in the machine count and 865 votes had not
been counted. What happened and how did you correct that?
R: You know what, I'd have to go back because I don't recall [that incident].
P: Apparently, what happened was that instead of hitting the accept button,
somebody hit the delete button. It turned out that because those votes were not
counted, Gore got 643 more votes.
R: I think that's what you find out when you do an L&A.
P: That's what happened.
R: That's why we were there until 4:00 in the morning I think.
P: I think from what I've read, that incident made outside observers think, uh-oh,
now they have found 643 more votes for Gore. That might have stirred up some
of the Republican opposition. Although it was very clearly, from what I
understand, simply an operator error.
R: Theresa LePore has had the same operator of her computers, Jeffrey. I worked
with Jeff as a member of numerous canvassing boards for many years. Yes,
you can press the wrong button. The reason you do an L&A is to find out if you
have any mistakes. When you do your testing, you realize, wait a minute, I may
have deleted a precinct instead of [having] counted it. That's really why when you
do an electronic recount [you check your work]. We did three electronic
recounts. I think Jeffrey realized that he had a mistake and he just corrected it.
P: Now you are doing the one-percent count. In the end, as I recall, Gore ended up
with nineteen votes. Is that correct?
R: Gore ended up with a total of nineteen votes ahead. I was looking at Florida law.
I'm not an attorney, but in fifteen years I've said those [words] many, many
times to me the Florida law was very clear. It said something like, if you come
up with a difference in a hand recount that could possibly make a difference to an
election, then you can ask for a manual recount of the whole. Using the logic
that at one percent you had nineteen votes, there was a possibility you could
have 1,900 votes. At that time we were still somewhere between 600-900 votes
difference in the state. The Secretary of State still hadn't come out with her final
figures. Logically it said to me, 1,900 votes could visibly affect the results of this
election. I understood that if I asked for a recount, that we had never counted
642,000 votes before by hand. We had counted votes by hand, but never that
many. We would be facing a monumental task in that it was something that I
thought long and hard about. When I made that request that night, I felt like we
were looking at democracy. We were not necessarily looking at who's going to
win this election. We were looking at preserving the fragility of democracy, one
of the most important tenets in democracy is the fact that we have the right to
vote and we have the right to have those votes counted. People speak out with
their vote. This is the ability for people in a free democracy to speak out. I
believe very strongly that if we didn't come up with every vote that we would be
depriving people of their rights. Because I believe that so strongly, I said, okay,
you're going to put aside your qualms about how long, what it would take, and
the like. It's more important to count everybody's vote. It's more important. The
end result of who won wasn't as important as making sure that everybody's voice
was heard. That voice is their vote.
P: I believe the law states quite clearly that is the intent of the voting process, to
count as many votes as possible. It is difficult, however, sometimes to determine
the intent of the voter, which is a little vague.
R: I didn't even consider, at that moment, the intent of the voter. I only considered
the fact that people voted and they deserved to have that vote recorded. That
vote was their voice. When we met again to certify the nineteen-vote difference,
I made my mind up right then. It was more important to ensure that the voice of
the people through a democracy are heard and you could only do that through a
recount. I made a motion and Theresa LePore seconded it. I wanted to vote and
Judge Burton was visibly angry. He kept attempting to stop. He didn't want to
vote. He made certain suggestions. Until I read Jeffrey Toobin's [author, Too
Close to Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election] book, a lot
of the dots didn't connect. I didn't realize that the Secretary of State had sent an
P: Kerey Carpenter.
R: Yes. I had seen her during the day, I really didn't know who she was. We didn't
spend any time together really. I just didn't pay any attention to her. When you
have a three-member board, the chair can make a motion. [Judge Burton] made
a motion. Even though there was a motion and a second on the floor, he made a
motion to go to the Secretary of State's office and ask if we could do that and get
an opinion. I said, first of all, you can't make a motion because there's a motion
on the floor. I know that judges don't necessarily deal in parliamentary
procedure. As a county commissioner, I do. Therefore, you can't make a
motion. The more I said, the more angry he got. He said, I'll make a substitute
motion. I don't know whether somebody said that to him or what. He made a
substitute motion. By this time, I think Theresa LePore was very confused, she
was exhausted. She'd gone maybe three nights without sleep, maybe longer.
She said she would second it. Her attorney said, no, you don't want to do that.
P: This is Bob Montgomery.
R: Then she said, I take my second away. She said, I thought I was seconding [the
motion] that we were going to recount. I said, your motion fails for lack of
second, your Honor. He was very angry with me. I kept saying, I want to have a
vote; I don't need to ask the opinion of the Secretary of State. I said, why do we
need an opinion to recount? Everybody needs to have their vote and their voices
heard. I don't need anyone's opinion to tell me if that's right or wrong. I was
being certainly very strong in what I thought we should do and very strong in
expressing those opinions. At this point, we were probably shouting at each
other, I don't remember. By now, it was somewhere close to 2:00 in the morning.
He was allowing all the people who wanted to to comment on our vote. At one
point, after maybe a half hour of him recognizing speakers, Representative Lois
Frankel [Florida state representative, 1986-1992, 1994-present] was speaking.
She stopped to take a breath. I said, Representative Frankel, do you mind sitting
down and keeping quiet so we can vote? I've never done that with Lois. She
looked at me and she sat down. I said, your Honor, I call for a vote. Under
parliamentary rules, the maker can call for the vote and you have to vote. [He
was] very angry with me.
P: You had to repeat that several times.
R: Yes, I did. I'm also aware in parliamentary procedure how to use it and I did. It
was a 2-1 vote to have the recount. I also included in my motion the fact that we
[would] return on Monday morning and the supervisor would give us her plans for
how and where we would conduct this vote.
P: Was this for a recount of all the votes?
R: Yes. Then I went home. That's when I believe we all ended up getting a guard.
I have caller ID on my telephone. My husband was sleeping. I did not realize
that CNN put this on internationally. I didn't even know that until sometime later
when I think Greta Van Susteren mentioned it to me during some of the
interviews. Because it was so late, they put it on internationally, live, so that it
was 2:00 in the afternoon in Australia and China and 2:00 in the morning here. I
assume MSNBC and all of the [networks] did that, I didn't know that at the time.
From the time I left the Supervisor's office until the time I got home, maybe it was
an hour from the time we finished until I left, there were thirty-one calls on my
caller ID. My caller ID was blinking and I looked at it and thought, wow, what are
all these calls? They were calls from all over the country, from Texas, from
Massachusetts, from California, from Minnesota, from Missouri, from Florida. I
went back to my answering machine and started to listen to those calls and I got
very upset. There were one or two that were saying, go girl. The majority of
them were very hostile and some of them were death threats. I don't know if I
want to use the language, but [they were] basically saying, if you think you're
going to get away with this, you better watch your back, don't walk in front of a
car, you better not be any place where somebody can see you through the sights
of a gun. Those kinds of things. I woke my husband up, who didn't know
anything about this, who had no idea. He went to sleep probably 11:00 and
watched this and didn't know I was going to ask for a recount. I didn't know I was
going to ask for a recount. It was one of these where I struggled with my
conscience and finally made the decision and did it. I said, I think you better get
up honey, maybe you ought to come listen to some of these. They're pretty
brutal and scary phone calls. He said, I think you need to call the West Palm
Beach police department. About 4:00 in the morning I called the West Palm
Beach police department. I was a former mayor of the city. I didn't want to call
911 [because] I didn't think it was an emergency, so I just called the desk and I
explained who I was and what had gone on. They called one of the officers on
the beat, who came over. When I said, would you like to listen? He said, no, I
take your word for it, Commissioner. I've been told that I'm supposed to guard
you. I said, okay. I don't know what that means, but okay. I talked with the
police chief the next morning and he actually assigned someone to guard me. I
don't believe I left the house on Sunday. I can't remember, to be honest with
you, what I did on that Sunday. On Monday when we had to go get the ballots
that were in Delray Beach, the West Palm Beach police department said to the
sheriff's department, we can't leave the City of West Palm Beach, you need to
take over and guard her. If she's got to go in and out of the city and the county,
you can go both places, we can't. The West Palm Beach police department
turned me over to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department. Theresa
LePore lives in the county. I don't know exactly where Judge Burton lives. I
know he lives in the Boca area, but I don't know if he's in the city or the county.
