*FL Democrats Used Telemarketers in Close Election

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With just an hour to go before polls closed in Florida on Election Day, the Democratic National Committee called on TeleQuest to perform the telemarketing version of the two-minute drill.


TeleQuest called 5,500 phone numbers in Palm Beach County during a 45-minute period. The DNC hired TeleQuest to put out an alert to voters regarding problems with ballots cast in the county.


In their calls, TeleQuest's agents read a DNC written script to Palm Beach County residents. The script said that many voters had experienced problems with the ballots and that some voters had inadvertently cast their ballots for the wrong candidate.


The calls asked voters to return to the polls and ask that their names be recorded so the errors could be corrected. People who had not voted were urged to vote for Gore.


TeleQuest agents took down the names of voters who said they might have cast erroneous ballots. The company managed to get through to about 4,300 people. Approximately half of them said they felt they might have mistakenly cast their vote, Scott said. Only about 100 people said they had not voted.


Election officials threw out thousands of ballots cast in Palm Beach County where voters have complained that a confusing punch-card ballot led them to mistakenly vote for Reform candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Democrat Al Gore. Many of the votes were disqualified because voters picked two presidential candidates.


TeleQuest, Arlington, TX, got the job Nov. 7 about 4:30 p.m. Central Standard Time while in most of Florida the time was 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time and polls were scheduled to close at 7 p.m.


TeleQuest -- which has worked for both Republican and Democratic candidates -- had just gone through a busy political season.


When the call came from the DNC, Wade Scott, account director with TeleQuest, hurriedly called managers in the company's Wichita Falls, TX, and Arlington, TX, call centers to urge them to keep their agents at their stations. The company had about 200 workstations available.


"Most people were leaving," Scott said. "I asked them to stay over to make as many calls as they could."


Meanwhile, other managers were preparing the list of people who would be called, which was provided by the DNC. It took about 20 minutes of preparation before the calls began, Scott said. The job was made easier because TeleQuest loaded only phone numbers and not names into its system.


Scott knew he couldn't fulfill the DNC's request to call 74,000 people in 45 minutes. He suggested that the DNC split the list and hire other telemarketing firms to help.


But the DNC couldn't find another telemarketing company that could react so quickly and felt that splitting the list would take too much time, Scott said.
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