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Michael Mayo
Election 2004: Blunders and wonders do not cease
South Florida Sun-Sentinel   Published October 19, 2004

Amazing. Brenda Snipes and her crew at the elections office have a whole year to get this 2004 presidential election right, and they blow it out of the starting gate.

So now we have problems again. If there are two phrases you want nowhere near each other, it's "election problems" and "Broward County." By this point, after all we've been through, after the 2000 debacle and Miriam Oliphant's reign of error, we were supposed to have solutions.

Instead we still have problems.

Nobody wants to hear excuses. And now we have to wonder, with 15 more days of voting to go, how many more problems, explanations and excuses there will be.

Last week, with the first wave of absentee ballots, the problem was contradictory postage information.

On Monday, opening day of early voting at 14 Broward sites, it was a computer glitch.

Small consolation that the glitch wasn't with the distrusted electronic machines. This involved the computer system that was supposed to transmit voter information between the election department nerve center and early voting sites.

So on the first day of early voting, the first images were of people waiting and not voting.

That should fill everyone with confidence.

"We were all disgusted," said Claire Stuckler of Lauderdale Lakes.

Stuckler, 81, went to a library in Tamarac to vote, but gave up after an hour.

"You would think they would test everything beforehand to make sure it worked," Stuckler said.

At least we're consistent. Whether it's elections systems or elections supervisors or elections balloting, Broward's motto is, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Stuckler will try again this morning.

From the blunders of the voting booth to the wonders of the campaign trail, here's a CliffsNotes version of President Bush's weekend rally at the Office Depot Center in Sunrise.

On the bright side, reports of attendees needing to take "loyalty oaths" were greatly exaggerated. Those who got tickets at Bush campaign offices were asked for driver's licenses and voter registration cards, presumably to keep the unconverted away. But I managed to score a ticket from a volunteer at the gate who simply gave me the once over. Thankfully I dressed, ahem, conservatively.

Also on the bright side, rabble-rousers who managed to get inside weren't arrested or detained, just brusquely ejected. This was a welcome change from earlier in the campaign, when the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq was handcuffed for showing up at a Laura Bush rally in New Jersey wearing a T-shirt that said: "President Bush You Killed My Son."

When Jessica Kochick, 22, stood up Saturday with a banner that said, "George W. Bush #1 Terrorist," hardly anyone noticed. After all, this was a crowd where one Bush supporter waved a sign that said, "Kerry Eats Babies."

When Kochick and fellow Ralph Nader supporter Emily Brackett, 20, began chanting, "George Bush we know you, you're a liar, killer and racist, too!" the crowd noticed. The pair was showered with profanities and given the bum's rush by volunteers and police.

There were other outrageous, disturbing and unintentionally hilarious moments.

Before a speech in which Bush tried to score points with Jewish voters by trumpeting new anti-Semitism reporting measures, two Christian pastors spoke to the crowd. The Rev. O'Neal Dozier, who sits on a local committee that recommends state judicial candidates, gave a benediction in which he asked for a second Bush term "in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ."

State Sen. Jeff Atwater, a rising Republican star, somehow kept a straight face when he called Kerry "a panderer who never risked life and limb to protect his country."

My favorite moment: Just before Bush took the stage, the crowd was treated to a very loud blasting of the song Learn to Fly by The Foo Fighters, a rock group whose front man despises Bush. A lyrical excerpt, which I swear I'm not making up:

"Hook me up a new revolution

'Cause this one is a lie ... "

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