Even under the strategy that Gore pursued at the beginning of the Florida standoff — filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties — Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted for a consortium of news organizations.
But the consortium, looking at a broader group of rejected ballots than those covered in the court decisions, 175,010 in all, found that Gore might have won if the courts had ordered a full statewide recount of all the rejected ballots. This also assumes that county canvassing boards would have reached the same conclusions about the disputed ballots that the consortium’s independent observers did. The findings indicate that Gore might have eked out a victory if he had pursued in court a course like the one he publicly advocated when he called on the state to “count all the votes.”
More than 113,000 voters cast ballots for two or more presidential candidates. Of those, 75,000 chose Gore and a minor candidate; 29,000 chose Bush and a minor candidate. Because there was no clear indication of what the voters intended, those numbers were not included in the consortium’s final tabulations.
The study examined numerous hypothetical ways of recounting the Florida ballots. Under some methods, Gore would have emerged the winner; in others, Bush. But in each one, the margin of victory was smaller than the 537- vote lead that state election officials ultimately awarded Bush.
For example, if Florida’s 67 counties had carried out the hand recount of disputed ballots ordered by the Florida court on Dec. 8, applying the standards that election officials said they would have used, Bush would have emerged the victor by 493 votes. Florida officials had begun such a recount the next day, but the effort was halted that afternoon when the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 vote that a statewide recount using varying standards threatened “irreparable harm” to Bush.
But the consortium’s study shows that Bush would have won even if the justices had not stepped in (and had further legal challenges not again changed the trajectory of the battle), answering one of the abiding mysteries of the Florida vote.
Even so, the media ballot review, carried out under rigorous rules far removed from the chaos and partisan heat of the post-election dispute, is unlikely to end the argument over the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The race was so close that it is possible to get different results simply by applying different hypothetical vote-counting methods to the thousands of uncounted ballots. And in every case, the ballot review produced a result that was even closer than the official count — a margin of perhaps four or five thousandths of one percent out of about six million ballots cast for president.
The examination then sought to judge what might have been considered a legal vote under various conditions — from the strictest interpretation (a clearly punched hole) to the most liberal (a small indentation, or dimple, that indicated the voter was trying to punch a hole in the card). But even under the most inclusive standards, the review found that at most, 24,619 ballots could have been interpreted as legal votes.
The numbers reveal the flaws in Gore’s post-election tactics and, in retrospect, why the Bush strategy of resisting county-by-county recounts was ultimately successful.
In a finding rich with irony, the results show that even if Gore had succeeded in his effort to force recounts of undervotes in the four Democratic counties, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Volusia, he still would have lost, although by 225 votes rather than 537. An approach Gore and his lawyers rejected as impractical — a statewide recount — could have produced enough votes to tilt the election his way, no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent.
A statistical analysis conducted for The Times determined that if all counties had followed state law in reviewing the absentee ballots, Gore would have picked up as many as 290 additional votes, enough to tip the election in Gore’s favor in some of the situations studied in the statewide ballot review.
But Gore chose not to challenge these ballots because many were from members of the military overseas, and Gore did not want to be accused of seeking to invalidate votes of men and women in uniform.
Ballots in black neighborhoods were twice as likely to have been discarded because there was no indication of a vote for president, a so-called undervote, according to the study conducted for a consortium of eight news organizations. Black precincts also accounted for a disproportionate number of overvotes–ballots on which more than one mark was made for president–according to the Washington Post’s analysis.
Democrat Al Gore was selected on 80,772 of the overvote ballots, twice as many as Republican George W. Bush. The study highlighted the value of so-called second-chance voting systems that alerts voters before they leave the polling place of potential errors that would otherwise spoil their ballot, allowing them to recast their votes.
Had the analysis concluded that under every conceivable circumstance, Gore would have triumphed under a statewide recount, or that there had been fraud or other mischief, the Democrats would have had reason to speak out today. But it found that even if the Supreme Court had not stepped in to block a statewide manual recount, Bush would have won.
In history, the two anchors of the American political process are whether an election is regarded as final and whether there was an orderly transition of power. Gore, in fact, did his best to encourage that stability last December when he implored the nation “to unite behind our next president.” Today, in a statement, Gore recalled that concession, saying, “As I said on Dec. 13 of last year, we are a nation of laws and the presidential election of 2000 is over.”
