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Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Reportedly Cost Gore
March 11, 2001 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Reportedly Cost Gore "The newspaper said the ballot confusion also hurt President George W. Bush; 1,631 people voted for both Bush and Buchanan, whose hole was directly under that of Bush"
posted by owillis (34 comments total)

 
I didn't think this was news after December. Yahoo must be really behind on the times, but then they're not really there just for their news.

I don't understand how anybody, whether it be a voting official or a newspaper, can say one way or the other who that particular person really voted for. Unless you actually go to every single person individually and ask them, you don't know who they voted for. Statistics or not, just because a particular county voted for so-and-so in the last election, doesn't mean they would have voted exactly the same in this election.

And I'm sorry, I hate to get down on the people that did this, but this just pure stupidity. I mean do any of you that read this actually think that if you punched 2 or 3 or 15 holes, that the person reading your ballot would know who "you really meant" to vote for? I mean do you really think this way. I agree the ballot was sort of confusing, but come on, ask somebody then. I walked into our borough hall voting area and the first thing I saw was at least 3 people standing there willing to help if you needed it. In fact, and this is true, the person in back of me asked exactly that. They said it was their first time, even though they were easily in their 40's or even 50's and the voting official said that they would walk them right through it. That's it, if people are too scared to ask, then they really don't seem to have the guts to vote either. I hate to get down on these people because everybody makes mistakes, but this was "a huge mistake".

I don't know what other people saw on that Florida fiasco, but I didn't see any mind readers, any crystal balls or even tarot cards, so it's a little hard to think that a person would know what you "meant" by voting twice.
posted by the_0ne at 12:58 PM on March 11, 2001


What I find interesting is that after hearing the "they were stupid" line from mostly Republicans, the latest reports have it that a sizable number of Republicans voted the wrong way in Palm Beach County too. My main beef is that the residents of Palm Beach Co. could pay more for better machines, what with the, ahem, notable amount of money they have. They didn't show a great concern about quality in election process before.

That said, the "stupidity" line was very much spin, and would have been stated the other way around, had Republicans done most of the wrong voting. If you're not a Republican, and believed this, I have no doubt that you are an outlier on that big "who will spin what line and why" graph.
posted by raysmj at 1:24 PM on March 11, 2001


I mean do any of you that read this actually think that if you punched 2 or 3 or 15 holes, that the person reading your ballot would know who "you really meant" to vote for?

Most of the two-hole punches were due to people looking at the ballot and believing they had to punch once for Gore and once for Lieberman (though a smaller number punched once for Bush and once for Cheney).

What makes this newsworthy is the numerical analysis of the overvotes in Palm Beach County. This is the first time the media has tried to quantify exactly how many votes Gore lost due to that county's idiotic (and illegal) ballot design.
posted by rcade at 1:57 PM on March 11, 2001


The saddest part of the whole election for me was watching it get turned over to the lawyers. Truly a sad turn of events. As for people thinking they had to vote for the Vice President, that is ridiculous. I really don't think thay the majority of the voters were brand new to the process. This election showed the glaring deficiencies our current system really has. One can only hope that it is improved for future elections.
posted by a3matrix at 2:43 PM on March 11, 2001


I believe the ballot design was found to be legal, or at least not illegal enough to require a re-vote.
posted by muta at 4:33 PM on March 11, 2001


Let's see . . . It was an election in a nation made of laws. Laywers represented the sides who wanted the whole mess straightened out. Lawyers were going to be involved somehow.

Heck, they were involved in the first place. I'm sure lawyers, county board of supes and elections board attorneys and the like, were brought in to help with the elections. Florida, like other southern states and metro areas with heavily ethnic populations such as Los Angeles, NYC and Chicago, must have all its election plans precleared by the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division, which consists of mostly lawyers.

So, what's the problem, exactly? That lawyers became so prominent? That we saw them around the clock on 24 hour news channels? What? (If you'll check, lawyers were on hand during the post-Nixon/Kennedy election controversy too. They just weren't covered much.)

Election controversies happen all the time, and lawyers are almost always involved in them. Sometimes they are a-holes, maybe most of the time they are, but they are doing what is asked of them. But other times they are quiet heroes who weed out election corruption, help put the right people in office, etc. Boo-hoo.
posted by raysmj at 4:55 PM on March 11, 2001


What I find interesting is that after hearing the "they were stupid" line from mostly Republicans, the latest reports have it that a sizable number of Republicans voted the wrong way in Palm Beach County too.

