Ticket to Palm Beach
David Kendalls most famous client was celebrating his final Thanksgiving
in the White House, Bob Grand 78 was spending the week with the
George W. Bush team observing the vote recount in the Florida county that
would decide closest Presidential Election in U.S. history.
by Steve Charles
Bob Grand wasnt expecting the call. After the tense days of the
2000 Presidential Election, the Bush Campaign finance chair for the state
of Indiana was looking forward to Thanksgiving with his family. So when
his cell phone rang, he wasnt eager to answer.
It was one of the deputy directors of the campaign from Austin,
and he asked me to go to Florida, Grand says. He told me I
could pick up my plane ticket right before my flight left.
As I picked it up that Sunday, I asked the lady at the counter when
Id be returning. She looked at the ticket and said, Sir, youve
got a one way ticket to Palm Beach. I dont know when youre
Grand visited Wabash during Homecoming Week 2002 to share some of the
lighter moments from his four days on the front lines of last years
recount in Palm Beach County.
You have to give credit to the Democrats, Grand said told
his hosts, the Will Hays Wabash College Republicans. They were very
well organized in Florida, and all the Republicans had was a skeleton
crew. So after the first week of the recount the Bush people began to
reach out to lawyers outside of the South, and thats how I got the
Grand arrived in Palm Beach to find media trucks encircling the Palm Beach
Emergency Center where the recount was being conducted. The Republican
teams being shuttled in to observe the recount were being trained a few
blocks awayup to 100 people jammed into the seven-office Advance
The owner of the place was a very loyal Republican, and the story
goes that he gave his entire office over to the Bush people, Grand
said. When you looked up on Inaugural Day, the owner of the Advance
Tax Service should have been sitting right next to the Bush family, because
he really took care of us.
Grands team of observers consisted of four congressional staffers
who met him in Florida and one person he chose personallyIndiana
Deputy State Treasurer Betsy Burdick, sister of Brandt 89 and Brian
The team was trained on how to check the ballots as they were being handled
by the counters (observers were not allowed to touch the ballots), and
then Grand and his colleagues were tossed into the fray.
The Palm Beach Emergency Center is an imposing place alreadythis
is where government agencies are coordinated during hurricanesbut
that evening, as soon as we cleared the three armed checkpoints, stepped
off the van and walked to the door, the place lit up like daylight,
Grand said. All these cameras and TV lights were shining on us,
microphones were shoved toward us as reporters tried to get our names
and figure out which side we were on. And when I showed the guard my drivers
license, all these cameras zoomed in on it. I could hear people calling
out my name.
Once inside, the team members took their places, watching ballots being
counted and objecting if they saw a hanging chad on one of the punch ballots
or noticed a ballot being put in the stack for the wrong candidate.
It was difficult for us to concentrate and keep up with the process,
but it was tougher for the counters, Grand said. These were
county employees, theyd been working a long time, and they didnt
really want you objecting and slowing things down. But sometimes the cards
were moving too fast for us to see them clearly, and wed have to
slow them down.
After each session, the Bush campaign workers would ask how many objections
each observer had posted. Grand said he was typically in the 10-15 range,
but Betsy Burdick would have 75 or more.
She was an instant hit and did a great job, Grand said.
On day three, she played an even more significant role.
This is the day you started hearing about people eating the chads,
Grand said. So we started to collect them. When a Democrat saw Betsy
collecting them off the floor, she told him she was having a contest with
her roommate to see who could collect the most chads. The Democrat told
Betsy he could help her win the contest, and he took her to another room
and gave her a bag of them, claiming that they were chads from a different
election. Betsy took that bag straight to the observer team.
So when you read in the news about bags of chads, that was Brian
and Brandts sister, Betsy, who exposed that, Grand said.
The experience left Grand seriously questioning the accuracy of hand counting.
People kept saying that somehow this was going to be a more accurate
count. Thats crazy. These counters were working all day, and the
were going to make mistakes. Observers helped, but we couldnt catch
Grand mentioned two instances where mistakes were caught.
They kept track of the cards by putting them in piles of 50, but
one late night, we had two counters and the Democrat observer claiming
a pile of 400 for Gore; the Republican observer objected and, when the
pile was examined by the judges. there were only 350, Grand said.
These people werent trying to be fraudulent; it wasnt
done on purpose. They were just tired and upset.
We did see some incredible ballots. One ballot had the Bush chad
scotch-taped back in and the Gore chad was punched out; now how many people
bring scotch tape to a voting place?
We saw things like that, and Im sure the Democrats have their
own stories, Grand said. This simply was not a more accurate
Grand returned home on Thanksgiving Day, but the recount mania wasnt
I got home, hugged my family, gave my kids some t-shirts, and suddenly
my oldest son says theres a tv truck in my driveway. TV Channel
6 wanted an interview. So my wife has all these family members with us
for dinner, and heres Channel 6 going through with a minicam filming
my Thanksgiving, Grand said.
My son, Colin, got on TV, and at school the next day some of the
girls thought he was pretty cool because of it.
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