What were the rules, pre-Gore, that both sides understood to govern the counting of ballots in such close elections? The best way to determine that, from afar, is to see what people said about "hanging chads" and "manual recounts" before the election.
In Miami-Dade County, for example, Keyla Martinez, who narrowly lost a race for county commissioner, took issue with the way voting machines fail to count "hanging chads." Courts rebuffed her efforts to force a hand recount. In a Sept. 17 Miami Herald story about that election, David Leahy, Miami-Dade elections supervisor, argued against counting improperly cast ballots: "If people don't vote properly on any voting system that has ever been invented, their votes won't count," Leahy said. "On the old voting machine, if you didn't pull the lever, the machine didn't count it. They don't make voting systems that are human-being proof."
Leahy's comments underscore the irony that the same people who claim human voters are fallible want to simultaneously claim human vote counters are infallible. There is indeed human error in this election, like every election. But the most monumental was Gore's decision to cast us into this lawsuit soup to begin with.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.