An inspection of discarded presidential ballots by the Orlando Sentinel last week revealed that Vice President Gore would have picked up 130 net votes in conservative Lake County if ballots marked ‘GORE’ had not been thrown out because ‘GORE’ or ‘LIEBERMAN’ was also written in on the “write-in” line.

Sure, you could speculate what such a voter intended – you could guess the voter favored Gore. But were impartial Justices really going to allow votes based on mindreading?

According to the newspaper, ‘Gore lost a net 130 votes that were clearly his even in a conservative GOP bastion that President-elect Bush dominated as a whole. The tally of uncounted ballots by the Orlando Sentinel was the first outside review to be completed in any Florida county since the U.S. Supreme Court halted a statewide recount on December 9. . . .The review found 376 discarded ballots in Lake that were clearly intended as votes for Gore: In each case, an oval next to his name was filled in with a pencil and the voter mistakenly filled in another oval next to a spot reserved for write-in candidates, writing in Gore’s name or running mate Joe Lieberman’s there as well. Another 246 such ballots showing clear votes for Bush and running mate Dick Cheney were thrown out. Had all such ballots been counted, the result would have been a net gain of 130 votes for Gore. Bush spokesman Tucker Eskew said the Sentinel was engaged in ‘mischief making’ by treating ‘illegal votes’ as legal votes.’

Being a congenital optimist, I am looking for all sorts of silver linings in a Bush presidency. I truly am. I think he could surprise on the upside, and I am hopeful that he will. But I disagree with those who say that, well, yes, Whitewater was worth years of investigation and constant national attention . . . but that, no, we should not care to investigate and discuss what really happened in Florida. And while I absolutely accept the finality of the Supreme Court’s decision, I disagree with those who believe the Justices are above criticism.

True, Florida voters encountered unequal protection under the law. Some voted with optical ballots, some with punchcards; some were asked for three forms of identification before they could vote; some voted in precincts plugged in with laptops to the central voter roles to resolve difficulties, others in precincts where this could be done only by calling a phone number that was always busy.

But until this is fixed, it seems to me you make do with what you have, counting the ballots as best you can. Five Justices – with strong personal reasons to favor Bush – wouldn’t allow that to happen.

Clay Glenn: ‘There are three kinds of people in Palm Beach: Those who can count, and those who can’t.’

Tomorrow: Back to Money


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