The liar next time

Posted: Nov 17, 2000 12:00 AM
In a fast-breaking story like the Democrats' attempt to steal a presidential election, it can be hard to keep up with the barrage of lies. Before today's lies become "old news," I thought it would be useful to begin a running tabulation. (A recount shall be ordered in Democrat counties only.)

Lie No. 1: We don't know who won the election yet.

Yes we do. George W. Bush won, albeit narrowly. Al Gore demanded a recount in one of the states he lost narrowly. After the Gore loser got his recount, it turned out the winner was ... Bush again! (Subject only to a final count of the overseas ballots, which have historically gone Republican in Florida and elsewhere.)

Consequently, Gore insisted upon yet a third recount, this time with a highly manipulable and probably unconstitutional hand recount in only Democrat counties. By his fourth try, Gore will be insisting on counting only the votes of Gore campaign staff.

Lie No. 2: Gore has nothing to do with the Florida recount, which is mandated by law.

This is false. Gore is completely responsible for dragging the country through this. The recount is not like some "Star Chamber" unstoppable cataclysm. Gore set it in motion when he retracted his concession to Bush on election night.

The "shall order a recount" language means only that the loser doesn't have to pay for a recount in close elections. This is not an insignificant point: Recounts are extremely expensive. But it does not mean that in a national election to determine the next leader of the free world that the loser is absolutely required to drag the country though 17 recounts and endless litigation before finally conceding.

The Florida recount provision explicitly states: "A recount need not be ordered with respect to the returns for any office, however, if the candidate or candidates defeated or eliminated from contention for such office by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast for such office request in writing that a recount not be made."

The current crisis is all Gore's fault. He could put an end to this madness any time he wants by conceding like a man. (Bush could not, by the way. He can't stop it because he's not the loser: Gore is.)

Lie No. 3: The butterfly ballot is illegal under Florida law.

In the Nov. 10 Washington Post, Philip Heymann, a Harvard Law School professor and former Clinton deputy attorney general, claimed that the now-infamous butterfly ballot was "a plain violation of the law." As Heymann noted, the law requires voters to "vote for a candidate whose name is printed on the ballot place a cross (x) mark in the blank space at the right of the name of the candidate ..."

It ought to have struck a lot of people when reading the quoted language that it speaks of placing a "cross (X) mark," but the butterfly ballot does not permit of any cross marks anyplace! It's all very confusing, and thank heaven we have fancy, high-priced lawyers to explain complicated legal conundrums like this -- until you realize: the "at the right" requirement has nothing to do with butterfly ballots.

That phraseology comes from a section tellingly titled "Voting by paper ballot" -- you know, the kind of ballot on which it is possible to "place a cross (x) mark in the blank space," not to be confused with a butterfly ballot.

If you read down just a little bit, down past the section on "paper ballots," there is a completely different chapter titled "Voting machine ballots" -- such as butterfly ballots. This section quite clearly states that the location of the "push knob, key, lever or other device" must simply "indicate to the elector" which candidate the "push knob, key, lever or other device" refers to. If there were an "at the right" requirement for butterfly ballots, this would have been a good place to mention it.

The requirement that voting machine ballots follow the "order" of paper ballots ("as nearly as practicable") refers only to the order of the candidates and measures being voted upon -- which the "paper ballot" section describes in laborious detail.

Just remember this the next time you hear a Harvard Law professor explaining the law.

Lie No. 4: Pat Buchanan could not possibly have received 3,000-odd votes in Palm Beach County.

Just four years ago, Pat Buchanan received three times that many votes in a primary in Palm Beach. So we know there are at least 9,000 potential Buchanan voters in Palm Beach, and they are the kind of devoted voters who vote in primaries. Moreover, even this year, the Reform Party candidate for the House of Representatives received more than 7,000 votes from Palm Beach.

Lie No. 5: I believe the president.

Whoops! That's "old news."