I have no trouble saying "they were stupid" about anyone who's a member of the Maybe-If-I-Punch-Twice-It'll-Count-More Club, be they Republican, Democrat, Green or anything else. Anyone who screwed that ballot up was either mentally incapacitated (in which case they ought to have received help in the voting booth anyway) or else was not paying enough attention. Thinking you know how it works before you go in doesn't mean you actually do know. Whenever the ballot was shown to people who weren't familiar with the process, and thus read the instructions first, they voted the way they wanted to vote. This included lots of grade-schoolers.

RTFM - It applies to voting as much as it does to computing. With the right to vote comes a teensy weensy little bit of responsibility: follow the directions. I won't argue that the ballot was absolutely as perfectly designed as it could have been; there a number of other ways to do it that would have made it a bit more imbecile-proof. But neither was it anywhere near so truly fouled-up as to be indecipherable. There are a whole bunch of ways one could make the average subway map better, but that doesn't inherently mean the current subway map is unusable.

My main beef is that the residents of Palm Beach Co. could pay more for better machines, what with the, ahem, notable amount of money they have. They didn't show a great concern about quality in election process before.

Yeah, but neither had anybody anywhere else. Voting machines are paid for locally, and suggesting that money go towards new machines instead of, say, filling potholes or paying for police officers, would not have been a very popular position.
posted by aaron at 6:07 PM on March 11, 2001



No, it wouldn't have been very popular. But Palm Beach Co. was using hole-punching "systems" that even most poor counties throughout the South and elsewhere have ditched due to inaccuracies. Palm Beach Co. was getting by on the cheap. Whether the entire county population should be blamed for this or just its elites (including officials) is another story.

Anyways, my problem with the "stupidity" line is, it's almost 100 percent tainted by spin. You never heard it until Reps. made it a standard line, which quickly became a meme. If Repubs had made the same ballot mistakes, Dems. might have claimed stupidity too. And then the Reps. would've claimed that the Dems. had no respect for their elders, just like you'd expect from those east coast heretics, blah blah. And so and so forth, etc., ad infinitum, God please turn off the television, blah blah. People are always saying, oh, party has nothing to do with what they think about this. Oh, sure. Maybe so, but who knows? I never heard the stupidity line beforehand. (I heard someone complain about the stupidity who though something was wrong with the way her exam sheets went through the machines in college. Want to guess her party ID?)

The pre-schooler stuff is also total media horses***. Pre-schoolers were never shown how the ballot actually looked on the stand in those countless cynical Palm Beach reports.

The point, I would think, would in any case be to please, please, please improve the nation's elections systems, maybe look at national solutions in the case of the presidential one, etc. Then, if future snafus occur, people can call their fellow humans stupid without fear of censure.
posted by raysmj at 6:38 PM on March 11, 2001


Voting machines are paid for locally ...

Not necessarily -- Jeb Bush was all-too-happy to pay $4 million to an outside firm charged with purging local voter rolls (especially since it was founded by Republican fatcats and prone to overzealous removal of felons real or imaginary).
posted by rcade at 7:50 PM on March 11, 2001


The pre-schooler stuff is also total media horses***. Pre-schoolers were never shown how the ballot actually looked on the stand in those countless cynical Palm Beach reports.

Actually, in our county a christian school was given the actual ballot that the palm beach voters saw. They changed the names to disney characters. After voting, teachers asked each and every kid who they wanted to vote for and not one kid got it wrong on the ballot. So, I won't mention the ones that went on around the country, because they might be horse****, but I know for a fact that the one in our area wasn't horse****.


posted by the_0ne at 7:52 PM on March 11, 2001


Again, the students referenced did not have their ballots placed onto the ballot holder thingie, the way they were on election day, so yes, it was total horse***.
posted by raysmj at 7:56 PM on March 11, 2001


Again, the students referenced did not have their ballots placed onto the ballot holder thingie, the way they were on election day, so yes, it was total horse***.

