The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday January 22nd

Under World's Eye, Life Goes on for Palm Beach

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - In the past week, numerous West Palm Beach residents have watched themselves interviewed on television.

Their state and city have been on the front page of almost every major newspaper.

Palm Beach County's 462,000 voters, a large portion of whom live in West Palm Beach, might very well determine the outcome of the most hotly contested presidential race in a century - a fact that has attracted members of the media from all over the world, including Japan and Norway, to this otherwise relaxed coastal town.

But some West Palm Beach residents said they are not allowing the recent media scrutiny to interfere with their lives.

Even though some residents are up in arms, claiming that a purposely misleading ballot caused them to accidentally vote for Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Democratic candidate Al Gore, most are keeping tabs on the historic news unfolding in their backyards while carrying on with everyday life.

Residents were buying fruit and listening to a reggae band Saturday, half a block from the Palm Beach County Government Center, where county election officials were hand-counting ballots.

The Palm Beach County Elections Board recounted 1 percent of the ballots by hand Saturday at the request of the Gore campaign, finding enough errors to justify hand-counting all the ballots cast in the county.

About 60 reporters and 20 television cameras were watching the recount, while city residents waved American flags and listened to high school marching bands at a Veteran's Day parade two blocks away. Jim Ayscue of West Palm Beach was one of about 1,000 people watching the parade.

Ayscue, who was carrying his daughter Linda, 5, on his shoulders, said most residents were interested in the election outcome - but not on the level of members of the media or political junkies. "I voted for Gore, and I hope he'll win," Ayscue said. "But I'm not obsessed with it like the reporters or campaign people."

As of Friday, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush led Gore in Florida by 388 votes, but Gore picked up an additional 36 in Saturday's recount.

Rebecca Miles of West Palm Beach, who was shopping for a new potted plant at the weekly outdoor Green Market Fair, said she voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. "I can understand why some people feel drawn to this," Miles said. "But I personally would rather go home and watch Oprah reruns."

While some town residents were at the parade and fair, media members spent Saturday and early Sunday morning waiting for the recount results, and sometimes their frustration showed.

A member of a television news crew accused one photographer late Saturday afternoon of bumping a camera, throwing off the footage. The photographer and crew member called each other liars and had to be separated by county police and other media members. Members of the public spent the day drifting in and out of the facility, listening briefly to some press conferences and then watching the recount process.

James Yornagvian of West Palm Beach said he brought his family to witness the recount. "I would be doing my children a disservice not bringing them here to witness living history," Yornagvian said.

His children, Lisa, 7, and Mike, 9, said they knew the recount was important but called it boring. "I'd rather be at the beach," Mike said. "This is sort of like being in a museum."

But other residents found protesters demonstrating nearby more interesting than the parade's fire trucks, the media circus or ballot counting. One West Palm Beach couple, who would not give their names, showed up dressed in Santa Claus costumes waving signs stating, "Happy Holidays from West Palm Beach." The two said they were not interested in politics - only in the atmosphere the recount had created.

Mike Barnett of West Palm Beach, who said he voted for Constitution Party presidential candidate Howard Phillips, said the protesters, supporting either Gore or Bush, were entertaining.

Barnett said he did not really care what the final results of the recount were. "It won't affect me either way," he said. "I don't put my trust in political candidates."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.


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