Debunking Gore myths

Posted: Dec 03, 2000 12:00 AM
Al Gore is seeking to perpetuate a number of myths in furtherance of his obsessive quest to fulfill his childhood dream. He is speaking with forked tongue because the truth does not benefit his presidential ambitions. These myths are the foundational currency of Gore's post-election propaganda campaign, and must be continually debunked, even if some of them have been around for weeks. Myth One: That Gore is seeking to have every vote counted in Florida. Gore, in his interview with NBC's Claire Shipman, said that the way to remove the potential cloud over the election is to count every vote. "That is so simple and clear to me that I just feel so strongly about it. If people vote, their votes have to be counted." Really? Shipman, in a rare moment in the 45-minute softball interview, challenged Gore's assertion. "Don't you think that if you get votes counted in part of Florida, but not other parts of Florida where there are also ballots that were undercounted and sitting there, that will also be viewed as ..." Gore, rather than answer her question, interrupted, sidestepped and dissembled. He responded that "both campaigns had an equal opportunity to go out and register voters. Both had an equal opportunity to get people to turn out to the polls." And, both sides had an equal opportunity to contest the election results. So what? What does that have to do with the question? Gore's answer, translated, is: Last one to the courthouse is a rotten egg. In Gore's own words this is not about counting all votes but winning the election through strategically placed judicial strikes. Plus, Gore definitely didn't want all the military votes recounted. Myth Two: That every candidate, upon request, is automatically entitled to a manual recount under Florida law. "Candidates," said Gore, "are given the right under the law to say, 'Look. This election is close enough that the ballots that haven't been counted could make the difference, so you have to count 'em.'" This is false. It's true that each candidate has a right to request a manual recount, but the county canvassing boards are not required to honor the request. Even some Republicans have bought into this misstatement of the Florida law. The law provides that either candidate may request a manual recount in any county. When such a request is made the county's canvassing board may then conduct a manual recount of 1 percent of the county's total votes in at least three precincts. If such 1 percent sampling indicates "an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election," the board may, but is not required to, conduct a full manual recount. Florida legislators involved with drafting and enacting this statute say that "an error in vote tabulation" means a machine error. So, in the absence of fraud, before the canvassing board may order a full manual recount, its 1 percent sampling must show that there were sufficient machine errors that could affect the outcome of the election. No one -- even on the Gore team -- contends that there were any machine errors. So, under the statute, none of the four counties had the statutory authority to conduct full manual recounts. Even if you ignore the statutory requirement for a machine error, the county canvassing boards still wouldn't have been required to conduct a full manual recount; their decision as to whether or not to do so is purely optional and within their discretion. Public officials cannot be forced (through a writ of mandamus) to perform an act over which they have discretion. Miami-Dade acted wholly within its discretion in declining to conduct a full manual recount. Therefore, Gore's lawsuit to force Miami-Dade to complete its manual recount is without merit. Myth Three: Not every vote was counted. Gore is trying to create the impression that the machines ignored properly cast ballots and thereby disenfranchised voters. To the contrary, many voters consciously chose not to cast a vote for president, despite voting for other offices. And, some voters didn't cast their votes correctly despite explicit instructions on the ballot to punch all the way through and to leave no hanging chads. Many voters may have erred, but not the machines. Gore says that he's "in love with democracy." Another myth? I'll let you decide.
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