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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Summary of Interview (March 13, 2003)
Geller gives an account of his personal history. He lists the many political campaigns as
a student he became involved with while in college, and discusses the State Democratic
Convention in 1975. Geller was president of the statewide YDC from 1978 to 1979. He
spoke of the Ted Kennedy/Carter split, and his activities with various political
organizations. In 1991, he chaired the host county of the Miami Democratic National
Committee meeting. Geller describes the events of his experience of the 2000
presidential election night. Though the Gore campaign was not prepared to make a
decision for recount, Geller, acting upon his authority as party chair, wrote a letter
asking for a recount of Dade County because the window of time for recount is seventy-
The Gore advisors asked to protest only four counties, a decision Geller believes was a
mistake. He strongly believes that had a recount been done as he ordered, with all
counties, counting under-votes and over-votes, Gore would have been president. Gore
and his legal team valued public relations over winning the recount, a position to which
Geller agrees. The motion for recount before the Dade County canvassing board was
voted against 2 tol, with the position that they had not made a mistake. One of the
board members changed her mind in favor of a recount. Geller discusses ways to
determine from the ballot the intent of the voter--the dominant legal issue of the case.
Geller discusses how the ballots were to be considered for recounts and his role in the
unfolding legal events. Geller believes time was not as big an issue as was believed for
performing the recounts.
He states Bush v. Gore was a "horrible and illegal decision" by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Geller said the recount process was under attack by Republican strategy of delay. He
says that other events are not as easy to explain, such as why approximately 10,750
votes were not counted on weekends in the interest of time--or the lack of security
surrounding the counting. Geller feels the time issue was phony and all the votes could
have been counted in Dade County in a day, and had it been completed, Gore would
have been president. The counting took place around Thanksgiving and Geller
describes the environment for the recount, as well as the process of identifying those to
Geller discusses Republican charges, as well as Democrat charges about the process.
Geller charges the Republicans with delaying tactics and the whole process as one
fraught with objections by both sides. At question was if a vote for Joe Lieberman could
be counted as a vote for Al Gore, and the same with Dick Cheney and George Bush.
Geller describes the experiments with the punch card voting machine registering a non-
vote if the holes do not line up and the subsequent issue of what constitutes a tabulation
error of the "fives and sevens" positions on the punch cards.
Geller describes the turmoil of the recount process in progress on the nineteenth floor
as he attempted to demonstrate the error of the voting machine to Dr. Bonnie Levin.
Protestors threatened his safety in one dramatic circumstance that Geller describes and
was broadcast on CNN news. The circumstances of the encounter Geller believes
contributed to the decision of the election board to cancel the recount.
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Interviewee: Joe Geller
Date: March 13, 2003
P: This is Julian Pleasants, and I am with Joe Geller. We are in Hollywood, Florida.
It is March 13, 2003. For the record, would you give me just a brief background
about your undergraduate education and law school and your presidency at the
YDC [Young Democrat Committee] and sort of bring me up to date to when you
became the chairman of the Democratic Party in Miami Dade [County].
G: Brief is not a word that always applies here, but I'll do my best, Doctor. I am a
New York native, born in the Bronx, and I moved to Florida when I was not quite
twelve. [I am] the oldest of four. You may know, for instance, that my younger
brother Steve Geller, whom I am partners with, is a member of the [Florida] state
senate. He was about seven when we moved down here, and then we have a
younger brother Bill and a younger sister Hillary. I became active in politics
during high school through something called the Dade County Youth Council. As
chair of the government and politics task force of that, I met some interesting
folks like David Kennedy and Maurice Fere and a fellow who used to work for
Mayor Kennedy named Frank Kobo who just got elected to our school board
down here and I was his attorney and became active with a number of
countywide things. [I was] president of the social studies senate for Dade County.
I was a Silver Knight winner in social science, which is an award given by the
Miami Herald, and I won for my category in social science. In the course of that, I
came to meet, particularly through the youth council government policy and
politics task force, a fellow by the name of Kendall Coffey [Gore attorney, 2000
election], who is still a very good friend and who was a year ahead of me in
school. I think he was a senior still in high school and I was a junior, if I
remember correctly, and then he moved on to Miami Dade while I was a senior
and I brought him back as a speaker in front of my task force. I also met a young
guy named Ron Brook, who is now a pretty prominent lobbyist and who was
involved in that same Dade County Youth Council, and a young man named
Harry Vandenbosh, the son of a minister active with microdishes, Reverend
Auggie Vandenbosh. Harry is now known as Harry Spring, and he has been
involved in politics, labor politics especially, in Missouri and here in Florida.
Through Kendall and another good friend named Ron Lieberman, who was a
friend and mentor of Kendall's, I got recruited into the Young Democrats as a
high school student and was the organizer of a group called Team Dems.
I became involved a little bit in the 1970 elections as a sophomore in high school,
helping a little bit with the [Lawton] Chiles [U. S. Senate] campaign and the
[Reubin] Askew [gubernatorial] campaign, although I can't say I did a whole lot
those years. [I] organized this Team Dems group working with Kendall, and by
the 1972 elections, we were in full swing. That year, Kendall's father, John
Coffey, who was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who protested over the
war in Vietnam, as a matter of fact ran for the metro commission, and I was
very, very deeply involved in that race, practically living at their house working on
it everyday. In that same year, [I] had some activity through the Young Dems a
little bit with Jack Warden's campaign for the state senate, with [Richard A.]
"Dick" Pettigrew's campaign as the outgoing house speaker for the state senate
and got to meet him and worked on that campaign, and became friends with folks
like Mike Abrams and Sergio Bendickson and a group of some Young
Democrats and some Concerned Democrats who became very involved in the
1972 campaign. I also had a pretty good introduction to some hardcore politics
in 1972, which is the year I got out of high school.
I was a freshman [with] sophomore status in my first year of college at
Northwestern University. I spent some time out in Des Plaines on election day
working in the Abner Mikva [served in House of Representatives, 1972-1979] for
Congress campaign, [which] of course later went on to the U. S. Court of
Appeals. [I] got a little exposure in my year up in Chicago to the daily political
machine and how they did politics out there. After a year, I transferred from
Northwestern back to Florida State, and graduated undergraduate there. I guess
I got out in the summer of 1975, so a little over three years, following which I
spent a year working on a joint-degree program in urban planning and law. I
started in urban planning, transferred to the joint-degree program and never did
finish the masters [degree] in urban planning; it just would have meant another
six months before I could have graduated law school, and I just ended up
finishing law school and deciding to start practice.
During that time when I got back to Florida State, when I moved to Tallahassee,
which I guess would have been fall 1973 [it was] a little too cold up at
Northwestern [and there were] a couple other problems with it, and I didn't care
for it all that much, overrated as an undergraduate educational institution I
came back and became very involved again in the Young Dems, working with a
lot of the people I had met recently. I was president of the Young Dems for Leon
County and at Florida State University and became a vice president to the state
organization in 1975, working again closely with Kendall and with Ron
Lieberman. I was actually Kendall's administrative assistant the year he was
state president, which was, I think, 1973-1974. One other interesting thing in my
YD capacity beginning in 1975 with guys like Mike Abrams and Sergio
Bendickson and a fellow named Phil Chicola who is now with the state
department and who at the time was an activist in the YDs [is that] these were
the people, really, who organized along with, I guess to some degree, Alfredo
Duran the 1975 Florida Democratic Party State Convention. There had not been
a state Democratic convention at that time since, I believe, 1903. Those of us
who were activists in the party, in particular in the Young Dems and the
Concerned Dems, were very anxious to make sure that Florida was not in the
George Wallace [American Independent candidate for President of the United
States, 1968; Governor of Alabama, 1963-1967, 1971-72, 1972-1979, 1983-
1987] column again. A group of the YDs and the CDs became very involved and
interested in Jimmy Carter [U.S. President, 1977-1981] and it was decided that
having a party activist convention where more progressive voices would
dominate would be the only way that we could get attention for our man and sort
of get around some of the rank-and-file north Florida conservative voters and
show that Wallace could be beaten in the South. So, the state party convention
was organized, and Carter won substantially, and from that point on, frankly, he
began to be seen as a rising star and Wallace was shown as being pretty clearly
in decline and kind of yesterday's news.
P: What years were you the president of statewide YDC?
G: Well, we had a rule that you only did it for one year, although I think it's been
broken once or twice since then. I was the state president in 1978-1979. As I
said, in 1975 I was a vice president to the state group, and that was the year we
had this. The particular reason I'm interested in the straw poll is because of that
success [in 1975]. I've been to every Florida Democratic Party Convention we've
had since we started having them again in 1975, and from that first one I learned
some real important lessons about how that straw poll can play a role in the
national nominating process. During the immediate aftermath of my state
presidency in 1978-1979, we had the big [Ted] Kennedy/Carter split in the party,
and a lot of the early Carter activists like Abrams and VanDixon and myself went
with [Edward "Ted"] Kennedy [U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, 1962 -present].
I got saddled at my outgoing state convention as an outspoken Kennedy
supporter with Chip Carter as my guest speaker in 1979; it was a little
uncomfortable. In the end, obviously, I thought it was the right thing to do, but it
was very divisive for our party to some degree.
The real relevance to what we're here to talk about today is, we replicated those
lessons in 1991. It's really maybe the subject of a separate interview, having
gone through this history of straw polls and seeing how they could play out and
what role they could play at the national level. As a very, very early committed
[Bill] Clinton [U.S. President, 1993-2001] supporter, I knew the Clinton people
from Young Democrats. I was an activist in the National Young Dems for a
number of years; after being state president from 1978-1979, I was the national
committeeman from 1981 to 1989 of the Young Dems. [I] was actually
approached by some Clinton supporters who knew me from the National YDs. I
got a visit from a Clinton staffer at my law office in 1987 about whether Clinton
should take a look at running in 1988, and I discouraged it and said it wasn't the
right time. I don't particularly think it was strictly my advice that helped him make
that decision, but I like to think I contributed. So, when 1991 rolled around, and I
was by then county chair of the local party and got to meet through some friends
the Arkansas State Democratic Chair, [who] was here in town. We had a meeting
of the national party; the DNC [Democratic National Committee] had a state party
chairs' meeting in Miami, which is a good place to come in February. I think it
was February of 1991. When the state chairs' meeting was held in Miami, I
attended as chair of the host county and met a number of the people who were
involved and had some friends, personal friends, from Arkansas who were very
close to the then Arkansas state Democratic chair named Betsy Wright, whom
you may have heard of, who was a very close advisor to [Clinton] the president,
then the governor [of Arkansas]. My friend's sister was a very close friend of
Betsy and served on the Arkansas Racing Commission, so I met with Betsy
Wright at my friend Rosemary Sullivan's house and was talking with her and saw
her at the meeting and talked about how much I thought of Clinton, whom I had
gotten to know as governor through the National YDs and through some very
good progressive friends from Arkansas. [I] said I'm all for him, this is the time,
he's got to go, we need him, etc., and was kind of plugged in very early with the
Clinton people. I think I was in fact the first county Democratic chair to publicly
declare for Clinton in September of 1991.
