This is the first of a series of Red Rock Eater News Service updates on what is essentially a coup in progress in Florida. As always, the RRE emphasis is on presenting the best available information & we're extremely pleased to be sharing this with our IMC readers.
Florida Recount -- From Red Rock Eater News Service Florida Recount -- From Red Rock Eater News Service
By Phil Agre
[People have been sending me a flood of material about the Florida vote, so much that I can hardly keep up with it as I'm typing here. The situation is a mess, and it just gets worse. I've gathered URL's for a great deal of relevant information, and I urge you to pass it along to everyone who can use it. I'm getting so much material, the situation is evolving so fast, and the relevant Web sites are so overloaded, that I cannot guarantee that I have summarized everything 100% accurately, or that the URL's all still work. I've done my best.
Earlier I passed on a report that a locked ballot box had been discovered in a Democratic area. Now the cnn.com Web site reports that, according to "Miami-Dade County election officials", this box contained no ballots:
There is a lot of vague talk about other missing ballot boxes, but this is the only one that has been formally reported to my knowledge.
But the missing ballot box was hardly the only problem, or the worst. For example, there are the misleading "butterfly ballots". Here is an article from the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Palm Beach County:
This article is being continually updated. The Sun-Sentinel Web site is overwhelmed, so keep trying.
You can see an image of the misleading ballot on these pages:
The Democrats are asserting that this ballot design was illegal under Florida law:
Bob Kerrey is calling for a new vote in Florida:
The problem has two aspects. First, statistical arguments and massive anecdotal evidence suggest that the misleading ballot produced easily enough bad votes to throw the election. Second, one of the authors of the Sun-Sentinel article just said on public radio that something like 20,000 more ballots than one would statistically expect were discarded in the strongly Democratic areas where the misleading ballots were used.
There is a brief statistical discussion of the issue here:
This page should include a dramatic plot of the voting data, but it only seems to appear under certain browsers. Here's another URL for the plot:
Here are some more articles on the subject:
I have enclosed another statistical discussion by Jeff Harris, a former official at the Office of Management and Budget now working a public policy consultant in Los Angeles. I have also enclosed a message by a friend, also in Los Angeles, who was involved in an investigation of a rigged election out here. He knew about the 1988 case in Florida, and I found his message interesting. People have made further claims about the 1988 election that they aren't willing to put their names on, so I won't repeat them.
Nobody to my knowledge is arguing that the ballots were consciously designed to bias the election. They are only arguing that the ballots were badly designed, illegal, and very likely had the effect of changing the outcome on the national level.
Enough about the butterfly ballots. Here are some other subjects...
For a while last night, the cnn.com Web site said that CNN was trying to investigate an apparent discrepancy between the Florida voting figures that were reported to the press and the actual count. If I understood the sequence of events correctly, these discrepancies may have had an impact on the bizarre sequence of events last night, possibly motivating Al Gore's premature concession call to George W. Bush. I was watching the numbers minute-by-minute until about 5am EST, and there certainly did seem to be a discrepancy. But I have not heard anything further about the matter on cnn.com or elsewhere.
The Wall Street Journal mentions complaints of voter intimidation (or fraud or something) based on claims that at least one conservative radio host in Florida broadcast an assertion that, due to high turnout, Democrats should vote on Wednesday. In the few days before the election I saw just that claim, framed as a joke, in messages circulating on the Internet. But then other messages said that it was Republicans who should vote on Wednesday. In any case as I say these messages were clearly jokes. If a radio host made such assertions in anything but a clearly joking way then that would be a serious matter as well.
The police have locked the elections office of Volusia County, Florida (which Gore won) after they caught an employee removing bags from it.
You can get county-by-county numbers at cnn.com. The numbers do look strange for the down-ballot candidates compared to other counties.
It is worth remembering that Dade and Broward counties in south Florida have big-time histories of voter fraud. For a story on one recent episode, see today's issue of Feed:
One Florida journalist mentioned on public radio that the whole Miami area is full of ex-CIA people including right-wing anti-Castro activists and many of the major figures of the Watergate scandal, and that people in Florida are not surprised to hear of strange goings-on in that area.
I also recommend the concise analysis at http://www.orvetti.com/.
My conservative friends are telling me what a pissy loser Al Gore is for contesting this problematic vote in Florida. So it's worth noting that the Bush campaign was quite prepared to contest an election if (as widely predicted) he won the popular vote but not the electoral:
On a different and flakier subject, Consortium News reports that a voter has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that the New York Times made improper in-kind contributions to the Bush campaign by repeating large numbers of false statements about Al Gore from Bush press releases:
The complaint probably won't (and shouldn't) succeed, but it does point to a real and serious problem:
I've been told of all sorts of scenarios involving compromises between the Gore and Bush campaigns, but I see no evidence that these things are really happening.
I have also received all sorts of unsubstantiated reports of problems with the vote in Florida, including rumors about suspicious turnout levels and the handling of write-ins (and not just in the southern part of the state). But I don't want to report any of these reports until someone can document them. The only reason I'm mentioning them is because people (who I don't know) claim to have heard about them in the Florida media, which is something but not very much. At the same time, I would encourage students of Florida politics to study the numbers all across the state very carefully. You can start at cnn.com.
