One of the ironies of Bush's legal attempt to prevent hand counting of voters' ballots in Florida is that he spent the last months of the campaign telling the people that he trusts them while Al Gore trusts the federal government. Yet, today, he's doing exactly the opposite, calling upon the federal government to void the hand counted votes of the people. Now, comes another irony, another example of Bush hypocrisy. The core of Bush's law suit against the state of Florida is that a machine count of the votes is more accurate than a hand count, and a hand count will simply introduce inaccuracies into the counting process. Yet, two years ago in Texas, Bush signed a bill into law that did just the opposite, affirming that a hand count is more accurate than a machine count. Here is the relevant passage: "(d) If different counting methods are chosen under Section 214.042(a) among multiple requests for a recount of electronic voting system results, only one method may be used in the recount. A manual recount shall be conducted in preference to an electronic recount and an electronic recount using a corrected program shall be conducted in preference to an electronic recount." Clearly, Bush will say and do anything to win, even contradict his own recorded beliefs. --Politex, 11/11/00
BUSH LITIGATION UPDATE...Bush is requesting an injunction to stop the ongoing hand counting in Florida and asking for other remedies, such as declaring the butterfly ballot lawful, arguing that the Florida voting laws dealing with the hand count option are unconstitutional on the basis of their standards of evaluation. The federal judge selected to hear the case is Judge Middlebrook, who has been described as "fair" by his clerks. He will hear the case Monday morning at 9:30. Meanwhile, since the Bush lawyers will argue the Bush case before the judge, Gore has decided that his lawyers will defend the relevant Florida laws in that court. Observers believe that the Bush team has a difficult burden to prove, with very little legal precedent to defend their position. The Gore camp has been emboldened by Bush's decision to be the first to take the election to court, particularly with such a weak case. The Gore people believe that Bush's decision is a serious political error. All of this according to MSNBC. --Politex, 11/11/00.
In a later interview at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, in which we watched Bush talking to his off-camera dog, he was unable to explain the specifics of his federal injunction. Instead, he said reporters should ask James Baker. He then turned the mike over to Dick Cheney, who spoke longer about nothing than Bush did. Bush appeared tired, distracted, edgy and out of the loop.
In the clearest indication to date that George W. Bush is feeling his presidential lead slipping away, James Baker, his Florida spokesman, has announced that the Bush campaign has requested a federal injunction from the U.S. District Court of Florida against continuing the ongoing manual vote count in two Florida districts, Palm Beach and Volusia, against the planned manual vote count in Broward Country, against the scheduled consideration of a manual vote count in Dade, and against any future manual counts in any of the other counties in Florida.
Baker gave three reasons for requesting this injunction. First, he claimed that there are no standards to determine how the will of the voter is to be seen in cases of "chads" and double-votes. Secondly, there is a potential for human error or mischief. Third, the votes have already been recounted, as directed by Florida law. Baker concluded that he would withdraw the Bush request for an injunction if Gore accepted the unofficial, incomplete report of a Bush victory by 327 votes, subject to the counting of overseas ballots.
Baker answered only three questions after making his statement, hastily cutting off reporters and quickly leaving. The first question had to do with the fact that Florida law allows for a manual count request within 72 hours of a reported vote count, which is what happened and was being carried out. Why, then, was Bush not allowing a legal action run its course? Baker did not answer that. Instead, he repeated portions of his announcement. The second questioner reminded Baker that yesterday he said legal actions only prolong and delay, and that Gore should not do so. Yet, it is Bush, not Gore, who is doing so. Baker repeated if Gore agrees that Bush won, he would withdraw the request for an injunction. The third question elicited an answer from Baker that Bush did not initiate legal activities first, since voters have already filed legal actions. Baker identified any such suit as being created by Gore "supporters" rather than by a person who feels that his voting right has been violated.
After the Baker press conference a Florida Republican observer said he doubted that the grounds indicated by Baker were strong enough to obtain an injunction against the manual vote counts. No one thought to ask why the manual vote count in Republican Seminole County which gained Bush 98 of his 327 vote lead was not questioned by Baker. In a fitting conclusion to the TV segment, an NBC reporter standing in the middle of Crawford, Texas, the crossroads town near the Bush ranch, reminded viewers that she did a story on the woman in charge of elections in Austin, Texas, the city where Bush votes. That woman said that she uses manual counting rather than machine counting to resolve election disputes, because machine counting is more subject to error. --Politex, 11/11/00
In a move that will guarantee that if he ever becomes President he will most likely be considered an illegitimate leader of a corrupt administration by the majority of American citizens, George W. Bush has authorized his father's Secretary of State to "seek a court order today" to prevent the people from having their votes hand counted. It's one thing to argue that the Palm Beach 19,000 made a mistake with their ballots, and that this mistake can't be remedied, it's another to attempt to prevent a legal hand count of ballots in order to ascertain the will of the voters. Volusia, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have planned hand counts for today. In Republican Seminole County the other day, nearly 100 new votes were found for Bush by doing exactly that. The genie is out of the bottle and the Republicans can't put it back. A hand count doesn't mean that every single ballot need be looked at. What it means is that the ballots rejected by the machine need to be examined for two things.
