Twenty years later, as election chaos looms, the people who played big roles during Florida’s 2000 recount have continued their lives, but will always be marked by a month of hanging chads, lawsuits and America’s crash course on why every vote matters. Here’s a look at the paths taken by some of the key players in the 2000 recount over the past two decades.
The Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, Theresa LePore, a Democrat at the time, approved the infamous and confusing butterfly ballot, blamed for many Gore votes mistakenly being cast for conservative independent candidate Pat Buchanan. The year after the recount she changed her party affiliation to independent, saying in the South Florida Sun Sentinel that her position should be nonpartisan.
“I wanted to take away any appearance or perception that may have been out there that I was partisan in any way,” LePore said. “And I’m a little disappointed, quite frankly, in the way the Democrats have treated me.”
LePore ended a 34-year career with Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office in 2005 and has run her own company, T. A. LePore Consultants, for nine years. Along with business consulting, she serves on various boards including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County and the South Florida Fair. She’s been Executive Director of the Miss South Florida Fair/Miss Palm Beach County Scholarship Competition for a decade.
LePore talked about her experiences after the butterfly ballot in a 2013 article in Boca magazine. She spoke of death threats, lost friendships and said she never drives the same route twice and avoids public places during busy times.
The idea of the ballot was to make it easier, not confusing, for voters, she said.
The magnifying glass
Photos of Broward County Judge Robert Rosenberg carefully eyeing ballots with a magnifying glass ran across the country and around the world. The judge, who was a member of the Broward County Canvassing board, donated the magnifying glass and a bag of chads to the Smithsonian Museum of American History in 2001.
“I never thought 20 years later we would be expecting something that might be similar,” said Carol Roberts, who was a member of the three-person Palm Beach County Canvassing Board in 2000 and voted to continue a hand count of votes. She was under police protection at the time and the target of death threats.
Today, at 84, she’s on the board of the Palm Beach County Film Commission and volunteers as the deputy director of the Palm Beach Photographic Center. The grandmother of 11 is an ardent traveler and spent seven weeks in the Middle East last year. She’s also a longtime acquaintance of Donald Trump, starting with when she was on the Palm Beach County Commission in the mid ‘90s and he wanted to lease the property for what is now Trump International Golf Club.
He twice asked her to come to his home, Mar-a-Lago, to conduct business and she declined.
“I said if he wants to talk business he can come to my office,” Roberts recalled. So he did, and she negotiated a lease to present to the rest of the commissioners.
“As we were coming to an agreement he asked where I learned to negotiate like that. I said, ‘There’s a book called The Art of The Deal,’ which I had not read,” Roberts recounted.
“He hasn’t changed in all that time. He has quite an ego and he likes to be recognized,” she said.
Before being In the Room Where it Happened, as Bolton titled his new tell-all book about his stint as Trump’s national security adviser, Bolton was a Republican lawyer sent to Palm Beach County to monitor the hand count of ballots. His now well-recognized mustache was often in the spotlight two decades ago as he peered over the shoulders of Carol Roberts, Theresa LePore and County Judge Charles Burton, the third member of the Palm Beach Canvassing Board.
In 2005, after five months of Democratic senators’ objections and a standoff with the White House, President Bush used a “recess appointment” to install Bolton as his ambassador to the United Nations.
Florida’s Secretary of State was at the center of the recount and published a book titled Center of The Storm in 2002. She was the Florida co-chair of George W. Bush’s campaign with his brother, Jeb. Harris stopped the recount in 2000 and soon after certified the results.
She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and 2004, then ran against Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate in 2006. That campaign was marked by much staff turnover and contributions from defense contractor MZM that were later found to be illegal. Harris said she didn’t know. Nelson beat Harris by more than a million votes.
She mostly left the public eye after that. In 2013, her husband Anders Ebbeson, who had been suffering from health issues for some time, died by suicide in their home in Sarasota.
