WASHINGTON — You’ve heard the estimates. Republicans claim the TV
networks’ premature Florida call for Al Gore convinced “thousands” of
would-be George W. Bush
voters in the state’s Panhandle to sit out the election.
The bad Gore projection “depressed the vote in the panhandle (and)
disenfranchised people,” said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott,
R-Miss., who favors a re-vote across the state.
A poll of 35,000 Panhandle voters by the Republican Leadership
Council turned up 2,380 Bushies who say they decided not to vote after
hearing Gore had won the state.
But when it comes to putting names and faces to the estimates, the
numbers dwindle in a hurry.
After a week-long dragnet, Republicans have been able to scare up
just a handful of Bush supporters willing to testify that they canceled
trips to the polls after the networks gave Florida to Gore 11 minutes
before polls closed in the Panhandle’s Central time zone.
And even some of those witnesses are impeachable.
One lives 20 minutes from his polling place in White City, Fla., and
probably wouldn’t have been able to make it there in time to vote.
Another isn’t even registered to vote in the county that includes his
Pensacola, Fla., neighborhood, WorldNetDaily has learned. The man’s name
and number were offered to the media yesterday by Rep. Cliff Stearns,
Republicans had hoped to enlist discouraged Bush voters in the
conservative Panhandle to offset the thousands of Gore voters in Palm
Beach County who have signed statements — at the urging of Gore
consultants and aides — swearing that they were “disenfranchised” by a
“confusing” ballot. The affidavits are being used by Gore supporters to
sue the county for a re-vote.
Most of the anecdotal evidence of low turnout among Bush supporters
comes from Republican poll workers and volunteers who say they either
saw voters leave lines or heard about them doing so after the media
called the battleground state early — and mistakenly — for Gore.
“We’ve heard from five or six people who are precinct workers or
volunteers who say there was a significant drop-off in the number of
people standing in line,” said Miguel Serrano, press secretary for Rep.
Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., in an interview with WorldNetDaily.
But the stories have translated into few testimonials from actual voters.
Last week, for example, two Pensacola-area radio talk shows asked listeners to call in with names of potential Bush voters who were put off by the early call. Some called in to say they’d heard of such people, but failed to produce any names.
An aide to state Rep. Jerry Maygarden, R-Pensacola, told WorldNetDaily last week that several voters called her office claiming to witness people walking away from poll lines after the network announcements.
WorldNetDaily followed up with several of the callers, but none could provide names.
“That’s surprising,” Serrano said. “There should be 20,000 there (in the Panhandle).”
Still, calls to Scarborough’s own office have been light. And only one allegedly put-off Bush voter — a Pensacola man — has agreed to go public with his story of being “disenfranchised” by the media.
Bob Glass says he was driving to the polls after work Nov. 7 when he heard a CNN radio report that Gore had taken the state. He says it was about 6:45 p.m. and he was about 15 miles away from his precinct.
“I went straight to the house thinking, you know, what’s the point? He’s won the state,” Glass told WorldNetDaily. “It’s a pitiful thing to say that now in hindsight, but hindsight’s 20-20.”
Glass says his brother, Brian, was with him and also decided not to vote for Bush. Both work at Glass’ auto-glass shop in Pensacola.
“It absolutely infuriates me that someone can make a call like that before the polls close,” he said. “They need to be accurate.”
“They say they’re not responsible (but) I don’t agree with that,” he said of the networks.
“I feel disenfranchised,” he added.
Glass says he knows as many as 30 other people in Pensacola “who were disenfranchised by the same information.”
He says he would “be more than happy” to join a lawsuit against the networks. He also says he’d sue for another chance to vote for Bush.
Indianapolis-based Committee for Honest Politics is suing the networks on behalf of potential Bush voter Michael Watson of White City, a small town in Gulf County about 80 miles southwest of Tallahassee. The group, which is run by Dan Perrin, who also heads the Republican Leadership Coalition and the Fairness Foundation, is also suing on behalf of discouraged Bush voters in Okaloosa and Bay counties, both in the Panhandle.
The suit seeks an injunction against the TV networks and Voter News Service, which conducted exit polls for the networks, to stop them from making similar projections in future elections before all polls close in a state.
It also names election officials as defendants and asks for a new election in Central time zone counties if hand recounts in other counties put Gore ahead in Florida.
Glass said he “deeply” regrets not going ahead with voting, given Bush’s razor-thin lead in the pivotal Florida election.
Only, Glass more than likely wouldn’t have been able to vote. He’s not listed on the Escambia County voter-registration rolls, according to a clerk for the supervisor of elections.
“We’re not showing a Robert Glass with that address as a registered voter,” said spokeswoman Wilma Davio. “It would be dreadfully embarrassing if he’s not registered, but he’s not.”
Asked about it, Glass expressed surprise.
“I don’t understand that,” he said, “because I’ve got a stack of political mail on my table from Democrats and Republicans and I don’t know where they would have gotten my address unless they got it from the voter-registration office.”