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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Florida Election Watch

Aired November 5, 2002 - 12:15   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All eyes are on Florida today, as the state that made "hanging chad" a household phrase, tries to avoid another troubled Election Day.
CNN's John Zarrella is standing by at a polling station in Miami.

John -- any problems there yet?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Boy, Wolf, everything has been great, and let me tell you a piece of news this morning -- 108,000 people, we're being told, have voted ahead of time. They opened precincts, opened voting places here in Miami-Dade and up in Broward Counties early over the past couple of weeks to avoid problems. And it appears to have worked; 108,000 people voted in Miami-Dade County alone before the polls actually opened here today at 7:00 a.m.

So, the lines have been short here at the Thena Crowder Elementary School. And now in September, this was ground zero in Miami-Dade for everything that went wrong in the primary election. They opened up in the morning, they couldn't get the systems to boot up and work, the I-Votetronics touch screen machine. They went back down. It was 4:30 in the afternoon before they finally got the polls open here, a terrible mess.

No problems at all here today. They've had about 250 to 300 people come in and vote. One of the reasons: They got the poll workers in very early this morning. They also have 3,000 county workers scattered around all of the precincts in the county. And they are making sure that things go smoothly, getting those machines online early, making sure the power is working, everything up. They have eight machines here all working perfectly.

Now, a testament, Wolf, to this tremendous technology, when it does work, it's curbside voting. A 92-year-old woman showed up here today. She could not get out of her car. So, what they did, they took one of these I-Votetronics machines -- and they work on batteries and they fold up just like our laptop computers. They walked it right out to the car.

When they got out to the car with it, she signed the registry and found her name on the voter rolls, signed in, then they brought the machine inside her car window. They told her the candidates and the issues on the ballot. She passed it on to the election worker. The election worker punched it all into the machine. Then at the very end, all she had to do was punch the red "vote" button. That's all she had to do, besides sign the rolls, and her vote was recorded. So, the wonders of technology.

Now, I mentioned Broward County, in Broward County where we thought there might be some terrible problems, because the ballot is 11 pages long, and they expected it might take 10 to 15 minutes for everybody to vote. What we're hearing from our people in Broward County (UNINTELLIGIBLE) things are going steady and smooth, no horrendous nightmarish-long lines like we had feared might the case today, at least not to this point.

Now, the big story, of course, in Florida, the governor's race. The incumbent, Jeb Bush, he went to vote this morning down here in Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, about 9:30 this morning at his polling place. Jeb Bush, it appears from all of the latest polls, comfortably ahead of Bill McBride, the Democratic challenger who got to about 43 percent, then just couldn't get over the hump and get any closer -- been stuck at around 43 percent of the vote.

He voted early today in Thonotosassa, Florida, which is up north of Tampa. And again, from what the indications are, at least in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, Wolf, the nightmares of September and the hanging chads of 2000 are not a problem this time around, not yet anyway -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, that's the key phrase, "not yet." Let's hope for the best, keep our fingers crossed. John Zarrella, we'll be checking back with you often as well. Thanks very much.

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