Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Hero of Precinct 141

[Previous post in series here]

This is the story of one man who made a difference in one precinct, in one county in one state. The most inspiring event I've witnessed in 30+ years in politics.

At 4:10pm, the power failed in the community center that was the polling location for precinct 141. That's Island Park, a relatively rural area about half-way between South Ft. Myers and Bonita Springs. Lee county Florida uses touch-screen machines, which flipped to battery back-up. The battery has a design life of 8 hours, but a source at the Supervisor of Elections office said 2 hours was more typical. Voting halted for several minutes. Then, local electoral official powered up half the machines, rotating in turn, to preserve battery power. I note that without power or battery, a Lee county voting machine voids memory--losing any record of votes cast.

So, precinct 141 immediately became a crisis. Especially after Florida Power discovered that the power line had been severed, requiring several hours to repair.

The Ft. Myers office called me, and I drove to 141, arriving just before 5. The power still was out. Voters were queuing and voting, albeit slowly--in the dark, on six machines, inside without air conditioning. And if a battery died. . .

And then, shortly after 5:15, James McCord arrived. Carrying a gas-powered generator. Florida power hooked it up. Power was restored. No machines failed. Everyone voted.

When I arrived at precinct 141, I was contemplating approaching a state judge seeking an order extending voting for at least the time of the power failure. That was unnecessary. Because of Mr. McCord. "I heard about it on the radio, and drove right over," he said. "I just think it's important that all Americans have the right to vote."

I do too. But Mr. McCord put aspiration into action--and saved the votes of precinct 141.

[Series continues here]

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