Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater


(posted December 21, 2000; addendum at bottom posted December 12, 2001)

A. His popular vote lead over Bush in the 2000 presidential election was 540,000.

That's five times the lead Kennedy had over Nixon in 1960.

B. The analysis commissioned by the Miami Herald indicates that Gore would have won Florida by 23,000 votes if all the state's contested ballots had been completely counted.

C. With Florida's 25 electoral votes Gore goes over the top to win the electoral vote, 292-246, rather than the "official" December 18 count of 271-267 for President-appointee Bush.

So how did they manage to hijack the election?

1. Florida Secretary of State Katharine Harris scrubbed the voter list of thousands of supposed ex-felons, people who were entitled to vote and who were disproportionately African-American. (African-Americans in Florida voted 93 percent for Al Gore.)

2. Election officials in two counties allowed Republican campaign workers to come to election offices and illegally insert missing ID numbers on thousands of absentee ballots that would otherwise have been disqualified. This "privilege" was not extended for absentee ballots from Democrats.

3. On Election Day thousands of people in minority districts were prevented from voting. Some were told their names weren't on the list, polling places were moved without notice or had an insufficient number of ballots. Some Florida Highway Patrol officers set up a road block on the main road to a black precinct outside Tallahassee. In Palm Beach County Jewish senior citizens complained that the confusing misalignment of names on the "butterfly ballot" caused them to vote for Pat Buchanan rather than Al Gore.

4. On Election Night the exit polls conducted by the Voter News Service indicated that Gore had carried Florida by 100,000 votes. So an early call for Gore was made 50 minutes after the polls had closed in most of the state, but 10 minutes before they closed in the Panhandle. The Bush family immediately decamped from the campaign hotel to the governor's mansion where they made the unprecedented step of calling a press conference to tell the networks that George W. "knew" that a mistake had been made and that he had carried Florida, not Gore. He and brother Jeb were in telephone communication all that evening with first cousin John Ellis, the news director for the Fox News channel. As the evening progressed, it became clear that whoever won Florida's 25 electoral votes would win the election. There were unexplained shifts in the vote data coming from Florida and at one time there was a large surge for Bush. At 2:16 AM John Ellis unilaterally, with no input from VNS, called Florida for Cousin George at a time when the vote count for Bush was dropping precipitously. The other networks followed suit, Gore called Bush to congratulate him, and was on his way to make a concession speech when he was informed that Bush's supposed lead was rapidly dwindling.

5. By daybreak Bush's lead was 1725 votes out of 6 million. This triggered an automatic machine recount which garnered enough votes for Gore to narrow Bush's lead to 327.   45,000 ballots had been rejected for undervoting. Most of these were in urban areas and poor districts where the old Vote-O-Matics with their higher rejection rate were still in use. The richer, Republican counties were using optical scanners.

6. In the "protest phase" (before certification) the Democrats asked for hand recounts in four counties. The Republicans not only did not ask for recounts in counties where they might have gained some votes, but also pulled every conceivable maneuver to prevent the undervotes from being counted anywhere. It was clear to all from the preliminary hand counts that if all the votes had been counted, Gore would have won handily.

7. During the campaign Bush had emphasized that he had faith in the people, not the government. However, when he was about to lose the people's vote, he went to the courts to seek an injunction against hand recounts.

8. When the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of hand recounts but gave a November 26 deadline, Bush spokesman James Baker suggested that the Republican-controlled legislature would convene a special session to select electors for Bush regardless of the outcome of the recount.

9. Republican Congressional Whip Tom DeLay quickly assembled a contingent of congressional staffers who used mob tactics to intimidate and shut down the vote count in Miami-Dade. These election officials were further intimidated by the word that a larger mob of Cuban-Americans incited by Radio Mambi was on the way. The Miami recount alone would have yielded enough to put Gore ahead.

10. On November 26 Harris held an elaborate televised ceremony to certify the final results, putting Bush in the lead by 537 votes. (She refused to accept the Palm Beach recount as that board submitted its results two hours late, thanks to the harassment and delay tactics of the Republican monitors.) The Democratic team announced that they would contest the results in the courts. Bush announces that he is the president-elect and demands that Clinton give him the presidential transition team perks.

11. Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls rejected Gore's contest of the certified election results despite testimony from Bush's own expert witness who conceded that manual recounts were required in close elections where Vote-O-Matic machines had been used. Sauls said that manual recounts in selected counties were not warranted and that local canvassing boards had "discretion" to reject lawfully cast votes!

12. A few hours later the Florida Supreme Court overruled Sauls' decision and ordered an immediate manual recount of 43,000 undervotes statewide.

13. The next day, December 9, the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ordered a temporary halt to the Florida recount and set a hearing date for the Monday, the 11th.

14. Black Tuesday, December 12: The same Gang of Five (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and O'Connor) permanently halted the recount and essentially handed the presidency to George W. Bush. In Scalia's specious reasoning: "There is no right of suffrage" in a presidential election. To continue to count the votes would "threaten irreparable damage to petitioner [George W. Bush], and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election.... The individual has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College." Additionally they ruled that the state legislature could, at any time, revoke the popular vote for president and "if it so chooses, select the electors itself." (This same day the Florida legislature selected electors who would vote for Bush.)

Associate Justice John Paul Stevens stated in the dissenting opinion: "The majority effectively orders the disenfranchisement of an unknown number of voters whose ballots reveal their intent-- and are therefore legal votes under state law-- but were for some reason rejected by ballot-counting machines.... Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

(Several members of the Gang of Five had conflicts of interest with a Bush victory, but failed to recuse themselves.)

This decision may well go down in history as second only to the unconscionable Dred Scott decision of 1857 which ruined the reputation of the Supreme Court for several decades.

If you find the decision hard to understand (!), check out this interview with attorney Mark Levine:

A Layman's Guide to the Supreme Court Decision in Bush v. Gore, by Mark Levine, Esq.

For more details and sources, see the longer version

Addendum from December 12, 2001:

A consortium of newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and Palm Beach Post, early this year commissioned the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) to undertake a study of the Florida ballots. The results were due to be released on September 24th.  Those who followed the bulletins on the NORC web pages during the summer realized that Gore was going to emerge as the winner.  The first indication that the results would not be published came when the NORC eliminated its Florida ballot survey pages. Many of the media involved wiith NORC chose not to comment on the non-release. Those who did attributed the joint decision to a "matter of resources," meaning a need to concentrate on reporting the aftermath of the 9-11 disaster.

Richard Berke in the September 23 New York Times was a bit more disingenuous: "Until September 11th, the capital was riding a historically partisan period, with leading Democrats still portraying their president as 'appointed' by the Supreme Court. In a move that might jave stoked the partisan tensions, but now seems utterly irrelevant, a consortium of news organizations, including The New York Times, had been scheduled this week to release the results of its ambitious undertaking to recount the Florida presidential ballots..."

On November 12 those newspapers printed "stories" about the NORC results that completely distorted the findings. "Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush," headlined the Washington Post. "Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote." said the New York Times. For a long article on how they manipulated the figures to arrive at these outrageous statements, I'll refer you to Robert Parry's article, "Dissing Democracy" in his

The bottom line is: Gore would have won if all the legally cast votes had been counted.

That includes the overvotes--- those ballots on which the voter voted for a candidate and additionally wrote in the candidate's name on that confusingly designed Florida ballot. Judge Terry Lewis, who had been named by the Florida Supreme Court to oversee the statewide recount, wrote a memo instructing the boards to include these overvotesshortly before the Supreme Court intervened to rescue Bush.

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