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Ballot nightmare lingers for Palm Beach elections chief

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- For Theresa LePore, the woman who designed Palm Beach County's "butterfly" ballot, life has changed since the November elections.

Theresa LePore
Theresa LePore created the infamous "butterfly" ballot used in the Florida elections  

Entrances and exits from public events are no longer routine, and she is sometimes the target of protests. People shout, "Racist," and "Give truth a chance," as she comes and goes.

LePore, the county's Democratic supervisor of elections, designed the butterfly ballot -- one with names of candidates on both sides, with voters marking the ballots in the center. She thought that would allow names to appear in larger print for the county's large number of elderly voters.

Theresa LePore speaks with CNN's Gary Tuchman about how the election controversy has affected her life

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But many blame the ballot, and the confusion it provoked, for costing Democratic nominee Al Gore the presidency.

"I keep thinking its a nightmare, and I'll wake up one day and it will be gone," LePore told CNN.

In a court challenge after the election, the ballot was determined to have been legal. LePore said she can take some comfort in that ruling, but she knows that Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan may have picked up many votes from people who wanted to support Gore.

"I've gotten a lot of verbal hate things on my voice mail," she said. "People yelling out things -- a few times I was in the lobby. And a lot of hate mail, a lot of really nasty horrible things."

Under Florida law, the letters are considered public records. One reads: "Dear Theresa LePore, you are stupid and incompetent." Another states, "You are simply and despicably an ugly dumb rotten old (expletive). Go drink something not good and go away."

LePore said the calls and letters have made her afraid for her safety at times.

"It's better now," she said. "I feel more comfortable going out."

But the anger remains. Thursday was LePore's first public speaking appearance since the November 7 election, and she was greeted by protesters.

"Was the ballot market-tested? was the ballot market-tested?" one asked.

butterfly ballot
LePore says she used large print on the ballot to help the country's large number of elderly voters  

LePore reminded the audience that she designed the ballot with older voters in mind. But she knows that is no comfort to those who think Palm Beach County's ballot denied Gore the White House.

"I can't go back and say if I did things differently, maybe the election would be different, because you don't know," she said. "You don't know."

One of LePore's responsibilities right now is overseeing the news media examination of Palm Beach County ballots -- ballots she already has examined as a participant in the county's presidential recount.

She has trouble sleeping and has lost more than 20 pounds because of lack of appetite, but says what has helped many in crisis has also helped her -- "Prayer, and the saying that God only gives you what he thinks you can handle ... So far, I'm doing the best I can."




Friday, January 5, 2001


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