Bush v. Gore is ancient history. The results of the 2000 Presidential election in Florida are no longer considered to be an issue by the mainstream press; anyone who brings it up instantly dismissed as a kook, a conspiracy theorist, a somewhat stale joke.
And the inevitable rewriting of history has continued over the years. “Bush won, get over it” is probably the most common response to those who bring up the issue of hanging chads and the recount in Florida. In one critical case, the historical record has actually been erased – and that, in itself, tells us something interesting about the Florida recount.
In 2001 a consortium of newspapers hired an independent team of analysts to go over the ballots; the results have been made available to the public on the world wide web. The viewer selects options from the various counting methods possible and the results are then calculated and presented.
But that offers only a limited view of the possible outcomes of the election in Florida. What might we learn from a bigger picture? I was curious, so back in 2003 I made a chart of the results. He wins in 17 out of 24 scenarios!
Unfortunately the first image can’t be posted. You can view it on a copy of the blog post where I originally posted it; it’s the first image.
But perhaps we should take a more careful look at the data. Are all voting scenarios equally possible?
The answer, actually, is “no”. In 2000, Florida state law required that EVERY ballot which made the intent of the voter clear must be counted: Title IX, Ch. 101.5614.
Ah, but wait! If you clicked on that link, you may be puzzled. “The statute you have selected cannot be found”? What sort of law is that?!? Even the internet archive can’t dig up that page. The (Republican) Florida state legislature has most thoroughly erased any record of that statute.
But of course it’s hard to completely erase anything from the internet. And luckily a reporter captured at least some of the text of that statute:
From Title IX, Ch. 101.5614, Canvass of returns:
If any paper ballot is damaged or defective so that it cannot be counted properly by the automatic tabulating equipment, the ballot shall be counted manually at the counting center by the canvassing board. The totals for all such ballots or ballot cards counted manually shall be added to the totals for the several precincts or election districts. No vote shall be declared invalid or void if there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter [emphasis added] as determined by the canvassing board. After duplicating a ballot, the defective ballot shall be placed in an envelope provided for that purpose, and the duplicate ballot shall be tallied with the other ballots for that precinct.
A number of the disputed votes in the Florida election were “overvotes”, in which a (confused) voter both marked the box next to the name of their candidate and wrote that candidate’s name in. In such a case, the intent of the voter was clearly to vote for that candidate. We must therefore eliminate all scenarios which exclude those valid votes. The result:
This is quite a reversal of fortune! George W. Bush has gone from a 17-7 advantage to a 5-7 disadvantage. Very illuminating. But perhaps an additional look at the data would be appropriate. Is there any other case in which the intent of the voter is clear?
Well yes, there is. Remember those annoying fill-in-the-box standardized tests from school? If you haven’t run across them, optical ballots are basically the same thing. You need to fill in the box completely or else the scanner can’t read them. Unfortunately a number of voters only put a checkmark or a line in the box next to their candidate’s name, but their intent is nonetheless quite clear, and thanks to that darned Title IX, Ch. 101.5614, we must eliminate those choices which do not count those valid votes.
In all the scenarios in which Florida voting law is obeyed, then, George W. Bush ONLY wins if dimpled chads are counted and the decision of the three judges is unanimous. Since the Bush team itself mocked the very idea of dimpled chads, this at the least places the legitimacy of the election in serious doubt.
[Edit: My thanks to the mysterious benefactor who fixed this post after I gave up on it. Photobucket made it too bleeping hard to get those images up!]