You might have me there, I misunderstood your first post. The ballot I was speaking of, and the one the children saw, is what the major media outlets made out to be so hard. No, I doubt that the students actually received the 'ballot holder thingie'. (I don't know what it's called either.) So, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.
posted by the_0ne at 8:10 PM on March 11, 2001


I think the whole voting process should be more interesting....perhaps set up a shooting range instead of those boring ballots stands, making sure they're far enough apart. That way, your intent is clear in two ways. You could also give children water pistols to test it out. (kids and real guns are a bad idea). Texas would love it! Come to think of it, I remember seeing a cartoon depicting this....nevermind. At any rate, I agree that there are plenty of regions within the US that need to and will upgrade their standards by the next election...let's just put this far far behind us, grit our teeth, and finally welcome technology into the voting mainstream. Of course, being a state worker myself, that would just be too optimistic.
posted by samsara at 8:36 PM on March 11, 2001


At any rate, I agree that there are plenty of regions within the US that need to and will upgrade their standards by the next election...let's just put this far far behind us, grit our teeth, and finally welcome technology into the voting mainstream.

Amen, I can not believe that in the year 2000, we still have a lot of places using punch ballots. You have got to be kidding me. Funny thing is, until this election, I was totally ignorant to the problem. We use these huge white boxes. You stand right in front of it, it's not on a table or anything. It has each candidate and then aside of the candidate is a button, if you want that candidate... (well you can figure out the rest). So, right aside of your candidate you voted for is a red light. Highly unlikely that you'd screw this up. And then, the kicker, there's this huge green VOTE button on the bottom right. Now, to my point, I thought this was the absolute oldest thing I've ever seen. I mean we might as well go back to the good old days of Eniac, that's how bad I thought this was. Then, with this fiasco in Florida, I found out that we actually have some of the newest technology. I mean they're really using little red lights. LOL :)

So, I'm not saying that the Florida fiasco was a good thing, but it seemed to open a lot of people's eyes, mine for one.
posted by the_0ne at 9:09 PM on March 11, 2001


Since when do people vote specifically for the vice-president? Also, there certainly didn't seen to be anything illegal about those ballots when Clinton won.
posted by Nathan at 9:26 PM on March 11, 2001


They didn't use the same ballots when Clinton was elected, either in '92 or in '96 (the latter year being a landslide victory year to boot, so few questions regarding ballots were likely to come up). Also, according to the actual Palm Beach Post article on which the wire report linked was based, the voting-for-VP thing was never an issue. Or, at least no such issue is mentioned.
posted by raysmj at 9:49 PM on March 11, 2001


Whether the "stupidity" line is a line or a meme or anything else, anyone who hasn't the sense to know that you don't vote seperately for the VP is really not someone I trust with a say in who should run the country. RTFM indeed. Idiots!
posted by Dreama at 9:58 PM on March 11, 2001


A little boo-boo before. The article did say that "others" besides those with the main complain -- that they were confused as to the placement of Gore's name near Buchanan's -- thought they were supposed to vote for VP too. It does also say, however, that studies have shown that no such mistakes were made, at least in as great a mass, in the past in Palm Beach Co. as in 2000.

Also, I'd learn how to write "separately," before calling anyone else stupid in a thread which has involved questioning the intelligence of other Americans. Doing so, of course, does not make you stupid. It merely means you can put your foot in your mouth just as well as any other citizen can.

I wish more citizens knew what was what. Want to take a bet as to how many folks know what, say, judicial review is in America no matter how central it is to the political process. Want to know how many can ID Rehnquist as chief justice? (Answer: Fewer than 10 percent.)
posted by raysmj at 10:34 PM on March 11, 2001


I know quite a number of people who screwed up their ballots down here. That 6000 number sounds a little low from what we were guessing, actually.

I live just over the county line from Palm Beach in Broward County - so I don't have to worry about being called "idiot" or "stupid" by some of the people who posted here before me.

Trust me when I say that really bright, intelligent people screwed it up. Most were in a hurry to vote during their lunch hour or before work. One friend said he was rushed through by our militant "condo commandos" - retirees who think keeping the lines short is paramount to quality decision making.

Ease off the idiot remarks. They're naive, wrong, and mean.
posted by stevis at 10:49 PM on March 11, 2001


the other thing that needs to be pointed out is that a lot of people realized that they had made a mistake after doing it and tried to get a new ballot, and they were rejected. just because you slipped or you punched impulsively and then figured out what to do correctly does not mean you're an idiot.
posted by pikachulolita at 11:16 PM on March 11, 2001


anyone who hasn't the sense to know that you don't vote seperately for the VP is really not someone I trust with a say in who should run the country.