P: You were chairman of the Dade County Democratic...?
G: I guess I should back that up a little. I was the state president of the Young Dems
in 1978-1979 and got involved, as I said, in that straw poll process. Having gone
out of office as state president, I remained active in the Young Democrats for a
number of years.
P: Let me hold you just a second because what we need to do is to get more into
2000. Were you chairman of the Dade County Democratic [Party] in 2000?
P: From 1991?
G: No, longer. Let me just say this, during the time of the 1980s when I was, from
1981 to 1989, the national committeeman for the Young Democrats, I moved
from Tallahassee, where I had been living through the 1980s and after law
school. I literally moved back to Miami the day after Reagan [U.S. President,
1981-1989] beat Carter. I had stayed up there, even though my fiancee had
come back, until that election and the following day put the last of my stuff in the
truck and moved back here. [I] started to get involved in the local party and was
elected when the next party elections took place in 1984 to the executive
committee. [I] was appointed by then Chair Dick Pettigrew, who was an old friend
from the YDs and somebody I admire very much, as general counsel to the Dade
County Democratic Party in about, I think it was, 1986 or 1987. Then, in 1988 I
ran for and was elected state committeeman of the Dade County Democratic
Party, in December of 1988, which coincidentally was the year my wife, Dr.
Deborah Mesh was elected to a city council in North Bay Village and my brother
Steve was first elected to the house. Six months after I was elected, right at the
time when [U. S. House] Representative Claude Pepper [1963-1989] passed
away and there was a special election for his seat, well, I guess we started in
about June of 1989 [and] the election was probably August or September by the
time they got to it, but six months into my term as state committeeman, our
county chair, Simon Farrow, who had been chair for about a year, was asked to
run for state party chair. Our chair through the 1980s, Charlie Whitehead, had
just resigned; he became chair again later. At the time, the rules provided that
you had to be a state committeeman or woman to run for state chair; being a
county chair did not permit you to. So, I was asked to resign as state
committeeman so that Simon could take that position and run for state chair, and
I was told that if I did so I would also receive his support and that of others to be
county chair. I agreed to do so. Then in June of 1989, right during that special
election process, I was elected as county chair of the Dade County Democratic
Party, and I served in that position through, basically, the end of the year 2000. I
was there almost twelve years. I think I'm the longest serving Dade County
Democratic Party Chair in the history of the party.
P: Talk about what your day was like on Election Day 2000.
G: As I said, having served for, at that point, close to twelve years and having made
a decision that I wasn't going to be seeking re-election as chair again they're
four-year terms, and I did three and half the first time and then two full four-year
terms on election day, we thought it was a pretty normal day. We were
expecting to win.
P: Were you expecting Vice-President Al Gore to win Dade County or win the
G: All of the above. We thought we were in very good position to carry the state of
Florida. We anticipated that we would carry Dade County. Under my
chairmanship and I do want to just toss this in for one second in terms of this
straw poll business, I was the one who had sent the memo to the Clinton staff
back in 1991 before that straw poll, telling them [in] about a five-page memo, and
David Wilhelm used to say it was the first piece of paper on his desk when he
reported to work. We had a visit from Craig Smith, who became their political
director, and David Wilhelm, the new campaign chair, about a week later and
helped get them going. We had been deeply involved in this presidential politics
the whole time that I was chair of the party. We carried Dade County for Clinton
in 1992 against the odds, and based on that he almost carried the state he was
only a point short and we carried it again by more than 100,000 votes in 1996
when Clinton did win the state. So, we came into 2000 thinking we were well-
positioned and fully expecting to win the county again, for the third time in a row
in a presidential race, and expecting to carry the state. That night we watched at
the victory party, and a group of us, kind of a legal strike team we had organized
under my chairmanship over the years...
P: This is Ben Kuehne and Kendall Coffey [both Gore attorneys, 2000 election]?
G: Exactly. Ben had been one of my committee chairs; he was our rules and bylaws
chair when I was chair of the party. We'd had a number of issues that had come
up over the years in terms of making sure polls closed on time and concerns
raised about the voting process [were addressed]. Kendall had also recruited me,
and then later we recruited Ben in, in the aftermath of the 1997 mayoral election
in Dade County where there was a lot of vote fraud. Kendall and I were co-
counsel and then pretty early in the process Ben came in and the three of us
tried that case, which was a pretty landmark case. As a result of this, all three of
us have been in a lot of election law cases, particularly since 1997. There was a
school board race where we got someone thrown off the ballot for residency
[reasons]; I actually was on the other side of Kendall for that. We've been with
each other and occasionally against each other on a number of these. It was
more Ben and myself at the very first hours of it. Ben was at our victory party that
the local party hosted. Attorney General [Bob] Butterworth was there, and Ben
has a very close and long-standing relationship with General Butterworth. We
saw when Florida was called in the Democratic column. I will say, by the way,
today, any suggestion that that was a mistake, any suggestion that those exit
polls were incorrect or too premature or anything of the kind is flat wrong; those
exit polls were dead on. They went to the people who were leaving the polls and
said, who did you vote for, and by a very wide margin, the people said, I voted for
Gore, not knowing how many thousands, how many tens of thousands, of their
votes were going to be just thrown out. To say that the exit polls made a mistake,
no, it wasn't the exit polls that were off; it was the polls. We saw Florida called for
Gore and we said, that's it, it's over, Gore is going to win. Well, the night wore on
and on and on, and they said, no, that might have been premature, no, it looks
like it's going to be [George W.] Bush [U.S. President, 2001-present]. Then, it
wore on further and they said, well, we don't know what it's going to be. Ben
talked to me and said, this is heading in a bad direction; we better talk to
Butterworth. We approached him and Ben made, in particular, a very strong pitch
and said, you know, General, I understand that if this keeps going the way it's
looking that a lot of people are going to come in here, but you need to be certain
that those of us Florida election lawyers with a real history and track record on
some of these cases who are here on the ground get included in whatever is
P: At this point, did you have any knowledge of any kind of flawed ballots or ballot
problems like they had in Palm Beach?
G: I would have to say the answer is no. We did not have any particular knowledge
in advance that this was the case. We were becoming suspicious by the
closeness of some of the totals. There were scattered reports that started to
come in during the day and, to some degree, later in the day.
P: But nothing like the fraud of 1997?
G: No. Although let me say, the fraud of 1997 was not something that was noticed
on election day. The fraud of 1997 was principally in absentee ballots. That's how
that was decided. We had the absentees [ballots] thrown out.
P: Okay. Now, at this point, I presume you are going to talk with Butterworth,
Kendall Coffey, and maybe Mitch Berger [Gore attorney, 2000 election]. Did you
talk with any other Gore representatives? Warren Christopher [U. S. Secretary of
G: No, I was never involved with that. Kendall and, to some degree, Ben had direct
contact with him. I ended up not going to Tallahassee for the final trial. We had
massive documents down here, and along with some volunteer staffers and
some young lawyers, I was one of the people who stayed down here to help
manage anything that we did need from down here from the document
P: You were the one who wrote the letter requesting the recounts in Dade County.
P: Was this done on your own, or through the Democratic party? How did you come
to that decision?
G: Until pretty recently, I've maintained on my voicemail from 2000 I think I lost
them about three months ago a series of messages. I was also counsel for
former State Representative Elaine Bloom in her congressional race.
P: Who also had a close race.
G: Yes, she ended up losing by 500 votes. For all the reasons that I think Al Gore
got screwed, I think Elaine Bloom got screwed in her race to defeat Clay Shaw.
P: Now, the canvassing board did not give a recount in that race, is that correct?
G: That's not precisely true. They looked at a few precincts, if I remember. They
allowed a few precincts to be examined.
P: But they did not formally authorize a recount?
G: Not a full-hand count, no. My recollection is, they allowed a few sample precincts
to be designated. We did get that far and look at those, but they weren't
considered dramatic enough to possibly change the outcome.
P: When you presented your letter to the Miami-Dade Canvassing Board, exactly
what procedure did you go through?
G: It was fairly clear that only certain entities were authorized to request this.
P: We are talking now about the protest phase, correct?
G: Yes. It could be requested by a candidate's representatives or by the party. As I
started to say, I didn't sleep election night. We sat there literally all night. I was
with the Bloom people most of the evening, until it was light outside. Every hour
or hour and a half, I got another phone call on my machine from Ben Kuehne
updating me, as he was up all night and we were watching these national returns
as well as the congressional returns. And we just never stopped. I mean, from
that victory party I think it was about five and a half weeks before we took a
breath. I sat there that night, [and] we met the next day. I went down and sat with
Kendall and with Ben; I think we worked some at Ben's office and some at
Kendall's. There was just no talk. Then everybody would go to their own offices
to do any work. We sat down and we said, what are we going to do, what do we
need to do, how do we get this done? Ben was in some touch with Butterworth.
P: Technically, who are you representing at this point, if anybody? Officially, you
are not representing Gore?
G: That's correct, and that is the reason... Certainly, there was no question that the
demand for recounts could have been made by the Gore campaign, but they
were not prepared to make a decision. We were not prepared for no decision to
be made, and for decisions to be made by not making decisions, and we decided
on our own. At that point, unfortunately, I was not in close touch with our state
party chair at the time, Bob Poe. Bob is an old friend, but, frankly, there was a
little bit of a strain in our friendship at that point when I was outgoing chair.
P: Let me get this clear because it is an important point, I think. This decision you
made was before Warren Christopher, Bill Daley, Mitch Berger, Ben Kuehne,
Ron Klain and all of the advisors decided to challenge four counties.
G: That's not a completely correct understanding. Kendall and Ben, like myself,
were former state presidents in the Young Democrats. They're very close friends.
They have served the party. Kendall was a candidate for office, as I was, and we
know our elections law.
P: Well, they told me they were at the meeting to brief Christopher and Daley.
G: They were; I was not. That meeting took place a couple days later.
P: After you had already written your letter?
G: Yes. There may have been some phone consultations at that point. I will tell you
that we knew that we had a very limited window of time to make the requests for
P: Seventy-two hours.
