[From Bill Powers (2000.12.17.0313 MST)]
Bruce Abbott (2000.12.16.2100 EST)--
I agree that some voters were probably confused by the layout of the
butterfly ballot, and that this is a problem that could have -- and should
have -- been avoided. But both parties were responsible for allowing it to
happen. In fact, the butterfly ballot was chosen because (1) it had been
used before with no apparent problems, and (2) it allowed the candidate's
names to be printed in larger letters. So this ballet was actually used
because it was thought that elderly voters would have an easier time
All of that seems irrelevant to the fact that in this one county, Buchanan
got something like 10 times the votes he got in any other Florida county.
Whatever the reasoning was behind the ballot design, it seems to have been
If the objective had been simply to determine the will of the voters, that
county would have been allowed to vote again with a different ballot or
with much clearer instructions and cautions. Gore probably would have won
the state on that basis.
They had to go with what the parties had agreed to in advance of the
election -- that is federal law. Another point: who goes first on the
ballot is determined at random; had the Gore-Lieberman ticket been on top,
how much whining do you think the Gore people would have done about it?
Right -- none. So much for principles.
Right. And how much whining, in fact, did the Bush camp do about the
anomalous vote for Buchanan where (apparently) Bush was the intended
recipient of most such votes? So much for principles. It's the _other_ guy
who "whines". Your objections are reasoned and sincere declarations of
The instructions, by the way, could
hardly have been clearer. Have you seen this ballot? It has been
empirically demonstrated that a second-grader can understand it.
Again, irrelevant. The only relevant fact is that Buchanan got far more
votes, far more, in this county than in any other. I saw the ballot only on
television, but it seemed to me clearly possible to mistake the connection
between the candidates' names and the column of punch holes running down
the center. Someone whose eyesight is not as sharp as that of a
second-grader could easily make a mistake. But "could" is not the point -
what seems reasonable and logical and "empirically" true depends on which
party you belong to. The statistics of the Buchanan vote do not. In a plot
of Buchanan votes versus county, there is no mistaking that spike towering
over everything else, and that is no exaggeration. Perhaps you missed
seeing that on television.
The overseas ballots that were not postmarked had been handled by the armed
services rather than by the post office, and evidently the military failed
to affix a postmark. As this was not something those military voters had
any control over, the courts used their discretion and allowed their votes
to be counted.
Where were all the Republican objections to this court-dictated violation
of the letter of the law? Such objections were certainly loud enough when
the courts proposed to allow recounts to occur.
To me it seems a bit inconsistent to be insisting that these
ballots, whose voter intention is clear, should be thrown out on a postmark
technicality while also insisting that unpunched ballots be "interpreted" in
an attempt to _guess_ the will of voters who did not meet their legal
requirement to punch out the chad. Again, so much for principles.
How come this criterion of consistency applies only to one party? A "point
of law" becomes a "technicality" when you don't want the law to be applied
according to the statutes. Your comments seem pretty biased.
All of the jeering about poor losers and the Democrats wanting to count and
recount until Gore won was produced by people who wanted Gore to lose, and
whose candidate was leading by about 8 thousands of one percent of the
You assume that there are no people who are able to step back from their
partisan views and evlauate the situation on its merits.
I sure do. In that screaming mob of Republicans trying (successfully) to
disrupt the recount in Miami-Dade county, how many were evaluating the
situation on its merits? In the courts, how many lawyers stepped back from
their clients' viewpoints and argued the objective merits? That's not how
the American legal system is structured, anyway: you pick a position and
promote it. Gee, maybe we should try that in science. It would sure save a
lot of testing and retesting and experimenting and looking for possible
exceptions and all those annoying rituals that so often destroy a perfectly
Some of those
folks may have been jeering, too, and at the practices of both sides. I
think that such people exist (in fact, I think I'm one of them). Do you
believe that all the jeering about Republicans wanting to stop the count and
steal the election is by fair, high-minded, impartial people whose only
concern is with the fairness of the process? I don't.
I don't either. The jeering on both sides had nothing to do with an
impartial desire to determine the intent of the voters in this
extraordinarily close election. Jeering is not how you determine the truth,
in my opinion. The candidates themselves wisely stayed away from the
jeering -- that was left to the people hired for that purpose.
Don't forget that it was the Gore team who dragged the courts into the
process. You can't blame the Bush team for retaliating in kind.
I can't? But I do. "He did it to me first" is a cry you expect to hear on
the playground, not in adult company.
