Midwest Today Home Page navigation block

Midwest Today, December 2000



Scary Facts About the Florida Vote

By Larry Jordan

With their typical inability to focus on more than just a few issues at a time, the national media have been doing a very inadequate job of covering the election controversy in Florida. Lost amidst all the blather have been some significant facts which have either not been covered at all, or at least have not been sufficiently stressed. For example:

Confounding the predictions of most polls and pundits, and despite having been outspent by millions, Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 325,000 ballots nationwide, with over 50 million votes in his column -- the second-highest total ever and the largest vote tally by any non-incumbent President in U.S. history. He did all this despite the fact that Ralph Nader siphoned off critical votes in key states.

Gore also took the lead in electoral votes, and now stands at 266. Meanwhile, Bush's margin of win in Florida shrank by 85 percent, to a slim few hundred votes, after that state's mandatory first recount, and has been fluctuating ever since.

With so many voting irregularities apparent even on the day of polling, it only stood to reason that the Democrats would seek to ascertain a more accurate vote tally. They have been criticized for having requested recounts in largely Democratic counties, but they did so primarily because that's where most of the problems occurred.

Interestingly, an investigation by the Orlando Sentinel revealed that these counties had been relegated some problem-prone voting machines, which were known to have an error rate five times higher than the more accurate equipment which was used in Republican dominated counties.

This may have been the Republicans' secret weapon, and the reason why Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of the GOP Presidential nominee, was so sure Dubya would carry the state. It allowed Bush to squeeze out the maximum number of votes in friendly precincts while Democrats waged an uphill battle to record all the votes due them.

As has been previously reported, an analysis suggests that Gore may also have lost about 13,000 votes in Palm Beach County because of voter confusion over an illegally designed "butterfly" ballot. +

After the election, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan acknowledged that his anomalous blip of 3,704 votes in the staunchly Democratic county, with a large Jewish population, almost certainly resulted from confusion. Buchanan said he believed those votes were intended for Gore.

Buchanan's total in Palm Beach County exceeded his tally in any other county by about 2,700. So those could be factored in for Gore too.

Gore lost even more votes -- an estimated 10,622 ballots -- when voters tried to correct their error by punching a second hole for Gore after mistakenly punching one for Buchanan.

But that's not all. In Duval County (Jacksonville, Fla.) double-marked ballots substantially affected Mr. Gore's showing, an analysis of voting data suggests. More than 20% of the votes cast in predominantly African-American precincts were tossed out, nearly triple the number in majority white precincts. In two largely black precincts, nearly one-third of the ballots were invalidated. Altogether, 21,942 ballots were rejected because the voter, in confusion, punched the hole beside the name of more than one candidate.

Aside from the mechanical problems with the vote tabulations, evidence now suggests that on election day, many white Florida officials were doing their utmost to make sure blacks and other minorities (who historically favor the Democrats) didn't vote. That's the real scandal.

In a maneuver that smacks of the civil rights fights in the old South, substantial numbers of blacks were turned away from polling booths in various parts of the state.

These facts notwithstanding, Republicans who were bussed into Miami on Wednesday staged a near-riot, storming the county canvassing board. Democratic personnel were physically assaulted within yards of the vote counting while prominent Republicans launched vituperative attacks on the canvassing board members and its staff.

If African-American voters led by Jesse Jackson had done the same, Republican spinners would be on all the talk shows complaining about how thugs and brownshirts were trying to undermine democracy. The GOP intimidation tactics no doubt prompted the Miami-Dade canvassing board to its cowardly decision that it would not count thousands of ballots that would potentially help make Gore President.

Sanctimonious Republicans, goaded by Gov. George W. Bush and his supporters, keep chanting that Gore is trying to "steal" the election. This is truly egregrious, given the fact that voter intimidation, ballot mishandling and other suspicious activities took place in the decisive state of Florida, whose Governor, Jeb Bush, had a personal stake in the outcome. Mere coincidence? Consider:

Republicans sent out postcards over Jeb Bush's signature in a get-out-the-vote effort that ran afoul of the laws intended to prevent abuse of absentee voting. In Oskaloosa County in the Florida panhandle, which is heavily Republican, officials sent out more than 17,000 absentee ballots, including to people who did not request them - a clear violation of state law.

*Ballots ran out in certain precincts.

*Carpools of African-American voters were stopped by police. In some cases, officers demanded to see a "taxi license."

*Polls closed with people still in line in Tampa.

*In Osceola County, ballots did not line up properly, possibly causing Gore voters to have their ballots cast for Harry Browne. Also, Hispanic voters were required to produce two forms of id when only one is required.

*Dozens, and possibly hundreds, of voters in Broward County were unable to vote because the Supervisor of Elections did not have enough staff to verify changes of address.

*Voters were mistakenly removed from voter rolls because their names were similar to those of ex-cons.

*According to Reuters news service, many voters received pencils rather than pens when they voted, in violation of state law.

*The Miami Herald reported that many Haitian-American voters were turned away from precincts where they were voting for the first time.

*The mayoral candidate whose election in Miami was overturned due to voter fraud, Xavier Suarez, said he was involved in preparing absentee ballots for George w. Bush.

*CBS's Dan Rather reported a possible "computer error" in Volusia County, Florida, where James Harris, a Socialist Workers Party candidate, won 9,888 votes. (He got only 583 in the rest of the state).

*Many African-American first-time voters who registered at motor vehicles offices or in campus voter registration drives did not appear on the voting rolls, according to a hearing conducted by the NAACP and televised on C-SPAN

*The London Times has reported a suspected pro-Bush vote fraud operation in Miami involving thousands of ballots.

*Jewish precincts had a suspiciously high number of double-punched ballots, and another lost its computerized votes altogether when a poll worker "accidentally" erased them.

*The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed that the department did conduct what it called a "routine" check point near a black precinct in Tallahassee on election day. Police asked black men to get out of their vehicles and produce identification.

*African Americans received calls the weekend before the election from a speaker who falsely claimed to be with the NAACP, asking them to vote for Bush. Similar calls were reported in Michigan and Virginia.

*Sandy Goard, supervisor of elections of Seminole County, admitted allowing two Republican operatives to add missing voter-identification numbers to 4,700 incomplete absentee ballot requests, mostly GOP voters -- actions that were illegal.

The Bush minions have been harping about the military ballots which they claim the Gore team got thrown out. Ironically, the election officials who passed judgment on these ballots used criteria established weeks ago by Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

The GOP apparently has no qualms about the disenfranchisement of thousands of other voters, who would be missed if hand recounts did not go forward. Nor do they care about many of the veterans whose votes have not yet been counted.

As Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post commented on MSNBC recently, no doubt somebody somewhere is, at this very moment, compiling a book which will be published after this controversy is over. Surely it will be a blockbuster. Only then will we find out more about the behind-the-scenes machinations going on in this election dispute.

It is sad, indeed, that our national media are not up to the task of keeping the public informed of the broader complexities of this matter as they unfold.

+ In Palm Beach County, there were 19,120 ballots disqualified because of double-voting. The Palm Beach County canvassing board analyzed a sample of these disqualified ballots. From that sample of 144 ballots, 80 ballots -- or 56 percent -- showed punches for both Buchanan and Gore, according to the Nov. 21 New York Times.. If that sample percentage reflects the entire batch, Gore may have lost as many as 10,622 votes.

Back to the top
Past Issues Archive Contact Us Web Weaver
MidWest Today Address

Contents copyright 2000. All rights reserved.