G: Understand that when you say seventy-two hours, in practical terms that's Friday
night and nobody is going to get it, receive it, or act on it. In terms of actually
getting it into people's hands and getting any kind of action, because you've got
five days at that point to do a protest, and ten to file a contest, it was immediately
determined that we had basically no time to deal with it. We spent the day, you
know, mostly in Kendall's office as a war room, Kendall and Ben and I, and there
were some other lawyers around. I'd be hard-pressed right now to come up with
P: That's not important.
G: Basically, I would say that it was a decision that the three of us made collectively.
I felt I had the authority to do it as party chair, and I did it. I said I had done it
enough times with the Dade County Canvassing Board and was doing it on
behalf of Bloom, and we decided that we were not going to allow any lack of
decision or lack of action to prevent us from protecting our rights, and that if it
needed to be withdrawn later, it could be withdrawn later. Kendall had a
secretary in at work, I think Ben actually did a first draft of the letter, and I marked
it up and Kendall marked it up, and we said, this is the one we're going with,
duplicate sixty-seven of them, and let's get them faxed.
P: So, you were going to do a statewide appeal at that point?
G: We faxed a letter demanding that to sixty-seven counties, maybe sixty-six if we
couldn't find a fax machine for one. We drafted sixty-seven letters to sixty-seven
supervisors, because the statute said Democratic Party; it did not appear to say
that a county party officer could only make that request in the county where he
P: Then why do you think the Gore advisors decided not to follow that and choose
just four counties to protest?
G: Well, a lot of people have said that was one of the biggest mistakes that was
made, and I happen to be one who agreed with that. I can tell you as a fact that
was not the initial decision that Kendall and Ben and I came to, and I stand by
the original decision. Kendall and Ben may have been present to brief
Christopher and Klain and Daley and all them, but it wasn't Kendall and Ben's
P: It wasn't their decision.
G: Yes. In fact, I would say frankly that whether they were perceived as vocal
enough in opposition or not, I wouldn't know, but I can tell you that their decision
was the decision that the three of us had made, which was we were going ahead
and at least protecting our rights to it in every county.
P: Then why didn't you pursue that? You did in Dade County but not in any of the
other counties, correct?
G: That wasn't really my decision to make. I got to work some with Ron Klain, who I
think is a good and a bright and a sharp fellow and a good lawyer and he did a
good job on this, and we set up our ultimate command center at Mitchell Berger's
headquarters, although in the first day or two that was not the case; we were
working out of Kendall's office. Mitchell's a smart guy and a good friend, but we
kind of had a term that some of us used to use for some of the Washington talent
that came down, and I don't mean any particular individual here. We used to just
call them the "geniuses," because the geniuses would make decisions without
knowing what the hell they were talking about, and they would make decisions
that were wrong and they would make decisions that would be kind of carved in
stone. We would say, well, we need to do this; nope, the geniuses say we can't.
P: That's a question I want to follow up on. Dexter Douglass, Mitch Berger, almost
everybody I've talked to said one of the problems was that the Gore hierarchy -
and perhaps in this case, as far as I can tell, in many instances it was Al Gore
himself did not listen to their Florida lawyers advice.
G: Well, they had a thank you for the Florida lawyers at the vice president's
mansion. My partner, Peggy Fisher, and I worked everyday for five, five and a
half weeks, and we didn't get invited to the mansion. I had been there enough
times on other circumstances, but I don't think Peggy ever was. I served as a
DNC member also, from 1996 to 2000, so as a Clinton person and a Gore
supporter, I had been there. I've been there a number of times, but I guess that
to some degree, you know, out of sight, out of mind. Frankly, I don't know how it
was that Kendall and Ben came to be at the meeting and I wasn't invited to it as
the party chair. I was never too happy about that. The decision not to go to
Tallahassee was mine. I happened, as a result of that, never to work with Mr.
[David] Boies. I am the individual who particularly recruited Steve Zack. Steve
showed up, as he has mentioned, at one of the oral arguments in front of Judge
Middlebrooks in the Federal District Court where I had been working with the
team everyday to prepare things for that.
P: Let me get a specific response.
G: Let me just say this. I saw Steve there and said, why don't you come back to
Mitchell Berger's with us, we could use some help. It was there that he and
Kendall spoke, and that's how Steve came to be involved.
P: But do you think that there was a problem in that the Gore people did not either
heed or take the advice of their Florida lawyers who knew Florida election law
G: Yes. Now, I wouldn't go as far. When you say that you've heard that, that was Al
Gore, I don't know that to be the case; I don't even know that it was maybe,
probably, likely the case. I assume that, although Gore is a smart guy and to my
understanding was somewhat involved in this, there were some other people
who were giving him opinions on some of this, and perhaps he was misadvised,
but the hindsight is easy, doctor. I don't want to say that I knew what the outcome
was going to be, that I knew that if we only asked for a few places that the U. S.
Supreme Court would redefine what the words "equal protection" had ever meant
in any context before and rule 5- 4 against us. I can tell you, first of all, that the
very first night, on election night, as Ben and I sat speculating with General
Butterworth, one of us, and it may have been me, but one of us said, well, of
course we have to be careful with these judicial remedies; I mean, no telling how
far this could go, but one thing's for sure: if it makes it to the U. S. Supreme
Court, we'll either need to get [Anthony M.] Kennedy [1988-present] or [Sandra
Day] O'Connor [1981-present] to switch sides or we're going to lose 5-4. Now, I
can tell you that was said on election night. Secondly, there is one aspect of it
that I think has been frequently overlooked. If you compare the letter I sent with
the corrected letter, because I even sent a corrected letter, which, by the way, I
was instructed to send and what to put.
P: By whom?
G: Well, who told it to me was probably Kendall or Ben; whose direction it was, was
the geniuses, and I couldn't tell you which genius or if it was the geniuses
collectively, but I remember when I signed it grumbling about it and saying, this is
a mistake. One of the problems was not just the breadth of counties, but they
decided that they were focusing on under-votes, if I remember. We had asked for
not only under-votes and over-votes but everything. We wanted a count, a
recount, a manual count of all ballots including under-votes and over-votes, and
that's what my first letter said to sixty-seven supervisors. If that had be done, Al
Gore would be president today.
P: As a matter of fact, Whooley and some of these other guys from Boston who
were in fact experts on election recounts.
G: By the way, a little footnote here: when I persuaded those Clinton people in 1991
that they were going to get smoked in that Florida straw poll because there was a
deal between Bob Kerrey [U.S. Senator from Nebraska, 1989-2001] and Tom
Harkin's [U.S. Senator from Iowa, 1984-present] people to trade votes to put
Clinton third, and they finally got the message and came in and jumped on it,
Mike Whooley was the guy who was put in charge and came down and ran
them, the best damn convention operation I've ever seen in my life, to put Clinton
on top. So, Whooley is a pro; he's a veteran.
P: They were the ones who were saying, whenever you do a recount, the more
votes the better. So, they wanted to do the whole thing as well, right?
G: So, who made this decision? Maybe you know? We just passed it off
collectively as the geniuses.
P: One of the criticisms of the Gore legal team in general and their decision making
was that they were more concerned with public relations than they were
concerned with actually winning the recount.
G: You can get an amen on that from here. We had decision after decision when we
were told, we've got to win the war for public relations. We would sit there and
say, you've got to win the damn court case; if you don't win that, it doesn't matter.
We were ham-strung on a number of occasions. As hard as we worked and as
much as we worked, there were decisions that just, I mean, all you could do short
of walking out and turning your back on it, and none of us were willing to do that,
all you could do was shrug your shoulders and say, the geniuses have decided.
P: Now, explain the process you go through. You submit your letter to the Dade
County Canvassing Board. On the first occasion, they will vote 2 to 1 against a
recount. What arguments did you make at that point for a recount and what
arguments [were made by] Miguel De Grandy [ Florida state representative,
1989-1994], who was the opposing counsel?
G: Yes. We treated the canvassing board proceedings as if it was just another legal
proceeding. We prepared for it, argued, [and] filed motions. There wasn't a
tremendous precedent for that, by the way; we were kind of making that up as we
went, especially those of us who had appeared before the canvassing board
before. I had been in front of them in one context or another for years, going back
probably to the time I was general counsel [to the Democratic Party]. [I] had a
very, very strong relationship with David Leahy, who I have tremendous
admiration for, who was the Dade County Supervisor of Elections. He has just
announced his resignation under pressure because of some of the failings of the
2002 primary. [He was] unfairly blamed, in my opinion. He was a very key ally of
ours in the 1997 vote fraud trial. In fact, I was the attorney who presented his
testimony during the vote fraud trial, which was directly cited by the appellate
court in upholding the factual findings and strengthening the remedy. I have a lot
of respect for David, but David consistently, as supervisor, has taken the position
that every supervisor, and I've done it in a few counties, always takes, the same
position: we don't need a recount, my people did a great job, we knew what we
were doing and everything is fine. That's what supervisors do. I wasn't happy
with David's position, but I always respected it.
P: But he was consistent?
G: Let me say, he was consistent on that, he was consistent on Bloom, he was
consistent on every recount I've ever asked the man for: we don't need a
P: What about the other members of the canvassing board? Judge Myriam Lehr, for
G: The truly remarkable member was Judge Lehr. Her husband is a Republican
activist, active with their executive committee. She was elected with the help of a
lot of prominent Republicans. She was only sitting, incidentally, because County
Commissioner Gwen Margolis, who typically served on these and has served on
an awful lot of canvassing boards to my personal knowledge, she wasn't a
candidate that year; she just recused herself. I think she had other plans or some
place to be. I mean, that would be an interesting interview. She came to regret it,
by the way. So, Judge Lehr got thrown in. I still don't understand, frankly, why if
one of the county commissioners was unable to serve...
P: ...why there wouldn't be another county commissioner?
G: Yes, and that's a mystery to me. We talked a little earlier about epiphanies and
politics by LeRoy Collins [Florida governor, 1955-1961] and Buddy MacKay
[Florida governor, 1998-1999], and I think Judge Lehr kind of had her own. Judge
[Lawrence] King did a fine job of chairing by and large. Like everyone, I was
disappointed in the ultimate decision not to continue with the recount, which is a
separate matter which we'll come to, and I have very strong feelings about that.
But by and large, throughout the earlier proceedings, Judge King did a good job
of chairing. Judge Lehr, though, changed her mind.
P: In the first vote 2-1, Judge Lehr voted not to do the recount.
G: That's correct.
P: Then she changed her mind.
G: The subsequent day, it was kind of the-whole-world-is-watching thing, and I think
Judge Lehr, to her tremendous credit, reached down within herself and just
decided that whatever personal or political considerations she brought to the
table that she was not going to be the voice in history that kept the truth from
being found out.
P: Judge King was a Democrat, right?
P: Leahy is non-partisan?
G: That's correct.
P: And Lehr?