One may ask how it is that the recounting of punched ballots will
consistently add more to the total of one candidate than the other, when
both candidates were voted for on the same machines. If the machine is at
fault, dimpled chads and so on would occur just as easily for Bush votes as
for Gore votes.
Excellent point. Of course the same machines were not used in all counties;
the infamous chad-producing machines were used only in the poorer counties,
where one might assume Gore would win. In counties that used paper ballots,
human beings had to decide on the intent of the voter for all votes; an X
placed close to a candidate's name was counted even if it wasn't placed
properly inside the little square box.
Where the voting system was actually unbiased, nobody would have anything
to fear from a recount, if in fact the voters had tried to vote for both
candidates in equal numbers. If, however, some people (perhaps the aged or
infirm) had trouble poking forcefully enough at the holes (we use punch
ballots in Durango, and it does take some effort to make the chad give
way), there might have been some systematic bias. In that case, we have to
ask whether the aged and infirm would have voted equally for Gore and Bush.
Of course if the judgments of intent had been made under the eyes of
observers from both parties, with unanimous consent required, there should
not have been any problem, and no speculation about reasons should be needed.
If we rule out outright cheating, then there is only one way that Gore votes
could have been undercounted more than Bush votes.
I just mentioned a way: that those who did not push forcefully enough had a
characteristic that would make us expect them to vote more for Gore than
for Bush. But that is only speculation; much better to revise the ballots
statewide and do it all over again. As Jeb Bush now proposes to do before
the next election.
I don't know what the percentages for Bush and Gore were in the original
machine count of ballots in Dade county, but I did hear that the county is
heavily Democratic. If that is so, then certainly an honest recount of
dimpled chads would have given Gore the victory. However, the same process,
if carried out in all the counties, would have also turned up many extra
Bush votes in heavily Republican counties, for the same reason.
Not so, because heavily Republican counties are more affluent and use more
modern (and more expensive) voting methods which are not influenced by such
things as chads still attached by one or two corners closing up again as
they go through the machine. There was, in fact, a strong bias that made
miscounts more likely in poorer counties where Bush would not do well.
suspect that there was a calculated reason why the Gore campaign insisted on
recounts only in heavily Democratic counties.
Of course. There were a lot of calculated reasons. But I would have
demanded a re-vote, not just a recount, in the case of the anomalous
Buchanan votes, for reasons that had nothing to do with speculations about
biases and motives. There was clearly something badly wrong with that ballot.
The Florida Supreme Court was therefore correct, in my opinion, when it
ordered a recount of all Florida counties and not just those asked for by
the Gore team.
I agree completely. That was the proper thing to do, although it would not
address the direct evidence of a problem with the Buchanan vote. I think a
statewide recount would have favored Gore because the voting methods were
more accurate in the wealthier counties which could afford more up-to-date
equipment less prone to error.
It would be interesting to be able to slip into a parallel universe where
exactly the same results occurred, but with the names of the winner and
looser reversed. I suspect that each side would have acted as the other
did. That's politics.
Yes. When Democrats have had the power, they have abused it just as
cheerfully as the Republicans do. But the abuse in Florida seems extra
egregious, with one candidate's brother being the governer who appointed
the person who certified the election and with the candidate being a member
of the ruling party in the state (who were fully prepared to appoint their
own electors in case the ones already appointed showed signs of not voting
for the candidate of their party). Raising the possibility of party bias
was not the wisest tactic the Bush camp could have picked. That wasn't a
Democrat who certified the vote before all the absentee ballots had even
There's a point that PCT suggests, which everyone seems to forget about.
The other side in a political contest is a big disturbance, and both sides
therefore push back as hard as they think necessary. This is why truth
flies out the window during a political campaign. "Pushing harder" in a
verbal contest can mean only making louder and more extreme statements, so
while defending your position, you are inevitably led to say things more
extreme than what you actually believe, and in a more viollent way than
normal. Both sides are trying to influence voters and cancel the other
side's influence, and this is what leads to the extremes of rhetoric and
the attitudes and statements which afterward look so childish. And it also
explains how, after the contest has been decided, all the inflamed rhetoric
vanishes, and the people involved go back to being fairly sane human beings
after only a few days. When the disturbance disappears, so does the need
for taking more and more extreme positions. People return to their normal
positions closer to the center, as if they had never marched the streets
shouting "Death to the bad guys!"