In 2017, numerous news outlets reported she was marrying Texas banker Richard Ware II. He’s chairman of Amarillo National Bank, which is said to be the largest family-owned bank in the nation with about $4 billion in assets.
Last year, the couple hosted a lavish event for Sarasota’s Asolo Repertory Theatre at their waterfront home.
Ana Gasteyer played a perfectly quaffed Katherine Harris with a stiff, uncomfortable smile and heavy makeup in various Saturday Night Live skits that likely would have gone viral, had that been a thing then. She went on to roles in Mean Girls, The Good Wife, Lady Dynamite, Schooled, The Masked Singer, The Goldbergs and most recently, Magical Girl Friendship Squad.
Attorney Theodore Olson successfully argued Bush’s and the Republicans’ side before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Less than a year later his wife, Barbara Olson, was on American Airlines Flight 77 on Sep. 11, 2001 and died when hijackers crashed the plane into The Pentagon. Barbara Olson, who was an attorney and frequent conservative commentator on CNN and Fox News, called her husband twice from the plane. (Ted Olson married Lady Booth, a Chicago tax attorney, in 2006.)
In 2009, he teamed up with Davie Boies, Gore’s counsel, to invalidate California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. Olson is a partner at the L.A.-based law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and known as a heavyweight attorney with high profile cases on both sides of the political aisle.
In 2018, he represented CNN in its lawsuit against the Trump administration after it revoked reporter Jim Acosta’s White House press credentials. (CNN dropped the suit after the White House gave back Acosta’s credentials about 10 days later.)
But a few months before that, Olson had turned down the administration’s request to defend the president in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to the Washington Post.
Also in 2018, Olson testified on behalf of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, saying he had argued before him many times and believed him to be prepared, open-minded, honest and respectful.
As Gore’s lead counsel, David Boies won a big victory when the Florida Supreme Court ordered a statewide manual recount. In a matter of four days, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the lower court’s decision, halting the recount.
Boies is not a stranger to the spotlight. He represented the federal government’s case against Microsoft for maintaining its monopoly. Nine years after the 2000 recount, he teamed up with Theodore Olson, Bush’s counsel, to invalidate California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage.
Boies has represented Michael Moore, and Harvey Weinstein is a longtime client. Boies also represented Theranos, the controversial blood testing company that’s the subject of the nonfiction book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. The book, based on Wall Street Journal investigative reporting, says Boies and other lawyers used surveillance of employees, whistle-blowers and reporters as well as intimidation tactics.
A New York Times profile of Boies two years ago stated his hourly fee is $1,850. It also recounted that the newspaper fired him from representing it as a client, after learning he had been involved in “an undercover operation to smear Mr. Weinstein’s victims and deceive Times reporters.”
Mac Stipanovich, a lead advisor to Katherine Harris during the recount with a long history of backing Republicans, has declared himself a “never-Trumper.” He was Florida’s executive director of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign, chief of staff for Republican Governor Bob Martinez and campaigned for Jeb Bush. In 2019, Stipanovich retired from the Tallahassee law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, registered as a Democrat and has since been writing and speaking against Donald Trump.
South Florida Democratic icon Bob Butterworth was Florida’s attorney general during the 2000 recount and state finance chairman for the Gore campaign. He weighed in with the legal opinion that counties had the right to hold a manual recount of ballots if initial counts found evidence of errors that could affect the outcome of the election.
Term limits forced Butterworth out of the Attorney General’s office after 16 years. He ran for State Senate in 2002 and lost to Republican Jeff Atwater, 54 percent to 46 percent. He hadn’t lost an election in 30 years. After that he joined the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Atkinson Diner and kept a relatively low political profile.
Recently, he was part of Broward Citizens for An Elected Mayor and supported getting the establishment of a countywide elected mayor on the November ballot. The measure didn’t make it to voters.
Contact Katherine Snow Smith at Katherine@legalexaminer.com. Follow her on Twitter at @snowsmith.