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COUP WATCH: Duval County -- Voided Ballots in Rep. County Cluster in Dem. Areas

by Paul H. Rosenberg Thursday, Nov. 16, 2000 at 12:09 AM

Republicans have tried to counter Democratic claims that Palm Beach County double-punched ballots were unusual by pointing to Duval County, a Republican stronghold. Now it turns out that the voided ballots in Duval County (Jacksonville) were concentrated in Democratic sections. IMC's statistical analysis confirms story.

Republicans have tried to counter Democratic claims that Palm Beach County double-punched ballots were unusual by pointing to Duval County, a Republican stronghold. It was always a red-herring argument, since the most direct comparison was 19,120 Presidential void ballots compared to 3,783 void ballots in the U.S. Senate race. But it did serve its purpose -- to distract attention.

A typical media report was the following, from an AP story, "Palm Beach County starts hand recount of ballot" filed by Karin Meadows on Nov. 11, 2000: "About 26,000 votes in Duval County were disqualified and never counted when voters punched more than one candidate on their ballot or failed to vote for president. The county is solidly Republican."

While factually true, it seemed irrelevent at the time, since there was no evidence of anything like the butterfly ballot to cause confusion specific to one candidate. It also created the false impression that Republican votes for Bush had been invalidated in numbers *greater* than Gore's.

Now it turns out that this claim wasn't irrelevent. Rather it had a significance directly opposite to what originally appeared.: It was *Democrats* whose ballots were being voided in large numbers, even in a largely Republican County. The voided ballots were heavily concentrated in Democratic sections according to a Times-Union story Monday by Mary Maraghy, "Likely-Gore votes voided in Duval."

Maraghy reported that the newspaper's own review found that 42% of the 27,000 voided presidential ballots came from City Council Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10, which accounted for just 20% all presidential ballots cast for president countywide. Over 11,300 of the 59,650 ballots in those districts (about 19%) didn't count in the presidential race. Of those that did count, Maraghy reported, about 80% went to Gore.

On the other hand, 64% of District 4 voters supported Bush. Of 24,200 votes cast there, just over 1,800 (about 7.5%) were voided.

Today (Tuesday), Salon's Eric Boehlert followed up with more information. Boehlert first highlighted the Republican rhetorical hijinks:

"Over the weekend, several prominent Republicans, such as GOP chairman Jim Nicholson and Rep. Tillie Fowler, R-Fla., pointed to the 22,000 nullified votes in Duval County as proof that the practice is common. They suggested that even though Bush would have benefited if there had been a hand recount in the county, which he won 152,000-107,000, they were not complaining about the process. 'These things happen in elections,' stressed Nicholson on CNN."

Boehlert went on to note that presidential void ballots went from 6,000 in 1992 to 7,500 in 1996 to 27,000 this year -- 8.9% compared with 2 and 3% in the previous races. (IMC

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