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CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 3

 

THE STOLEN ELECTION OF 2000

Five Supreme Court justices elect Bush. Five Supreme Court justices, led by Anatoly Scalia, handed the presidency to George W. Bush on December 13, 2000. The five conservatives had always been the defenders of states’ rights against federal intrusions. In this one and only case, they sold out their states’ rights philosophy. They stopped the recount, the court, publicly divided 5 to 4 even before oral argument, proved they were determined on putting Bush in the White House.

There were two blatant conflicts of interest. First, Virginia Lamp Thomas, the wife of Justice Thomas, said that she was working at a conservative research group gathering resumés for appointments in a Bush administration. She claimed in a New York Times article (December 12, 2000) that she saw no conflict between her job and her husband’s deliberations on a case that could decide the presidency. She worked at the conservative Heritage Foundation which had close ties to the Republican Party and presumably was influential in the hiring of key government officials in the Bush administration. In e-mail distributed on Capitol Hill in early December, Mrs. Thomas solicited resumés “for transition purposes” from the government oversight committees of Congress. Nevertheless, Justice Thomas refused to recuse himself.

Second, two sons of Justice Scalia worked for law firms involved with Bush’s legal team. One son, Eugene Scalia, was a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Another partner, Theodore Olson, argued Bush’s case before the Supreme Court. The young Scalia served as Special Assistant to Attorney General of the United States William Barr. The other son, John Scalia, accepted a position with the Miami-based firm Greenberg Traurig on November 7. The next day, Barry Richard, a partner in the firm, said he was called about representing Bush in Florida.

Studies indicate Gore the winner. A study conducted by California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that between 4 million and 6 million Americans either failed to cast votes or had their votes invalidated in the election. The report was the first analysis of the 2000 presidential election that studied the entire national vote. The large number of disqualified ballots was largely a result of faulty equipment, mismarked ballots, polling place failures, and foul-ups with registration or absentee voting. (Washington Post, July 17, 2001)

MIT and Cal Tech researchers estimated that 40 million registered voters in the United States did not participate in the election. Roughly 7 percent -- or about 3 million voters -- said they failed to vote because of registration problems, and another 1 million cited “long lines” or other polling place shortcomings. The research showed that faulty equipment or confusing ballots caused 1.5 million to 2 million votes to be unmarked or mismarked. The study also revealed that poor and minority voters were more than three times as likely as wealthy ones to have their ballots discarded. In all, the researchers estimated that between 4 million and 6 million votes were lost in the election. (Washington Post, July 17, 2001)

A study by the Orlando Sentinel in December 2000 revealed about 3,000 overvotes in Lake County. The study found more than 600 valid ballots that had been ignored by the machines, with Gore picking up 130 even in this heavily pro-Bush county.

In January 2001, the Chicago Tribune reported that in 15 Florida counties with a particularly high rate of overvotes, more than 1,700 votes that showed a clear choice had been discarded. Most of the counties in the Tribune’s study were small, rural, and predominantly Republican. Yet even so Gore’s net gain was 366 votes.

The Palm Beach Post evaluation of the election showed that if all votes were counted -- from the dimple to chads barely hanging on ballots – Gore would have had a net gain of 784 votes in Palm Beach County, if the board had also counted the 5,361 ballots that had a dimpled chad. That would be enough to carry the state’s 25 electoral votes. (Palm Beach Post, January 11, 2001; March 11, 2001

A study by USA Today showed that Gore won, even if one did not count the 15,000-25,000 votes that the newspaper estimated he lost because of: (1) illegally designed “butterfly ballots,” or (2) the hundreds of predominantly African-American voters who were falsely identified by the state as felons and turned away from the polls. Gore won even if there was no adjustment for Bush’s windfall of about 290 votes from improperly counted military absentee ballots where lax standards were applied to Republican counties and strict standards to Democratic ones. The analysis found that Gore won regardless of which standard was applied and even when varying county judgments were factored in. Counting fully punched chads and limited marks on optical ballots, Gore won by 115 votes. With any dimple or optical mark, Gore won by 107 votes. With one corner of a chad detached or any optical mark, Gore won by 60 votes. Applying the standards set by each county, Gore won by 171 votes. (USA Today, November 12, 2001

The Washington Post scrutinized computerized records of 2.7 million ballots in Florida’s eight largest counties. The study concluded that, had all the ballots been properly counted, Gore would have carried Florida, regardless of which standard of counting ballots was applied. The study of 2.7 million votes cast in eight of Florida’s largest counties showed that overvotes trended toward Gore at a rate of three to one. Add these together, even with the new undervote count, and Bush would have lost Florida. When fully punched chads or dimpled chads were counted, Gore would have carried Florida by between 60 and 171 votes. (Washington Post, January 28, 2001)

Another study by the Washington Post in November 2001 examined 175,010 Florida ballots. It concluded that Gore could have had a net gain of 662 votes in a hand recount of optical overvotes, almost entirely because of those double-bubbles. But the state-wide recount, ordered by the Florida Supreme Court and stopped by the United States Supreme Court the following day, specified only undervotes would be examined and not overvotes.