On Monday, I received a sheriff's guard who literally guarded me, drove me,
wouldn't let me drive, went to the grocery store with me. The first three or four
days when we weren't counting, I was totally frustrated. We were in the EOC
[Emergency Operations Center]. I went through the frustration of watching
Broward County start to count. On Monday we met in the County Commission
Administration building, which is still Theresa LePore's office. Judge Burton
made it very open, which I was very pleased [with]. We were in the lobby, we
met, and she laid out her plans to move to the EOC center and start counting
P: Did you make that move just because there was more space there?
R: Yes. At that point, people were screaming and hollering and wanting to be
recognized. Judge Burton recognized Reeves Wright, who is a Republican
attorney from Delray Beach, who said, why don't you take your plans and run
them by the supervisor of elections and see if they have any way of improving
them? Judge Burton said, that sounds reasonable. I said to Leon St. John, who
was filling in for our attorney, who was out of town, who obviously didn't realize
this was going to be the center of the earth, so to speak.
P: Is this Bruce Rogow [attorney for Al Gore in 2000 election]?
R: Not yet. It was Leon St. John, who had taken over for Denise Detrick, who was
out of town on Monday. I turned to Leon and I said, if we ask the Supervisor to
review our plans, will that in any way impede our ability to count? He said no. I
said, are you absolutely sure that if we ask her to just review these plans, we are
not asking for her permission to count, that this will [not] impede our ability to
count? I thought, you were really so strong on Saturday night or Sunday
morning. You really were bitchy, so to speak. You ought to be conciliatory and
as long as it's not going to impede anything, you'll say yes.
P: At that time, you did not know it was legally binding.
R: That's right. I had gotten totally incorrect information from our attorney. It was
not Bruce Rogow. Someone said, why don't you run this by the Attorney
General. We weren't asking for opinions at this point. Why don't you run your
plans by the Attorney General and see if he has any comments or [if] he can
make any suggestions. I said, that sounds like a good idea, let's run it by both.
Judge Burton said, okay we'll do that. At that point, I guess Theresa hired Bruce
Rogow, she already had [Bob] Montgomery [attorney for Theresa LePore in 2000
election]. Montgomery actually offered to be the attorney for all three of us. I
said to Bob and I've known Bob for many years, I'm going to stick with the county
attorney. I believe that Theresa has different interests and I believe she should
have her own attorney. I believe the county attorney is sufficient for me and I
don't know what Judge Burton wants to do. He stuck with the county attorney
also. By this time, we had our whole county attorney's apartment involved.
There were two, three, four, not literally, but there were a number of county
attorneys there. They drafted a letter for Judge Burton's signature. We looked at
the letter and the letter seemed innocuous enough to me. Again, I'm not an
attorney and I didn't attempt to even play attorney. I did ask Bob Montgomery to
look it over, even though he wasn't my attorney. He seemed to think it was
innocuous too. I said, I want to see the letter we're going to send to the Attorney
General. They said, we're going to send the same letter. I said, I want to see it.
They produced the same letter that they sent to the Attorney General. Well, the
Supervisor of Elections of the state of Florida responded about six hours later -
now we're on Monday after we've made all these plans, saying, I remand you
not to count at all. [End of side 1, tape A] I think that came in late in the afternoon
and I said, what does that mean? I thought Leon said there was no way this
could impede our counting. Bruce Rogow said, but she [Harris] has the right. I
said, but I didn't ask her if I could recount, I only asked her to look at these plans
and comment on these plans. Apparently because the chairman was the judge,
[and] signed the letter, [there was] something in a different portion of the law [that
said she could do that].
P: He has by law, as chairman, the right to make that appeal.
R: Yes. Bruce Rogow and I disagreed. I guess that was very conceited of me to
disagree with a constitutional expert on law, but I did. We moved over on
Tuesday and it was early Tuesday morning, I believe, when we finally got an
opinion from the Attorney General which differed with the opinion of the
Secretary of State. His opinion basically said, I don't see any reason why you
can't go on and recount. I'm not giving you the legalese because I'm not an
attorney. So I said, let's recount. Judge Burton said, let's take both opinions and
ask the Supreme Court to give us their opinion. I said, if that's the only way
we're going to get this settled, fine, but I believe that we can start counting now.
P: At this point there was no consensus as to which opinion would be binding.
R: That's right.
P: By law, the Attorney General's opinion was really not relevant to this particular
R: I figured he was a constitutional officer just like the Secretary of State and there
were other places in the law [that stated his duties]. Remember, there was more
than one portion of the law, it was not just election law. There are other places in
the law that did make it relevant. I, in effect, disagreed with Bruce Rogow and
felt the other sections of the law were just as relevant as the sections that were
being quoted [by] the Secretary of State.
P: At this point, the Secretary of State is saying there cannot be a recount unless
there is a problem with voter tabulation or a problem with the machines. What
was your reaction to that?
R: My reaction was that Florida law is not clear on that and so she is now attempting
to interpret the law. If she can interpret the law, I can interpret the law, because
it doesn't say that anyplace in Florida law. It just says that if there is a mistake or
if there is a dispute I don't recall the exact word and it could materially affect
an election, you could call for a recount. It does not say [the recount must be]
based on voter tabulation or this or that.
P: What they did is they really kind of narrowed the interpretation. They said there
had to be some malfunction of the machines, whereas voter tabulation could be a
problem with the vote, the count of the vote. At least in legal terms, they
narrowed it to just a malfunction of the machines. Is that correct?
R: That's what they tried to do. There is no place in Florida law that ever narrows it.
It becomes an interpretation. The one thing I've learned in twenty-some-odd
years of being in government is that legal interpretations are legal interpretations.
They're just somebody else's viewpoint. The law, when it is gray, is very gray
and you can get many interpretations. I was stubborn and I said, I believe that's
the wrong interpretation. I must tell you that Bruce Rogow and I went at it.
P: He agreed with the Secretary of State?
R: Yes. He went to defend, he went up there to argue with the constitutionality or
whatever. At any rate, we still weren't counting and I was very frustrated.
P: This law was sort of interesting in the way that it was unclear. It says both that
the votes may be counted and they can be counted. I've talked to a couple of
election experts and they said that the word "may" is in there in case there is a
problem. Let's say if there is a dispute in this county and you can't get them
counted in seven days, which may often be the case, then they may be counted
later, but that is not the way the Secretary of the State interpreted it.
R: That was not the way the Secretary of State interpreted it and I was being
stubborn, because I believe that people were being affected [in terms of] their
rights and that democracy, which is fragile enough, was being torn down. I
believed that I was truly fighting for people's rights to have their voices heard.