I am also hearing unsubstantiated reports of street protests. Have you noticed the widespread pattern of inadequate provision for voters in African-American communities? These include Miami and New York. In St. Louis, large numbers of voters who had been waiting in line were sent home by an appeals court after a day of chaos; according to cnn.com, George W. Bush won Missouri by fewer than 80,000 votes.
Finally, for a critical discussion of proposed online voting schemes that takes its point of departure from today's problems, see this statement by Lauren Weinstein:
If anybody else has any real documentation of issues relating to the Florida recount and the larger controversy about the legitimacy of the election, please send it to me. If you just have rumors, please please take a few minutes and try to document them.]
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The result of the US Presidential election comes down to who wins Florida. One of the issues of the recount concerns the ballot in Palm Beach County. Because of the number of candidates running, the names of the candidates were placed on two side-by side pages of the voting booklet in the ballot booth. Voters were instructed to find the name of the candidate they wanted to vote for and punch a hole opposite the name in the underlying card.
As it turned out, the first name on the left-hand page of the Presidential ballot was Republican Party candidate George W. Bush; the second name was Al Gore. The first name on the right hand side page was Pat Buchanan, the Reform Party candidate. As a result, those who wanted to vote for Gore needed to find the THIRD HOLE on the page to have their vote properly recorded; many later complained that they mistakenly punched the SECOND HOLE because the Gore name appeared as the SECOND name on the page. If they punched the second hole inadvertently, their vote would have been recorded for Pat Buchanan.
Here are the facts about the vote in Florida and Palm Beach County. There were 5,972,319 total votes cast in Florida with Bush having 2,909,199 and Gore 2,907,544...a difference of 1,655 votes. (Since these numbers were posted on the MyFlorida.com site earlier this morning, additional results have been tabulated and have been reported in the press.) For the record, Ralph Nader won 96,896 total votes in Florida and Pat Buchanan received 20,294...1.62% and .34% of the total, respectively. (Nationally, Nader got 2.6% and Buchanan .44%.)
The results in Palm Beach County were quite different. Here Gore won 62.21% of the vote (268,945) to Bush's 35.36% (152,846). Nader received 5,564 votes (1.29%) and Pat Buchanan, 3,407 votes (.79%). With only 1,655 votes now separating the two principal candidates in Florida and the difference between one party winning the U.S. Presidency and the other losing it, Buchanan's vote count seems highly significant. By my calculation, he received 132% more votes in Palm Beach County than he won in the State overall. Looked at this another way: Palm Beach County represented 7.24% of the State's total vote; but it contributed 17% of the total votes received by Pat Buchanan.
In short, I think some of the voters were in fact confused and that some of the Buchanan vote in Palm Beach County was in fact intended for Al Gore. There were a total of 432,286 votes cast in Palm Beach County; had Buchanan received the same proportion of votes that he received Statewide, he would have gotten only 1,469 votes. Put another way, it suggests that some of the "extra" 1,938 votes that went to Buchanan might actually have been meant for Gore. A change of only 828 votes in the Bush/Gore contest would have reversed the result and given Gore the 25 electoral votes. Conclusion: It is quite plausible to me to suppose that the ballot did in fact confuse enough voters to have had a role in the outcome. The bottom line question is should that be sufficient grounds to try to change the final Florida result if the recount itself leaves the results stand as we know them today?
Godfrey (Jeff) Harris
Harris/Ragan Management Group
Pulbic Policy Consultants Since 1968
9200 Sunset Blvd., Suite 404
Los Angeles, CA 90069 USA
Tel: (1) 310 278 8037
Fax: (1) 310 271 3649
I was involved in an investigation into irregularities in the 1992 LA Supervisors race. Since it's a non-partisan post & both candidate were Democrats, there was NO instutional support for the challenge. In the course of that investigation, I learned of the Buddy Mackay case, which seems like such a blatant case of electoral fraud that I literally couldn't believe I'd never even heard of it at the time. It was open-and-shut compared to our investigation, but we found substantial evidence as well.
We found significant statistical evidence of irregularities that pointed to misalignment of cards either in the voting or counting process -- things like massive voting levels in down-ballot races for water district combined with low levels of voting in hotly-contested down-ballot races. We cross-checked by doing pairwise comparisons of demographically similar precincts.
There was overwhelming prima facia statistical evidence of voting irregularities -- and the statistics involved were pretty elementary. I even used an off-the-shelf statistical package to generate graphs & illustrations for our report to the DA. But the DA's office (Garcetti had just been elected, but his oppenent had withdrawn months before after being forced into a run-off) had NO ONE who was qualified to review the material we presented. They didn't even have someone to retain as a consultant, AND they had no interest in going out and finding someone (say, by picking up the phone and calling UCLA or USC). So nothing came of the case, except that I made some lasting friendships. I called on of them this morning as I learned of the irregularities in Florida this morning.
I strongly urge you to do more on this. I talked to the executive director of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party this morning & offered him what little advice I could, given the differences between the two sitautions. There's definitely no way of telling which way this will go (but the record to date is not good). I'm including an article from a local Florida paper I downloaded about an hour ago. It's pretty sketchy, but better than nothing. (I'm forwarding your email to the reporter whose email is listed at the end of the story.)
Reason and Democracy
"Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"
Original: COUP WATCH: Florida Recount -- From Red Rock Eater News Service