G: I believe she's an Independent as a judge, but as I said, I believe her husband is
or was a member of the Republican executive committee or an activist, and I can
tell you that there were some shocked Republican faces when she changed her
vote. She certainly was never particularly in sympathy with us, but she just was in
a place where history was being made and reached within herself and decided
that she needed to do the right thing and that the right thing was to find out the
P: You were arguing that the dominant legal issue was the intent of the voter.
P: And that if human beings, as it were, examined the under-votes that you could in
fact determine the specific vote on many of these ballots. Is that correct?
G: That would be, in my opinion, a little overly-narrow interpretation. Keep in mind
that it is frequently possible to determine intent to the voter on over-votes, and,
again, more true on an op[tical] scan ballot than in our punch card ballots we
were arguing in Dade County, but even on punch cards there are a lot of ways
you can determine by looking at something that what looked like an over-vote
really wasn't. So, we were simply arguing for a hand count, although this under-
votes issue had been placed before them. We were a little back and forth,
frankly, talking about it.
P: So, you were talking about doing over-votes as well, but they, when they agreed
to vote to count votes, they just did under-votes?
G: That's not entirely clear.
[End of side Al]
G: My recollection may be a little faulty on the issue, but keep in mind this was an
evolving process. At one point, there was an order that all the votes would be
counted that came from the State Supreme Court. Initially when we were just
trying to keep the issue alive, we had been instructed to frame the issue in terms
of under-votes, but there were other things going on and other discoveries we
were making. In particular, I don't know if you've ever heard about the fives and
P: Explain that.
G: That will take us right to the day before the Republican riots. Let me just go back
and wrap up in terms of this issue on the canvassing board. I was over there
monitoring one day because they were in session, and we were suddenly told,
no, we're going to try and get this brought back and we're going to ask them to
reconsider, and I actually was the one who filed and argued the motion for
reconsideration. That was the one where Lehr turned around. The Republicans,
in fact it was Roberto Martinez, another former U. S. attorney, who was sitting in
the back of the room and he was just incensed. They called him up and said, do
you want to say anything? And he said, well, I'm not even supposed to be here,
but I'm here, but I'll argue, but I won't, but I will! Or something like that.
P: Both Martinez and Miguel De Grandy felt like they had not been given an
opportunity to present their side.
G: That's absolutely untrue, of course, because they were sitting there and they had
every opportunity as much as we did, but we got the vote. That was kind of one
of my more significant contributions, I felt, because it was me that day. There
were times when, because Mr. Zack was such a capable lawyer, that he just
carried water for us. I said I had asked him to come and help and he showed up
and, once he was willing, Kendall said, hell, we could certainly use a trial lawyer
of your background. Of course, he ended up doing more of the actual trial in front
of Judge [Sanders] Sauls [of the Leon County circuit court] than any of the rest of
us except Mr. Boies. But on that one particular occasion, they said, well, we'll
reconsider it, we'll come back again in a couple days and consider it; we'll give
you until Friday before we make a final, final decision. But the bottom line was
that by agreeing to come back and talk about it and saying that they were going
to take another look, in essence they had agreed to reconsider their decision,
and that was kind of, at the time, viewed as a pretty big turning point for us.
P: But at that juncture, also, already at issue is time. Every day that is delayed,
obviously, is going to be a factor in their decision to stop the recount.
G: I thought from the first day that, that was a completely phony issue. I cannot
believe still that the U. S. Supreme Court actually said, we might have it wrong
but we're out of time. It was untrue. The Dade County recount could certainly
have been completed timely. The state recount could certainly have been
completed timely; even when the Supreme Court halted it, it still could have been
completed timely. If you look at that U. S. Supreme Court opinion, I don't believe
you will find Justice Kennedy's or O'Conner's name; they did not sign any
P: Although it was per curiam, they didn't actually sign it.
G: They didn't dissent, but their names are on no opinion, they're not [listed] as
concurring, concurring in the result. A horrible and illegal decision [was made in
Bush v. Gore].
P: Let me get a little more information about the process at this point. The
canvassing board has now voted 2-1 to count the under-votes.
G: To reconsider whether it will.
P: Then on Friday...
G: It votes to count them, yes.
P: When do they actually start counting?
G: That was another issue. We felt that they needed to be ready, and there was
delay. Leahy tried to say, we'll get everybody ready and we'll pull people in on
weekends if we need to, but they still talked about, well, it might be Monday
before we can really get going. The Republican's strategy was, drag it out, drag it
out, drag it out. Even when we said it will be Friday, they said, can it be a little
later in the day? By the time we got done with the argument, they said, it's too
late to start today. Leahy said, no, we can get some people in over the weekend,
and they said, oh, we can't be ready for that.
P: They don't start until Monday, November 28.
G: I believe that's correct. I think that's right.
P: This is after the Florida Supreme Court 7-0 decision, which authorizes them to
begin the recount.
G: Yes, sir.
P: What do you attribute to that delay, because the 7-0 vote was on November 16,
on a Thursday?
G: Right. We got our vote to reconsider on Wednesday before that vote, and it was
one of the things we said to them. They came back Friday, and I can't even
understand really how the Republicans could possibly have argued against it. We
had statutory authority that was hardly being used, either; there's a footnote,
famous footnote five or something in Beckstrom v. Volusia County, that says...
P: That was a sheriff's race?
G: Yes, that talks about a statutory basis for these recounts.
P: Plus, you had the Florida Supreme Court.
G: Absolutely, it did by Friday, and they just needed to start, but it was logistic.
P: Was that a deliberate decision on the part of the canvassing board? Was it
because of Republican legal challenges? We have an interview with David Leahy
and he was saying the same thing you just told me, that they were preparing to
do it and would have worked on the weekends but in fact did not.
G: Does he say why?
P: Not really.
G: I don't know the answer, but I can speculate. That's all I can do, is speculate.
There seem to be at least one or more unseen hands at play here. This was
something that occurred repeatedly, and I don't want to get ahead of us to the
day of the riot, but the shocking thing was the lack of security. I heard at the time,
well, if it had been so bad, there would have been arrests. The police were so
outnumbered. Protesters were allowed in the building, in the floor, in the lobby,
and there were no I mean, I say no, half a dozen police. My point is, I've
always felt that David Leahy could not possibly be blamed for that; that was not
his jurisdiction. That was the jurisdiction of the director of public safety, Carlos
Alvarez. I have no reason to believe that was a decision that was made by Mr.
P: When you talk about a hidden hand, you're not talking about Alex Penelas
[mayor, Miami-Dade County, 1996-present]? You are?
G: Mr. Alvarez was not the person who could make that decision, that train. If
somebody wants to look at the history of it, I'd be interested in having somebody
find out the memos that went back and forth between Leahy's office, the
supervisor of elections, the director of public safety's office, and the manager's
office about the need for security [and] the level of security. Mr. Leahy was very
concerned about inadequate security.
P: But did he have an influence on the delay in the county? It seems hard to
understand what Penelas' motive would be, because in the beginning he at least
verbally said he was for Gore. Some people said they thought he was going to
change parties and that maybe this was a factor.
G: There were a group of us. I mean, the mayor was completely absent.
P: He was a volatile one, I believe.
G: It has since been revealed that there were regular phone conversations between
the mayor and the supervisor of elections, which the mayor has characterized as
consisting primarily of, "well, what's going on"? The then manager would be
somebody you may wish to talk to, but it was never my understanding that he
was deeply engaged in the loop on these decisions. The reason that I feel so
strongly that the time issue was a phony issue [is that] you could have counted
the votes in Dade County in a day.
P: My number and I'm not sure this is right, I've seen so many different numbers -
under votes, I have 10,750. Does that sound about right?
G: I believe that is right, yes. But you could have counted all the votes in Dade
County in a day. It was never a question of ability; it was always a question of
resource allocation. The supervisor's office is a relatively small office. If you were
only going to use supervisor of elections employees, you had a major problem;
they had to eat and sleep. [It is the] same with not having enough police
protection. With enough of a commitment on the part of the county government,
you could have done anything you wanted. We found in 2002 that suddenly after
the problems of September [11th, frequently referred to as "nine-eleven"when the
terrorist group Al Qaeda hijacked airliners and crashed them into the World
Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC] when you
wanted to be sure that the election in November went right, we found that you
had all kinds of senior county workers assigned to the polling places [and] all
kinds of members of the police department. If you had given the commitment of
November 2002 to the recount process in November of 2000, that recount would
have been completed in no time flat.
P: That's what Broward County did; that's what Volusia County did; that's what
Palm Beach County did. They took public employees, put them in as counters,
made sure, as the law requires, [there was] a Republican and a Democrat
observer. As you know, they moved to a bigger site in Palm Beach so that they
would have enough room to have all these people counting, and as you know as
well, Volusia finished and Palm Beach almost finished.
G: Had that resource commitment been done in Dade County...
P: You would have finished.
G: ...Al Gore would be president today.
P: Once the counting begins, what was the process? The argument has been that
they move from the eighteenth floor to the nineteenth floor. Can you give me
some sense of how the canvassing board started the recount and why they
moved to the nineteenth floor?
G: Well, now you've hit the crux of it. The count was going forward on the eighteenth
floor. You're talking, now, Thanksgiving week, and Thursday the 23rd [of
November] was Thanksgiving Day. They basically agreed to do this count
Wednesday the 15th [of November] and confirmed that they were going to do [the
count] on Friday the 17th [of November] fairly early in the day. Tuesday they
voted against it. See, this says that Saturday the 18th [of November], in Dade
County they voted in favor of it. I believe that's incorrect.
P: That's the wrong date.
G: It doesn't even mention the Wednesday, which was the one I argued, relatively
early [on]. I think the hearing was called for 11 o'clock Friday morning, and then it
was delayed a little bit, but it was still mid-afternoon. Mr. Leahy, who was against
the recount, was ready to go. He wanted to get people in over the weekend.
They don't really start until Monday. Now they're sitting there, and the process is
going very, very slow. As Leahy can tell you, they decided there were some
things they could do to begin to speed this up. It's being done in the eighteenth
floor in a very large room with open access; people were corded off, but there
was open access and there were a lot of observers there, not just officially
permitted ones [either].
P: And there were cameras, as well.
G: Many. They have a more secure facility on the nineteenth floor, which is where
their actual offices are. The eighteenth floor is just open space.
P: One of the reasons [for] that, Leahy said, [was that] it gave them easier access to
G: It wasn't as much the ballots; it was the counting machines.
G: The counting machines were located upstairs. This was a process we didn't
completely agree with, mind you, so it wasn't like this was done at our request.
They were using these counting machines to sort under-votes and over-votes.