Their voices are only heard through their votes and their votes needed to be
counted. In being stubborn, I felt I was fighting for democracy. Did I feel that the
Republicans were tearing it down? In my heart, I did feel that way. I did feel that
it became so important as to who was going to be president that we forgot, or
those who were in Bush's camp, forgot that democracy is what we're all about. It
was secondary as to who ended up as president. They didn't believe that. I did.
Yes, I wanted Gore to win, but that wasn't my motive. My motive was to count
the votes and to let people's votes be counted and their voices be heard. It
became pretty evident to me that when we got the lawyers involved, we were just
kind of lost. We were now [up to] Wednesday and Broward County had started a
count on Tuesday. Every day we seemed to have a canvassing board meeting.
I will tell you that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I was mobbed with reporters.
At one point, my sheriff's guard had to have other people help him just because I
was being mobbed by media. Literally. We were giving interviews. Finally, I
believe on Thursday, a week and two days after the election, I said to Judge
Burton, I'm not giving any more interviews. You're the chairman, you get to give
all of them. He was a little surprised. By now, though, he understood my
motivation and we had become friends. It was only after nineteen hours of
working on a Saturday and early Sunday morning that we seemed to have lost
our tempers with each other. After we had a night's sleep, we both worked
together very well.
P: Were you aware that Kerey Carpenter was telling Judge Burton that you could
not do a recount unless there was a problem with the voting machines and he
apparently thought that she was an unbiased elections expert and therefore was
somewhat persuaded by her arguments?
R: I was not aware of any of that until I read Jeffrey Toobin's book and this is the
12th of December and I read it last weekend. Almost a year later, I was not
aware of any of that. Judge Burton now [since] I read that I believe he was
somewhat naive in thinking she was unbiased. I understand how that could be,
he was a brand-new judge, he'd never been in this process before, as a judge he
has to be nonpartisan. He was in the mindset of being nonpartisan. I
understand that today, a week after I read Jeffrey Toobin's book. I did not know
any of that until last weekend.
P: Go ahead and continue where you are in the process.
R: On Wednesday, we still had not started counting, but Broward County had. On
Wednesday, we were meeting again in front of I always laugh and say God
and the world because there were at least four hundred according to my staff -
if not more, media camped out of the EOC building. We were on a platform
outside. I said to our attorney, Denise Detrick, who had come back in town, I
don't understand why we can't count. She said, because we're waiting for this
decision. Bruce Rogow was standing there and he agreed with her. I said, why
is Broward County [counting]? What makes them different than us? She said,
because the supervisor of election asked for a review and the supervisor is not
the chairperson and the supervisor voted against recounting. The county
commissioner and the judge voted for it. I said, I still don't understand the
difference. The difference was [that] the supervisor feels that she has to support
the supervisor in Tallahassee but the other two people don't. In your case,
because the chairperson asked, they're taking a different position.
P: Did you all formally suspend counting?
R: We never started counting. We never started counting because on Monday
afternoon Katherine Harris sent us an order not to count. The judge said, she's
the law, I'm not going to do anything that would break the law, I'm supposed to
keep the law. I said, I don't believe she's the law. I don't believe she's the final
word. When the Attorney General came in early Tuesday morning, I said, now
what do you say? He said, I'm an attorney and a judge, [and I believe] that she
still has the final word. I said, I don't believe that. I believe the law is gray and
you, as a judge, ought to understand that. I was very stubborn. When the
Supreme Court came in and they based their ruling on another portion of the law,
I said to Bruce Rogow, now who's right? Which I shouldn't have done. I admit
that I was stubborn. Here I was, this non-attorney, saying I believe that it's right
to count. The Supreme Court essentially said, count. In the meantime, there
were all these other cases in Palm Beach County.
P: Talk about Judge LaBarga [Judge, Palm Beach Circuit Court] and his decision,
because at one point he said that you could go ahead with the recount.
R: That's exactly right. He heard a case on Tuesday and I'm not totally familiar with
the case because we were kind of cooped up in the EOC building. He ruled, I
believe it was on Tuesday because on Wednesday I recall saying, there isn't a
judge who said we can't recount. What happens if we recount? What can the
Secretary of State do to us? If it means going to jail, I'm willing to go to jail, let's
recount. All the judges have said [to] recount [the votes]. Our attorney was
Denise Detrick and Bruce Rogow at that time. Both said it didn't seem to matter
what Judge LaBarga said, that we were going to wait for a Supreme Court
decision as to which of the constitutional officers were correct [in offering
opinions about a recount].
P: This is what in legal terms is called an interpleader, because you've got two
different decision-making entities and you don't know which one to obey. A lot of
the Democrats have criticized Rogow's appeal because that further delayed the
R: That's true and I did not vote for that appeal. I voted to recount on Tuesday. I
voted to recount on Wednesday. I don't know whether [Theresa LePore] had
dismissed Bob Montgomery or not, but I did not see Bob Montgomery on
Tuesday or Wednesday. I did see Bruce Rogow giving her advice, but I did not
see Bob Montgomery and I don't know whether she had officially had dismissed
him or not. I constantly had a 2-1 vote. I'd make a motion [and] couldn't get a
second. By now, Judge Burton understood parliamentary procedure. I'd make a
motion to recount and there was no second because Theresa would not support
me. I was very, very frustrated.
P: Why do you think she wouldn't support you at this point?
R: I believe that she was getting the wrong advice from Bruce Rogow and I also
believe that she was physically and mentally exhausted. She was showing that
exhaustion. She was sleeping very little. She was eating very little. I believe
that with her physical condition and being physically and mentally exhausted, she
just took Bruce Rogow's advice.
P: The local case was Fladell v. Palm Beach County.
P: Now the Florida Supreme Court rules that Judge LaBarga is the binding legal
authority. Once they rule that, now you can officially start counting. This is not
until November 16.
R: We then started with a very abbreviated team about 4:00 in the afternoon,
because I don't believe we got that ruling until about 3:00 and our staff started
calling people. We started to count. Theresa insisted that only the canvassing
board could handle the ballots, so on Thursday night, the three of us were
running up and down handing ballots out to the teams. I don't believe it was until
Saturday that our attorney [came] up and said we could delegate. By then we
had the firemen who were working with us and we had thirty teams counting. By
now, we knew that the Republicans were going to obstruct and delay as long as
they possibly could. I had threatened to throw people out. Judge Burton
threatened to do it. I think we did ask the Republicans to remove a few people.
At one point told them that we would just throw everybody out.
P: One in particular that apparently raised the ire of you and Judge Burton was
Mark Wallace [attorney for George W. Bush in 2000 election].
R: Yes, Mark Wallace is a young Turk. At one point, I'm sure if someone really
searched all of the tapes they would find me telling Mark Wallace that, if he
doesn't behave, I'm going to put him in time-out. It was about 2:00 in the
morning. Mark didn't know what time-out was because he's not married and has
no children. I told him that's where mothers put bad little boys. He got very
angry at me. I told him that he was obstructing democracy and he did not like
that at all. We got into it. He and Judge Burton got into it a number of times. At
one point we asked some of the Republicans to not have Mark there, so for
about twelve hours Mark wasn't there and we did a lot more work. The major
problem with our recount was that Theresa LePore doesn't know how to
delegate. I did not want to take off for Thanksgiving. Theresa and Judge Burton
did. Theresa had family coming in. Judge Burton felt like he wanted to see his
family. It's not that I'm not family-oriented, but I thought I was going to be gone.
