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Born under a chad sign



What comes around, stumbles around. By the time you read this column, Florida may still be embroiled in its latest mortifying election snafu. And you may think you know the extent of the damage. Guess again. Here's a recap of some of the election-week imbroglios already uncovered by the mainstream newspapers and TV crews, accompanied by juicier details and clarifications those eminently fallible outlets somehow missed.

The proper tallying of votes was delayed due to widespread problems with the new touchscreen systems that had been heralded as a high-tech cure for balloting woes.

The full truth is far more interesting and complex. Polls in several precincts fell hours behind schedule because voters were experiencing difficulty differentiating the touchscreen systems from ATMs. Many confused souls held up the process for minutes at a time as they conducted a vain search for the "card return" option. In another precinct, the voting software was corrupted with data intended for a neighborhood tavern's trivia machine. As a result, the privilege of voting multiple times was granted to citizens who could name the starting lineup of the 1988 St. Louis Cardinals. Players who correctly identified the director of Free Willy were treated to a video striptease by former secretary of state Katherine Harris.

The delays were so bad that Janet Reno herself had to wait more than an hour to vote at a church in her native south Miami-Dade County.

Only a small portion of Reno's wait was due to technical glitches. The rest was spent searching for a tactful way to decline an insistent parishioner's invitation to an upcoming pot-luck supper.

Residents of one largely African-American Miami neighborhood were not able to begin voting until 11:45 a.m. By that time, hundreds had already given up and left.

The individuals who left had actually been on line since the November 2000 election, and had to get home to turn off their stoves.

In counties including Orange, ballots were found to tear improperly, preventing their correct scanning.

Ballots that happened to tear in the upper-right-hand corner were later made available as cut-out merchandise at Orlando nostalgia shop Rock and Roll Heaven.

No serious problems were reported in Palm Beach County.

When you hear that Palm Beach County is experiencing no voting irregularities, there's only one inference that can be drawn: Palm Beach County hasn't discovered its voting irregularities yet. Less than 24 hours after giving a public thumbs-up, election workers came upon some curious inconsistencies, including a huge bank of votes that appeared to throw the Democratic gubernatorial candidacy to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the recently defeated fascist candidate for prime minister of France.

"Zese votes, zey are not mine," Le Pen opined in an official statement. "But I weel take zem anyway, eef nobody minds vairy much. Are you going to eat zat last hush puppee?"

County resident Emma Birnbaum spoke for countless neighbors when she explained that she had thought "Le Pen" was the name of a French day-care center, and that she was thus supporting a referendum to enhance both the county's family-friendliness and its European flair.

Voters who arrived at one Broward County polling place discovered that it was without election workers and voting equipment.

And dude, where's my car?

One of the only certainties of Election Day was the landslide enjoyed by Orange County Chairman Richard T. Crotty, who easily won election to his formerly appointive post.

Crotty and his people celebrated by dancing the night away at the Club at Firestone.

In the weekend before the election, Crotty's opponent, Diana Vazquez Cook, sent an e-mail to the Orlando Sentinel in which she characterized the paper's staff as "a bunch of dingle berries." She went on to define the term as "the little balls of poop that get stuck to the hair on my dogs' butts."

Bizarre but true! But there's more to the story. On Monday morning, Cook followed up by faxing the Sentinel a copy of a widely circulated gag memo that explains the difference between "corn shit," "Lincoln Log shit" and various other forms of feces. In an accompanying cover sheet, she offered her opinion of the newspaper's precise place in that hierarchy.

Reno left her hotel headquarters at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, without conceding the election. Twenty minutes later, challenger Bill McBride announced that he was going to bed and advised his supporters to do the same.

At roughly the same time, Democratic also-ran Daryl Jones was on the phone to contacts in Los Angeles pursuing an offer to replace the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in a reconfigured TLC.

McBride was up at 6:45 the following morning to make public appearances with his wife, Alex Sink.

No joke here. We just can't get enough of the name "Alex Sink."

A preponderance of the irregularities occurred in South Florida, preventing the region from reporting complete and accurate results on time.

The returns were slow in coming because many area residents were preoccupied by their day jobs of procuring crack cocaine for Noelle Bush.

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