Gore, presumably not wanting to appear to be a sore loser, chose not to go the route of President Grover Cleveland, who in 1888 won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College — and the White House — to Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland never let the public forget that he thought he should be president. Four years later, he defeated Harrison, a Republican.
The ultimate verdict on the 2000 election will be the election of 2004. If Bush is re-elected, that would go far to quash lingering talk of illegitimacy. But if Gore runs again, and the economy is in peril, that could give the former vice president an opening to cast the election of 2000 through the prism of what people’s lives are like at the time. If Americans are hurting financially in 2004, Gore could say he was cheated out of the presidency — and that the people were cheated too.
Last week the House agreed on a bill that would offer states $400 million to retire their old punchcard voting systems and an additional $2.25 billion over three years for new equipment and better voter registration. Ultimately, however, it will take a determined push by Congressional leaders and President Bush, who has shown little interest in the subject, to get an election reform law signed by year’s end.
The ballot project was organized in December by The New York Times and joined by The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Tribune Company, The Palm Beach Post, The St. Petersburg Times and The Associated Press, which shared the $900,000 cost.
County employees pulled ballots from precinct boxes one by one, turning them from back to front, flashing them in front of miniature photographic light tables that all the teams carried. The coders, squinting and craning, spent an average of 60 seconds on each before recording what they saw.
But the process was far different from last fall’s in critical ways. The coders were not trying to decide whether a ballot showed evidence of intent to vote but simply recording as objectively as possible critical information about the marks they found. Were chads disrupted, and by how much? Were bubbles filled in, and in what fashion? Were there notes, X marks, editorial comments?
The coders made their judgments without consulting other coders. The method provided both a guard against inaccuracy and a measure of how difficult the dimples and scratches were to see.
Every undervote — the name given to ballots with no machine-readable vote for president — was viewed separately by three coders.
On the more straightforward overvotes — those that were rejected because the machine saw two or more punches or marks in the presidential race — the research center used one coder, but only after running a test with three coders showing that the overvotes could be reliably recorded by one person.
The database produced by the research center was ultimately analyzed by consortium members using computer software designed by the members to sort the ballots based on rules and standards that might have been used by canvassing boards in a manual recount.
Vice President Al Gore may have conceded his judicial contest, but that is irrelevant. There is not provision for the concession of candidates in the Constitution. There is, however, a process set out in law for Congress to consider challenges to electoral votes. The Congress, on behalf of all Americans, is the final judge of how much election fraud to accept.
The hearings held by the NAACP clearly showed that there were massive violations of the Voting Rights Act, and that tens of thousands of Floridians were denied due process when they were removed from the voter rolls without notice. Still others were intimidated by police checkpoints set up near polling places. In Miami-Dade and Broward, investigations by independent news organizations have found hundreds of ineligible persons who were allowed to vote. There clearly were significant inequities in assigning what turned out to be non-working voting machines to precincts that were heavily African-American in Miami-Dade. We would not tolerate any of these errors if they took place in some other country. Is our duty to our own country any less?
Millions of Americans have already expressed their public outrage at the myriad injustices which occurred in the making of George W. Bush’s mistaken victory. But public outrage is not enough. The laws of this country provide for the objection which we herein make on behalf of freedom, justice and democracy. We, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, therefore wholeheartedly object to the acceptance of the presidential electors from Florida.
Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the December 12 date will be unconstitutional, we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering a recount to proceed. Seven Justices of the Court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that demand a remedy. The only disagreement is as to the remedy.
Of course, in ordinary cases, the distribution of powers among the branches of a State's government raises no questions of federal constitutional law, subject to the requirement that the government be republican in character. But there are a few exceptional cases in which the Constitution imposes a duty or confers a power on a particular branch of a State’s government. This is one of them.
Neither in this case, nor in its earlier opinion in Palm Beach County Canvassing Bd. v. Harris, did the Florida Supreme Court make any substantive change in Florida electoral law. Its decisions were rooted in long-established precedent and were consistent with the relevant statutory provisions, taken as a whole. It did what courts do -- it decided the case before it in light of the legislature's intent to leave no legally cast vote uncounted.
