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CNN Today

Difficult Days for Butterfly Ballot Designer

Aired January 5, 2001 - 1:24 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Theresa LePore knows all about the freedom to make abrasive comments. Remember her? She's been at the receiving end of many a harsh word for the past couple of months since she designed that little thing called the butterfly ballot, which we heard much about that during the recounting process following the election.

We have more on all of this from CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the woman who designed Palm Beach county, Florida's, election ballot, life has changed.

PROTESTERS: We believe in freedom...

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: Entrances and exits from public events are no longer routine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You raped us.

PROTESTERS (singing): All we are saying is give our country truth.

TUCHMAN: Theresa LePore designed the county's so-called "butterfly ballot," the ballot with candidates' names on both sides and the chads in the middle, the ballot many say cost Al Gore the presidency.

THERESA LEPORE, PALM BEACH COUNTY ELECTIONS: I keep thinking it's a nightmare, and I'm going to wake up one day and it's all going to be gone.

TUCHMAN: The Palm Beach county supervisor of elections, in charge of a staff of 25, takes comfort in the fact her ballot was ruled to be legal, but is aware Pat Buchanan picked up many votes from people who wanted to vote for Al Gore.

LEPORE: I've gotten a lot of verbal hate things on my voice mail, a lot of hate mail, really nasty, horrible things that I won't even repeat.

TUCHMAN: The letters are considered public records. One reads, "Dear Theresa LePore, you are stupid and incompetent." Another: "You are simply and despicably an ugly, dumb, rotten, old expletive. Go drink something not good, and go away."

TUCHMAN (on camera): So have you been afraid for your safety?

LEPORE: There are times I was, yes, particularly in the month or so after all this started.

TUCHMAN: And now?

LEPORE: It's better now, it's much better now. I feel more comfortable going out.

PROTESTERS (singing): ... is give us the truth.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The day these protesters chanted, Thursday, was her first public speech since election day. Many of the voters were openly antagonistic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the ballot -- was the ballot market- tested?

TUCHMAN: LePore tells the audience she designed the ballot with older voters in mind.

LEPORE: The reason I put it on two pages was to make the print larger.

TUCHMAN: But she knows that's no comfort to those who think Palm Beach county's ballot prevented Al Gore from winning.

LEPORE: I can't go back and say, well, you know, if I would have done something else differently, then maybe the election would have been different, because you don't know.

TUCHMAN: One of LePore's responsibilities right now is overseeing the news media examination of Palm Beach county ballots, ballots she has already examined as a participant in the Palm Beach county 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.

LEPORE: Prayer, you know and the saying that God only gives you what He thinks you can handle.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Are you able to handle it?

LEPORE: So far, I'm doing fine.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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