Interpreting the entrails of election 2000

Posted: Nov 15, 2001 12:00 AM
This just in: George W. Bush was elected president. You already knew that. You knew that Al Gore won the popular vote, but that Bush won the Electoral College -- an institution that now enrages many partisan Dems. (If only someone had warned them about the Constitution before the election.) We know Bush won again because eight major news organizations pooled their resources to find out what would have happened if the Supreme Court had not intervened and stopped an ill-conceived statewide recount of presidential votes in Florida last December. I say ill-conceived because the Florida Supreme Court ordered the recount, while inviting abuse and discord by refusing to set counting criteria -- even after Palm Beach County election officials had changed their definition of a valid vote three times. That's why the Big Bench -- all bow -- voted 7-to-2 against the Florida court ruling, and 5-to-4 on the separate issue of stopping the recount. Still, it was only a matter of time before some enterprising group sued to get the ballots in order to answer one of history's great "what if" questions. What if the recount had happened? Bush would have won. That's what an investigation conducted by the National Opinion Research Center found. To the news moguls' discredit, they also funded an investigation to see who would have won if they ignored the election laws. Call it a fantasy investigation, in which researchers counted votes that had been thrown out for good reason. Start with "over-votes" -- the term used for when voters check off more than one candidate. GOP Secretary of State Bill Jones said that California throws them out. California's former Acting Secretary of State Tony Miller, a Democrat, said of over-votes: "They're not counted in California. I'm not aware that they're counted anywhere." As Washington election lawyer Cleta Mitchell explained: "You cannot have a system that allows people to mark multiple candidates for the same office, and then suggest that anything should happen to that ballot other than it not be counted at all. Otherwise, you have a system where you invest a system of commissars with the ability to interpret ballots." It's so typical of the left. Take something as unambiguous as voting -- where you check one box, and that's it -- and turn it into something open to interpretation. You'd think that voters would bristle at this -- as it makes their vote subject to someone else's approval -- but Palm Beach County loved the idea. In that spirit, the news biggies feel comfortable calling a national election's outcome based on 175,010 bad Florida votes. No need for a recount in close states such as Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico -- where Gore had narrow victories. Instead, settle the Big Question based on the ballots of Floridians who couldn't vote straight. Quipped election lawyer Jan Baran, "It shows that the press conducting a recount can be as or more imperfect than the original recount." By the way, I believe it's very possible that more Florida voters meant to vote for Gore. Let's just say that their incompetent voting is the universe's riposte to all those jokes about Bush being stupid. Besides, as Bill Sammon chronicles in "At Any Cost," Republicans got the shaft as well. After the networks erroneously handed Gore victory in Florida, many Central Time zone Bush fans left long waiting lines at the polls in disgust. Conservative estimates place their number at 10,000.