'Miami Was the Site of the Biggest Ballot Fraud in Recent U.S. History'

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James W. Prichard/AP

An official ballot for the general election in Palm Beach County, Florida

TIME.com: People sometimes jokingly compare Miami's local politics to the Third World, but when reports surface about lost ballot boxes turning up in nursery schools, that no longer seems so funny...

Padgett: "All I want to say about that is that it wouldn't be surprising if Dade County came under an intense microscope during these next two days, for the very simple reason that Miami three years ago was the site of some of the most massive vote fraud in recent U.S. history, during the Miami mayor's race.

"Everyone expected a skintight vote here, but nobody expected it to be less than 2,000 votes. But we're still waiting for the overseas ballot count, and nobody's been able to give us a concrete figure on that. By the same token, one shouldn't assume, if there were irregularities, that they were necessarily perpetrated against one particular side. This state is perfectly capable of bipartisan irregularities. But it must be noted that at this point, neither of the parties is alleging any serious irregularities. The only substantial complaint has been about the Palm Beach ballot."

Why is there controversy over the Palm Beach ballot form?

"There were 10 presidential candidates in Florida, and in most counties they were on a single ballot form. But in Palm Beach, where a lot of elderly people reside, officials decided to use larger type and spread the candidates over two sheets. And the unorthodox configuration placed the Gore punch hole near Buchanan's — Gore's hole is third but his name is second from the left hand side, opposite Buchanan's punch hole. And Democratic officials believe this created a confusion that saw Buchanan get a number of Gore votes. But it remains to be seen whether their lawyers will be able to make a strong enough case on this."

Both the Gore and Bush campaigns must have made tactical mistakes to allow the Florida vote to be so close. What were those mistakes?

"Both campaigns underestimated how intensely centrist and independent this state has become. And both the campaigns and the media failed to take account of how diverse this state has become — which may help explain why they twice made premature calls on the outcome. Florida voters used to be thought of as a homogenous Democratic white and black vote, and a growing Republican white and Cuban-American vote. But today there are many more independents. And the turnout of black voters was much higher than usual. Also, besides Cuban-Americans there's also a growing bloc of more liberal non-Cuban Hispanics. The elderly vote has become much more of a factor, and the Tampa vote much more heterogeneous. The demographic tapestry in Florida now is so much more complicated than it was 10 years ago, and neither the candidates nor the media took enough account of that."