Observers Say Ballots
Manipulated By Examiner
By Steve Miller
The Washington Times
November 16, 2000
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. Five observers to Saturday's hand count in Palm
Beach County have filed affidavits in federal court charging that a Democratic
county commissioner manipulated ballots so Al Gore would receive more votes
than George W. Bush.
Carol Roberts, a de facto appointee to the three-member elections canvassing
board, is accused in the filings of asking a Democratic observer to the count
whether ballots should count and that she "twisted the ballots and poked
her finger directly in sections of, and aggressively handled, the ballots."
On one occasion, observer John Grotta said in a sworn statement, Miss Roberts
looked at a ballot and said " 'Unfortunately, the corners aren't detached,'
as she was referring to a ballot that would have been a vote for Vice President
The most pointed charges in the affidavits were cited in a request by the
Palm Beach Republican Party that Miss Roberts, a longtime Democrat, step
down from the board because of her partisan behavior in last week's sample
count of 4,600 ballots.
When the count found that Mr. Gore netted 19 more votes, Miss Roberts was
adamant about a full recount, asserting that Mr. Gore could claim as many
as 1,900 more votes based on the sampling.
Miss Roberts refused to remove herself from the panel, saying in a public
statement read by canvassing board chairman Charles Burton to a press
gallery that is now an encampment outside the Emergency Operation Center
here that the count was done "in full view of public observers from
both parties and cameras from all over the world.
"All board members examined and voted on all questioned ballots and nearly
all votes were unanimous. . . I will continue to be fair and impartial and
will not recuse myself."
Yesterday, Miss Roberts publicly challenged the election powers of Secretary
of State Katherine Harris, a Republican, in the recount dispute, saying Attorney
General Robert Butterworth, a Democrat, had the proper authority. Mrs. Harris
has been the target of Democrats, who claim she is partisan and must recuse
The partisan rancor has completely divided the sides in the manual recount
debate. Palm County's hand count was delayed yesterday pending the state
Supreme Court's opinion on the legal standing of the process.
The charge against Miss Roberts "is not a witch hunt," said Mark Hoch,
administrator for the county's Republican Party.
"We have complaints coming out of the woodwork, and most of the things we
look at are unsubstantiated," Mr. Hoch said. "Carol Roberts, though, can
be seen as truly partisan."
Miss Roberts arrived at the emergency center around 6:15 a.m. yesterday with
a sheriff's deputy bodyguard and a personal assistant. As a vocal advocate
of the manual count in both Palm Beach County and three other surrounding
and Democrat-dominated counties, Miss Roberts has thrived on
the controversy surrounding the recount.
At one point this week, Miss Roberts said she would go to jail to have the
manual recount accomplished. In Palm Beach County, recounts by hand and machine
have added 787 votes for Mr. Gore to an extra 119 for Mr. Bush a net
Gore pick up of 668.
The affidavits filed yesterday also include charges that elections workers
were reluctant to reassess votes despite the protests of observers.
In one case, a worker refused to recount a stack of ballots that contained
Bush votes, according to observer Mark Klimer.
Mr. Klimer's statement included the accusation that Miss Roberts picked up
ballots from a stack that was to be evaluated later by the entire board and
interspersed them with a stack of Gore votes.
He also said the ballot evaluation was inconsistent. Some ballots judged
as Gore votes did not meet the agreed standards for a valid vote, the West
Palm Beach banker said.
Mr. Klimer said yesterday he was in the counting room for 4 and 1/2 hours
on Saturday. A Republican, Mr. Klimer said his interest was not partisan:
"I was there to make sure it was fair."
"Beyond a shadow of a doubt, what I saw is the absolute truth," Mr. Klimer
Miss Roberts is one of three Democrats on the seven-member County Commission.
She was elected in 1986 after serving 11 years on the West Palm Beach City
When she became president of the Florida Association of Counties in 1996,
Miss Roberts took some heat for marking the occasion with three days of
festivities paid for with $55,000 from her business friends.