I was supposed to have gone on a trip. Never in my life would I have dreamed
that two-and-a-half weeks after an election I would still be counting votes,
because this trip had been planned a long time before. My husband was going
to spend Thanksgiving with our three sons up in New York. My husband had
gone to New York. My daughter who lives here had made her Thanksgiving
plans. They had gone, I believe, to my son-in-law's family up in Tallahassee. I
had already told my other son that lives here that I wasn't going to be home for
Thanksgiving. So I found myself [at] home, and I knew my son and my
grandchildren would not be upset if I didn't show up for Thanksgiving, because
they hadn't anticipated me being there to begin with. I had no problem counting
on Thanksgiving. We didn't take a formal vote because Judge Burton and
Theresa wanted to be home. I said, okay.
P: When I talked to Judge Burton, he said that he really thought people were so
exhausted that a day off would have helped. At that time, I think he assumed
that they would have until 9:00 am Monday rather than 5:00 pm Sunday [to get
the votes counted]. Is that correct?
R: We never talked about that, so I don't know. I just know that even with that time
off, if Theresa had known how to delegate [we could have had the votes
counted]. By that, I mean that Theresa insisted that she, and only she, could
take [care] of the sheets that each one of the counting teams had to fill out
verifying what they did. They had to be compiled and mathematically worked
out. Theresa would not allow anyone else to do that but herself. Every time she
stopped for two or three hours to take all of the precincts and compile them and
put them in whatever mathematical sequence they needed to be in, we had to
stop counting. As you recall, in Broward County, the supervisor had many of her
staff people doing that. Theresa LePore had no one doing that.
P: Plus, if you had even worked a half day on Thanksgiving...
R: I had suggested that also. In the end, the county staff, not Theresa LePore's
staff, started taking the figures that she was working on and putting them into a
form. She did not need to do what she did. She could have been counting the
P: Let me ask you about standards. When you started out, there was some
emphasis on what was referred to as the sunshine standard, then you go to the
1990 standard. Would you explain those?
R: When we started [counting] the one percent, we had counted maybe a portion of
a precinct. We originally agreed on if you could hold up and see light coming out
of two or three corners, that was the sunshine standard. Then the Republicans
or someone I shouldn't say the Republicans because I'm not sure mentioned
the 1990 standard was almost the same thing, [which was] if you could see light
out of one corner. I think we started out a little more liberally with two corners
which you had to see light out of. So we changed [the standard] and they redid
the few [they had already done]. That was the one percent.
P: You recounted those with a different standard, which the Democrats argued was
a stricter standard.
R: Remember that was the one percent and we still came up with nineteen votes
difference. When we started the 462,000, we hadn't changed, we were operating
under the same standard that we basically did all of the one percent under. But
we added a standard. Over Thanksgiving, Judge Burton researched the law and
found that a judge in Illinois had used a standard that included setting a pattern.
I don't recall the case name. We added that. If you could discern a pattern [in
the person's votes for other offices].
P: In other words, if there were a dimple for Bush and all the other votes were for
Republicans, you would assume that vote would have been for Bush.
R: That's right. Or if there were two columns that everything was dimpled but
nothing was pushed through, and the other three columns were pushed through
whether it was Gore or Bush, if there was a [Bill] Nelson [U.S. Senator from
Florida, 2001-present; U.S. Representative from Florida, 1971-1999] or [Bill]
McCullom [U.S. Representative from Florida, 1981-2001; unsuccessful
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, 2000]. If there was a pattern, then we
would count it, however that pattern was.
P: That creates a lot more controversy, because now you're dealing again with
interpretation of voter intent.
R: We decided that it seemed like it was a clear intent of the voter if [there was a]
pattern. We also heard testimony from the inventor of the machine who said, the
older the machine is, the more you use it, the columns that you use the most
make it more difficult to punch through.
P: This is chad build-up.
R: Yes. Considering all of that, we decided to add and use [the] pattern [also]. The
Republicans were very upset with that. They absolutely went ballistic. Mark
[Wallace] went ballistic. Mark said, if the Democrats are going to object to
everything, so are we. We now had Democratic objections, Republican
objections. We put them in different envelopes. We basically said, you can do
whatever you want. We're counting them as we see fit.
P: Jeff Toobin said that Burton and LePore cost Gore the election due to wasted
time and agreeing to too strict a standard. Do you agree to that?
R: Certainly the wasted time. Probably yes, because if I could see light coming
through, one or two corners. If I thought the intent of the voter was clear
because there was light coming through, I used that.
P: For example, suppose you had an over-vote, where they might have circled
Gore and written Gore in, although they didn't punch anything. What would you
do with a vote like that?
R: If it was a write-in vote for Gore, I believe that if [that] showed a clear intent for
Gore, then we should count it for Gore. I didn't always get agreed with [on] that.
The law said if you could discern the intent of the voter. Well, it was pretty clear
if the voter wrote in Gore, circled Gore, they wanted Gore. Now, if you had a true
over-vote, where you voted for Gore and Buchanan, I couldn't discern that that
voter wanted Gore and not Buchanan and I didn't attempt to discern that.
Obviously if you voted for everybody, then I didn't know what your intent was. If
you voted for one of the other ten candidates and Gore, or one of the other ten
candidates and Buchanan or Bush, I couldn't discern what you wanted.
P: Was most of the dispute on the under-votes?
R: Yes, there had to be. There were over 10,000 under-votes. An under-vote is
when there seemingly is no choice made. The no choice made is when you look
at a chad and whether someone attempts to push it through or not. If a chad is
loosened enough and light goes through, it will be counted. It can still be
attached by the way. As long as enough light goes through for the machine to
automatically count it. That's where the difference comes in. If the chad has
been loosened and you can see light, then you can make the assumption based
on a number of different court cases, not just here in Florida, that the voter's
intent was to vote and for some reason was thwarted because of the machinery
P: Let's go back to the example I gave you a little bit earlier. If you have somebody
who has circled Gore and written Gore's name in, technically that's voter error. It
is not, in the formal sense, a legal vote. Should that vote be counted? Even
though the voter had not properly registered that vote?
R: Legally, it probably should not. Then you go to the interpretation. Can you tell
what the voter's intent was? Yes, you can tell what the voter's intent is. I think
it's a very poorly-written law. I don't believe it's an over-vote if you put the same
name down twice.
P: Do you think the problem was with the machines? How accurate do you
conclude that the Vote-O-Matics were?
R: I think we found that in the United States, we were more accurate with our Vote-
O-Matics than many other areas were, with not only their Vote-O-Matics, but with
whatever they use. I think three percent was our divergent rate, [which] was a lot
less than other portions of the country. There were over two million votes that
are in the same situation as the 10,000 here in Palm Beach County. How do you
answer that question? I don't know. Three percent is well within what they call
an acceptable ratio in an election. I don't think anything is acceptable, but over
the years that has become what is acceptable. The seven percent that existed in
many other places was not acceptable. I recently [met] with the state supervisor
of elections for New Mexico about two week-ends ago. We were discussing the
same thing. New Mexico, interestingly enough, was the other state that should
have been watched, but Florida overshadowed it. New Mexico said, thank you,
thank you Florida. They had a higher rate of divergent votes than we did.
P: As did Georgia, as did many states. It seems to me if ninety-six percent of the
people vote correctly and don't have any problem, it's not a machine error, it's
voter error. That problem goes to the canvassing board to try to determine if you
can really prove the intent.
R: You asked me about my vote. In the Vote-O-Matic, it says very clearly, it tells
you what you should do. Because I've been on a canvassing board, I turned my
card over and I saw that I had one dimple. I do not remember, to be honest with
you, which row it was in. I only remember turning it back, looking at the number,
putting it back in, turning to that number, and taking my stylus and screwing it
hard and pulling it out and turning the card over and then taking off the chad.
