Exhausted, disgusted, his voice still hoarse from arguing with
Democrat floor managers, Virginia Republican Roger Morse has just
returned from the south Florida trenches, where he says he witnessed an
“attempted coup behind closed doors” to steal the presidential election.
Morse was one of dozens of Republican observers who took time off
work for congressional Republicans to travel down to Florida to take
part in what he felt was a historic event. Like many of the volunteers
who flocked to Florida, he thought he was going to witness democracy at
work. Instead, what he saw at the Stephen P. Clark Center in Miami-Dade
County made him sick.
“After three days of changing the rules every time we walked in the
room, the Democrats finally decided to conduct a partial recount behind
closed doors, and took the disputed ballots from the main counting room
to a small, private room up on the 19th floor without the press,” Morse
said. “They barred the doors to Republican observers, and refused to let
us enter. That’s when we realized we had to do something to prevent them
from stealing the election.”
Under Florida’s “sunshine” laws, dozens of television news teams had
been allowed to film the manual recount at county election offices in
Miami-Dade, West Palm Beach and other disputed counties from behind a
rope line. Scenes of election judges holding up ballots as they tried to
“discern the intent” of the voters by the state of ballot chad have
become familiar to television viewers around the country.
But last Wednesday — the day before Thanksgiving — Democrat
officials realized they were not going to get through the full manual
recount in time for the Florida Supreme Court’s deadline of 5 p.m. on
Sunday, and decided to accelerate the process.
“We were told that we were challenging too many ballots and slowing
things down,” said Bryan Wilkes, another Republican recount observer who
was accredited by Miami-Dade County.
And that’s when head Judge Lawrence King, a Democrat, ordered county
workers to pack up the ballots and take them to a smaller room upstairs
far from the cameras — and from the Republican volunteers.
Morse and Wilkes were concerned because the procedures in the public
room downstairs were already bad enough.
“We saw Democrat election officials bending ballots until the chads
popped out,” Wilkes said. “We saw them knock whole stacks of Bush
ballots onto the floor. We saw them counting ballots like a deck of
cards. We saw ballots with chad taped back into the Bush hole, making
them votes for Gore. You tell me: How many people go into the voting
booth with a roll of scotch tape in case they make a mistake? This was
very carefully done. Clearly, it was a professional job.”
When the Democrats disappeared into the elevators with the ballots,
Roger Morse and a few other Republican volunteers rushed after them to
the 19th floor.
“We knew they were going to steal the election behind closed doors,
and they wanted as few witnesses as possible,” Morse said. “We wanted
the press in there. We wanted them to videotape each ballot before they
made a decision. We wanted the public to see there wasn’t anything
resembling a vote on any of those ballots, so they could see for
themselves what the Democrats were doing.”
Morse and other Republican volunteers milled around in front of the
glass door of the recount room up on the 19th floor, when they realized
they had to do something. “It started out pretty weak. We shouted things
like ‘Stop Stealing the Vote!’ ‘The Fix is in.'”
Then, Morse admits, it got nasty. “We started chanting: ‘Let the
press in!’ I guess that’s pretty vicious, pretty unruly — pretty
That is indeed how the mainstream press has portrayed the Republican
demonstration. Taking their cue from vice presidential candidate Joe
Lieberman, who accused the demonstrators of using “intimidation and
violence” and called them a “disservice to our democracy,”
magazine called the demonstration a “GOP melee.” U.S. News & World Report publisher
Mortimer Zuckerman accused the Republicans of starting a “mini-riot.”
Beyond the glass door of the counting room, Morse and the other Republican volunteers could see the Democrats stuffing ballots into “magic envelopes.”
It was the same procedure that had been under way for several days in the glare of the cameras downstairs. Only this time, it was being done with none of the volunteer GOP recount observers in the room, and no cameras in a position to view the ballots.
Each “magic envelope” contained the disputed ballots of one Miami-Dade county precinct. After the 3-member county canvassing board reviewed the disputed ballots, they sealed them in the envelopes and wrote the count by hand on the front.
