updated 9/1/2004 8:32:09 AM ET 2004-09-01T12:32:09

Theresa LePore, the inventor of the butterfly ballot that became a national joke during the 2000 presidential recount, lost her re-election bid to remain Palm Beach County elections supervisor.

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With 689 of 692 precincts reporting early Wednesday, challenger Arthur Anderson had 91,134 votes, or 52 percent, while LePore had 85,601 votes, or 48 percent.

Despite the loss, LePore will remain in office until Jan. 3 and will oversee the November election in the county.

LePore spokesman Marty Rogol said a “media blitz” by Anderson supporters over the last week, including appearances by some out-of-state Democratic heavyweights, was partly responsible for her showing.

LePore refused to meet with reporters early Wednesday, but as the polls closed Tuesday she said she was too busy overseeing the counting of ballots to think about her own race.

“I just want to win so I can continue doing the job I love,” LePore said.

Death threats?
LePore, 49, has worked in the elections office for more than three decades, and in the top job since 1996. A Democrat when she ran unopposed in the 2000 election, she was angered by statements party leaders made during the recount and had since declared herself independent.

She became the focus of national attention and the subject of death threats in 2000 after some Palm Beach County voters said a confusing butterfly ballot, which listed the names of presidential candidates on opposing pages, led them to mistakenly select conservative third-party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Democrat Al Gore. The design provided fodder for political cartoonists and late-night comedians. Gore lost the election in Florida to President Bush by 537 votes.

Still reeling from that narrow defeat, Democrats rallied behind Anderson, a professor and former county school board member. Florida Congressman Robert Wexler, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Gore’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, all stumped for Anderson.

Despite all the trouble in 2000, LePore’s supporters pointed to more recent history. In 2002, LePore ran a smooth election on new touchscreen voting machines while her counterparts in Broward and Miami-Dade counties again made Florida the punchline of national jokes because of voting problems in the gubernatorial election.

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