Monday, November 20, 2000

Memphians Involved in Florida Votecount

Both Dems and Republicans catch some sunshine as

Posted By on Mon, Nov 20, 2000 at 4:00 AM

A little known aspect of the post-election votecount battle in Florida has been the presence of Tennesseans on the front lines there.

Some of those people we see on those cable-TV long shots checking the votes or observing the process may, in fact, be home-staters, even home-towners. Both parties have seen cadres into the Sunshine State.

Among the interlopers was Memphis Democratic activist Calvin Anderson. A day or two after election day, Anderson received a call from Johnny Hays, the Gore-Lieberman finance chairman and a longtime Tennessee acquaintance of Anderson's who wanted the Memphian to round up some other Tennesseans to go to Florida to participate in the continuing post-election campaign down there.

Anderson arranged for several others to make the trip, including Bartlett bankers Harold and Bob Byrd. He, the Byrds, and the others settled in DNC-provided hotel accommodations in West Palm Beach, in the now-famous "butterfly ballot" county.

They were schooled in the niceties and not-so-niceties of how to challenge the vote count, as well as in how to take affidavits from complainants. (These were in two categories Ñ African-Americans who said they were denied the right to vote by technicalities, and Jewish voters who said they were misled by the butterly ballot.)

"Mainly, it turned into Hurry-Up-and-Wait," said Harold Byrd of the fact that he, Anderson, and the others had arrived at approximately the time that vote-counting was suspended in Palm Beach County while legal questions were being adjudicated. Once Bob Byrd was on the telephone, commiserating with fellow Memphian Charles Burson."This is the big one, this is the ball game," said Burson of the efforts in Florida.

Tennessee Republicans had their players in the game, too. Bush-Cheney state director David Kustoff, another Memphian, has spent the time since the election serving as a media contact man for the campaign and as a dispatcher of field troops to Florida, where such volunteers as Tennessee Republican Party assistant director Mike Carpenter (observing the Broward County manual recount) have been actively challenging the count. Carpenter found one man bending a card suspiciously and stopped another card from being put in the wrong pile. In both cases, said Kustoff, Carpenter made a formal challenge.

The Tennesseans who have so far made the pilgrimage to Florida will undoubtedly be joined by others if the vote-count and the controversies intensify , as expected, next week.

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