Now, if every person had done what I did, we wouldn't have been in the position
we were in. When I told people there were instructions there, they swore there
were not. To me, it says that people walk in and they're so accustomed, they
don't see what's in front of them. That's probably a normal reaction.
P: In the disputed votes on the canvassing board, the vote was usually 2-1. Were
you on the losing side most of the time?
P: Were these disputes primarily about dimples?
R: They were primarily about lights [and] dimples.
P: At one point, the Democratic Party sued in Judge LaBarga's court to get you to
loosen up the standard. What was your reaction to that lawsuit?
R: I believe Judge Burton was asked to testify in that. We did not meet as a
canvassing board and instruct him how to testify. He testified and I hoped
LaBarga would rule in favor of whatever he felt would allow people's votes to be
P: He ended up saying voter intent was the standard. Do you think either he should
have set a standard or the Florida Supreme Court should have set a specific
R: Yes, I believe either or both of them should have set a specific standard. We set
a standard and we couldn't agree on the standard we set. If I could get my
colleagues to agree that there was light [coming] through two corners and
sometimes they did, then they would agree. I challenged when I felt the voter
intent was clear and I would say to them, I believe that this shows and it could
be Bush or Gore, it wasn't just Gore and I'm sure you'll have Mark saying, okay
Carol, you got one for us. I was there to make sure that the voter voice was
heard, not to make sure that Gore won or Bush won. I don't believe either party
P: Secretary Harris is going to certify the votes. The Florida Supreme Court is
going to vote 7-0 to have the votes continue to be counted and picks the
November 26 date to allow you to finish your counting. At this point, are you
aware of the fact that you're not going to finish?
R: I don't believe we became totally aware of the fact that we wouldn't finish until
two or three hours [before the deadline]. The major problem that I was aware of
was that Theresa LePore wouldn't have the figures. We would finish our count
and Theresa still wouldn't be able to give her the figures.
P: Secretary of State Harris was allowed the option of opening Sunday 5:00 P.M. or
9:00 A.M. Monday. Do you think she was partisan in opening on Sunday when
she had not been open before?
R: I think she was partisan, not that she was open when she hadn't been open
before. I think she was partisan in that she felt that if she could block votes that
might be for Gore, that she would do it. I don't think it had anything to do with
Sunday or Monday. I think the partisanship came into [her attitude of,] I'm going
to get this over with as soon as possible. If you don't have the exact numbers
ready, then I'm not going to count them. If I give you another ten hours or so, or
twelve [or] fifteen hours, you might have it done. I'm not going to allow that to
happen. I believe that was partisan.
P: Judge Burton did, I guess on behalf of the canvassing board, ask for an
R: Yes, he did.
P: That was denied.
R: He asked for two. He asked for Monday morning and that was denied. He
asked for two more hours and that was denied.
P: You would have finished in those two hours, correct?
R: Yes. We did. We went back and finished.
P: When you submitted your final vote, did you submit a partial count?
R: Yes, we did.
P: And she refused to accept that?
R: That's right.
P: Do you think she should have?
R: I think she should have. I think she should have accepted whatever gave the
voters the most opportunity to allow their votes to be counted and to be heard.
Palm Beach County's vote would not have given Gore the election, but it would
have allowed people the opportunity to have their votes counted. I guess [she]
was afraid that if she took a partial vote from Palm Beach County and we were
the only county in that position that it would allow a court case that may allow it
to continue on.
P: As a matter of fact, I've talked with Joe Klock [attorney representing Katherine
Harris during 2000 election] and that was exactly their reason. They knew that if
they took a partial count, there would then be an opportunity for a court case. If
you take a partial count, you have to take them all. I think that was part of their
thinking. What else in her activities would give you the sense that she was
partisan? For example, I noticed the Democratic lawyers, Dexter Douglass
[attorney, represented Al Gore in 2000 election] and others, argued that she
could have waited until all the overseas ballots came in before certifying the
election. Judge Lewis in both of his decisions said that she had the legal right to
certify the vote, but she should exercise discretion. Do you believe she
R: No. I believe that, for all the hullabaloo the Republicans made about the
overseas vote, that most people lost sight of the fact that if you certify before
those votes are counted, and by Florida law, you're allowed ten days after the
election, then you're discounting all of those votes. The Republicans said, you
are bad Democrats, you don't want to count every one of our hard-working
servicemen, but by the way, we've already certified the election, so it really
doesn't matter. The Republicans were being disingenuous and being dishonest.
Intellectually dishonest, I believe, and just dishonest.
P: You could argue that Gore said to count all the votes and then he just wanted to
count the four counties where he was perhaps most successful.
R: I didn't agree with that either. I thought they should have recounted all the
P: The argument that Dexter Douglass made to Gore was that he should go to the
contest phase as soon as possible, put it in the hands of judges, as opposed to
the chaotic situation that was taking place in Palm Beach.
R: Let me correct you. We were only chaotic to the extent that we weren't counting.
We were not chaotic when we counted. We did not have chads all over the
floor, we did not have arguments, we did not have people fighting with each
other, there were a few attempts and as a canvassing board, we stopped that.
P: What he argued was that there was a different count in Broward County than
there was in Palm Beach County. Dade County had stopped. This ultimately
becomes an important legal issue because of different standards. That's what he
meant by chaotic. I should point out that and Judge Burton and Theresa
LePore said inside there was really no chaos. The Republicans reporting that
people were eating chads and there were chads all over the floor. None of that
was an accurate description, was it?
R: None of that was an accurate description. David Gergen [advisor to U.S.
Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton; editor of
U.S. News and World Report] came to Palm Beach County. We have what we
call a war room, which is a room that you could watch the counting going on.
There was a huge window that looked out onto the chamber where everyone was
counting. We had taken a couple of minutes break and I walked in there when
David Gergen was in our war room. He turned to me and I had to say, wow, I
didn't realize he was that tall. He's about 6 feet 7 [inches tall] and I'm 5 [feet] 6
[inches tall], so I've never been considered diminutive but I felt that way standing
next to him. He looked down at me and he said, this isn't what I thought it would
be like. I said, I don't understand what you mean, what did you think it would be
like? Remember at this point, I've been too busy counting to watch any of the
television [coverage]. I was not aware that the Republicans were walking around
outside and saying everything was chaotic. He said, I don't see any chads on
your floor. I don't see anybody making a lot of confusion. I see everybody
working and it's very quiet and it's very orderly. I said, it has been that way and it
will be that way. I don't understand what you're talking about. Then he relayed
to me the fact that the Republicans were saying exactly the opposite. I said,
you're certainly in a position to let the American public know that what the
Republicans are saying are incorrect.
P: Ultimately, from the people I've talked to, I think that must have had some impact
on the United States Supreme Court. They're getting reports of things getting out
of hand and we may end up with some constitutional crisis. In that sense, it
looks like the Republicans did a better public relations job than the Democrats.
R: Let me tell you that I believe that's a crock of nonsense, because all you had to
do was turn on your television and you could watch Palm Beach County twenty-
four hours a day if you wanted to truly see what was going on. I heard from
many people, long after the election, that the Republicans looked ridiculous. I
heard this from Republicans too. When they turned on the television and
watched Palm Beach County they did watch us, people from all over the
country said they were watching. I can't imagine why people would do that, it's
pretty boring. They said they heard the Republicans say things were chaotic, yet
in Palm Beach County, they never saw any chaos, they saw a very orderly
process. Even in Broward County they saw an orderly process. The only place
there was disorder was in Dade County. Many people didn't recognize the
Republican congressional aides. Many other people, including people who would
be on the Supreme Court, knew who those aides were and they were
recognizable. The only disorder truly was what was going on in Dade County. I
believe that it's just an excuse. Yes, the Republicans were better at PR [public
relations] but all you had to do was turn on your TV to dispute that PR.