What must underlie petitioners' entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today' s decision.
Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.
The political implications of this case for the country are momentous. But the federal legal questions presented, with one exception, are insubstantial. The majority justifies stopping the recount entirely on the ground that there is no more time. In particular, the majority relies on the lack of time for the Secretary to review and approve equipment needed to separate under-votes. But the majority reaches this conclusion in the absence of any record evidence that the recount could not have been completed in the time allowed by the Florida Supreme Court.
I fear that in order to bring this agonizingly long election process to a definitive conclusion, we have not adequately attended to that necessary 'check upon our own exercise of power,' 'our own sense of self-restraint.' What it does today, the Court should have left undone. I would repair the damage done as best we now can, by permitting the Florida recount to continue under uniform standards. I respectfully dissent.
Unlike the majority, I see no warrant for this Court to assume that Florida could not possibly comply with this requirement before the date set for the meeting of electors, December 18.
Although we did not address the same question petitioner raises here, in McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U. S. 1, 25 (1892), we said:
“[Art. II, 1, cl. 2] does not read that the people or the citizens shall appoint, but that ‘each State shall’; and if the words ‘in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct,’ had been omitted, it would seem that the legislative power of appointment could not have been successfully questioned in the absence of any provision in the state constitution in that regard. Hence the insertion of those words, while operating as a limitation upon the State in respect of any attempt to circumscribe the legislative power, cannot be held to operate as a limitation on that power itself.”…The parties before us agree that whatever else may be the effect of this section, it creates a “safe harbor” for a State insofar as congressional consideration of its electoral votes is concerned. If the state legislature has provided for final determination of contests or controversies by a law made prior to election day, that determination shall be conclusive if made at least six days prior to said time of meeting of the electors…. Since 5 USC contains a principle of federal law that would assure finality of the State’s determination if made pursuant to a state law in effect before the election, a legislative wish to take advantage of the “safe harbor” would counsel against any construction of the Election Code that Congress might deem to be a change in the law.
“It is fundamental that state courts be left free and unfettered by us in interpreting their state constitutions. But it is equally important that ambiguous or obscure adjudications by state courts do not stand as barriers to a determination by this Court of the validity under the federal constitution of state action. Intelligent exercise of our appellate powers compels us to ask for the elimination of the obscurities and ambiguities from the opinions in such cases.” Id., at 557.Specifically, we are unclear as to the extent to which the Florida Supreme Court saw the Florida Constitution as circumscribing the legislature’s authority under Art. II, 1, cl. 2. We are also unclear as to the consideration the Florida Supreme Court accorded to 3 U. S. C. 5. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida is therefore vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Today, the Supreme Court affirms this finding. In doing so, the court does not in any sense condone the irregularities noted by the trial court in the way applications for absentee ballots were handled. However, these irregularities do not require the voiding of all absentee ballots. The vote in this case was six to zero.
Second, the court also has decided the case of Ronald Taylor v. Martin County Canvassing Board, also challenging certain absentee ballots. The trial court in this case concluded that there were irregularities, but that they did not reach the level of fraud or intentional misconduct. Accordingly, the trial court found that the sanctity of the ballot was not impaired.
Based on the rule of law explained in the Jacobs case that I just mentioned to you, the Supreme Court has affirmed the trial court's order. The vote, again, was six to zero.
Tonight [after the US Supreme Court stayed the Florida recount], the prospect of an enormous constitutional pileup involving the courts, the Florida Legislature, and both houses of Congress seemed diminished, but only at the cost of some of the prestige of the Supreme Court, and only with the diminution of the authority that the new president will wield. No one knows how much the eventual winner has been harmed, but the sudden burst of worried comments about legitimacy, no longer from mere commentators but from the participants themselves, speaks volumes.
But on Friday a sharply divided state Supreme Court overturned that decision, ordering manual recounts to begin immediately. The justices ordered a far broader recount that Gore had sought, saying that so-called undervotes—meaning ballots on which there was no vote for president—must be recounted in all 67 Florida counties "where such a recount has not yet occurred." By its ruling, the court also added 383 votes to Gore's total from recounts already undertaken, apparently whittling Bush's previous 537-vote lead to 154 votes. Bush moved swiftly to appeal the ruling.
