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Election Watch Dogs in Gadsden County

By: Leonard Horton
By: Leonard Horton

Gadsden County had the dubious distinction of having the most ballots rejected in the 2000 election. This time the rural, mainly black county wants a better footnote in history.

Gadsden County Elections Supervisor Shirley Knight says she's expecting record turnout of near 70 percent, and so far Tuesday things have gone smoothly at the polls, but it was a different story outside as certain watchdog groups were challenged.

Gadsden County Elections Supervisor Shirley Knight would not allow our cameras into any of the polling places, but says so far there are no major problems at the polls, but outside some polling sites our cameras caught a different story.

Herb Schwartz, a volunteer for Operation Big Vote, says, "We're sitting here waiting for Shirley Knight, supervisor of elections, to either go ahead and order that they be removed or agree that they are actually well within what the law permits to have people in voter protection sit and do their activities."

Herb Schwartz represents an election watchdog group called Operation Big Vote. He wanted to know why several of his group members were told to set up across the street from certain polling sites when the legal requirement is only 50 feet.

Lavonia Proctor, another volunteer, says, "I didn't think 50 feet was across the street, but we had to go by what they said."

Linda Lowe adds, "They can't help voters if they can't even see whether they come out of the polling place with a smile on their face or disgruntled because they were turned away.”

Group volunteers say their only mission is to protect voters. Operation Big Vote is funded by AFSCME, or the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.


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