P: How would you assess the performance of Governor Jeb Bush [Florida governor,
R: Until I read Jeffrey Toobin's book, I probably would have said he got an A+ for
staying out of the election. After I read Jeffrey Toobin's book, he obviously didn't
stay out of the election. He allowed the state of Florida to pay for things, he got
involved in the election, he allowed the state's legal arm to get involved through
the governor's office, he allowed the governor's office to use much equipment.
P: This is the governor's legal counsel, I believe his name is Fernandez.
R: Yes, which the state of Florida pays for. It didn't come out of his pocket. He
allowed a lot of technical equipment to be used, as did Secretary of State Harris.
P: While we're on that issue, Secretary Harris had Mac Stipanovich [Republican,
chief of staff for Governor Bob Martinez] in her office giving her advice.
R: I've heard that too.
P: Was that bad judgment on her part?
R: Mac is a crafty person. Katherine Harris is more of a dilettante and couldn't have
thought of the things herself. For her interests, she was probably very wise to
P: But from a public relations appearance, it looked like the Republican party was
telling her what to do.
R: They were telling her what to do. She admits that, I think she admits it today.
P: An issue that did not directly affect you was what went on in Seminole and Martin
Counties. Sandra Goard [supervisor of elections, Seminole County] and Peggy
Robbins [supervisor of elections, Martin County] allowed the Republicans to
come in and put in voter identification numbers, and in Martin County they
actually took the ballots out of the supervisor of elections' office.
R: [That] is illegal under Florida law. We never allowed anyone to touch our ballots,
because Florida law seems to be pretty clear that only those who are verified
through the supervisor of elections office, election personnel or canvassing board
members, or those who are in effect deputized, which would be those who were
counters, are allowed to touch the ballots. In Martin County, I don't recall seeing
any evidence that the supervisor allowed someone to be deputized to take
ballots home. How does she know how they were altered?
P: Do you agree in the end with Judge Nikki Clark [Leon County Circuit Court] and
Judge Terry Lewis [Leon County District Court, 1988-present] who stated that
while there were some irregularities and bad judgment, these voters should not
R: I agree with them, but I'm not sure that we know whether they truly were
disenfranchised or not, because we really don't know what happened to those
P: It seems to me the Republicans were trying to get you recused from the
canvassing board. Is that correct?
R: My Republican colleague Mary McCarty [commissioner, Palm Beach County,
1990-present] tried very hard.
P: She is a county commissioner.
R: [She] is a county commissioner. [She tried] to get me recused, filed a lawsuit and
caused me to hire an attorney, Richard Slossen, who was going to defend me.
They dropped it. They had all these so-called affidavits from people who were
standing outside the window. One who said they saw me twisting and tearing
ballots through a window. I said, that's interesting, because if you check the
cameras that were on me all the time, I think the cameras speak a volume of
words in pictures. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words. They never
filed the suit, they just had the affidavits. At this point I said to Richard, I hope
they file a suit, because I'm going to file a suit against these people for lying or
whatever you can do. He said, calm down, Carol. Well, they never did file the
suit. I will tell you that there was an attorney, who I deal with all the time, who
represented Clay Shaw, who had come and asked us not to have a recount, to
certify the election, which we did. I addressed the recount in the Shaw-Bloom
race. He made a call to a fellow county commissioner, a Republican county
commissioner who was in Tallahassee. He couldn't remember this county
commissioner's phone number or he didn't have it. He called a lobbyist who he
knew was with her. It was Karen Marcus [Palm Beach County commissioner,
1984-present]. He called Karen and he asked Karen, he said, if I send a plane
for you which is clearly illegal will you come home and vote to have Carol
Roberts removed from the canvassing board? She didn't say no, she said hell,
P: That was something that was more personal and local rather than from the
R: I don't know [that] it wasn't from the national party. Mary McCarty is now the
chairperson of the county Republican Party. I saw from Wednesday and
Thursday and Monday [while] we were still in the county offices, Mary McCarty
was using her office and county equipment for the Republican Party. It was not
the local Republican Party. They were in her office, they were using the county
duplicating machines, they were using all of the county telephones, I don't know
how many long-distance calls were made out of Mary McCarty's office for the
national Republican Party. Very similar to what Katherine Harris was doing.
P: In the end, you are not affected by the last court decision because you have
already completed your count. But what was your reaction to the Florida
Supreme Court 4-3 decision to continue the count and to count 215 votes for
Gore in Palm Beach, although there was some discrepancy? [End of side 2, tape
A] The Republicans said that there were only 176 votes.
R: Understand that we finished counting on a Sunday evening. At that particular
point in my life, I had been up more than thirty-six hours without any sleep. I was
going to leave Monday morning and go on this trip that I had planned I was
supposed to have left a week before. I was going to go to Myanmar, which is
Burma and Laos and Thailand. I missed the portion of the trip that went to
Rangoon and went down the Irrawaddy River and Bagan, but I was still going.
We finished counting and I left Monday. Delta Airlines was very helpful. I had
paid for my trip with frequent-flier [miles] and I was flying on Singapore Airlines.
Delta was very gracious in allowing me to switch those tickets. I was a little
surprised, but by this time people said to me, why would you be surprised?
You're an international celebrity. I don't think that hit me. I know that I didn't
really believe that, to be honest with you, until I actually went on my trip. Delta
changed my tickets and I left out of Fort Lauderdale on Monday. That was
before the Supreme Court decisions.
P: Is this November 27?
R: Yes. [On November] 26, we finished counting on Sunday. The 27th I left. I
went to Fort Lauderdale. [I] was supposed to fly into Kennedy airport. At the last
minute they cancelled that flight, put me on a flight to LaGuardia. My son picked
me up with my husband [and] drove me over to Kennedy. I had a half hour to
make an international flight. In switching my flights, I went from Fort Lauderdale
to Kennedy, on a plane from Kennedy to Frankfurt that continued on for thirteen
more hours to Singapore. I was on one plane for almost twenty-three hours and
then went on from Singapore to Bangkok and then went on from Bangkok to
Rangoon, then spent a couple of hours sleeping in Rangoon and ended up in
Mandalay meeting the group a week later.
P: You were recognized.
R: I was recognized, much to my shock and surprise. People had Time magazines
and Newsweek magazines and they would look and say, oh, you're that lady.
Would you sign this? I was giving autographs, I have no idea to what people,
from all over the world, which surprised me. I arrived at the Singapore airport
and had a couple of hours to wait for my trip to Bangkok and I walked through the
airport and heard my own voice. [I] looked and CNN was on and there I was. I
pulled my hat over my head, went into one of the waiting rooms for business-
class passengers and curled up in a corner. By now, I realized that people
recognized me. I had been recognized as a county commissioner, but mainly in
my own county and occasionally in other places in the United States from people
who live in Palm Beach County. I have never experienced before, and I'm still
experiencing it, where strangers from all over the world were essentially looking
at a magazine and looking at my face and saying, you're that lady, would you
sign this for me please?
P: You really didn't get the impact of these decisions until later.
P: If you look back now on the 4-3 Florida Supreme Court and the 5-4 Bush v. Gore
U.S. Supreme Court decisions, what is your opinion of both of those decisions?