The idea was that they were not going to have the counting machines throw out
the under-votes and over-votes. What they were trying to do was, there is a way
you can use them to sort, where the machine would stop if it hit an under-vote or
over-vote and you could pull that card. We were taking the position, frankly, that
this was not a complete manual recount because only those things identified as
an under-vote or an over-vote by the machine would be pulled out for manual
inspection. There was a problem with that, in my view, which was something with
a hanging, flapping chad might come out viewed as an under-vote one time if it's
open. Is that right? If it's open, it would not be viewed as an under-vote; if the
flap was closed ...
P: If it were closed, the scanner would not pick it up.
G: ...it could be viewed as an under-vote. But the same was true the other way.
Something could really have been an over-vote, and if one of them got closed,
it's just counted as a vote, and you don't know if it's your's or the other guy's. Not
withstanding that, there was still, in terms of the idea that there was perceived to
be a time problem, a lot of reason to do this sort, which would have certainly
come up with 96 percent of the under-votes and over-votes. We could have
taken the position that it would have been just perfectly fine to go ahead and
count all the apparent under-votes and over-votes first, and then if time
permitted, you could go back into the ones that looked like they were fine and
start flipping through them and say, oh, wait a minute, this is one the machine
missed that it should have caught. So, we thought it was a worthwhile procedure.
If they weren't going to do this using the machines to do the sorting, they would
have had a real problem. Then, if they used the machines alone, the problem
was actually, they were trying to protect everybody's rights; they weren't trying
to take anybody's right away they said, well, who's going to watch the ballots
upstairs with the machines if the canvassing board is down here ruling on
individual voter intent on under-vote and over-vote? Well, you can't have
somebody else counting those ballots; we want those ballots held in the position
of the canvassing board, not just Mr. Leahy's staff. Okay, that means you need
the canvassing board upstairs. Well, if they've got to watch while you count all of
the ballots in Dade County...
P: It's a waste of time.
G: ...and pull one of the them out, either they're not going to be able to be ruling on
individual challenges or, hell, just move them upstairs and let them do that and
the other thing can be going on in the background under their general
supervision and do them both at the same time. We'll allow a camera.
P: And there was at least one, right?
G: Not only that. Understand this is a room with a glass wall.
P: So the observers could look into [the room] and see the counting?
G: Much, much more than that. Every camera was allowed outside to look through
the glass wall. I believe they were allowing one inside as a pool-camera, but the
others were all looking in. The party observers were going to be allowed into the
room, not just through the glass wall. At this point, both sides had this cadre of
lawyers, guys like Jack Young and Steve from L.A.. We had this cadre
of lawyers from around the country who had come in to help both sides. We were
all pretty well staffed.
P: So, the Republicans had as many as the Democrats observing?
G: At least. They said that at least one observer from each party would be present in
the room at all times, maybe a couple if it had been, you know, can each side
have two in case one blinks or something, no problem; I'm sure we would have
been able to work that out.
P: But [there were] not as many as they had on the eighteenth floor?
G: It wasn't a question of observers in the official sense, because there were always
rules about how many could get past the rope line. You could have one team
standing behind the canvassing board going "challenge" as things went on, and
you could have one team by each of the counting teams, but you couldn't just
flood the place. This had to do with the people who were behind the rope line, not
P: I've read some of these, and I'm sure you have some of these, Republican
charges. I'll read you one and get your reaction: After three days of changing the
rules every time we walked into the room, the Democrats finally decided to
conduct a partial recount behind closed doors, took the disputed ballots from the
main counting room to a small, private room on the nineteenth floor without the
press, barred the doors to Republican observers [and] refused to let us enter;
that's when we realized we had to do something to prevent them from stealing
G: That is an untrue statement in several regards. First of all, saying it was a private
room was to imply that anybody had access to the counting area downstairs;
that's not true. Second of all, press was allowed in the room, and certainly it had
a glass wall, and there were a dozen cameras or more trained on every second.
Third of all, they would not and could not have proceeded without at least a
Democratic and a Republican observer present at all times, and that was always
P: By law.
G: Not just by law, by canvassing board vote, by everybody's agreement. There was
never a time in that room upstairs when there weren't Republicans or Democrats
while counting was going on. If you want to interpret that statement barred off to
Republican observers, you mean barred it to any Republican who wanted to
observe, I could say that's probably [true].
P: But they could still see through the glass?
G: Yes, but understand that the area behind the glass is not unlimited either; it's a
hallway. There were a lot of cameras in there. You could have put a few more
observers, but it was not a place where you could pack dozens of people.
P: Now, the other arguments they made: We saw them counting ballots like a deck
of cards; we saw ballots with chads taped back onto the Bush hole making them
votes for Gore; they were stuffing ballots into what the Republicans called "magic
envelopes." What is all this about? Where does this come from?
G: Some of this is untruth. Some of it is a lie. I never saw a ballot with tape.
However, these so called magic envelopes, there are ballots that were partially
perforated, as we know. These punch-cards and the chads in them are not
entirely very stable in some circumstances depending on how perforated they
are. If you partially perforated a ballot and left a chad hanging, if you perforated
three of the four corners, there was a desire to preserve evidence in unspoiled
condition. So, if something had a hanging or flapping chad and you wanted to be
sure that excessive handling would not dislodge it, then the canvassing board, for
certain instances, asked that particular ballots be put into envelopes to preserve
them, so that every time you pick them up and flex them, you're not changing the
condition. It's something any lawyer would recognize as preservation of the
evidence, nothing more than that. These envelopes certainly weren't designed to
P: It always has occurred to me, and having talked with most people on the
canvassing boards, they said, we couldn't cheat; even if we wanted to, there
were cameras there, there were observers there, the whole world was watching
P: How would you go about trying to cheat? These arguments in Palm Beach
County that there were chads on the floor and that people were eating chads.
Anybody who's looked at the videotape can see that's just simply not the case.
G: There were chads on the floor.
P: But they did not have anything specifically to do with fraud in terms of changing
votes, isn't that correct?
G: Yes, that's correct. The elections department was never the cleanest place in the
world, the counting room in particular. You know, nobody ever anticipated this
problem, so when you say there were chads on the floor, some of them might
have been from the county commission race in 1996 and it just hadn't gotten
swept up very well. At one point the Republicans said, we want to take custody of
the carpet up there and have it vacuumed and swept and all the dirt and dust
including every chad counted so that we can see how many chads there are.
Well, some of those had been sitting there for ten years.
P: Do you see that this is part of the Republican's attempt to delay the counting?
G: Asking for the carpet to be swept and vacuumed, yes. It was every excuse.
Sometimes I couldn't believe they could even sit there with a straight face and
come up with this. We kept saying, just count all the votes; take a look at them.
What the proper standard is, is up to the canvassing board, it's the intent of the
voter, but look at the things and try to reach a conclusion.
P: You could see on some occasions, and this is true of Democrats as well, there
would be challenges.
P: When they say this is a vote for Bush, the Democratic observer might challenge
G: That was the purpose of keeping certain things in envelopes, so that if it came to
court later a judge could look at it and see whether or not he thought the
canvassing board was within its discretion or made an arbitrary and capricious
P: In fact, the ballots did make the trip to Tallahassee for Judge Sauls.
P: Now, at the point where the counting is going on, could you describe the people
in the hall, which I understand were primarily Republicans, is that correct? Who
were observing, as it were.
G: When you say in the hall, do you mean on the nineteenth floor?
P: On the nineteenth floor, yes.
G: Have you visited the scene yet?
G: You should, because it's a little difficult to understand in the abstract. And the
answer is no to what you're saying. The hall that you're referring to, first of all,
we're talking downstairs on the eighteenth floor there was a different set-up.
Down on the eighteenth floor, there were a lot of people from both parties,
interested people back behind the rope line, maybe just wanting to take a little
look at history some of them, maybe relief people to go in because there were a
lot of teams working. And we were all training people to what they could or
couldn't do; you can't touch the thing, you can point, etc. We had fights going on
at the time, arguments. I handled an argument about overseas ballots, and we
were looking at which overseas ballots should be included, and we had a little
training session on that. Then we had to go in and argue about postmarks and
stamps and appropriate counselor at a station and all kinds of things like that.
There were ones that were postmarked or dated days after the election that
clearly should not have been counted.
P: And were counted?
G: I think some were, yes. The point is, on the eighteenth floor this was all an open
process. The decision was made that they would not finish on time if they kept
going the way they were going, that they needed to use the machines to do some
sorting and that the canvassing board should be present for that. It was clearly
understood that each party would have a representative or two in the counting
room, and others who had appropriate credentials would be permitted outside to
look through the window along with the press, and there would be some press in
the room. It's a glass-window room for that purpose.
Now, understand the layout here. There are elevators. The elevators stop at the
lobby, stop at the eighteenth floor which is where this big open thing and all the
press was set up. [You] take them up to the nineteenth floor, which is the floor
where the elections department is located. You emerge in a smallish elevator
lobby with two banks of elevators facing each other on the west side of the
building, and to your west is a large picture window. As you step out of the
elevator, the facing elevator banks, you turn east and there is a fairly large open
area with one desk, which is a receptionist desk. Other than that desk, what you
have at your left and right, the north and south sides, are locked doors which you
can only enter with a combination. In front of you and wrapping around slightly to
the sides is a large thick window that's a wrap-around window; it's not individual
windows; it's one big, large, open wrap-around window. [It's made of] very thick
glass, like [bank] teller glass with some, like, teller slide trays underneath it. I
think there's one place where it's interrupted, maybe, right behind the
receptionist's desk. But basically as you stand at these very large virtually-to-
ceiling windows, you can look in and see basically the entire supervisor's office
laid out, all the desks, all the people working. There are some partitions. Then as
you get quite a bit back to the east side there is a smallish walled room called the
counting room, which is there for security purposes to protect the security of the
ballots, which has a glass wall on its north side so people can see in. You can
see the counting room from the lobby, but you can't see into the counting room
from the lobby because the glassed wall is on the side of it in a hallway created
between the wall of that room and some partitions that quartered off some private
offices for some of the higher-ups. That's the circumstance of people coming to
the nineteenth floor to see. Now, I need to back up just a step here. In reviewing
in detail all of the mistakes, all of the under-votes, all of the over-votes, all of the
different kinds of votes we ran, I guess, Thursday, Friday before Thanksgiving,
[November] 16, 17, or certainly over the weekend. Keep in mind we're working
every day and every night, frequently all night. I mean, more often than not I
would get an hour or two of sleep, maybe go home and shower and change and
come back, sleep on a couch somewhere. We started to run into what we first
were calling the [Joseph] Lieberman [U.S. Senator from Connecticut, 1989-
present; unsuccessful Democratic vice-presidential candidate], votes. If you
remember the ballot position, Bush was four, Gore was six, and, oh, I forget, the
Libertarian or something, Harry Brown or whatever his name was, was eight, and
P: But five and seven were blank, weren't they?
