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Four Florida Democrats Could Pick Next President

Monday, 13 November 2000 12:00 AM

In the hotly contested Palm Beach County recount of the presidential ballots, a Palm Beach County commissioner, the county elections supervisor, and two judges could have the power to pick the next president.

"These are not people who are interested in the rule of the law," Palm Beach County Republican Party member Sid Dinerstein told the Washington Times. "They are interested in winning."

The four potential king makers are Carol Roberts, a fiercely partisan member of the Palm Beach County Commission, Theresa LePore, the county’s election supervisor and the woman who designed the controversial "butterfly" ballot, Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Kroll and U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks, a Clinton appointee and son-in-law of a former Democratic congressman.

Roberts and LePore forced the disputed manual recount Republicans charge is an open invitation to partisan manipulation when they outvoted their sole Republican colleague on the board that oversees elections.

Judge Kroll, described as an "ultraliberal" by a GOP official, granted the Gore campaign’s request for an injunction that stops the Elections Canvassing Board from certifying Tuesday's presidential election vote until today's hearing in Miami before Judge Middlebrooks to decide on a Republican request to prevent manual recounts in Florida counties.

"It really sounds like they're running things, doesn't it?" Barni Shuhi, president of the Royal Palm Republican Women's Club told the Times.

"Theresa LePore is a Democrat, and her staff is mostly Democrats," Miss Shuhi said. "It [the ballot] was made up by the staff and approved by the staff and the Democratic Party. And now, when their candidate loses, they make these claims. It is truly a partisan situation that is controlled by Democrats."

Sunday morning, Roberts, a longtime Democrat activist and a member of the County Commission since 1986 joined LePore in voting for the countywide hand recount of the county's 462,657 votes. The hand recount of 1 percent of the precincts showed Mr. Gore picking up 19 votes.

"Based on the sample, there would be 1,900 votes that would not have been picked up" countywide, Miss Roberts said after County Judge Charles Burton, the sole Republican on the elections panel, moved to ask the Secretary of State's Office for an opinion before proceeding with the lengthy manual count.

Republican sources disputed Roberts' estimate of another 1,900 votes being added to the Gore total, noting that Bush could also pick up votes in the county’s GOP-dominated districts.

Judge Middlebrooks is due to decide today if the Republican lawsuit has merit or if Palm Beach County and three others will be allowed to conduct manual hand counts, which many believe could give the presidency to Gore. Whatever the outcome, the case is bound to be appealed by the losing side.

On another front, lawsuits have been filed by voters who say they were somehow intimidated at the polls or confused by the butterfly ballot, which either caused them to vote for the wrong candidate or to accidentally vote twice.

Among them was the suit filed by longtime Democratic activist Andre Fladell, who denied his suit was partisan. He claims he was denied his right to vote by the allegedly confusing ballot.

Fladell, a chiropractor described as a "Palm Beach County political power broker" by The Sun-Sentinel in a 1988 story which reported that "Fladell has been fined $1,000 and given a six months professional licensing probation for his role in a Medicare fraud case. ..."

Mr. Dinerstein, the Palm Beach County Republican, scoffs at the idea that longtime Democrat activists were confused by the ballot, and warns that the local Democratic Party is intent on misusing the system.

"When I see people I know, who have been activists for a long time, saying they didn't vote right, I know that things aren't quite right here," he told the Times. "But I hope that, ultimately, the law will come down on the right side."

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In the hotly contested Palm Beach County recount of the presidential ballots, a Palm Beach County commissioner, the county elections supervisor, and two judges could have the power to pick the next president. These are not people who are interested in the rule of the law,...
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Monday, 13 November 2000 12:00 AM
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