No Republican sits on the canvassing board. Wilkes, Morse and Republican lawyers familiar with the Miami-Dade recount said the board systematically ruled against Bush in judging the votes.
“We were seeing an average two to five vote pick-up per precinct for Gore,” said Bryan Wilkes. “We never got to see those ballots. Someone would just drop a sealed envelope on the table and we’d be allowed to observe the final count — so many for Bush, so many for Gore, so many blank.”
Upstairs on the 19th floor, the Democrat election judges were racing through the disputed ballots, stuffing them into “magic envelopes,” sealing them, and writing the new count on the back. Outside, the numbers of Republican protesters grew, and television crews began to arrive.
At one point, an individual identifying himself as a Democrat lawyer emerged from the room. Film crews caught him stuffing a ballot into his suit pocket and the Republicans out in the hallway cried foul.
“He was immediately surrounded by Sheriff’s deputies and was eventually taken away,” Morse said.
The “lawyer” was subsequently identified as Miami-Dade County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Geller. He claimed he had required a police escort to escape the “mob,” an allegation picked up by Time, U.S. News and Joe Lieberman. In fact, Morse says that Geller was escorted down to the 18th floor for questioning by county sheriff’s deputies.
Several hours later, county election officials emerged to report that Geller had been handling a “training” ballot, and that these were common and available to all accredited election watchers.
“That’s simply not true,” said Morse. “We’d been trying to get access to these training ballots for days, but all our requests to see them were denied.”
County election officials said training ballots could be distinguished from valid ballots because they did not bear the date of the election, but otherwise they were identical.
Not only had film crews videotaped the entire altercation with Geller, but as of early this week no police reports had been filed.
“The sheriff’s deputies were thoroughly unconcerned by us,” Morse said. “They had one deputy posted at each door, and never called for back-up. And the only person taken into custody was Joe Geller.”
By one o’clock that afternoon, county canvassing commissioners called a halt to the recount. Gore campaign officials blamed it on the protesters. But in its news coverage, U.S. News & World Report quoted canvassing board member David Leahy as saying: “These were people in ties and jackets. This was not a mob.” Leahy explained that the board had decided to call off the recount because members felt they still would not be able to meet the Sunday deadline.
Despite the lack of police complaints, Democrats in Congress led by Florida Rep. Peter Deutsch wrote Assistant Attorney General Billy Lann Lee on Nov. 24, demanding an official investigation of the demonstrators for “voter intimidation.”
“According to many published reports, unruly and violent protesters managed to create a climate of fear and intimidation, with the intent of preventing the canvassing board from completing its difficult task,” Deutsch wrote. “The actions cited in these news reports is chilling.”
Despite videotaped evidence that proves no such acts of violence occurred, a Justice Department investigation for voter intimidation remains a serious threat for volunteers such as Wilkes, Morse and others who have been identified as working for Republican members of Congress, believes Barbara Olson, a lawyer who recently authored a biography of Hillary Clinton,
“Hell to Pay.”
“This is another attempt at intimidation,” Olson said. “Given the record of the Clinton-Gore administration, no one should take it lightly. It’s the same tactics they used against Linda Tripp. The threat of prosecution is intimidating to young people who can’t battle the power of the United States government and who can’t afford to hire expensive lawyers. And that’s just what this administration is counting on.”
Kenneth Timmerman, a veteran foreign correspondent whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, is currently developing a special series of investigative reports for the Western Journalism Center on vote fraud.
The Western Journalism Center is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that sponsors independent investigative reporting projects into government fraud, waste, corruption and abuse. The charity was founded by Joseph Farah, now editor and chief executive officer of WorldNetDaily.com, but is an entirely autonomous company.
If you would like to support Kenneth Timmerman’s upcoming series on vote fraud and other similar investigative projects with tax-deductible contributions, you can do so by calling 1-800-952-5595, by writing to the center at P.O. Box 2450, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, or by making your donation