In this case, there is no credible statistical evidence and no other competent substantial evidence to establish by a preponderance a reasonable probability that the results of the statewide election in the state of Florida would be different from the result which has been certified by the state elections canvassing commission.
The court further finds and concludes the evidence does not establish any illegality, dishonesty, gross negligence, improper influence, coercion or fraud in the balloting and counting processes.
Furthermore, with respect to the standards utilized by the board in its review and counting processes, the court finds that the standard utilized was in full compliance with the law and review under another standard would not be authorized, thus creating a two-tier situation within one county, as well as with respect to other counties.
As the state's chief legal officer, I feel a duty to warn that if the final certified total for balloting in the state of Florida includes figures generated from this two-tier system of differing behavior by official canvassing boards, the state will incur a legal jeopardy under both the United States and state constitutions. This legal jeopardy could potentially lead Florida to having all of its votes, in effect, disqualified, and this state being barred from the Electoral College's selection of a president.
The court finds further that the Nassau County Canvassing Board did not abuse its discretion in its certification of Nassau County's voting results. Such actions were not void or illegal, and it was done within the proper exercise of its discretion upon adequate and reasonable public notice.
“Pack them up and ship them up,” Leon County Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls told lawyers and election supervisors, who listened through speaker phones. “Can you pack up some of the employees and ship them up here, too?”
On Tuesday, Sauls ordered the 10,750 disputed ballots from Miami-Dade and 3,308 similar ballots from Palm Beach County shipped to Tallahassee, in case he decides to inspect them. Most represent “undervotes,” ballots without clear selections for president. It was that order that Sauls expanded Wednesday. It now includes all 653,930 ballots cast in Miami-Dade and all 462,657 ballots from Palm Beach.
His move came on a motion from Bush’s lawyers, who complained that Gore wants to count “select ballots” from the two counties. “We don’t think any ballots should be counted, but we have to plan for all contingencies,” Bush attorney Barry Richard said after the hearing. In a rare show of harmony, Gore’s lawyers did not object to the request for all ballots.
One or two vans plus at least two vehicles from the Miami-Dade Police Department will form a caravan to carry the ballots, said spokepeople. Palm Beach County’s ballots were being packed into 162 gray metal boxes, each weighing between 20 and 30 pounds. At 7 a.m. today, a mid-size Ryder truck will back up to the county’s Emergency Operations Center and the boxes will be loaded aboard.
But then in conjunction with that, I have no idea what we're going to do concerning counting or not counting of ballots…. If you want some ballots up here, we'll bring them. Now, if you want some ballots, we need to know which ones you had to object to, but we're going to have to find out what they did. I'm not saying that anybody's going to count ballots. If what the action that is required by law is to review the actions of the canvassing board, then that may be another matter. But if not, then at least we'd have something to start on. And if you have--any side here has any ballots that are objected to, if you want them, you better let us know so they can throw them on the truck, too. All I'm trying to do is get us logistically in the position that, if you are perhaps wrong and the ruling is the other way, we need to have something. We then won't have further delay after delay.
What I would like is whatever was there that a typical voter in each of those counties would have looked at and utilized when a voter in one of those counties voted.
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD COUNSEL: Your Honor, we will send up with our ballots, a sample voting booth, and a ballot and the instructions that we had posted at the precinct.
PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD COUNSEL: We could do the same for Palm Beach County. I believe there were two types we used. We'll send a sample of each, Your Honor.
JUDGE SAULS: They're going to bring us what they had and I'm not going to hear anybody object to whatever it is they've brought, because I'm asking them to bring me what was presented to a voter down there. So it's going to behoove anybody that wants to object to whatever it is they've brought, to get yourself down there to look at it, to see if you've got the objections and see if you can't get it corrected before they bring it.
To achieve this goal, the court holds that amended certifications from the county canvassing boards, must be accepted by the Election Canvassing Commission through 5:00 p.m. on November 26 if the secretary of state's office is open for the special purpose of receiving amended certifications.
If that office is not open for this purpose on that date, then the Elections Canvassing Commission must accept amended certifications until 9 a.m. on November 27.
The opinion of the court is unanimous.