I know you like to call people idiots (aside from President Bush, of course), but this is another thing caused by Theresa LePore's ballot design.

LePore put the president and vice president on separate lines next to two holes (see the ballot. Most counties put the president and vice president on the same line (such as this Dallas County ballot) with a single hole beside them.

In order to vote for Gore correctly in Palm Beach, voters had to choose the third hole for the second candidate, which was labeled with a 5, using outdated machines that frequently misaligned the holes.

No one's asking to count these votes, but Republicans should give LePore the credit she deserves. If not for the Peter Principle putting her in charge of the county's elections, Gore would be president.
posted by rcade at 11:17 PM on March 11, 2001


My mistake, raysmj, concerning the butterfly ballots.
However, wasn't the butterfly ballot approved by representatives from both major parties? And why switch to using it in the first place?

I do question the term landslide in regards to the '96 election. I'd be willing to consider anything over, say, 70-75% of the vote a landslide victory- but 49%?

posted by Nathan at 11:48 PM on March 11, 2001


> I have no trouble saying "they were stupid" about
> anyone who's a member of the Maybe-If-I-Punch-
> Twice-It'll-Count-More Club, be they Republican,
> Democrat, Green or anything else.

The machines were bad if the machines allowed disqualifying errors such as double punching. Never blame users for making mistakes with a bad user interface.

But assume, just for the sake of the 'stupid' argument, that everyone who erred that day in a Florida voting booth was stupid.

Stupid people are very numerous citizens of your great democracy. To state the mathematically obvious: half of all Americans have below-average intelligence. And the lower half of that lower half are probably what most people (the other three quarters, of course) would gloatingly call stupid.

Are you anti-democratic enough to say that the votes of one quarter of all Americans do not and should not matter?
posted by pracowity at 12:28 AM on March 12, 2001


The machines were bad if the machines allowed disqualifying errors such as double punching. Never blame users for making mistakes with a bad user interface.
Next thing you know they'll be getting messages that this voting booth does not comply with voting standards, would the user please upgrade to a new booth or be forwarded to a Booth Standards site?
posted by methylsalicylate at 4:21 AM on March 12, 2001


Sorry, yes, user interface is a very computer-biased way to describe a metal box with mechanical levers, or paper punch cards and metal stylus. How about controls?

Bad controls are all around us.
• The car radio with a hundred obscure buttons.
• The sink with two separate taps so that you have to wash your hands with just hot or just cold water, but not a combination (warm!) unless you are willing to risk filling the dirty sink and sloshing your hands around in it.
• The proverbial VCR clock that is always blinking (and I mean blinking) 12:00.

But there are some good ones, too.
• A light switch that flips up for on and down for off. You can find it in the dark and it is super simple. It insulates you very well from the electricity, which is of course very dangerous but completely forgotten because the switches are so reliable and safe. And switches cannot be set to on and off simultaneously because the designer knows that you would never want such a situation and that being on and off simultaneously is nonsense. The reason you never hear about the idiot who turned the light off but left it on is that the design of the switch makes it impossible.
• A car steering system. You turn the wheel one way and the car goes that way, and it does so gradually enough to give you good control over the turn. And it doesn't let you simultaneously turn the right wheel right and the left wheel left. Yes, you could call someone stupid for turning the front wheels in conflicting directions, but the real idiot would be the designer who made the conflicting turns possible.

I'm having a hard time thinking of designs that allow you to set conflicting controls. Any suggestions? I thought that maybe the accelerator and brake in a car would be a good example, but there are times when you want to use both.
posted by pracowity at 5:42 AM on March 12, 2001


half of all Americans have below-average intelligence.

That does not seem mathematically possible.
posted by thirteen at 7:48 AM on March 12, 2001


> That does not seem mathematically possible.

Seriously?

I'm no statistician -- I don't really know my mean from my median or my median from my mode, so correct me where needed, oh great mathematicians out there -- but averages work roughly like this:

Let's do it with age instead of intelligence. Say there are a 100 people in an auditorium. If you add all of their ages together and then divide the total by 100, you will get their average age.