G: Five and seven were blank, but if you looked at the way the ballot actually read, it
said Bush/Cheney, and then it would say Gore/Lieberman. [Dick] Cheney's name
was not on the same line as Bush. Lieberman's name was not on the same line
as Gore. It didn't read at ballot position four, Bush/Cheney, and then next to five
there's a blank, and then, six, Gore/Lieberman, and then next to seven there's a
blank; it read Bush on four /Cheney, whose name was written on five.
P: Underneath Bush.
G: Underneath. Gore on six /, and underneath him Lieberman on line seven. So, we
started finding in our review of what the individual ballots had shown as they had
started looking at things, as they had begun their review, even from the sample
precincts we were seeing these numbers because they had done some sample
precincts originally, remember, before they did the full recount we're seeing
people who were punching seven. We called them the Lieberman votes. These
were people who really liked Joe Lieberman, and that's why they voted. The first
thought we had, well, those should count because they're voting for this ticket.
P: Although, technically, that's an invalid vote.
G: You don't scratch the surface here, Doctor. This is a very complicated issue, and
this explains, by the way, what happened in that riot. This is why I was there.
P: Because you went to get more of the sample ballots, is that correct?
G: That's part of it, but that's way an understatement. We then figured, you know
what this is, this isn't people voting for Lieberman. If you follow it and you say
Gore/Lieberman and your eye were to follow across when you finish reading that,
you're on line seven, not on line six. I contacted a friend, who you should
interview by the way, Dr. Bonnie Levin, and I'll be happy to give you a number for
her. Dr. Levin is a colleague of my wife in the Department of Neurology at the
University of Miami Medical School. My wife is a Ph.D. in that department, a
neuropharmacologist. Dr. Levin is a neuropsychologist whom I've known for
many years, and Dr. Levin's specialty as a neuropsychologist is, among other
things, human reactions and how people perceive things. We anticipated that she
would tell us that if you read Gore and then your eye goes to Lieberman and your
eye follows across that you will follow across the last line you started reading, in
a certain percentage of cases, rather than jumping back up. So we decided that
these Lieberman votes really weren't Lieberman votes. They were votes for the
Gore/Lieberman ticket, they're just following across. Even though there's an
arrow that points, certain people won't follow the arrow. But we determined there
was a problem with that theory. Not only was seven supposed to be a blank, but
because as the more we learned about the machines work, you could not punch
seven; it was impossible to punch number seven. I don't know if you've ever
examined a Votomatic [voting machine] in detail.
G: One of my old friends from the Young Democrats is a fellow named John
Winchester. He's an old friend of Kendall's, as well, from Gainesville. His mom,
Jackie Winchester, was the supervisor in Palm Beach for many years and a
friend of ours, a friend of mine, and I was in touch with her. Between talking to
David and consulting with Jackie, see, when you insert a card into the Votomatic
machine, there's a plastic template between where you insert that card that has
holes cut in it that permit you to punch through. If you properly insert a punch
card into the Votomatic and properly line it up, if you tried to punch through at
seven, you could get a hammer and you could not punch through, and yet here
we had hundreds of punch cards punched seven.
P: So, they were improperly inserted.
G: Well, something was happening. There was some mystery. Now, what we
discovered by dint of a lot of trial and error and some other things, if you put the
punch card all the way in but you don't put the two little holes at the top over the
two little red, I call them, buttons they're not really buttons; they're posts, kind
of you don't trip the spring at the bottom that puts the template into position.
That spring that even allows the template to come into position is only put there,
triggered into place, when you put those two little red dots. With all the big letters
there and all the things that are written, the things that say put dots into holes or
whatever I forget the exact words; I don't have it in front of me but the
language that tells you that you actually have to not just insert the card fully but
really engage those two little red dots is teeny, tiny, minuscule, almost impossible
to read. So, if you put your punch card all the way in but didn't tie it down onto
those two red dots, that spring won't spring and the template won't come into
place. If you do that, you not only can't punch seven, you can't punch six or four
or anything else. The template will not move. You cannot vote.
G: Period. There was a hearing in circuit court on, I believe it was, Tuesday that
we'd gotten prepared. The Republicans were again trying to, I think they basically
were asking the circuit court to overrule the Supreme Court. It was pretty funny.
But on Tuesday, it would have been the 21 [of November]. I was in touch with
Jackie Winchester, and we were prepared to try and make this argument about, I
don't even remember the technical reason, but I asked Jackie to come down
from Palm Beach to be a witness for us, and she did. We ended up not calling
her in the hearing on the 21 [of November] because the judge just didn't tolerate
it, but I had already spoken with Dr. Levin, and she had given us information
about what you're looking for and where the arrow was going to point, people
who will disregard an arrow and people who follow their own eyes and their own
understanding. This is where we were looking to go, and we were ready to use
Dr. Levin as an expert witness to show how people could have gotten confused
about what to punch. So, now Jackie Winchester is here, and my partner Peggy
Fisher and I come out of the hearing with Jackie and we round up one of the
Democratic Party lawyers, a fellow named Jack Young from Virginia, good
lawyer, and we're going to go and try and solve the mystery of the fives and
sevens because Jackie Winchester understands these machines as well as
anybody else. If Jackie Winchester had still been the supervisor in Palm Beach
County, Al Gore would be president because Theresa LePore [supervisor of
elections, Palm Beach County] made mistakes Jackie wouldn't have.
P: But unintentionally.
G: Unintentionally. I did not ever, just for the record, see what I would term massive
evidence or fraud in the casting of votes; the counting, one could argue with, in
places like Gadsden County and maybe in Duval County and others. The refusal
to accept evidence of voter intent could certainly be argued with, but we did not
see, I did not see, evidence of massive, deliberate fraud in the casting as
opposed to the counting of ballots.
P: In Dade County.
G: Yes, sir. Now, we bring down Jackie Winchester, and we're examining this
machine. We walked over to the supervisor's office on the nineteenth floor, and
we went up to the nineteenth floor and there in the lobby, as I mentioned, there is
this one desk and then there are these windows and closed doors. Well, they had
a sample Votomatic machine sitting out in the lobby a little bit on the south of the
central wall that had been out there for people to use if they were either going to
vote maybe as an absentee or anybody who came up and wanted to try out the
Votomatic. I had some sample ballots. They were a couple of different kinds.
There were ones that are yellow that are called demonstrators, demonstration
ballots, that's a sample ballot, and then there were ones that are the same color
as the regular ballots that are called training ballots. There are ones that are
marked "Official Training Ballot, Democratic Party," and there are one that are
marked "Official Training Ballot, Republican Party," and I got some samples from
the people. This is Tuesday, the 21 [of November]. The recount is proceeding
downstairs that day.
We have a command post set up in what used to be the food court at that time,
up the escalator from the ground floor of metro justice, up on the second floor.
There are two command posts, Democratic and Republican Party. They've
issued us credentials. I have credentials as Democratic Party observer and
separate credentials that say I'm on the legal team because I was filling two
functions. I was the party chair still through early December, and I was also an
attorney on the legal team. I picked up my credentials. We've gone to this
hearing, and I'm now with my partner Peggy Fisher, I'm with Jackie Winchester,
and we're with Jack Young. We're going to solve this problem with fives and
sevens. We go back over and we get some sample ballots, and we're fiddling
with the machine. If you insert that card all the way in and don't put it over the red
dots, you won't trip the spring, the template won't move, you can't vote for
anyone. What do you do? You're a voter, there's a big, long line outside. What do
you do? You've got a couple of choices. You can stop what you're doing...
P: Get help.
G: ...get help, call everybody over in front of all your friends and your precinct and
go, I'm an idiot, I have no idea how to vote, everybody wait. Or, you can take that
card... Understand you're doing a very counterintuitive thing with that card
anyway: you're taking your card, you're inserting it into a sleeve where you can't
see it anymore, and you're punching, and you can't see what you're punching;
you have to hope it's lined up right and you didn't make a mistake. I used to
always wonder, did I push it in far enough, not ever realizing, and I'm a fairly
intelligent fellow with a lot of experience in this, that if you don't put it over those
red posts, you're not going to engage it. I always used to pull mine out and hold it
up to the light, individually, and check and say, is that the number I was really
looking for or did I miss? Now you got somebody who's stuck it in there,
counterintuitive, they can't even see their ballot anymore, they're pressing and
pressing, nothing is happening and they're frustrated. They don't want to call for
help. We figured out what they do. They pull it out and they slap it right on top,
not in the sleeve where you [are supposed to], just slap it on top. Now...
P: Now you can punch it.
G: ...they can punch because there's the punch, there's their thing [their candidate],
all they have to do is find something underneath that's going to give enough to let
them actually perforate and they can actually see what they're doing. I talked to
one of our staff who said, in fact one of the young guys working for the party who
said, that's how I always do it; I always just slapped it on top because I want to
see my punch card. It's easier [and] quicker.
P: So, that's how they got seven?
G: That's how they got seven, but there's a reason why they got seven. It's worse
than that. There's a design flaw in the machine. If you put it down on front, you
still got to find a way to hold it in place because otherwise it's going to slip all
[End of side A2]
G: The bumper will stop it. You just take your card, you slap it right on the top, either
because it's easier to do, as at least one person told me that was the case with
them, or because you pulled it out in disgust [and said], my machine is broke; the
thing won't work; I've got a broke, busted machine; I can't punch anything and I
put that card all the way through! [This happens] because you didn't fasten
something you might not even see more than as a smudge. You take it out and
you slap it right down on top, you slide it right down, the bumper catches it, and it
looks like it lines up perfectly. You've got a big arrow saying, Gore, vote here.
But there's a design flaw. Where that bumper is when you slide it down is one
position off. It could line up perfectly if you just made that little rubber bumper at
the bottom a millimeter, I'm not sure if it's a millimeter thicker or a millimeter
thinner, but if you just altered the size that one millimeter, it will line up identically.
Instead, because of where it lines up when you put it on top instead of in the
proper place, you have a big arrow that says Gore and points right here...
P: At seven.
G: ...at number seven, same as five points to [Bush].
P: But now, isn't the problem here, even though you know that, how can you
determine whether the people voting had done exactly what you just described?
