November 9, 2000
8:03 PM   Subscribe

Porter Glendinning on a weblist noted: "According to, David McReynolds, the Socialist candidate who had the hole beneath Gore's on the ballot, got no more than 36 votes in any county in Florida except Palm Beach, where he got 302. Seems questionable to me." So we've definitely got a problem with the ballot. Is it do over time yet?
posted by mathowie (26 comments total)
Why shouldn't a country chock-a-block with older Jews -- considered the most liberal county in Florida -- be more inclined to vote Socialist? I think the do-over idea is pretty bad, but even if I liked it, I don't think that evidence would be convincing.
posted by snarkout at 8:12 PM on November 9, 2000

It's not just this election that was fucked, but the way we hold elections. Rather than doing it over we should work toward fixing the system for next time. Doing it over seems awfully unfair. Especially speaking as a supporter of a third party candidate.
posted by Doug at 8:19 PM on November 9, 2000

redoing the election is standard practice in other countries.

it is not unfair to third parties because they aren't going to win anyway.
posted by lagado at 8:26 PM on November 9, 2000

A do over is unfair because the parameters change. There will be no vote of conscience, and one county will now be deciding who becomes president. A redo will make every vote in that district so much more valuable than the vote I cast, how can that be fair. If they are gonna do it over, it has to be the whole country. Or maybe next time we can do away with a national election, and let 30 square blocks of another state decide for everyone.
posted by thirteen at 8:40 PM on November 9, 2000

A redo will make every vote in that district so much more valuable than the vote I cast, how can that be fair.

Nonsense, and an over reaction in the extreme.

Protest votes are still possible (but Browne and Nader etc. were NEVER going to win, right?) While it may cause (minor) shift in the actual vote, it will simply clarify the total vote. It's simply the last piece of the jigsaw.

Letting an invalid election result stand is, in my opinion, far worse.

posted by lagado at 9:01 PM on November 9, 2000

Whether it's just or not, a do-over is simply not going to happen. Or, I would be very suprised if it did.

I don't think that evidence would be convincing.

With all due respect: the evidence should be far beyond dispute to anyone with even a faint understanding of statistics. According to the analysis cited by jkottke in another thread, the probability that 3407 people in WPB would (intend to) vote for Buchanan is 1 in 3,000,000,000,000,000. The McReynolds tally is likewise improbable.
posted by johnb at 9:14 PM on November 9, 2000

I maintain that this suddenly becomes a run-off election between two men, and I am not allowed to participate. Everyone who is allowed to vote a second time has a totally different motivation. I do think it would interesting in so far as there would be almost certainly a 100% turnout. The fact that that is the case shows that the stakes are different, and is not the same election I took part in.
My vote for Browne was not a protest vote, it was a deliberate vote for who I wanted. If you wanted Nader but voted for Gore, then you lost more than I did even if Gore is elected. If we all vote again, I will bring a pen and vote for Sapphireblue, you will vote for whoever, and the people in Florida will hopefully read the instructions more carefully this time. I am not against Gore winning, I hope he does at this point, but I think it is too late to go back. If they were so upset they should not have dropped the ballot in the box, they should have called in authorities before they started counting. The system broke down, and they did not wait for the repairman, their loss.
posted by thirteen at 9:35 PM on November 9, 2000

Okay, I'll concede that in the case of a Presidential election, it should be reopened to the entire country.

This is probably the best argument against the direct election of a president I have yet seen.

We've had this debate recently in Australia. The population was split on this. They ultimately voted down becoming a republic over the direct election issue.

posted by lagado at 10:08 PM on November 9, 2000

One, Palm Beach is a big county: the combined votes of the smallest 50% of Florida's counties don't even add up to the total from Palm Beach alone. And two, by the logic that Palm Beach isn't Buchanan country, it's quite reasonably McReynolds country. It's important to filter out the ways in which Palm Beach is a "typical" county from the ways in which it isn't (most notably, size).

McReynolds: the sane Socialist!
posted by grimmelm at 10:48 PM on November 9, 2000

All these statistics might seem useless, but there is a prior precedent in Florida for a judge to order statistical analysis of voting in a district and then adjust the vote accordingly.

