Area clerks speak out on election controversy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 15, 2000

LAPLACE – As the national election chaos continues between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush long after Nov. 7’s Election Day,clerks of court in the River Parishes have their own opinions in the matter.

By the way, all three clerks are registered Democrats.

Eliana DeFrancesch, clerk of court for St. John the Baptist Parish, isgrateful the Bush-Gore electoral vote controversy didn’t erupt in Louisiana.

She is supportive of getting an accurate count, though, to be fair not only to the candidates but also to the voters.

“They have to do what is necessary to get a valid count,” she added. “I’msure they’re doing the right thing.”Every so often, DeFrancesch said, “little glitches” pop up in elections large and small. She was glad that Louisiana’s election day proceeded smoothly andsaid, in her opinion, the controversial Florida “butterfly ballots” were “very ambiguous and very difficult.”The ballot had Bush on the upper left, Reform Party candidate on the opposing page, but second punch-hole from the top, and Gore on the left, but third punch-hole from the top. Many voters in Palm Beach County intendingto vote for Gore instead voted for Buchanan.

“In Louisiana we don’t have that problem,” DeFrancesch observed. “The majorproblem in this state is informing the public where they go to vote, but reapportionment is coming soon and we hope to straighten out a lot of that.”DeFrancesch concluded, “I just hope everything goes well.”In St. Charles Parish, Clerk of Court Charles Oubre Jr. took note especially ofeach state’s laws regarding absentee voting.

In Louisiana, absentee ballots must be received by the clerk’s office by election day. Ballots received late are not counted. In St. Charles Parish atotal of 14 absentee votes were tossed out for being late out of 817 cast.

In Florida, on the other hand, absentee ballots are accepted by Monday for Saturday elections, and by Friday at noon for Tuesday elections.

The Florida flap over absentee votes simply would not have happened with Louisiana law.

Double-voting is also a concern in Florida, where ballots were punched for more than one candidate in a single race. In Louisiana, many parishes are nowusing computerized voting machines which make double-voting impossible.

“You can’t double-vote; it won’t let you,” he said.

Finally, the “butterfly ballot” matter drew concerns from Oubre as well, who said, “I looked at that, and it didn’t look good.”He continued that he examined the controversial ballot design, which showed candidates listed alternately on opposing pages, with arrows pointing to punch-holes to be punched by voters, and commented, “If you go fast, you can make a mistake, I guarantee it.”St. James Parish Clerk of Court Edmond Kinler Jr., is quite outspokenregarding the Florida election mess.

“We’ve got a 100 percent better system than they have,” Kinler commented.

“Theirs is open to fraud.”As to the “butterfly ballot” question, Kinler observed, “We have something very similar with our absentee ballots, and if you put it in the machine nine times, you’ll get nine different results.”However, in reviewing three past election challenges his office has endured, every one found that the election was handled properly.

In one parish president race it came down to a two-vote difference and the election was challenged. “If you go through all the motions and do your joband maintain your neutrality, you can’t go wrong,” he said.

Another election challenge was part of that between Jimmy Fitzmorris and Louis Lambert for secretary of state. Yet another was the notoriouschallenge between Woody Jenkins and Mary Landrieu for the U.S. Senate.”The commissioners did their jobs, and we came out all right,” Kinler said.

“I don’t know how they’re going to restore the people’s faith in the integrity of the voting process in Florida. I’m glad it’s them and not me.”

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