The real parties in interest here, not in the legal sense but in realistic terms, are the voters. They are possessed of the ultimate interest and it is they whom we must give primary consideration…. By refusing to recognize an otherwise valid exercise of the right of a citizen to vote for the sake of sacred, unyielding adherence to statutory scripture, we would in effect nullify that right.We consistently have adhered to the principle that the will of the people is the paramount consideration. Our goal today remains the same as it was a quarter of a century ago, i.e., to reach the result that reflects the will of the voters, whatever that might be. This fundamental principle, and our traditional rules of statutory construction, guide our decision today.
Boardman v. Esteva
The plain language of [the Florida statute] refers to an error in the vote tabulation rather than the vote tabulation system. On its face, the statute does not include any words of limitation; rather, it provides a remedy for any type of mistake made in tabulating ballots.
Our society has not yet gone so far as to place blind faith in machines. In almost all endeavors, including elections, humans routinely correct the errors of machines. For this very reason Florida law provides a human check on both the malfunction of tabulation equipment and error in failing to accurately count the ballots.
First, where two statutory provisions are in conflict, the specific statute controls the general statute. Second, when two statutes are in conflict, the more recently enacted statute controls the older statute. In the present case, the [permissive statute is both more specific and more recent].
Third, a statutory provision will not be construed in such a way that it renders meaningless or absurd any other statutory provision. In the present case, [the permissive statute] contains a detailed provision authorizing the assessment of fines. If the Department were required to ignore all returns received after the statutory date, the fine provision would be meaningless.
Courts must not lose sight of the fundamental purpose of election laws: The laws are intended to facilitate and safeguard the right of each voter to express his or her will in the context of our representative democracy. Technical statutory requirements must not be exalted over the substance of this right.
We conclude that the authority of the Florida Secretary of State to ignore amended returns submitted by a County Canvassing Board may be lawfully exercised only under limited circumstances.
The Secretary must explain to the Board her reason for ignoring the returns and her action must be adequately supported by the law. To disenfranchise electors in an effort to deter Board members, as the Secretary in the present case proposes, is unreasonable, unnecessary, and violates longstanding law.
It is so ordered. No motion for rehearing will be allowed. [Concurred unanimously].
"We're protecting Florida's 25 electoral votes and its 6 million voters," said state Senate president John McKay, who had been reluctant to take this historic step for fear it would be viewed as partisan.
But McKay said he had been concerned that, without legislative action, Florida might wind up with a tainted or disputed slate of electoral votes that would not be counted. That would give the presidency to Gore, whose challenge to the Florida election will be heard by the state Supreme Court this morning.
Within minutes of McKay's announcement, House Democratic leader Lois Frankel, while conceding that Republicans had the votes to do whatever they pleased, blasted the GOP leadership for taking an "unlawful" step. The session would begin tomorrow and last at least through Wednesday, the day after the statutory deadline for certifying electors.
"This is a very sad day for the state of Florida," Frankel said. "We just witnessed the ultimate partisan act." Noting that the state's governor, Jeb Bush, is the brother of Texas governor George W. Bush, she said the act had a "postmark from Austin, Texas."
The GOP witness, John Ahmann, also conceded he had designed a new stylus to be used in punch-card ballots and unsuccessfully tried to sell it to Miami-Dade County on the grounds that the old stylus was not reliable. That disclosure delighted the Gore lawyers, who learned of Ahmann’s stylus design by unearthing a patent application from the Internet.
In a dramatic moment during an otherwise dry exchange of technical evidence, Gore lawyer Steve Zack cornered Ahmann, a rancher who also has an elections supply firm in California. “In close elections, a hand recount is advisable, correct?” Zack asked. “In very close elections, yes,” Ahmann agreed.
Statewide, at least 185,000 ballots were discarded, rejected as either undervotes (failing for whatever reason to successfully mark a ballot or punch out a chad) or overvotes (selecting more than one candidate for whatever reason). That number includes rejected absentee ballots. If those ballots had been included and those voters behaved like their neighbors in the same precincts, Bush would have gotten about 78,000 (42 percent) of the uncounted votes and Gore would have gotten more than 103,000 (56 percent). The remaining 4,000 or so would have gone to the minor candidates. That assumption of voting patterns is based on a concept long accepted by pollsters.