G: I'll answer that, but let me just make sure you [understand]. Just to close the loop
on how this works, we knew there were fives as much as sevens, not as many of
them, frankly, as it turned out, but hundreds of each. Not a couple, hundreds. I
noticed this when I was doing the Bloom thing. I mean, if you want to talk about
how flawed Bloom was, if you inserted it in the wrong place...We couldn't
understand, we got reports of people who ended up voting for Congressman
Hastings which shouldn't have even been on their ballot. We saw a lot of them, if
somebody wanted to go back and look. The number of votes in the U. S. Senate
race for the Natural Law Party candidate was astounding. It was something that
was cutting both ways, understand. There were Democrats getting Republican
votes, or Republicans getting Democrat votes, and third-party candidates,
because anybody whose ballot was put on top was one number off.
Our argument, though, to answer your question directly, would have been the
following: when you look at the fact that position five and position seven
corresponded to the vice-presidential candidates, when you look at the fact that
position five and position seven in essence belonged to presidential tickets, when
you look at the fact that position five and position seven could demonstrably be
shown to be one position off based on where the arrow pointed when you slid the
machine here it didn't work, by the way, fortuitously at least. It wasn't that there
were threes, which there was no two or three. It didn't move up one, it moved
down one when you had the presidential tickets that took up two lines each,
when you looked at the fact that you could look at one of these sevens and
determine that everybody else on that ballot that they had punched on the
partisan races would have been Democrats, if you also assumed it was one
ballot position off, this was not a voter flaw; this is a design flaw in the machine. It
could easily have been designed so it lined up properly. We think that there was
enough that a judge could have reached a decision to say I will count all the fives
for Mr. Bush, all the sevens for Mr. Gore, all the nines for the Libertarian Party,
and that there was a pretty good indicia that this was the intent of the voter,
because it certainly could not have been the intent of the voter [to cast a blank
ballot]; nobody is going to come in and go to all the trouble to take the thing out
and cast a blank ballot. If there was no other ballot marked, that was the intent of
P: But isn't it, in the beginning, voter error because they did not insert the card
properly? The people who did position their ballot properly had their vote clearly
G: I wouldn't necessarily agree because I don't believe that the voter is required to
have inserted their card in order to vote. If you are given a punch card and you
want to simply hold it up to the light, read it off, and punch, which is exactly what
anybody casting an absentee vote was doing, I think that is a legal thing to do.
That is not voter error. If there is going to be a machine designed where you can
slip it down on top, where you can see what you're punching, then it ought to be
designed properly and not as a trap for the unwary to mislead you into punching
an incorrect number.
P: So, this is, in legal parlance, a tabulation error?
G: In my opinion, yes, or a design flaw that led to a tabulation error.
P: But the law says there has been some sort of tabulation?
G: Yes. Equipment failure. It could be equipment failure as well because the
equipment was improperly designed to account for people who chose to do that.
It was deliberately misleading. Don't put the stop there.
P: Now, did you formerly make an appeal on this issue?
G: After incredible battles, we managed, actually, to get it included in our lawsuit
that was filed in Leon County. I fought my ass off for it with some help from
Kendall and Ben who were up there. It is contained in our lawsuit.
P: This is the contest before Judge Sauls?
G: Yes. It was contained in the contest lawsuit.
P: But since he didn't count any of the votes...
G: Well, I have to say that although I helped prep Steve Zack for his inquiry of...
P: John Ahmann?
G: Yes, the machine expert, that Steve needed to ask about two more questions or
three more questions...
P: Which he did not ask?
G: ...to make the case for fives and sevens. He declined to do so because
everybody, at that point, was saying, we just got to get the case over, we got to
get the case over, we got to get the case over.
P: But we did do a good job demonstrating that these machines could be faulty.
G: Absolutely. I'm not criticizing the job he did. You asked, and we did raise this, it is
in our pleading, but it was not argued at the trial because of time constraints.
P: At that point, Dexter Douglass told me the object was to get it to the Florida
Supreme Courts as quickly as possible.
G: Exactly correct, just get in, get out, and get a ruling.
P: Talk about the actual day that you go back to the nineteenth floor in Dade County
and exactly what happened. Describe both the Republicans and whatever police
presence there was.
G: Just to wrap up the day before because that's why I was there on the nineteenth
[floor]. People have said, what the hell were you doing there, and why didn't you
leave? On Tuesday, now, I'm there with my partner and with Jackie Winchester
and Jack Young. We pour over this machine, and we finally figure out, I know
what they were doing, they just put it on top and, look, it doesn't line up. Dave
Leahy actually walked past, and I told him. I said, Dave, I figured why we got
those sevens. It was pretty much me who spotted it, frankly, with a lot of help
from the others. We doped it out. This is what it was. That's Tuesday.
Bear in mind, now they're recounting. Now comes Wednesday. Wednesday
morning, I show up and I go up to our staging area. I meet Dr. Bonnie Levin. [I
said,] Bonnie, we figured it out, and we've got to show you this because if we go
to trial on this issue of fives and sevens, we're going to need you to be prepared
to testify that they should be [considered]. There are, by the way, several
hundred more. If you were to count the votes in Palm Beach that were submitted
after the deadline that weren't counted, which brought the margin from 500
something to 200 or 100 something, and count all fives and all sevens in Dade
County as legal votes, there were more Gore votes. Those two categories alone,
that's the margin of sevens over fives in Dade County; Gore won. [I said,]
Bonnie, come up with me upstairs this is the morning, now, of Wednesday the
22nd [of November] I've got to show you on the machine how these fives and
sevens work. So, Bonnie and another friend you may also want to interview
named Bill Mauk. Bill had been my campaign chair at the DNC, and I mentioned
the memo I sent the Clinton people in 1991. Bill was the one who got it delivered
to Hillary Clinton, about their straw poll. Bill was downstairs, now. He's a former
state committeeman of the party. We're in the Democratic staging area on the
second floor. It's the morning of the 22nd [of November], Wednesday. The
canvassing board has just decided a little while ago, earlier that morning while
we're downstairs, they're going to move back up to the nineteenth floor because
things are moving slowly and they've got to expedite this procedure of using the
machines to do the sorting and keep an eye on that while they're continuing to...
The problem is, they were trying to count each ballot, and it is taking too long. I
said to Dr. Bonnie Levin, you've got to come with me to the nineteenth floor to
see how this machine works. Bill said, I'll go up with you guys. So, the three of us
decide to go upstairs. This is Wednesday, and that's the day before
Thanksgiving. Dr. Levin and Bill Mauk and I walk upstairs. Dr. Levin was leaving
town that afternoon for Naples or something, for the weekend. We were thinking
we might need to be prepared to go to trial or present this issue as soon as
Monday. The offices were closed Friday, so there was no alternative. We had to
get this done now, Wednesday morning. This is midmorning, ten or ten-thirty I
think it was. We had to get it done then because she was leaving. We go
downstairs, take the elevator up to the nineteenth floor, we get off, and we're
right in the middle of this huge Republican mob.
P: How many people were there?
G: I thought there were fifty people there, maybe less, but they were very loud, very
noisy, and very well-organized. It's a very small, contained area and they're very
loud. We get off in the middle of it, but I'm determined we've got to finish
[because] Dr. Levin's got to go. I realized as we got there that I would need
another sample ballot. I mean, I didn't have one with me handy, but this has
never been a problem. I have known the elections people for years. We walk up
to the window surrounded by this loud chanting Republican crowd. I said to one
of the assistants, I need a sample ballot. Understand I'm in full view of
everybody, and there's this big, glass window. I wasn't that behind, I didn't
surreptitiously pick a sample ballot up off a desk, even though it was a sample, in
a suspicious-looking fashion. I walked up to the window, asked fairly loudly for
what I wanted, and they said, hold on, it will take me a minute. Well, that minute
dragged and dragged. It must have been ten; it seemed like double that, during
which time this Republican crowd is growing louder and angrier, and there are
the three of us standing there trying to look inconspicuous. Now, I think there
may have been one or two other Democrat observers around. Louis has told me
that he was with us at the time. Frankly, I remember who I came with, not who
else was there.
P: But the majority were Republicans?
G: [There were] loud Republicans chanting. Somebody said, why didn't you just turn
around and leave? Well, they were protesting, they were chanting, but, you
know, this is America, and I support that. I'm not intimidated. I've been in
protests, and I've seen them. But the elections people were looking very
uncomfortable back behind the windows. They have these people right,
practically, in their faces yelling and screaming and chanting. By the way, I only
saw one, maybe two police officers anywhere, also back behind the locked
P: Nobody out in the lobby?
G: Nobody in the lobby. We were on our own. How these people could even be
conducting a protest right there [when] in other counties they're kept out of the
building, back behind barricades... Here, they're right in the middle. I mean, not
even in the [building's main] lobby, they're in the election's lobby. The character
[of the crowd] changed as we stood there and [it] got uglier. It began not to just
be chanting; they started pounding on the doors and windows, banging with
clipboards to the point that, even though there's very thick glass you really
became concerned that the glass was going to break.
P: What were they chanting?
G: Let us in, let us in! I heard someone going, we'll fix those ballots! Literally, had
one of the doors been opened, there was this huge mob of people, it looked like
they would pour in and trash the place: steal ballots, knock over ballots, rip
ballots, take them, destroy what was there. The elections department people,
instead of looking uncomfortable, were now looking frightened; they were scared.
I could see their faces.
P: It accelerated when you took the [sample ballot]?
G: No, it accelerated prior to that.
P: What happened when you took the ballot? And you put it in your coat?
G: No, that's not true.
G: There was a Republican woman standing very close to me in a rust colored suit
with maybe similar colored hair holding a clipboard, an organizer, someone
clearly in charge, and she was looking at me. I mentioned we had credentials. I
had taken my credentials off before we even arrived and put them in my pocket.
So, I wasn't wearing any credentials. I came to find out later, though, that my
face was very well-recognized and was one of several Democratic lawyers
whose pictures were up on the walls of the Republican hotel suites with bull's-
eyes on them. So, they knew who I was but not because I was wearing
credentials. I'm standing there waiting for my sample ballot with my two friends,
ready to walk five feet to the Votomatic and show my expert how the machine
worked and how these fives and sevens had occurred, and the crowd has now
They're banging on the doors and windows to the point that we're huddling
together hoping to drop through the floor but not willing to be intimidated and
leave because otherwise we'll lose our expert. Finally, after stopping two or three
times to talk to me and say, I'm still looking, I'm still looking, the woman from
elections comes back and says, okay, I've found one, and slides it under the
window to me in plain view of everyone. It was very clear that there was nothing
improper about it. I mean, I didn't stand there for ten minutes and have
somebody hand me something which I then picked and held up and was about to
start walking over to the machine; there was nothing in the slightest surreptitious
about it. I didn't take it myself. I didn't pick it up off the desk. I was out in the
lobby with everybody else where there were no ballots, surrounded by screaming
Republicans, and was handed something through a pass-through under a
window by an elections worker.
