No means yes, yes means more than yes

Posted: Nov 25, 2000 12:00 AM
No means yes. In the world according to Al Gore and his legal team, no doesn't mean no. No means yes. If a voter doesn't punch through a ballot, if she starts to vote for a candidate, hesitates, then decides, no, she can't vote for that ticket after all, Team Gore says, ignore her reluctance and figure she really meant to go all the way. The dent means yes. Or if she so much as touches a chad -- mayhaps out of confusion because of the infamous butterfly ballot -- then fails to vote for a candidate, she must have wanted that man, really wanted that man. She was just being coy, so she only left a dainty dimple, and no tear, on the ballot. It doesn't matter if she clearly punched holes in other races, turn a no, turn a maybe, into a yes. That is the import of the argument being made by Al Gore's attorneys. Paul Sullivan, a Washington election attorney who worked for GOP presidential hopeful Steve Forbes, noted that it would be one thing to recognize a dimpled vote if all the votes on the ballot are dimpled, but such ballots are rare. The Gore legal team has been pushing for a vote count that considers the most modest wink a full swoon into the Gore/Lieberman boudoir. Then there is the Florida Supreme Court, with its seven justices, all of whom were nominated by Democratic governors. It is hard to imagine how the court could have come up with a decision that seemed more designed to help Al Gore. In the name of promoting "the will of the voters, whatever that might be," the justices handed the outcome of the election to heavily Democratic counties. The activist court -- like (shame, shame) both presidential campaigns -- failed to call for a statewide hand count. A statewide hand count, Sullivan noted, "is the only way you get to the equity position that the court talked about, so you are not selectively disenfranchising certain counties and certain voters." Then the court not only failed to admonish those Democratic counties for changing their vote criteria after the election was over, it also failed to prevent counties from changing their criteria even further. Team Gore -- having heard from statisticians that Gore only will win if hand count standards are relaxed -- has been pushing for sloppier and sloppier standards to cinch the race; and the court just winked at the whole thing. Go ahead, election lawyers, boys will be boys. The court effectively has dared the Florida Legislature to respond in kind. If allegedly disinterested justices can use the law to create a preferred and partisan outcome, why shouldn't state pols? In so ruling, the court has soiled its image irreversibly. Then there's Gore himself. Last week, Gore invited Bush to get together with him -- as if this country hasn't seen enough smarmy backslapping (and backstabbing) in this election. On Tuesday night, the veep appeared before America to utter yet another paragraph that exuded Gore's natural phoniness. In his latest disinformation moment, Gore announced that the Florida Supreme Court decision would allow for a "fair, full and accurate count of the ballots in question." Fair? Full? Only if you look only at "the ballots in question," and breezily ignore voters in pro-Bush counties. Accurate? Only if no means yes and maybe means definitely. "Accurate" used to apply to ballots that are punched. Now it applies to ballots that need to be mind-read in order to be understood. "Hyper-technical" is the Florida Supreme Court's term for Secretary of State Katherine Harris' adherence to a deadline. And "loser" -- that's the term for honest citizen.