In Miami-Dade County precincts where fewer than 30 percent of the voters were Blacks, about 3 percent of ballots did not register a vote for president. In precincts where more than 70 percent of the voters were Blacks, it was nearly 10 percent. Some 40 percent of the state’s Black voters were new voters, and election experts said that they were the most vulnerable to confusion about oddly designed ballots. (Washington Post, December 3, 2000)

Discrimination against Blacks. One specific factor that allowed Bush to steal the election was racial injustice. The more Black and Democratic a precinct, the more likely it was to suffer high rates of invalidated votes.

Many minority voters, who were registered and had voted for years, were told they did not appear on voter lists. Voters without Florida IDs were turned away, though the law said they could cast “affidavit ballots.” In some counties, minority voters said they were asked for a photo ID -- while Anglo voters were not -- or turned away even when they showed up with a voter card and photo ID. People who lacked a photo ID or were not on the voting list were put into a “problem line,” where they were told that voting officials were trying to call headquarters to find out what to do. But the lines were jammed and they just could not get through. Many discouraged voters gave up and went home. (Village Voice, November 29, 2000)

Many Blacks were harassed and intimidated by police in some counties, and turned away by registrars who claimed a shortage of ballots. Some Blacks were mistakenly removed from voter rolls because their names were similar to those of ex-convicts. Many arrived at polls only to be told they were not registered. Others were told they could not vote because they had been mailed absentee ballots -- ballots the voters complained they had not sought. Still other Blacks were harassed, turned away, or given misleading ballot instructions. In several counties, there were long lines of Blacks waiting to vote. Assuming there was confusion and faced with a long wait, many turned around and went home. However in affluent Anglo precincts, voters had modern, optical scanners, and lower rates of uncounted ballots. (New York Times, December 1, 2000; Mother Jones, November 8, 2000)

In counties comprised of a high percentage of Democrats and Blacks, antiquated voting machines that dated back to the 1950s were used. These machines did not immediately check ballots for errors -- so Blacks were less likely than Whites to get a chance to correct their ballots if they made mistakes. While hundreds and probably thousands of Black ballots were disqualified because of faulty machines in those areas, more affluent Florida counties had modern voting equipment which had a much smaller degree of failure.

About 26 percent of Black voters lived in counties that verified ballots as valid in precincts as soon as they were cast. Consequently, poll workers could immediately tell voters that they disqualified ballots, and voters had a second chance to cast a valid ballot. By comparison, 34 percent of Anglo voters lived in these areas. That meant Anglo voters were more likely to have their votes counted than Blacks. Voters, whose ballots were checked immediately, were using cutting-edge optical scanners, which read pen marks. The other voters were using either optical scanners that did not check ballots instantly, or punch-card machines in which voters punch out chads to make a selection.

Some Blacks were turned away by registrars who claimed a shortage of ballots in others. Others reported of being harassed, turned away, or given misleading ballot instructions. Some said they were mistakenly removed from voter rolls, because their names were similar to those of ex-convicts. Some Black registered voters arrived at polls only to be told they were not registered. Others were told they could not vote, because they had been mailed absentee ballots -- ballots the voters complained they had not sought. In at least one case, Blacks found their traditional polling site -- an elementary school -- had been razed and complained that they had not been given an alternative. (Mother Jones, November 8, 2000)

Florida A&M students had always voted on campus. When they went to vote in the 2000 election, they were told that they had to go somewhere else to vote this time. When they went to the precinct to which they had been directed, they were told that they were not registered to vote there and were turned away and did not get to vote. (Village Voice, November 29, 2000)

Car pools of African-American voters were stopped by police, and in some cases, officers demanded to see a “taxi license.” Some polls located in minority areas closed with people still in line in Tampa. In Osceola County, ballots did not line up properly, possibly causing Gore voters to have their ballots cast for Harry Browne. Latino voters were required to produce two forms of identification when only one is required. (Los Angeles Times, November 11, 2000; Associated Press, November 11, 2000)