R: If the Florida Supreme Court thought we should have counted 215, then there
was probably a reason for it and I would agree with them. I also believe that the
Florida Supreme Court should have been allowed to conduct the recount of all of
the votes that were essentially under-votes, because they could have done it in
the twelve hours. I agree with what Gore said and I will tell you that it was
difficult for us to follow all of the decisions. If you're traveling through Myanmar,
there isn't much television in Burma. If we could get the television and hear a
decision, we would turn it on and get a portion of the decision. We heard people
arguing then we would have to wait until the next day to get the decision because
we were twelve hours away. When we were in Laos, they had an Internet shop,
they didn't have any televisions at all, but they had an Internet shop, so we
watched some of it on Internet. In Vientiane, the capital of Laos, we were in a
beautiful hotel, rather than some of the other places which were pretty primitive.
I watched Gore's reaction to the Supreme Court. I agree with what he said. In a
democracy, we abide by the rule of law. The highest court in the land is the one
that sets that rule of law. Even though he didn't agree with them, he believes in a
democracy that we have to observe that. I agree with him in that.
P: A lot of attorneys and some Supreme Court justices argued that the U.S.
Supreme Court should never have taken the case, that it was a state issue, and
that the state courts should have made the final decision.
R: I also read [Alan] Dershowitz's [lawyer; professor; author] book and in that book
he argues that point and he points out many, many cases where that point has
been proven to the extent that the Supreme Court has turned down many, many
cases based on [the fact] that they're state issues and they should be decided at
the state courts.
P: Dershowitz argues this as well, that it was very unusual for the William Rehnquist
[U.S. Supreme Court justice, 1972-present, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme
Court, 1986-present] court to use the Fourteenth Amendment as a basis for a
decision. Do you think they did it because they feared that there would be a
constitutional crisis if this counting and counting went on and on.
R: I believe they did it because I thought they were partisan.
P: They wanted Bush to be the president.
P: Do you think the butterfly ballot cost Gore the election?
R: I think that maybe the butterfly ballot and the caterpillar ballot in Florida probably
did cost him the election. I don't think it was solely the butterfly ballot. I think that
Jacksonville had 19,000 under-votes compared to 10,000 in Palm Beach County.
Those under-votes in Duval County were also a factor in this. That's what they
call the caterpillar ballot. I think the fact that there were so many seniors who
perhaps didn't follow instructions, who maybe had trouble following a ballot. I
think there were many factors that cost Gore the election. I think Gore should
have been a more stringent campaigner. I think Gore should have worked
harder to try and [get] Tennessee, which had eleven votes.
P: That would have made this state irrelevant.
R: [It was] his own home state, he should have worked harder. I think the Gore
campaign, as far as the after-campaign, was full of all kinds of confusion. I think
they had no strategies. I think to some degree the campaign had no strategies. I
think that, until Lieberman came into the campaign, there were very few
strategies. It was a very weak campaign. I think there were many factors. I
don't think you can say it was one factor. I don't think you could say it's the
caterpillar ballot or it was the butterfly ballot. I think you have to take all those
factors into account. I think what you need to be able to say for history is that
this country was truly divided, that we showed our division. It was a fifty percent,
fifty percent vote, even if you count the fact that Gore won the popular vote by
500,000. [There were] 60,000,000 votes counted, so I guess 600,000 is one
percent, so it was less than one percent difference nationally, which shows there
was a true division in this country. I think that Gore could really say that he
himself caused this election not to be won.
P: Who do you think won Florida?
R: I don't think we'll ever know who won Florida and I don't think it really matters.
P: What do you think about the recounts done by The Miami Herald and the New
R: Same thing. I told them this, they wouldn't print it. I told them I thought it was a
way for them to sell more newspapers. We have a president, he's inaugurated,
he's been operating as president for the last ten months or twelve months. I
didn't see any purpose for the recounts by the newspapers. No one came up
with the same number. They used different standards. We all used different
standards. They certainly used different standards than those who were [on]
canvassing boards. I just think it was useless.
P: Were you treated fairly by the press? For example, in Jeffrey Toobin's book, he
does refer to you as an extreme partisan.
R: I don't deny that I am a Democrat. What I think the press missed is that even
though I am a Democrat, I believe in democracy. I think they tend to discount as
hokey people who truly believe in democracy. I would have done what I did if the
tables had been reversed. It still meant that we needed to count people's votes
and let their voices be heard. I don't think the press wants to believe that. I think
we should understand that democracy is extremely fragile. Maybe we have a
better understanding after 9/11 of 2001 [reference to September 11, 2001
terrorist attacks on U.S.].
P: What is the legacy of this election?
R: I think there are a number of legacies. I think one, which is practical, is that we
need to re-look at our whole voting system, both the technical end of how we
vote the machinery we use as well as looking at the system regarding the
rules and regulations that we use. I think the United States Congress as well as
fifty state legislatures need to come up with rules and reg[ulations]s that give
people a better opportunity in a democracy to express their voices.
P: Should there be a statewide standard?
R: I believe there should be a statewide standard. I think you can't and should not
initiate a national standard, because then you get involved with states' rights.
But I believe each state should have a state standard.
P: Frank Cerabino [columnist] of the Palm Beach Post wrote that in the end the
country's legacy was that Bush got a fair shake, in that on the Palm Beach
canvassing board, all three members were Democrats.
R: I believe that both Bush and Gore got a fair shake, that we tried to be as fair as
we knew how. Again, we were not there to elect a president, we were there to
make sure that the votes were counted, because it's the people that elect, not
canvassing boards. I think that's what the press has lost sight of. It is the people
who elect. We're only there to try and do what the people through their votes
have indicated and that is to count those votes.
P: Will you serve on the canvassing board again?
R: I'm up for re-election in 2002 and my name will definitely be on the ballot, so I will
not serve on 2002. Will I serve again if asked? Yes.
P: Another issue that comes up is discrimination. The Civil Rights Commission did
a study and there was some anecdotal evidence that there were Highway Patrols
that were stopping potential voters and that the machines in the poor black
communities weren't as up-to-date. Are you aware of any discrimination of that
sort in Palm Beach County?
R: I'm not aware of any discrimination, nor was Palm Beach County accused of any
discrimination. I believe that what the Civil Rights Commission did find was [that]
most of what they were told, they were not able to prove. I think they found that
there was one actual stoppage by the Florida Highway Patrol. It had nothing to
do with [the] election. It was not there because of [the] election, so those were
discredited, those particular rumors. I believe they found that possibly the poor
areas got older machines. I don't think that was an issue in Palm Beach County.
I don't believe that anyone tried to prove any discrimination, because I don't
believe that anyone came forth with any charges of discrimination.
P: Has the county decided on what kind of new voting machines to use?
R: The county has spent $14,500,000 buying new touchscreens, which I was just
playing around with on Monday. The supervisor opened a brand-new office that
we built for her. She's out demonstrating them to everybody in Palm Beach
County that she can lay her hands on. Her office is out demonstrating them and I
think we're going to have an election with better results and less confusion. You
cannot over-vote on this machine. You can under-vote.
P: Is it going to be a problem that there will be different types of machines?
R: We've had different types of machines as we've gone through our history as a
country and we get used to each of those machines.