It was an official Democratic Party training ballot. The training ballots are the
same color [as the real ballots]; they are not yellow like the demonstrators. The
Republican woman in the rust suit looked at me as I picked it up, and I saw
wheels turn [in her mind, an idea formulating]. Then, in a very loud voice, she
proceeded to say, he's got a ballot! He stole a ballot, he stole a ballot! As others
started to pick up the chant, all of a sudden they've all turned their attention to us,
and we're in the center of this shouting, shoving mob, getting jostled around. My
concern, frankly, at this point, I did fear violence. This was an angry crowd. I was
particularly concerned for Dr. Levin's safety, as she's a pretty slight woman. So, I
separated myself from Dr. Levin and Bill Mauk, leaving Bill, kind of, to look after
Bonnie. I should say one thing. As I got off and looked at the crowd, even before
it got to this point, any suggestion that these were local Cuban-American activists
is ridiculous. I know many of them have since been identified, but as I said to a
reporter at the time, I didn't hear anyone speaking Spanish, I didn't see anyone in
guayaberas [Cuban-style shirt].
P: Were you roughed up at all, physically mishandled?
G: Yes. I looked at these people, and there was nobody speaking Spanish, nobody
in guayaberas. The hair cuts, the tweedy clothes that people were wearing, the
accents, the faces, these were not local people. I separated myself from Dr.
Levin. I'm getting pushed and shoved and jostled, and I made it to the elevator
with people screaming, thief, thief! He stole a ballot! A couple of the Republicans
got in, along, apparently, with a Democrat or two. One of the most obnoxious of
the Republicans was in there, and he kept talking to me as the elevator was
riding down. He said, oh, you're in for it now, you're going to get it, we've got you.
Apparently, they knew who I was because this guy said, you're a lawyer, you're
going to be disbarred, you've stolen] a ballot, you're going to be disbarred.
Now, I was wearing a suit, but there wasn't a sign that said "lawyer" on me, and I
had taken off my credentials before ever coming up. So, I can tell you as a fact,
they knew who I was. As we got downstairs, my original thought had been to
head to the lobby, over to the escalator and back up to our Democratic staging
area, but this fellow and one of his friends, I think, shadowing him, there was two
or three of them around me, and this one in particular is screaming, police,
police! Thief, thief! He stole a ballot! Help, help! There were a lot of people
downstairs in this lobby. This guy is shadowing me and walking into me. He's
bumping me and knocking into me and trying to trip me.
P: You're now in the lobby?
G: I'm in the downstairs lobby, and I was originally heading towards the staging
[area]. He's trying to trip me. He keeps, if you know the basketball expression to
"set a pick," he keeps jumping in front of me and stopping so I'm going to walk
into him, and I keep walking around him. At this point, I decide, to hell with this;
I'm leaving; I'm heading for the parking lot and my car and getting the hell out of
there. Now, you mentioned what I had done with the ballot. Upstairs, I had just
held it up; I'm looking at it. I didn't put it in my pocket immediately. I had no
intention and no reason to do that. Keep in mind, I'm about to walk four feet, five
feet across the lobby and use this in the Votomatic. There's no reason for me to
put it away until this woman starts screaming, he's got a ballot, he stole a ballot.
As the mob surges towards me and I realize I'm being accused, I took the thing
and put it in my inside jacket pocket for safe-keeping because it occurred to me
that if somebody had taken it out of my hands and ripped it up...
P: There would be no proof that it was a training ballot.
G: ...much less if they had a real ballot they could substitute it. Now, I'd still have the
woman who handed it to me to say, no, I only handed [it to] Mr. Geller. But I
wouldn't have physical proof anymore, so I put it in my inner pocket for
safekeeping after the screaming started.
P: Now, when you get to the lobby, were you detained at all by the sheriffs office?
G: No, but this man is pushing and shoving me and making constant threats. He's
saying to me, you're going to get it; you're going to be disbarred! Thief! [He's]
calling for help for people around the lobby, saying things like and I remember
this one in particular he goes, you're not going anywhere; me and the colonel
won't let you. [He was] implying a military background, implying he's got help. It's
one of those things where I wanted to, [and] I almost said, which colonel? But I
thought it could be a deal where he could tell me but then he'd have to kill me.
[He was] implying that he's military, implying there is assistance nearby, implying
that I'm physically unsafe. Finally, stepping around him as he's pushing and
shoving and jostling and everything to try and detain me physically, making
contact with me and jumping in front of me, I finally make it all the way to the
doors, at which point he stops in front of me and plants himself at the door.
I'm planning to go through this door, and this man leaps into my body, full
contact into my body, chest into my chest, bangs into me, knocks me back and
says, if you touch me again, I'll be forced to defend myself. At which point I
concluded that I was not going to get through that door without hand-to-hand
combat with this man who has professed some military background, and I chose
not to engage in that course of conduct. This entire time, there's been no sign of
any police, and we've made it a very long way from the elevator bank to the far-
east exit of the building. I mean, I'm talking about, if it's not the length of a
football field [then] it's half of it. No security, no police, no anybody, but a lot
Republicans gathering, trailing behind us. I've got this man in front of me and a
dozen fanning out, coming towards me from behind. I turned around and said,
I'm not going to be able to get out here to the car, [so] I'm going to try and go
back up to the staging area. I proceed back, and now there are a dozen or
dozens of Republicans and now there is a huge mob. At this point, I thought I
was going to get stomped, kicked, and God knows what. But not withstanding, I
just kept striding purposefully, and I get all the way to the base of the escalator
where I've only got to go upstairs and I'm at the staging area, and finally a
security guard shows up at this inopportune moment.
They're saying, he's a thief! He stole a ballot! There's a huge mob gathered
around, and this security guard just says, well, you just wait here. I said, here?!
Can we go up? [He answered] no, you just wait here! I'm standing there alone.
There's one security guard, and there's a mob that's like fifty Republicans around
screaming and shouting at me, and no police. Finally, a City of Miami police
officer comes up and says, what's going on? Oh, this guy stole a ballot! He
comes over to me, and I'm holding my jacket. I have my jacket on. He says, sir,
I'd like to see your jacket. I wasn't sure if this was a security measure. I took my
jacket off and handed it to him, and he starts going through my pockets. Well, I
certainly didn't consent to that, and I'm not about to have my sample ballot that is
my proof that I didn't do anything wrong [taken away]. I said, sir, I didn't give
permission to that; can we just wait until your superiors get here? Because this
guy, I didn't know where he was going. His sergeant shows up a moment or two
later, and now there's fifty, seventy-five, all I know is everywhere I look [there are]
Republicans and cameras right on me, and I'm sitting there being accused with
my face going out [on camera], and, you know, a lot of people think if you're
accused of something, you're guilty. The sergeant comes over, and I said, sir, I'll
I was also a little concerned about pulling the ballot out because on TV, if you
can't read it, it's going to look like it's a ballot. I said, sir, if you don't mind terribly,
instead of standing right here with these cameras on, can we just step around the
corner, please, and I'll show you I haven't done anything wrong. The sergeant,
being a wise fellow, agreed to that. We stepped around the corner, I took this out
along with my credentials and said, I'm the chair of the Democratic Party; as you
can see here, I have a training ballot, a sample ballot for use by the Democratic
Party, an official Democratic Party training ballot; here, I haven't done anything,
but this mob of people is threatening my safety. He said, I understand, sir;
please, just be patient; we'll get some help over here. Finally, a metro sergeant -
these are both City of Miami and four or five of his officers show up. They had
some questions. They said, sir, who are you, where did you get this? [I said] they
handed it to me upstairs. The sergeant says, I understand, sir; it's obvious what's
going on; we'll need to verify that, but clearly we need to get you out of here; let's
go back, and we will all go upstairs back to the elections department. We begin
to move across the hall, and this mob is yelling and chanting, and there's the two
guys from the City of Miami, one county sergeant, and about four or five officers.
This is seven people, and there are, like, seventy-five screaming and more
running in by the minute with CNN [Cable News Network].
P: But ultimately, you are escorted to safety.
G: The police and I start moving across from the escalator base to the elevators. I'm
walking very quickly at this point, but I'm not going to run. My mother, who saw
the video on TV, my poor mom said, son, why did that policeman have his hand
in the small of your back pushing you? [I replied that] it was because I didn't think
it was appropriate to run, although I was walking pretty quick, and this officer
thought that I should be moving more quickly. There were people literally
breaking through the police lines, if you can call six cops a line, trying to get at
me, running at us, that they [the police] had to grab and wrestle away. People
say, well, if it was a mob, why didn't they make arrests? There were six cops
there, seven, and seventy-five people. They were outnumbered.
We got to the elevator, finally, in safety. We went upstairs, and the elections
people came over and said, yeah, it's Mr. Geller; I'm the one who handed him the
sample ballot; what's the issue? Once that was cleared up, they said, we need to
move you to safety. They suggested that leaving is a good idea, but don't take
the regular elevator; the mob may still be downstairs. We're going to take you to
the back elevator, the service elevator, and escort you to your car. As they escort
me to the service elevator, I went past, in the hall, through this counting room
that we've talked about where the canvassing board had moved to. I look in the
window, surrounded by police, and there's the canvassing board, and there are
no observers in there with them. They're not counting, but there are no
Democrats. They're in there, and they're looking worried. I saw all of their faces,
and they were frightened, or at least concerned. They were shocked to see me.
Then a moment later, the spokesman comes out and says, oh, Mr. Geller, we're
glad you're here. They were looking for a Democrat because they wanted to
meet and discuss something. I said, I'm unable to help you, as you can see,
because of my police escort here; find Jack Young. But I saw them meeting,
talking with each other with no one around, and then moments later as I got
escorted to my car and drive home, I put on the TV. I live not far, and when I put
on that TV, I saw they voted to cancel the recount, ostensibly because there
wasn't enough time to complete it. I'll tell you, I saw that board before, and there
was other stuff going on in their minds than just whether there was time to
complete the recount; it was because of the circumstances and what was going
on and what had happened to me and what had happened in that hallway. I saw
the concern on their faces, and I wasn't, for that reason, as shocked as I might
have been when I saw that vote out.
P: You think they quit because they were intimidated?
G: I think they quit, at a minimum, because the elections department workers were
intimidated, if not the canvassing board members themselves. They thought
there would be continuing problems if they tried to do it up on the nineteenth
floor. I don't disagree that they wouldn't have had time if they moved back to
[floor] eighteen. But the actions of that mob, the way I was treated, the way they
were banging on the walls, and the lack of police protection and presence
definitely were factors in their deciding to cancel.
P: Okay, that's great. On that note, we'll end.
[End of the interview.]