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Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2000 / 7 Kislev, 5761

Michael Barone

Michael Barone
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Lies and statistics

Team Gore is still using fuzzy math to heist the election --
AS THE SUPREME COURT ponders the Florida case, Al Gore continues to try to hijack the election by barring the counting of legitimately cast military ballots and manufacturing illegitimate votes out of dimpled chads. It is important to keep in mind, as the Supreme Court mulls its decision, that the Gore strategy is disingenuous at best, unscrupulous at worst.

Start with the Illinois case referred to by Gore lawyer David Boies and cited with approval by the Florida Supreme Court. Boies used it to support the proposition that courts have required dimpled chads to be counted as votes, and he introduced an affidavit from an Illinois lawyer in that case saying that the dimpled chad was allowed. But that was not true: In that case no dimpled chads were counted. The Illinois lawyer has since withdrawn his affidavit. Ordinarily, a lawyer who has relied on an affidavit he learns is false is obliged to confess the error to the court.

The false affidavit and the misleading citation of Illinois law are important, because Boies used the Illinois case to persuade the Broward County canvassers to reverse their original decision and undertake their hand count. It was a travesty. The two Democratic canvassers changed the rules midcount, so that they could count dimpled chads as votes. They counted dimpled ballots for Gore when the voter punched clean holes for other Democratic candidates, on the theory that the voter must have intended to vote a straight Democratic ticket. But they refrained from counting similar dimpled chads for Bush. Eventually they counted some 1,500 votes, mostly dimpled chads, with a 567-vote net gain for Gore. This was a much higher gain for Gore than the 188-vote net gain in Palm Beach County, where canvassers counted dimpled chads for president only where there were dimples for other races.

Manufactured votes. That a dimpled chad is not a clearly intended vote is obvious to most ordinary citizens. And, despite Gore-campaign assertions, it turns out that dimpled chads have almost never been counted as votes in the United States, with the exception (an embarrassing one for George W. Bush) of 14 counties in Texas and a special election in Massachusetts where there was only one race and the ballots were damaged by water. Counting dimpled chads is nothing more than manufacturing votes.

Then there are the Gore campaign assertions that thousands of ballots have never been counted. This is simply false. All Florida ballots have been counted and recounted by machine. The Gore team focuses only on the 10,750 "uncounted" ballots that did not register a vote for president in Miami-Dade County. But there is nothing remarkable about that number. It was 1.6 percent of all ballots cast, less than the percentage for all of Florida (2.9 percent) or for the 32 states and Washington, D.C., where comparable statistics are available (1.9 percent). The Gore lawyers' claim that these ballots are somehow peculiar and require hand counting is without basis. You might as well hand count undercounted ballots in all Florida counties.

Then there is the Gore-team assertion that a complete hand count of Miami-Dade would produce another 600 votes for Gore. This is based on the fact that a partial hand count of 135 precincts produced a 157-vote net gain for Gore. But those precincts were not typical of the county. They are heavily black and Jewish precincts that voted 76 percent for Gore. In the rest of Miami-Dade, Bush led with 52 percent of the two-party vote. If you extrapolate from the proportion of new votes added by the hand count to the Bush and Gore totals, you wind up giving Bush a net gain of 461 votes in the precincts that were not hand counted, for a 304-vote Bush gain countywide. That's just an estimate, but it's nothing like the bonanza Gore's lawyers have been projecting.

Gore and Joe Lieberman are said to be convinced that more Floridians went in and voted for them on Election Day or through absentee ballots. It may be true that a plurality of those heading into the polls intended to vote for them. But it is also plain from the numbers now in that more legitimate votes were cast for Bush. If you ignore the votes added to the Gore total by dimpled chad, the counts show Bush more than 1,000 votes ahead. A Gore presidency is still possible. But it would be a dimpled-chad presidency.

Cool the rhetoric, many are urging. Say nothing that would make the next president seem illegitimate. But the truth cries out to be told. When one side in an election dispute bases its case on pettifoggery and untruths, when it embarks on a strategy that can succeed only by manufacturing votes out of dimpled chads, when it argues in court that every dimpled chad no matter how minimal must be counted as a vote, it should not be surprised when people notice and object. "The campaign goes on," Gore Campaign Manager Bill Daley said on election night. So it does. And it turns out to tell us more than the first part of the campaign did about what kind of president Al Gore would have been–or will be.

JWR contributor Michael Barone is a columnist at U.S. News & World Report and the author of the biennialAlmanac of American Politics. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


11/28/00: Thou shalt not steal
11/14/00: How Bush can lead
10/31/00: Puzzled by the state poll results? So are the candidates
10/18/00: When talk is cheap
10/03/00: The death of Big Media
09/09/00: A fair question
08/28/00: Making labor's day
07/11/00: The new Mexico: The 20-year history behind an overnight change
07/06/00: A textbook campaign: Bush makes hay before the convention lights shine
06/23/00: Beat the press
06/06/00: Reining in regulators: Will the Supreme Court clip Washington's wings?
05/25/00: In plain English: Bilingual education flunks out of schools in California
04/28/00: Gore in the balance: His book reveals a fanatical approach to the environment
04/04/00: President-elect Putin offers a basis for hopes–and for fears
03/14/00: Over the long, long haul, the issues may yet favor the Republicans
03/02/00: Will unions rule? Indispensable to Gore, labor may be the campaign's secret winner
02/15/00: A reformers' party
01/03/00: The voters rule: In Manchester, Mexico, and Moscow, an imperfect system works
01/19/00: The era of Big Promises
12/08/99: Welcome to the world of 'good enough'
11/2/99: Just saying no
11/12/99: Money talks, as it should
10/28/99: Mexico votes – for real
10/03/99: Going against type
09/28/99: The unions go public
08/31/99: China's strait flush
08/25/99: The first two contests
08/03/99: Paddling upstream
07/08/99: Taking Hillary seriously
06/22/99: Trying the lawyers
06/07/99: Facts on the ground

©2000, Michael Barone