Published on Thursday, November 15, 2001 in the Long Island, NY Newsday
Recount's Silent Stunner: Gore Should Have Won
by Paul Vitello
"The president is paying no attention to this - and neither is the country." - Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman.
"Do people care anymore? I don't think they do." - William Daley, former Vice President Al Gore's campaign chairman.
They agree now, those two, and that seems good as far as it goes. But among us connoisseurs of disagreement, irrelevancy and lost causes - us kids in the back of the class, in other words, who never seemed to be in sync with the lesson plan - the recent review of uncounted Florida ballots in the 2000 presidential election was a stunner.
The unofficial recount was released on Monday. It was released into the wind of a plane crash, which gave this particular bundle of information a perfect record of missing the news cycle of history.
It encapsulated a 10-month long research project funded by a group of news-gathering companies, including the one that owns Newsday.
A team of reporters and researchers collected and examined 175,010 Florida ballots. These, for one reason or another, were not counted by vote machines in deciding whether Al Gore or George Bush would get Florida's 25 Electoral College votes and the presidency.
To make a long story short, if there were any justice, Gore should have won.
It's all in the report. You could look it up:
If 5,310 people in Palm Beach County who mistakenly voted for both Gore and conservative candidate Patrick Buchanan had not been confused by a badly designed "butterfly" ballot, Gore would have won.
If the infamous hanging and dimpled "chads" had been counted in all 67 counties, Gore would have won.
If they had used the most liberal standards for selecting valid and clearly marked ballots from among the 175,010 discounted votes among the total of 6 million cast, Gore would have won handily.
If they had used the most conservative standards, Gore would have won still.
Gore lost what the exit polls said he had won because, as it turns out, the exit polls did their work properly: They took an accurate reading of the intended votes of Florida voters. People came out of the polling places. Exit pollers asked them who they voted for. Voters told them.
The voting machines took care of the rest.
Gore was probably doomed. The problems were bigger than voting machines. He lost because older voters and black voters were discounted in inordinately higher numbers than other voters, according to the consortium's report; and that happened because the elderly and minorities are discounted in many ways, in general, not just at election time.
There were older machines in black precincts. There were confusing ballots in precincts dominated by the elderly. No one saw that catastrophe coming, but to all those who see dark conspiracies, this was no conspiracy, unless you count the run-of-the-mill conspiracy of small daily injustices.
If Gore had seen that problem, as it applied to the mechanical equipment on which his chances of winning Florida's electoral votes depended, he would have been a genius.
Gore could not have won.
To win decisively, Gore would have needed a recount that included ballots with two presidential choices marked - the overvote ballots - the ones where the elderly Jewish woman looked at her ballot, realized she had mistakenly voted for (the allegedly anti-Semitic) Buchanan, and voted a second time the way she meant to vote in the first place, for Gore.
Of the 113,000 such overvotes, 75,000 were marked for Gore and a minor candidate; 29,000 were marked for Bush and a minor candidate.
Gore could have won if those votes had not been lost.
But he could not have won, it turns out, if the U.S. Supreme Court had said OK to the hand recount of 43,000 so-called undervotes, the ones with the hanging or dimpled chads.
By the researchers' calculations, Gore would have lost that recount, too - by between 400 and 500 votes.
Gore could not have won even if his legal team had been successful in its original strategy - to seek hand recounts not statewide but in four Democratic stronghold counties only.
The consortium found that a recount in those four counties gave Bush the edge.
So to review just this much: If all the people who voted for Gore were counted for Gore, Gore would have won.
By higher mathematics, we may conclude therefore that Gore should have won.
Gore lost. You could look it up.
Copyright © 2001, Newsday, Inc.