Skip to comments.The Myth of the Stolen Election - Part IBy John Fund
Posted on 09/17/2004 3:14:24 PM PDT by Zyke
The current toxic political atmosphere, in which one side is concerned about voter fraud and the other about voter disfranchisement, is largely the product of the elephant in the parlor left over from the 2000 election. Of course, I'm talking about the Florida recount, the gold standard for botched elections, and all the bitter recriminations it launched.
The Florida battle returned to the news as the 2004 election approached in Michael Moore's hit film Fahrenheit 9/11, which begins with a malicious account of what happened in 2000. In essence, Moore claims that George W. Bush, aided by Florida's Republican secretary of state Katherine Harris and the FOX News Channel, stole the election - that and everyone knows it.
There are many issues to debate and argue about the sordid Florida experience, but one of the most intriguing is how a cottage industry has sprung up among liberals to perpetuate this myth. (Jesse Jackson still refers to Florida as "the scene of the crime" where "we were disenfranchised. Our birthright stolen.") As the 2004 election grew closer, the distortions spread beyond Moore's fantasy to the presidential campaign itself. Senator John Kerry told crowds that "we know thousands of people were denied the right to vote." His running mate, former trial lawyer John Edwards, ended speeches with a closing argument about "an incredible miscarriage of justice" in Florida.
Such assertions are simply not supported by the facts. Moore alleges that "under every scenario Gore would have won" Florida without the intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court. But in fact, every single recount of the votes in Florida determined that George W. Bush had won the state's twenty-five electoral votes and therefore the presidency. This includes a manual recount of votes in largely Democratic counties by a consortium of news organizations, among them the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. As the New York Times reported on November 21, 2001, "A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward." The USA Today recount team concluded: "Who would have won if Al Gore had gotten manual counts he requested in four counties? Answer: George W. Bush."
Why do liberals persist in propagating the Myth of the Stolen Election? Many of them sincerely believe in it, all this evidence notwithstanding. Others see it as a rallying cry that can bring out the Democratic Party's core voters this fall in righteous anger. The Florida controversy also offers a pretext for some to talk about other changes they want to make in election laws. (The NAACP, for example, wants to "re-enfranchise" four million felons who have lost the right to vote because of their crimes.) Some liberals would even like to extend voting privileges to non-citizens. In July 2004, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to give noncitizens, legal or illegal, the right to vote in local school board elections. The ACLU once sued the U.S. attorney in San Francisco because he matched voting records against lists of legal immigrants who were not yet citizens. The ACLU argued that trying to determine whether noncitizens were voting would have a "chilling effect" on Hispanic voting.
After all the media recounts of 2001 showed that George W. Bush would still have won under any fair standard, Democratic activists have narrowed their charges to the purported disfranchisement of black voters. The Civil Rights Commission, led by Democrat Mary Frances Berry-with only two Republican commissioners at the time-issued a scathing majority report in 2001 alleging "widespread voter disenfranchisement" and accusing Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush of "failing to fulfill their duties in a manner that would prevent this disenfranchisement."
But when it comes to actual evidence of racial bias, the report draws inferences that are not supported by any data and ignores facts that challenge its conclusions. Since we have a secret ballot in America, we do not know the race of the 180,000 voters (2.9 percent of the total number of ballots cast in Florida) whose ballots had no valid vote for president. Machine error cannot be the cause of discrimination, since the machine doesn't know the race of the voter either, and in any case accounts for about one error in 250,000 votes cast. (And, as some have asked, is it not racist in the first place to assume that those who spoil ballots are necessarily minority voters?)
One-third of the supposedly disfranchised voters' ballots were "undervotes"-that is, ballots that showed no vote for president. Think a moment of your own experience as a voter: have you declined to vote for some office on the ballot when you went to the polls? Studies show that over 70 percent of undervotes-where no candidate is selected-are cast deliberately by voters who prefer not to choose from the available options.
The report also discusses "overvoting," the marking of more than one candidate for an office. Even Civil Rights Commission chairman Mary Frances Berry admitted that she had sometimes "overvoted intentionally." In any case, voter error, whether intentional or inadvertent, is not the same thing as racial discrimination.
Nor, as a powerful dissenting report from commissioners Abigail Thernstrom and Russell Redenbaugh pointed out, was the commission able to come up with "a consistent, statistically significant relationship between the share of voters who were African-American and the ballot spoilage rate." John Lott, an economist and statistician from the Yale Law School now with the American Enterprise Institute, studied spoilage rates in Florida by county in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 presidential elections and compared them with demographic changes in county populations. He concluded that "the percent of voters in different race or ethnic categories is never statistically related to ballot spoilage."
Lott found that among the 25 Florida counties with the greatest rate of vote spoilage, 24 had Democratic election officers in charge of counting the votes. He concluded that "having Democratic officials in charge [of county elections] increases ballot spoilage rates significantly, but the effect is stronger when that official is an African-American." Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom argued that "it is very difficult to see any political motive that would lead Democratic local officials to try to keep the most faithful members of their party from the polls and to somehow spoil the ballots of those who did make it into the voting booth."
Finally, despite all the talk about black voters, what about potential disfranchisement of Latinos? After all, there are 2.7 million Hispanics in Florida (compared with 2.3 million blacks), yet in its zeal to politicize the black issue the commission undertook no serious analysis of Hispanic voting. It asks us to believe that nonblack Florida voters (which includes most Hispanics) had a spoilage rate of 1.6 percent compared with 14.4 percent for blacks. Not only is such a statistical disparity not proven, but the academic who did the statistical work for the commission, Allan Lichtman, refuses to make public his data or regression tables.
In fact, Florida 2000 was not a startling anomaly. Ballot-spoilage rates across the country range between 2 and 3 percent of total ballots cast. Florida's rate in 2000 was 3 percent. In 1996 it was 2.5 percent. Glitches occur in every election-which is not to downplay the problem, but to put it into perspective. For example, the number of ruined ballots in Chicago alone was 125,000, compared with 174,000 for the entire state of Florida. Several states experienced voting problems remarkably similar to those in Florida. But the closeness of the 2000 election in Florida made the state a prime opportunity for racial demagoguery.
Other charges from Democratic activists turned out to be "falsehoods and exaggerations." For instance, when the commission investigated the charge that a police traffic checkpoint near a polling place had intimidated black voters, it turned out that the checkpoint operated for ninety minutes at a location two miles from the poll and not even on the same road. And of the sixteen people given citations, twelve were white.
In the end, Florida attorney general Bob Butterworth-a Democrat-testified that of the 2,600 complaints he received on Election Day, only three were about racial discrimination.
YEs, it's a good piece. But I have one complaint:
"...the end, Florida attorney general Bob Butterworth-a Democrat-testified that..."
Why does every source have to be a Democrat to be reliable? I feel like we are falling into the MSM trap.
And I feel like my integrity will be questioned, if I ever have to make an important public point...
Fund's piece is a timely reminder. You can bet that this campaign too, is going to get curiouser and curiouser before it's all over.
The likely story:
I do think it's relevant. He was the Attorney General, and it was his responsibility to check out those claims .. but Fund felt compelled to say he was a democrat .. maybe so democrats would accept the information ..??
I do too. But we really know they will never shut up. ;)
Yes. My wife wants my opinion of the current Vanity Fair article about the Florida election. I haven't read it yet, but I assume it attacks Bush.
John Fund's article looks real handy.
Oops! Disregard #10, except for Thanks!
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