First, and most important, the human counter looks for evidence that the ballot had been punched, but the little paper square, called the "chad," for one reason of the other, has not fallen off. In such cases, the machine would read that ballot as "no vote." The Washington Post reports that "In Palm Beach County, there are about 10,000 such ballots, known as "undervote" ballots. In Miami-Dade there are another 10,000 to 11,000, and in Broward County about 6,700. All three counties are heavily Democratic, and some Gore officials believe a thorough hand counting of the undervote ballots might yield additional votes for the vice president." Secondly, when ballots are double-punched, either by the voter or by someone who had the ballot prior to the voter, voters often take a pencil or a pen and indicate their choice with a circle or an arrow. Once the machine has rejected the ballot, the counter can easily see such markings.
Since Republican Seminole County has established that such decisions are perfectly legal in Florida, having engaged in such a count the other day, and since we are three days from the Florida state deadline for finishing the recount, there's little doubt that any attempt to legally prevent such hand counting from taking place is an attempt on the part of George W. Bush to steal the presidency by negating the will of the people. If the mainstream newspapers and the television talking heads back him on this today, and you know well enough from experience how to determine that, we will then be at the beginning of a profound Constitutional crisis, because a majority of Americans will not stand for it. I sincerely hope that Mr. Bush thoroughly understands the implications of what he is doing. However, his stunning lack of insight into the philosophic underpinnings of justice and of government in the past, coupled with the well-documented arrogance and single-mindedness of both he and those around him, do not, I'm sorry to say, bode well. --Politex, 11/11/00
Forget the 19,000 double votes for president. Put aside the smattering of ballots for Pat Buchanan in Jewish districts. The real focus of today's manual recount is a block of 10,361 Palm Beach County ballots that named no president in Tuesday's election. If the Democrats can somehow turn some of those nonvotes into Al Gore votes, Florida's 25 Electoral College votes go to him. And Gore goes to the White House with more than the required 270 electoral votes.
"There's no way all those people didn't vote for president," said Monte Friedkin, head of Palm Beach County's Democratic Party. "Do you really think that people wanted to vote for the clerk of courts, but not the leader of our country?" The only way to really check, Friedkin said, is with today's hand recount of nearly 4,300 ballots. By eyeballing each ballot from three specially targeted precincts -- areas with high numbers of blank presidential ballots or double votes -- the Democrats hope to spot things the machines couldn't detect.
In a step aimed at preventing such scrutiny, Gov. George W. Bush gave James Baker -- the former secretary of state who's representing the Texas governor's interests in Florida -- authority Friday night to seek a court order stopping the Gore campaign from securing manual recounts of contested ballots in Florida, The Associated Press reported, citing several GOP officials involved in the discussions. The officials said it was very likely the injunction would be sought, but stressed that it was up to Baker to make the final decision. A source close to Baker said the former secretary had not decided. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity. The decision, however tentative, underscores the Bush campaign's concern that a widespread manual recount could undermine his fragile lead over Gore and perhaps force Bush to seek recounts of his own in Florida and other close states....
The GOP is suspicious of the Gore campaign's requests for recounts in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Volusia counties -- all places where Gore won big. The Gore campaign says the counties were chosen because they were rife with complaints. Democrats hope to find so many irregularities in the three designated Palm Beach precincts that the canvassing board will feel compelled to recount by hand all 462,657 ballots in Palm Beach County. There are no laws that specify how many problems would be needed to justify a recount. The stakes increased with the results of the state-mandated recount of Tuesday's vote, which narrowed Bush's lead in Florida from more than 1,700 votes to 327. Gore picked up 600 votes in Palm Beach County alone, causing the GOP to ask for a third electronic recount today. It will happen at the same time as the manual recount. Both parties will have representatives in the recount rooms, which are under the supervision of the county's canvassing board. The three-member board, consisting only of Democrats, granted the recount requests Thursday as protesters and lawsuits against Palm Beach County's "butterfly" ballot piled up.
