JOHN FUND ON THE TRAIL
A Blatant Conflict of Interest
Theresa LePore should recuse herself from the Palm Beach vote-count process.
Sunday, November 12, 2000 1:03 p.m. EST
If you would like to know exactly how your next president will be determined, read this Saturday night dispatch from the Associated Press:
During the manual count of votes in Palm Beach County, Fla., officials switched tests mid-count to decide the validity of the ballots.
In the morning, the canvassing board said that they would count a vote if any of the corners of the bits of paper punched out of the cards called "chad" were punched.
The board then decided that they would instead use the "sunlight test" if they could see sun come though an indentation, it would count.
About a quarter of the way through the counting, however, a board member determined that the light test was flawed and told the other members to go back to the first test.
The change in procedures will undoubtedly slow down the hand count as board members had to go back and recount all of the votes previously counted using the new rules.
After six hours of playing Carnac the Magnificent, holding up ballots and trying to divine the "intent" of the voters who cast them, the three-member Palm Beach County election canvassing commission completed its hand count of four sample precincts and took up the question of whether they had turned up enough "errors" using the new liberalized new standard to justify a complete recount of the county's ballots.
County Judge Charles Burton, the commission's chairman, urged caution. He put forth a motion to ask the Florida Secretary of State's office for advice before proceeding with a full hand count. But he was overruled. The vote for the complete recount, which came after 2 a.m. today, was 2-1.
The two other members of the canvassing board are Carol Roberts, a county commissioner, and Theresa LePore, the county elections supervisor. Ms. Roberts is a highly partisan Democrat who met with President Clinton in Palm Beach last year while she was contemplating a run for Congress. Ms. LePore, an elected Democrat, is the designer of the infamous "butterfly ballot" that both Democrats and impartial observers say caused confusion on Election Day.
Ms. LePore says she designed the ballot to make the print bigger for seniors, the group complaining the loudest about it. But she sent sample ballots to every voter and all candidates before the election and didn't receive any complaints. Nonetheless, she has come in for bitter criticism. The AP says she "might be the most reviled Democrat in the country" because her ballot "may have cost Al Gore the election." Ms. LePore has gone into near-seclusion and has hired a lawyer to defend herself against lawsuits.
It is for that reason that Ms. LePore should have recused herself from the decision to launch an unprecedented hand count of all presidential ballots in Palm Beach--and why she should recuse herself from all subsequent decisions about this election. She has a blatant conflict of interest. Ms. LePore has worked in the Palm Beach election office since she was 16. As an elected official, she obviously would like to continue in office. If she did not approve the controversial hand count in the heavily Democratic county, it's obvious she would have no political future.
Two months ago, the same Palm Beach County election commissioners rejected a request for a hand count in a disputed GOP primary election for a state legislative seat. Beverly Green begged for a hand count of her 13-vote loss but was rebuffed. "It wasn't that close. The manual count is historically when it's single digits," said Ms. LePore at the time. A state House district is smaller than Palm Beach County, but a single-digit margin in such a district would be the equivalent of only about 100 votes countywide. Clearly Ms. LePore & Co. are applying a double standard.
The decision to proceed with the hand count was made by a single vote--Ms. LePore's. Do the American people want a single low-level politician who fears for her job to decide who will be the president of the United States?
Also on OpinionJournal.com:
"Reount 'Em All, or None at All" by Edward Glaeser
"Pandora's Politics," a Journal editorial
"Let the High Court Count" by Bob Bartley