Pretend that the average age turns out to be 35 years old. You could now say with some confidence that about half of the people in the auditorium are above the average age and half of them are below the average age.

Now say that the average age turned out not to be 35, but instead to be 40. You could still say that about half are above average and half are below average.

No matter what the actual average value is, about half are going to be above average and half below.

It's the same with intelligence. If you're talking about an "average" something (height, age, intelligence, etc.) then you're talking about an approximate midpoint in a linear range of values. About half are always going to be on one side of the midpoint and the other half are going to be on the other side.

(Of course, you might say intelligence can't be measured linearly. OK. But however you do measure it, you can't talk about "average" unless you are willing to label about half of the people as below average.)
posted by pracowity at 9:01 AM on March 12, 2001


. . . anyone who hasn't the sense to know that you don't vote seperately for the VP is really not someone I trust with a say in who should run the country . . .

Unfortunately for all of us in the "we're so smart!" crowd, even dumb people get to vote. And Dreama gets a shiny gold star for never, ever doing anything dumb. I mean, besides supporting Bush.
posted by Skot at 9:32 AM on March 12, 2001


>> half of all Americans have below-average intelligence.
>That does not seem mathematically possible.
In intelligence testing, scores are forced into a normal distribution. Thus, by definition, 50% of the people are above the mean, and 50% are below. The intelligence tests are constantly renormed so that half of the population is always below average (that is, below the 50th percentile (A side note: average is a lousy word to use: it makes it too easy to lie with statistics))
Of course, we all want to be above average (and to have above average kids), hence the Lake Wobegon effect.
posted by iceberg273 at 9:47 AM on March 12, 2001


correct me where needed, oh great mathematicians out there
/* schoolteacher mode */
No matter what the actual average value is, about half are going to be above average and half below.
You seem to be equating average intelligence with the arithmetic mean of IQs. Not quite right; here's a crude example - the average of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 100 is 22 but 80% of those numbers are below the average. What is meant by "average intelligence" is not the average of people's IQs, but the distribution described by iceberg273 above (I in turn welcome the criticism of mathematicians yet greater than myself).
/* taking didactic hat off and apologising */
posted by methylsalicylate at 10:06 AM on March 12, 2001


Urgh, I just went back and actually read the preceding posts. Sorry for being such a jerky definition-nazi.
posted by methylsalicylate at 10:09 AM on March 12, 2001


Nathan asked me much earlier, until the whole thread ventured off into different territory, how Clinton could've won in a landslide in 1992 with only 49 percent of the vote. Nathan thought a landslide should require a massive majority, say 55 to 60 or more.

Easy to explain. I've consistently heard over the years that Reagan won in a landslide over Jimmy Carter in 1980. John Anderson was a third party candidate (formerly a moderate to liberal Republican) who probably took at least two-thirds of his total from Carter, most likely much more. Reagan won a bare majority, something like 50.5, compared to Carter's 41 or so. That's about equals the distance between Clinton and Dole in 1996 -- 49 point whatever to 40.1 or some such.

In any case, my point had been not to get into a discussion over the definition of "landslide" but to point out that there was no debating who won then. The vote was not even close, so of course you didn't hear about big voting discrepancies. Yes, if they would have been massive discrepancies, you would've heard. But we're not talking most-of-South America-in-the-1960s-and-'70s here.
posted by raysmj at 5:05 PM on March 12, 2001


> Sorry for being such a jerky definition-nazi.

No, no, no. I (literally) asked for correction. You are always welcome to remove my head and and spin it on the scanning table.

As for

> example - the average of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 100
> is 22 but 80% of those numbers are below the average.

I knew that, but I thought intelligence was more evenly distributed, so I didn't think it would skew the results much to use a run-of-the-mill average.

And thanks to iceberg273 for explaining normal distribution and so on. Good stuff.


posted by pracowity at 11:08 PM on March 12, 2001


raysmj>When dealing with claims of Reagan's "overwhelming victories", or anything of that nature, you have to take it with a grain of salt, as I have learned to do.
I'm guessing you've assumed that I'm a conservative from my previous post, but I wouldn't go so far as to classify myself as such. I have yet to align myself with any party in particular at this point, but I'm coming around from a previously held apolitical outlook.

posted by Nathan at 1:09 AM on March 13, 2001


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