it gets worse
masinter at NOVA.EDU
Tue Nov 14 20:41:56 PST 2000
A cogent explanation of the recount fight, written by a colleague on a
The Miami Herald online http://www.herald.com/ (sorry that this
URL is not exact, as the MH uses frames at it's site, my browser didn't
display the exact URL of the map) has a county-by-county map of Florida
that displays which counties use punch-cards and which use optical
scanners. There are also two counties that *only* hand tabulate. Bush won
both of those. The map also indicates which candidate won which counties.
Unfortunately, the Herald map does not break down these counties by number
of votes cast.
I did find a web-page which contains the county-by-county breakdown of
population in Florida, however, which should serve as a decent proxy of
votes cast. That page is located at:
If you add up the total Bush-won punch-card counties' population, it
comes out to approximately 2.5 million. If you add up the total population
of Gore-won punch-card counties, you get approximately 6 million. Assuming
that voting participation levels are roughly equal in the two groups, on a
manual recount of the *entire* punch-card county vote, you are going to be
tallying more than twice as many ballots in Dem territory than Rep
If you restrict yourself to the four-county rule in the Florida
Statutes, its doesn't get any better or worse for the Republicans. Gore's
four biggest punch-card counties constitute a total population of 5.5
million; Bush's, 2.3 million. The four-county rule leaves un-recounted
only about 10% of the total represented population of Florida.
If you accept the presumption that a hand-count of optically scanned
counties won't change anything (a presumption for which there is plenty of
evidence), then a hand-recount of the entire state will give Gore a heavy
advantage in the nature of the ballots being picked up and counted that
remain uncounted by machines.
This is why Bush asked for a remedy of no more counting. He knows that
he is going to lose a full hand recount. That's why his surrogates are
out there, even as we speak, doing their best to poison the well of public
opinion by undermining public faith in the accuracy of hand recounts.
That's why Bush absolutely can't accept the Gore proposal to abide by a
hand recount of the whole state (plus absentee/overseas ballots). Bush
will lose if he accepts.
Even as he rails against the Democrats "stealing the election" in
today's column, George Will has a telling moment of honesty:
"Republicans everywhere, seething as they watch slow-motion larceny,
wonder why Bush's campaign did not demand manual recounts in counties he
carried handily and where there were large numbers of disallowed ballots.
For example, Bush carried Duval County--Jacksonville--152,098 to 107,864
and there were 26,000 such ballots. However, Bush officials noted that
those ballots were disproportionately cast in precincts that voted heavily
"This is why Bush had fewer Florida recount options than Gore had: All
over Florida, people who had a difficult time correctly marking a ballot
were much more apt to be trying to vote Democratic than Republican."
The full column is here:
Duval, referred to by Will, is the second-largest county by population
that went for Bush. But even there, Will admits that recounting would be
futile, as the miss-punched ballots were heavily concentrated in precincts
This is due to the phenomenon I told you about several posts ago: the
machines discriminate against people of low socio-economic status who are
not familiar with the concept of machine-read cards. Uncounted ballots
which would be picked up on hand-count are concentrated in that
traditionally-Democratic demographic--even in Republican-carried counties.
There is no horde of uncounted Republican ballots out there. Gore's
pickup on a full and impartial hand-recount would dwarf Bush's because the
vast majority of those ballots reside in Democratic precincts. That's why
Gore suggested it and why Bush will never agree to it. That's also why
Bush loyalists like George Will are out there right now trying desperately
to poison the well of public opinion against hand-counts.
In sum, the argument that Bush is somehow being screwed because he blew
the deadline misses the point. His *better* strategy is never to ask for a
recount and never to concede that it's a legitimate option for others to
use. Giving in and asking to recount his own counties is a strategy for a
loss, and I credit his people with being smart enough to know that.
Michael R. Masinter 3305 College Avenue
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, Fl. 33314
Shepard Broad Law Center (954) 262-6151
masinter at nova.edu Chair, ACLU of Florida Legal Panel
On Tue, 14 Nov 2000, Greg Sisk wrote:
> I could not disagree more strongly. The counties selected -- which
> include not only the site of supposed ballot confusion in Palm Beach
> County but other large heavily Democratic counties -- were selected
> by Gore partisans for the cynical purpose of ensuring an
> ever-increasing vote total as recounts progress. Given that most of
> the Republican leaning counties did not use punch-hole balloting, the
> same approach to recounting simply is not relevant in those counties.
> The process is weighted toward Democratic vote gathering, not toward
> correcting any supposed irregularity. Moreover, Palm Beach County
> changed the supposed standard (it is far too subjective to be labeled
> a true "standard") for evaluating the ballots three times during the
> course of counting 1 percent of the vote in that county. Even that
> was not sufficient for the Gore campaign, which is now in court
> arguing that "pregnant" chads should also be counted as votes. The
> Associated Press aptly described the carnival atmosphere in the Palm
> Beach County counting room as involving judgments that "border on the
> ridiculous". But please understand: I am not necessarily saying
> that the Gore presidency would be illegitimate in a
> legally-cognizable sense nor that handcounting is unconstitutional
> per se (although the Florida situation may give rise to questions
> about application). Rather, I am saying Al Gore would be regarded by
> many (including myself) as illegitimate in the moral sense that I
> think Al Gore-Bill Daley are playing political games and rigging the
> outcome in a partisan manner. Of course, I am sure Gore partisans
> believe the same about Bush and the Republicans.
> >And here it is again. Greg Sisk writes:
> >> Likewise, many Republicans
> >>(frankly including myself) will always regard Al Gore as illegitimate
> >>if he secures his winning margin through the carnival and inherently
> >>subjective atmosphere of the manual handcount in selected
> >>Democratically-controlled counties.
> >The manual recount is provided by statute as a remedy in Florida law.
> >Unless hand counting of votes is per se unconstitutional, how can it render
> >a Gore presidency illegitimate? The recount is taking place in the full
> >light of day, with observers from both parties watching the count. Is it
> >really likely that it will produce a less accurate final count than the
> >known and predictable undercount produced by the use of punch ballots? In
> >any event, it is the regular procedure provided by law in Florida.
> >On the "selected Democratically-controlled counties," that is a red
> >herring. There were 72 hours to ask for recounts, and Bush could have done
> >so in the punch ballot counties where he ran ahead, so that the normal
> >punch undercount worked to his disadvantage. He and his advisors obviously
> >saw that a recount in all 11 of the punch counties would favor Gore, so
> >they fastened on the strategy of ridiculing and attempting to render
> >illegitimate in the public mind this standard and statutorily provided
> >remedy -- which also is the remedy in his own state, under a law signed by
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