One fundamental flaw, Republicans argued, was an assumption that every voter actually intended to cast a vote in the presidential race. [But] even if the analysis were adjusted to include the remote possibility that 90 percent of voters whose ballots were discarded actually intended to skip the race, the margin still would make a decisive difference for Gore -- about 1,400 votes.
Voting machinery played a large role in ballot rejections. Of the 51 precincts in which more than 20 percent of ballots were rejected, 45 of them used punch cards. Of the 336 precincts in which more than 10 percent were tossed, 277 used punch cards. The overall rejection rate for the 43 optical counties was 1.4 percent. The overall rejection rate for the 24 punch-card counties was 3.9 percent. That means that voters in punch-card counties, which included urban Democratic strongholds such as Broward and Palm Beach counties, were nearly three times as likely to have their ballots rejected as those in optical counties.
HANCOCK: Dec. 12. The Electoral College meets on December 18. This points to the importance of this court using the full reach of its authority to establish procedures that ensure that this results in a process that is fair, that it counts the vote of all people who attempted to exercise that vote.
When Katherine Harris certified the official result, she draped a cloak of authority over Mr. Bush's claims to victory, here and in the nation as a whole. Mr. Bush's rivals heatedly questioned the cloak's authenticity, but there the cloak was, however tattered it may have seemed to some.
Mr. Gore finds himself in a particularly agonizing position, the clear winner of the national popular vote and the leader in the electoral-vote tally with Florida still in doubt, as his spokesmen never tire of noting as they try to persuade the public that his ongoing fight for Florida is an honorable one.
Palm Beach County has submitted a document that purports to be an amended return, but contains two different compilations of the presidential vote. One set of numbers is identified as partial manual recount that fails to comply with the provisions of [the Florida statute]. The other set of numbers is identified as the machine count required by law in this election, and these numbers are identical to those that were certified by the Palm Beach County canvassing board on November 14. These latter numbers are the numbers included in the statewide canvass.
I have applied these criteria in deliberating upon the specific requests of the three counties contemplating manual vote recounts. As a result of these deliberations, I've decided it is my duty under Florida law to exercise my discretion in denying these requested amendments. The reasons given in their requests are insufficient to warrant waiver of the unambiguous filing deadline imposed by the Florida Legislature.
I have communicated this decision with these counties in letters detailing the criteria I used in making my judgments and the application of these criteria to the stated circumstances. And copies of these letters are also available.
Because it is my determination that no amendments to the official returns now on file at the Department of State are warranted, the State Elections Canvassing Commission, acting in its normal and usual manner, has certified the results of Tuesday's election in Florida, including the presidential election. Copies of that portion of the certification relating to the presidential election and the signature pages of the certification are also available.
The usual practice of the state Elections Canvassing Commission is to certify these returns as soon as the compilations are completed by the division's staff. However, in three Florida counties--Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties--these counties may be contemplating amended returns based upon manual recounts not completed as of today's statutory deadline.
In accordance with today's court ruling confirming my discretion in these matters, I'm requiring a written statement of the facts and circumstances that would cause these counties to believe that a change should be made before the final certification of the state-wide vote. This written statement is due in our office by 2 p.m. tomorrow.
Unless I determine, in the exercise of my discretion, that these facts and circumstances contained within these written statements justify an amendment to today's official returns, the state Elections Canvassing Commission, in a manner consistent with its usual and normal practice, will certify statewide results reported to this office today. Subsequently, the overseas ballots that are due by Friday will also be certified, and the final results of the election for president of the United States of America in the state of Florida will be announced.
But like seemingly everything else this year, the closer one looks, the more confusing the voting picture becomes. In fact, were it not for Buchanan, Bush might have spent the last month making cabinet appointments rather than awaiting court verdicts.
As Americans have been forcefully reminded this year, the state-by-state tallies, and the electoral votes that go with them, are what determines who becomes president, not the popular vote. So the key question is which states were so close that third-party voters could have made a difference, had they instead voted for Bush or Gore.
There were 8 states in which no candidate received a majority of votes. In two of them, Maine and Nebraska, Gore won [by more than Buchanan's vote], so those are moot.