P: I've talked to elections supervisors, and some of them are a little concerned
about touchscreens. They're afraid the elderly don't have experience with them
and can't see as well. Do you think that's a potential problem with touch
R: I think when you make changes with the elderly you have problems. You can
make the print as large as you want. The print starts out ten times larger than
what is on paper. If they can read what's on the paper, the print is much larger
on the touchscreens. I don't think that's a valid complaint. I think it's valid that
they might be uncomfortable, but I think it's also been shown around the country
that once they use it and get accustomed to the touchscreen, they like them
P: I understand from Theresa LePore that one of the reasons she did the butterfly
ballot was that she could make the print larger so that the elderly population
could read the ballot more easily.
R: That's correct.
P: Some Democrats partisan Democrats see Judge Burton as a traitor. They
say he was supposedly a Democrat, but he went and testified before Judge
Sanders Sauls [Florida Circuit Court]. They seem to see him as the villain. Is
that a fair assessment?
R: I think Judge Burton did what he thought was the best for democracy. I don't
agree with those totally, totally partisan individuals that he was a traitor. I believe
that we all had our consciences to answer to and that we did that to the best of
our abilities. We were not there to be partisan. We were not there, once again,
to determine the outcome of the election. We were there to determine, to the
best of our abilities, what the voters wanted. I think people have lost sight of that
fact. We were there to count votes and the voters were there to determine who
they voted for, therefore the outcome was who they voted for. We were to only
give everyone an opportunity to have those votes counted.
P: Other than your international recognition, how did this election impact your life?
Talk a little bit about Theresa LePore, who obviously has had difficulty getting
over all of the pressure and the anxiety, all of the activities that were going on,
and the lack of sleep. It must have been physically and mentally debilitating.
R: I am the oldest I hate to say that of the three members, Judge Burton being
the youngest. Judge Burton and Theresa are in their 40s and I was 64 then. I
probably have they will tell you this more vitality and more energy than they
did. I think Judge Burton has said many times, she cracked that whip and I don't
know how she kept moving. I think that I'm fortunate to have that kind of a
constitution. I think we worked very hard and we were all somewhat exhausted,
Theresa more than perhaps the rest of us. That was an immediate consequence
of the election. Long-term, I think this election allowed me to see and certainly
has made a change in how I feel about partisan versus nonpartisan. It allowed
me to understand that we live in a democratic country, but democracy truly is
fragile and that I and everyone else have an obligation to protect the principles of
democracy. I feel even more strongly now than I did then. This is what an
election is all about. This is what makes us different, as a nation, from other
nations. I think it's even more evident today when we look at Afghanistan. Look
at what's going on in many of the Arab countries where there is no democracy,
where women have no rights, where people who are of a different religious
persuasion have no rights. I think that we all hopefully have a better
understanding of how important democracy is and how we each need to protect
P: Certainly in the long run, the American people understand the process much
better. They now know what election supervisors do. Do you think this event will
result in more people voting?
R: I think that we'll soon be able to tell. I would hope that would be true. But I think
we've had one or two small elections and I'm not sure that I've seen a larger
percentage of turnout.
P: Let me ask you sort of an off-base political question. If Gore had picked Bob
Graham [U.S. Senator, 1987-present; Florida governor, 1979-1987] instead of
Lieberman, would that have made any difference?
R: I don't think so.
P: From the point of view of the Florida voters, it's quite clear that Lieberman got a
lot of money and energized a lot of support, particularly in south Florida.
R: I think Bob Graham has shown that he could have and would have done the
same thing. Bob Graham is a hometown boy. It might have made a difference in
that we might have had a few more crossover Republicans. As far as the Jewish
vote is concerned, I think the Jewish vote would have voted for Bob Graham.
They have a great deal of respect for him and love for him, [and would have
voted for him] in the same number they voted for Lieberman. Could it have
changed Republican votes? Maybe.
P: Is there anything that we have not covered? Obviously there are hundreds of
questions that we could bring up, but I know you're very busy. Is there anything
that we have not discussed that you would like to talk about?
R: I'm sure there is, but I've probably been talking for two hours. I guess what I
really would like to say and re-emphasize again is that the importance of
democracy is what we should be focusing on. I don't believe we have done that.
I think when we focus on whether we were there to elect Bush or we were there
to elect Gore, we lose sight of the fact that that is the job of the voter to elect.
A canvassing board is not there to elect. A canvassing board is there to count
the votes in the best way they possibly can, including trying to discern the intent
of voters when they can.
P: Somebody said they're not there to cast votes, they are there to determine votes.
R: That's exactly right. I think that because of the press, many times, that was lost
P: Do you think the press was unfair to Florida?
R: Yes, I think the press was unfair to Florida. In my travels around this country as
a county commissioner and I'm very active in the National Association of
Counties, I have contacts with county commissioners all over the country from
California to North Carolina, New York, Maine and every place in between. I got
many calls from them saying, thank God it's you. There [but] for the grace of
God, go us. We have the same problems you do. What that says to me is that
there are many people who did not get their votes counted and that's wrong.
P: I also think it's important to note that there was really no fraud to speak of in this
state, whereas if you look at Chicago and Louisiana, some of these other states,
that's a pretty standard operating procedure in elections. In that case, Florida
looks pretty good.
R: I think Florida looks very good. I think when people understand that our voters
weren't too old, they weren't too dumb, when Republicans say the Democrats are
just so dumb they don't know how to vote, I say, you know what? You should
have been there when I looked at as many Republicans who pushed Bush,
Buchanan. I sat at one point with Christie [Todd] Whitman [Administrator, EPA,
2001-present; New Jersey governor, 1994-2001].
P: She was then the governor of New Jersey.
R: Yes. We had many people visiting us. Many governors, many senators, many
congressmen. They came, [and] after maybe twenty or thirty, we realized it
slowed us down too much and we said no [to their visits]. At this point, Christie
Whitman was sitting next to me and we were looking at ballots. I held up the
ballot and I said to her, could you explain to me why this person would vote for
Bush and Buchanan? She [said], what? I held it up so she could see it. She
goes, why would somebody vote for Bush [and] Buchanan? I said, uh-uh, I
asked you first. We must have been looking at a Republican precinct because
the next ten or twelve votes remember we were only looking at disputed votes
were over-votes for Bush [and] Buchanan. I turned to her and said, I guess
you have as many dumb, stupid senior citizens as the Democrats do. She
laughed kind of nervously. The point was, I don't know that these were senior
citizens. There were people who were confused. The press says Florida had a
lot of older senior citizens who didn't know what they were doing, particularly in
Palm Beach County, they voted for Gore [and] Buchanan. There were as many
people voting for Bush [and] Buchanan, which said that there was probably
something wrong with the ballot. More than that, people focused on Florida
because of the twenty-five votes, rather than focusing on the 2,000,000 in states
like Georgia and New Mexico and so forth.
P: Georgia had twice as many over-votes and under-votes as Florida did.
R: The press likes to focus on a single thing and make a big to-do out of it rather
than being fair.
P: Were they unfair to the Secretary of State when they were talking about her
makeup and called her Cruella DeVil and all of that?
R: Yes, I think they were. I don't think her makeup had anything to do with the fact
that she was the vice-chair of the now-president's campaign. That is truly being
partisan. [Talking about] how she puts her makeup on is ridiculous.
P: Is there anything else that we need to touch upon before we conclude this
R: Again, I am definitely as partisan as Katherine Harris, except in this instance I
tried very hard to put aside being a Democrat and understand that, as you put it,
I'm not there to cast votes, I was there to count the votes. I believe the press did
lose sight of that fact. I believe Katherine Harris was there to make sure that we
counted the votes that she could help determine were cast the way she wanted
them to be cast. I think that was the big difference between Republicans and
P: On that note, I want to thank you very much for your time.
R: You're welcome.
[End of the interview.]