Midwest Today, December 2000
O M M E N T A R Y
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
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
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"
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
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 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
*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
*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
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.
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.
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