Friday, September 3, 2004

Designer of Florida's butterfly ballot loses job

By John-Thor Dahlburg, Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2004


As a final irony, there has been a last-minute discrepancy in tallying absentee ballots. But Theresa LePore, the elections supervisor in Palm Beach County who gained national notoriety as designer of the "butterfly ballot" that contributed to Florida's 2000 election chaos, appeared Wednesday to have lost her job.

"The voter anger was obvious, and LePore became the target this year," when she sought a third term, said Shari MacLachlan, professor of political science at Palm Beach Community College.

The Democratic Party, the dominant force in her county's politics, criticized LePore, 49, for refusing to add safeguards to new touch-screen voting machines that would generate a paper trail for use in the event of a recount.

According to complete but still uncertified results from Tuesday's primary, LePore lost to Arthur Anderson by 5,533 votes out of more than 177, 000 cast. Anderson, 63, is an education professor at Florida Atlantic University and former member of the county school board.

Though the race was nonpartisan, Anderson was championed by Democratic U. S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Boca Raton, and boosted by campaign appearances by former Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.


On Wednesday, co-workers in the supervisor's office said LePore did not come to work. LePore began working in the county elections office in West Palm Beach as a file clerk 33 years ago.

"She's worked in that office since she was 16 years old. So this is a significant shock and a loss that's going to take some time to heal," spokesman Marty Rogol said.

LePore remains in office until January and therefore will oversee another presidential election.


"Unfortunately, Ms. LePore did not help matters for herself because she never took responsibility," said Carol Ann Loehndorf, chair of the Democratic Party of Palm Beach County. "There was a continuous effort to blame the voters. "

If LePore had advocated additional technology to create a paper record for the new touch-screen machines -- which the supervisor purchased to prevent a repeat of the 2000 debacle -- Loehndorf said Democrats would probably not have challenged her this year.

Asked to explain his boss' defeat, Rogol blamed "residual anger from 2000 and the relentless effort by Congressman Wexler to defeat her."

Wexler, who has sued in state and federal court to demand that the touch- screen machines be modified -- so far to no avail -- paid for a barrage of TV ads against LePore and brought in Dean and Lieberman to stump for her rival.


On Wednesday, a problem with tallying absentee ballots delayed certification of Palm Beach County returns until today at the earliest. Rogol said 31,095 ballots were received, but that the counting machine for some unknown reason showed it tallied 37,839. A recount was ordered. Rogol said he did not believe the county's latest election-related glitch would affect the final results.

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