If anyone is determined that the fall elections of 2002 be far different from those in 2000, it's Theresa LePore. Despite the rage, bitterness, scorn, and "Jews for Buchanan" jokes heaped upon her and her office, she has remained focused on the mission of improving the voting process in Palm Beach County.
Once the state legislature decertified every form of balloting other than optical scanning and touch screens, LePore's decision to go with the latter was easy. "Voters can make a mistake more easily with the optical scan than the touch screen," she says. She selected her machines and then began the real work: educating voters.
Her point man in that mission is Ingram, a former legislative assistant who took the job in February and has hurled himself into it with gusto. Seven days a week, he, LePore, or both of them make multiple presentations with the machines before groups of all sizes, shapes, and descriptions. Ingram says that, though some people approach the screen with trepidation, the response to it has been overwhelmingly positive. "If I've changed one person's thinking, then we've changed the whole picture," he declares.
Still, the skeptics are out there. "I was at a group in West Delray, a very senior group -- the ones in their 70s were youngsters," LePore relates. "One woman was sitting up front saying, 'This is crap, it's not going to work, people aren't going to be able to figure it out.'" Then LePore invited the woman to try out the machine: "She had this scowl on her face, and then as she does it, she slowly starts to get a big smile on her face, and she says, 'It's so easy! It's just like playing video poker!'"
Early use of the machines has spawned two lawsuits, which is hardly surprising: Given what happened in 2000, LePore should expect every losing candidate with a lawyer in the Rolodex to sue during the system's shakedown period. But Ingram stresses that the touch screens are already superior to punch cards; the results will improve as people become more comfortable with them. He adds that his boss is just the person to speed the process. "She lives for this job," he states. "She has all the qualities of a true leader."