With so few votes separating the two candidates, the outcome of the presidential election may indeed lie in the hands of the county workers who will spend today picking one by one through the ballots -- especially if they find "dimples" or other marks in places suggesting that uncounted votes were intended for Gore. By law, the Democrats get to choose which three precincts will be recounted, and Friday night the Gore team and its lawyers were sifting through precinct data hunting for an advantage. The 15 precincts they focused on were largely Democratic and contained high numbers of problem votes, either uncounted ones or votes that were disqualified for choosing more than one candidate. According to the results of Wednesday's recount, Precinct 82, a largely black neighborhood in West Palm Beach, voted overwhelmingly for Gore over Bush: 1,156 to 21. Buchanan got 18 votes. But 150 ballots, nearly 11 percent of the precinct, recorded more than one presidential vote. Twelve blank presidential ballots were also found. Some of the other precincts under consideration had as many as 184 ballots that did not indicate a choice for president. The Gore campaign also was comparing demographic data to the poll results, hoping to show that districts with large numbers of elderly voters had the most problems. --Palm Beach Post, 11/11/00
"As Florida officials prepared to begin the laborious process of counting votes by hand in four counties, Texas Gov. George W. Bush decided to take legal action today to try to block the manual recount, and his advisers accused Vice President Gore's campaign of trying to "unduly prolong" the process of determining who won Tuesday's presidential election.11/11/00
Once again, a Bush spokesman said that Gore backers couldn't do what Bush backers were doing, and claimed it was for the good of the country. This time it was the former Sec. of State during the Bush administration, James Baker. Here's what he said in an interview this morning:
"The Gore campaign has also tried to make a lot of the fact that double-marked ballots are not counted. A key principle in American elections is one person, one vote. If we have ballots with two votes, of course we can't count them, and of course we can't guess about them. Ballots that are double-marked can't be evidence of the voter's intent to vote one way or the other. No jurisdiction in the United States of America would accept such a ballot as a valid vote, and Florida law specifically does not. This happens in every precinct and in every election. And the procedure is very clear. Those ballots have to be disregarded.....The purpose of our national election is to establish a constitutional government, not unending legal wrangling. We will, therefore, vigorously oppose the Gore campaign's efforts to keep recounting, over and over, until it happens to like the result. For the good of the country, and for the sake of our standing in the world, the campaigning should end and the business of an orderly transition should begin."
We find Mr. Baker's position hypocritical, as the following account by a Florida Bush Watcher indicates. (Corroborating media accounts here and here.)
"As you are aware heavily Republican Seminole County Florida was the last to finish its mandatory recount. The margin was down to about 229 and Seminole County votes added another 98 (net) to Bush. The reason for Seminole County's delay is that they voluntarily provided the complete recount, including rejected ballots, sought in Palm Beach etc. Yesterday Afternoon local TV news carried pictures and an interview with a member of the Seminole County election board (Supervisor of Elections?) and local Republican congressman John Mica who was present and interviewed. They were running each individual ballot through the voting machines. ANY BALLOT THE MACHINE REJECTED WAS THEN EXAMINED BY HAND, AND IF THE "WILL OF THE VOTER" COULD BE DETERMINED. THEY PREPARED A NEW BALLOT TO REPLACE THE ORIGINAL REJECTED BALLOT AND ADDED THIS NEWLY CREATED BALLOT TO THE COUNT. Naturally in a county Bush carried almost 2-1 this resulted in a net increase of Bush votes. Now in the Republican Seminole County Florida, under the leadership of Congressman John Mica (R-Fla) acting on behalf of Bush.. The rejected votes were examined and added to the official totals. If the Bush camp thinks that it is proper to examine by hand the rejected votes in Republican Seminole County Florida, and to substitute new ballots for those rejected, how can this possibly be proper when done in Seminole County Florida and then be improper when done in Palm Beach County Florida?"11/10/00
As if discovering a ballot counting machine Tuesday night showing a Gore deficit of 16,000 votes was not enough, while moving the ballots to another building to get ready for a full hand count tomorrow, officials discovered three unsealed ballot bags, one with the paper votes actually spilling out. Unofficial results in Volusia show Gore with 97,063 votes and Texas Gov. George W. Bush with 82,214. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow will bring in this district that supposedly voted for Gore over Bush by 15 thousand votes. At the very least, as Republican Seminole County demonstrated, Volusia County counters should be able to decide the "will of the voters" in a substantial number of ballots rejected by the machine. Anecdotal reports from Palm Beach County have indicated that on some of the double punched ballots that were rejected there, the "will of the voter" was indicated with hand-written circles and arrows over the correct punch of the double-punched ballot. With only 1% of the votes being hand-counted, one would hope that such ballots won't be missed. --Politex, 11/10/00