Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bush v. Gore (2000)

[Author’s Note: This post is part of the 7 part series Conspiracy Check. The series factchecks the claims of Liberal commentator Thom Hartmann concerning allegations of fraud and treason during 5 presidential elections.]

Hartmann began his discussion of the 2000 election by discussing the Texas felon list that was used to take Florida voters off the roles. The stated purpose of the list, which was used in Florida, was to prevent individuals who had their voting rights taken away from voting illegally. However, Salon did an extensive investigation into the list and found its implementation was riddled with errors. Some voters who were prevented from voting were guilty of misdemeanors rather than felonies, others were felons who had their voting rights restored, and some were cases of mistaken identity. While the exact number of individuals who were improperly taken off the list is unknown, Salon estimated that 7,000 voters could have been improperly taken off the roles based on the error ratio found in one Florida county.

“Hillsborough County’s elections supervisor, Pam Iorio, tried to make sure that that the bugs in the system didn’t keep anyone from voting. All 3,258 county residents who were identified as possible felons on the central voter file sent by the state in June were sent a certified letter informing them that their voting rights were in jeopardy. Of that number, 551 appealed their status, and 245 of those appeals were successful. Some had been convicted of a misdemeanor and not a felony, others were felons who had had their rights restored and others were simply cases of mistaken identity.

An additional 279 were not close matches with names on the county’s own voter rolls and were not notified. Of the 3,258 names on the original list, therefore, the county concluded that more than 15 percent were in error. If that ratio held statewide, no fewer than 7,000 voters were incorrectly targeted for removal from voting rosters.”

As many as 7,000 Florida voters had their voting rights illegally taken away from them in 2000.  Salon pointed out that the improper disenfranchisement by the list disproportionally affected ethnic minorities, who were more likely to be Gore voters. The margin of victory in Florida was 537 votes. Therefore, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ policy of improperly removing voters based on a Texas felon list very likely won the election for Bush.


Thousands of Gore votes were lost due to the confusing Butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County. Thousands more of Gore votes were lost in Duval County as a result of confusing ballot instructions. In both of these scenarios voters ended up voting for multiple candidates for president and thus invalidated their votes. Had there been a revote in Florida without these confusing ballots, Gore would have likely won the election.


However, Hartmann errs when he describes the results of a media consortium investigation into the disputed ballots involved in the Florida recount.

So the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush and it wasn’t until a year later in November 2001 that a consortium of Florida newspapers completed a count of Florida ballots. And when the New York Times reported on it they buried in the seventeenth paragraph of the story the bombshell that had the Supreme Court not intervened and had all the ballots been counted in Florida as the Florida Supreme Court had ordered Al Gore would have won no matter how you counted the ballots.

As the Times reports, “If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin.”

The truth is that the Florida Supreme Court only ordered a statewide recount of undervotes (dimpled and hanging chads) and that a recount of undervotes alone would not have given Gore enough extra votes to win Florida. The first paragraph of the New York Times article Hartmann quotes from contradicts his claim.

A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.

The votes that would have been necessary for Gore to win the election were those where voters marked the oval for Gore but also wrote his name in on the write in spot. From the Washington Post:

The overvotes that could have provided the margin for Gore were on ballots where voters tried to be extra-clear in their choice and ended up nullifying the vote. They filled in the oval next to a candidate and then filled in the oval for "write-in" and wrote the same candidate's name again.

In many of the scenarios where voters who voted for Gore and also did a write in for Gore were counted, Gore would have won the election. However, disputes among whether a chad was dimpled in scenarios where dimpled chads would count as legitimate votes were numerous enough that the election would have been different whether the standard was 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 3 counters agreeing to whether a chad was dimpled. From the New York Times:

If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin. For example, using the most permissive "dimpled chad" standard, nearly 25,000 additional votes would have been reaped, yielding 644 net new votes for Mr. Gore and giving him a 107-vote victory margin.

But the dimple standard was also the subject of the most disagreement among coders, and Mr. Bush fought the use of this standard in recounts in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami- Dade Counties. Many dimples were so light that only one coder saw them, and hundreds that were seen by two were not seen by three. In fact, counting dimples that three people saw would have given Mr. Gore a net of just 318 additional votes and kept Mr. Bush in the lead by 219.

The 2000 election in Florida was so close that different results could be obtained by changing which undervotes and overvotes counted as legitimate votes. This is shown quite well by the Washington Post’s interactive applet that displays the results of the consortium recount. Hartmann’s declaration that Gore won the 2000 election did not adequately explain that the winner of Florida depended on what qualified as a legitimate vote.

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