In two other states, Florida and New Hampshire, Bush won, but by fewer votes than Nader received. Many Democrats have bitterly said that all the recent chad counting and judicial jousting would have been unnecessary if Nader had quit the race. Gore would then have likely picked up Florida's 25 electoral votes, and maybe NH's four, to boot, giving him the presidency.
That leaves four states, Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin, in which Gore won by narrow margins, ranging from 500 to 6,500 votes. In each case, Buchanan's vote total exceeded the difference between Gore and Bush. Combined, these four states account for 30 electoral votes, or one more than Florida and New Hampshire combined.
In other words, if Buchanan has dropped out and his supporters had switched to Bush, Bush would not have needed Florida to become president. He would have won 276 electoral votes—six more than needed—even without Florida.
Of course, nobody knows just how many Buchanan voters would have switched to Bush. Keep in mind that even the fifth-place candidate, the Libertarian Party's Harry Browne, probably got enough conservative votes to swing at least New Mexico—and maybe Oregon and Wisconsin—to Gore.
In a race that will lack a clear winner even after a victor has been declared, picking a spoiler turns out to be as complicated as counting votes.
Click here for state-by-state vote tallies.
A: Some of my votes clearly were intended to for Gore. But votes for me have to be counted for me.
Q: Some people were confused by this butterfly ballot.
A: You can't go on what we think people intended. You got to go on the votes as they were done and as they were counted. The Gore people are exaggerating. Let me give you an example. They mentioned Delray Beach. I think I got 49 votes, and they say there's no way I could have gotten that. I've got a condominium in Delray Beach. I go to the pancake house every morning, and a lot of people are very friendly. And the fact that I got 50 votes there is not outrageous.
A: Bush won the popular vote in Florida, Bush won the recount. The Democrats are demanding a recount by hand in four counties that are heavily Democratic. That not only lends itself to human error, it opens the thing up to more than just mischief. People can look up those ballots, say, "Well, a tie, let's give it to our friend Al Gore." The machine is not going to give something to Al Gore that he didn't get.
Q: Who is in the stronger position, right now, knowing what we know right now, to win Florida?
A: If you recount the votes in Democratic counties, with Democrats recounting, there is a likelihood they are going to find more votes for Gore. Gore could well come out of this thing ahead before you get to the absentee ballots. Democrats play hardball better than Republicans. If they get a lead on this thing, they will say it is Al Gore's election. The possibility exists this could be taken away from the Republicans.
Speaking before Tuesday night's decision, Nader said a ruling to accept hand recounts in only a few Democratic counties would be perceived as biased because most of the justices are Democrats. Likewise, he said, a move by Florida's Republican-majority legislature to name Republican partisans as that state's electors would be unfair. Meantime, Nader added, the longer the standoff continues, the more ballots will be mishandled and tainted.
"It's razor close, and the margin of error is bigger than the margin between them," he said. "Whoever wins is going to have half the nation against them. It's going to leave a bad taste in the American people's mouths." So, Nader proposes that Gore and Bush settle the standoff with a coin toss.
He claimed to be following the Florida standoff "only casually," saying he doesn't much care who wins. "They're just two lookalike candidates from two lookalike parties that are looking more and more alike. Whoever the winner, he'll just keep hijacking the American governmental system," he said.
In the end, Al Gore made his appeal on one major campaign pitch - that he was not George W. Bush. That simply was not enough to bring millions of stay-at-home voters to the polls.
Almost everyone watching the news from Florida can see that anyone with the power to affect the outcome -- the secretary of state, the various judges, the many local election-board officials -- is a Democrat or Republican who is acting according to his own partisan interest.
So the final outcome won't depend on "truth" or "justice" or "fairness" -- but on the party affiliation of whoever turns out to be the person making the final decision. In other words, what should be a non-partisan, objective ruling will instead be a partisan, politically motivated decision.
Is that the way government should operate? Perhaps not, but that's the way government does operate. And that's the way government always operates.
In fact, if politicians will act in such a blatantly self-interested way as they have in Florida with the whole country watching them, imagine what they do when there's no press coverage of their decisions.
The above quotations are from official sources on the Florida Recount.
Click here for quotes from the Gore campaign.
Click here for quotes from the Bush campaign.
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