Palm Beach Counts
John R. Bolton
If there's a beach in Palm Beach County, Florida, you couldn't prove it by me. After over two weeks there, heading up Governor George W. Bush's legal team during the Great Recount of 2000, I thought the entire place consisted of the West Palm Beach airport, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) where the recount took place, and the various cheap airport motels where we stayed, wondering each day whether our laundry would ever come back. I'm told people get suntans in Florida, but I don't understand how.
The EOC is a windowless, boring structure built (with federal money, of course) to protect the county government in case of hurricanes or other natural disasters. You have to hand it to those county officials. They built the EOC right next to the airport so they could get out of town quickly in case the citizens ever figured things out. What they didn't calculate was that for the Great Recount of 2000, the hurricane was actually inside the building.
What a scene it was: Republicans convinced Democrats were trying to steal the election, Democrats trying to psychoanalyze ballot cards to determine voter intent, the mass media camped outside the EOC in a tent city like a siege army. The reporters were always asking us what was happening inside, but since we usually didn't know, there wasn't much communication.
Night and day inside the EOC, volunteer counters and observers went over 450,000+ ballots by hand. Most of the time it was quiet as a church, until a ballot fell to the floor or a chad came loose--then the Palm Beach SWAT teams had to be called in to keep order. The big issue was whether "dimpled" chads should count as real votes, which Vice President Gore wanted. I tried for two weeks to make "dimples," but I kept punching the chads completely through (which is what the voting rules actually required). I guess I just don't have what it takes to be a Democrat.
The three officials on the County Canvassing Board made the final decisions on which candidates got what votes. I spent most of my time as close to those folks as it was legally permissible to get. I'm sure they enjoyed it as much as I did. The Palm Beach County TV channel broadcast every minute of this exercise live, and C-SPAN and other networks carried much of it nationally. You would think if someone told his spouse he was going off to Florida for a month alone, it would be grounds for divorce. In my case, however, it was no problem, because my wife knew where I was every minute just by...
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