Yesterday I suggested that maybe they should flip a coin. Nobody thought this was a good idea. Today I have a better idea.

If it came to a judge and I were he, here’s what I’d say:

  • Those 3,405 people who voted for Buchanan? Tough luck. It’s a mess and it’s terrible, since most of them clearly meant to vote for Gore, as even Buchanan agrees, but we’re going to let it stand to show we will go to some lengths to avoid encouraging re-votes.
  • Those African-Americans who were intimidated into not voting or switching their votes to Bush? It’s a mess and it’s terrible, but we’re not going to get into that, either.
  • Those 19,000 double-voters whose ballots were thrown out? Count both their choices. Why not? These people clearly meant to vote. No candidate they did vote for will be disadvantaged by this, and no candidate they did not vote for can argue the ballot was intended for him.

If someone voted for Gore & Bush, what harm in giving each an extra vote? If someone voted for Bush & Buchanan, what harm in giving each an extra vote? If someone voted for Gore & Buchanan – same thing.

It’s quick. It re-enfranchises 19,000 people who should not be disenfranchised. It requires no re-votes or anything else. It would take just a few hours to count these ballots. And if, as is likely, those 19,000 mostly wanted Gore to be their President – why should their preference be disregarded? Everyone else had their preferences counted, why not these voters?

It’s not a perfect solution, but neither is it a perfect situation.

INTIMIDATION

I got a lot of calls and e-mails from Floridians with stories to tell. One was the story of a black woman who went to the polls and was asked INSIDE the polling place by a white man who she was voting for. Gore, she said. He asked her why she wasn’t voting for Bush. She said she didn’t want to. He then asked her to give him her ballot and said that he would punch it for her. She said no. But, she reports, many others said yes.

Of course, there may have been situations where the 80-year-old black woman running a polling place intimidated young white Bush voters into not voting. Or where black State Troopers scared away white voters by asking for their IDs. But somehow it doesn’t ring as true.

MECHANICS

You may also have seen this report, which I cannot verify – it’s one of those things going around the Internet – but which also rings true:

Thought you’d like an update from the inside. I spent much of Wed. as the Palm Beach County Dem. Party observer in the recount room at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections. Also present were lawyers and a staffer representing GWB, several lawyers representing Gore, representatives of the Reform Party, the Fla. Democratic and Republican Parties, the DNCC, US Rep. Clay Shaw and his Dem. challenger Elaine Bloom, a Dem. State Senator and a Dem. State Representative from the County.

The recount was supposed to begin at 1:30, was delayed until 4:00 and ended at 11:30. Our role basically consisted of sitting in a cramped room watching five staffers run stacks of punch card ballots through counting machines. Pretty dull all in all until it was discovered that one precinct had not been counted in full. This resulted in a net gain for Al of about 360 votes. The Bush boys lost their smug attitudes and began huddling and whispering every few minutes.

The absentees came through for Al too. When one votes at the polls in Florida, they provide a punch instrument that, if used correctly, completely perforates the ballot. However, absentee voters often use a pen or other implement that does not fully perforate the card. This was apparent to us from the fact that over 10,000 voters in the County, about 2.2% of the overall turnout, did not make any choice in the Presidential race, but did vote in the US Senate or Congressional races. We theorized that many voters had partially perforated the card, but the machines weren’t reading them. The more times the ballots are run through the counting machine, the more likely the loosened chits fall off. When the absentees were counted, 221 ballots that had previously registered no vote now did show a vote in the Presidential race. These went overwhelmingly for Gore, leading to some whooping and high-fiving from our side. The Bushies really lost it at this point and got a little hostile with the staffers, which in turn elicited some harsh responses from the assembled masses.

Gore’s net gain in the County was 643. Word from other counties is that Gore closed the 1,700 deficit by over 1,200. Only half of the counties conducted their recounts on Wednesday. The rest [will be] on Thursday. The bigger problem is that the ballot in Palm Beach County, which differs in its layout from the ballots elsewhere in the State, is illegal for several reasons. Florida statutes specifically mandate the precise layout of the ballot and the order of candidates. The law was not followed. Bush’s name was first, with Buchanan below him and Gore third. This is completely improper, as well as the fact that the law requires the names to be placed to the left with the punch holes to the right of the candidates’ names. On this ballot, some names were on the right and some on the left, with all of the punch holes in the middle. It was difficult to line up the name with the correct hole.

Moreover, 19,000 ballots were disqualified because they voted for two or more candidates. This is a direct result of the confusing layout of the names on the ballot. This represents over 4% of the total ballots. It was as high as 15% in some predominantly African-American precincts and about 10% in some precincts with large numbers of Jewish retirees. The Gore vote in many of these precincts was over 90%.

This explains the networks’ exit polling which reflected voters’ belief that they had voted for Gore, but in fact their ballots had been disqualified. This led to the initial awarding of Florida to Gore.

Folks, the bottom line is that if the names on the ballot had been properly situated, Gore would have had an additional 11-13,000 vote margin in this County, and the election would be over. We have done a precinct-by-precinct analysis of where the disqualified votes came from. By attributing the same percentage of the vote Gore obtained in those precincts to the disqualified ballots, Gore would be winning Florida by at least 10,000 votes.

In other words, Gore has actually won the election both in the popular vote and in the electoral vote, but he may well still lose it. You should also be aware that other large counties in the State disqualified about one half of one percent of their ballots for casting two or more votes in the Presidential race. In Palm Beach County it was 4.4%.

Lastly, don’t expect the recount to be over on Thursday, as the media is stating. Legal actions are underway. The next question, will a judge order a re-vote just in Palm Beach County with a new ballot?

☞ Fine with me – but much simpler just to tally the 19,000 ballots that were not counted.

 

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