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Palm Beach Jews cry foul
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The Jewish Standard
November 8, 2000

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—Elderly Jewish retirees in South Florida were stalwart in their support of the Al Gore-Joseph Lieberman ticket, but a number were flummoxed by the long and difficult cardboard ballots here, and may have voted for Pat Buchanan in error. They want another chance to vote-and the Democratic Party is reportedly trying to get it for them.

"An inordinate number of votes for Buchanan in this county doesn't make sense," said one Palm Beach County Jewish retiree, noting that Buchanan had garnered a whopping 3,407 votes in her heavily Democratic county in comparison to hundreds in other counties.

The local branch of the National Council of Senior Citizens, which has many Jewish members, passed a resolution Wednesday asking the state's attorney general to hold a county-wide re-election. Also on Wednesday, the county Democratic Party was taking the names of people who think they might have inadvertently voted for Buchanan.

The lawyers on the Democratic National Committee in Washington are considering taking legal action about an alleged ballot mix-up and, in fact, a delegation was reportedly on its way to Florida Wednesday afternoon.

In the older retirement communities, where a great many residents are in their 80s, the support for Gore-Lieberman was virtually 100 percent among the Jews transplanted from the Northeast.

The Jewish elderly here expressed so much enthusiasm for the Gore-Lieberman ticket that even in nursing homes residents begged to be registered. At the Morse Geriatric Center in West Palm Beach there is such a large turnout that the center has its own polling site.

Residents who are former New Yorkers had one regret: that they could not vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. They asked for a special forum devoted exclusively to Hillary Clinton and became angry when anything negative was said about the first lady.

Selma Altschul, formerly of Bergenfield, was a Democratic poll-watcher in Century Village and among the first to hear complaints about the confusing ballots. "The ballot is terrible," she said. "I had to help my husband, Henry, with it." (Henry Altschul is 88.)

Most Jewish voters were clearly thrilled that Lieberman was named to the Democratic ticket. "It was wonderful that a Jew was running for vice president," said Lillian Sherman, a former Dumont resident in her 70s. "It's a great feeling that we are getting up there on top of the ladder."

Others had fears about anti-Semitism in other regions. "Anti-Semitism may have been a problem in the Midwest," said Helen Stein, formerly of Princeton.

Stein also witnessed first hand the ballot confusion. "I voted about 4 p.m.," she said. "By that time the poll-watchers had become aware of the problem. A Democratic poll-watcher came in with me and said, 'Be careful, a lot of people have voted for Buchanan by accident.'"

Voting in Palm Beach County is not done by machine and does not take place in a booth but at a small table in an open room. Voters are handed a long strip of light-weight cardboard with numbers on it-no names or text. The cardboard strip is slipped into a device that brings the numbers in line with the names on a ballot "book" on the table. On a chain is a long needle that the voter uses to punch holes in the cardboard.

"When ballots are placed in the slide for voting," said Florida Democratic Party communications director Bill Buck in a statement released Wednesday, "Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are the second names on the ballot, but the third hole to punch."

© The Jewish Standard, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission


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