A revote is extreme and I think a last option. They should recount the votes by hand first to make sure that all the 'missing votes' are accounted for.
posted by jay at 11:25 PM on November 9, 2000

>>It's important to filter out the ways in which Palm Beach is a "typical" county from the ways in which it isn't (most notably, size)

Actually, the Law of Large Numbers tells us that the larger the number of voters in Palm Beach, the more confident we should be that the Buchanan/McReynolds tallies are erroneous and that (at least) 2000-3000 of the Buchanan votes really belong to Gore. Remember from high school:

P[|Mn - µ| > r] converges to 0 as n goes to infinity for any r > 0.

One thing I've learned from coverage of this election: the vast majority of journalists are functionally innumerate. Statistics 101 should be a required course in journalism school.
posted by johnb at 12:31 AM on November 10, 2000

Yes, johnb, that's an important note. At the level of basic statistics, Palm Beach's size does make arguments based on the unusually high proportions of votes for Buchanan more credible. My original point was just that arguments based on raw numbers of votes that don't take the varying population sizes into account don't say so much.

posted by grimmelm at 12:40 AM on November 10, 2000

Which high school did you go to?

Say, interesting to point that if these problems — misvotes, voters turned away, miscounts, incorrect balloting procedures — were applied to every state in the union we would never get anyone into office. NY had so many problems with voters and voting machines people are saying the final count could easily be more than 50,000 votes off.

That spread, however, wouldn’t change the outcome of many elections.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:55 AM on November 10, 2000

Captain: I agree -- when the final count is this close, it's essentially indeterminate who really "won". I mean, 225 votes is nothing. Three billion dollars spent on political TV ads, and you might as well have flipped a coin.

But more importantly, it doesn't really matter. Well actually, there are a number of reasons why it would be better (for progressives) to have Bush in the White House. Agent Silver gives a few of those reasons.

Another reason is that, drawing on the indignation of 50 million Democratic voters, we might finally have the political energy to push through a constitutional amendment abolishing the electoral college (actually, I'm told that A. Spector will introduce one next week). I'm hoping that -- in the wake of an illegitimate-seeming Bush victory -- a few more hitherto-apathetic Americans will take to the streets and get "radicalized" (an activist euphemism for "getting hit on the head with a police baton for no reason"). If all goes well, this thing could turn into a destabilizing, 1960s-like "crisis of democracy". Unlikely, to be sure, but definitely possible.

As a proud Nader voter, I couldn't ask for a better outcome.
posted by johnb at 1:44 AM on November 10, 2000

be nice if votes were tracked so that the 19,000 people who cared enough to *try* to go vote in Palm Beach but messed it up by punching two holes could be allowed to revote. i know---secret ballot blah blah blah but if up here in North Florida there's a lot of hand-wringing and monday-morning quarterbacking on the part of people who didn't vote or who voted Nader, i can only imagine that there's a *huge* sense of having been flat-out cheated down south.

only kind-of related: a friend of mine here registered to vote when he moved to the area about 6 months ago via "motor voter" registration. he showed up to the polls (to vote for Al Gore) and his name wasn't on the list. So he spent half an hour on an election supervisor's cell phone listening to busy signals at the "help they lost my registration" hotline, and when he finally got through, they said they had no record of him ever having registered. So the Bush margin ought to stand at 326, not 327, and how hard would it be to find enough screwups in the system like that to make up that narrow margin?

there's a lot of outrage here. I'm pretty disgruntled myself. *gah*.

end vent.
posted by Sapphireblue at 5:37 AM on November 10, 2000

A redo will make every vote in that district so much more valuable than the vote I cast, how can that be fair.

Yeah, I heard that crap on CNN last night, too. Forget who, but I blogged it.

The reason it's 'crap' is that it ignores the way that county got so important: because the rest of the friggin country was split almost exactly evenly. I'm pretty sure we haven't had a popular vote where the difference in the two major party candidates was 200K in 50M since the last time an election took this long to settle: Kennedy v Nixon in '60.

If either candidate was really popular, we'd have a president right now.

Anyone wanna help me get started on the Powell in 2004 campaign? First step: talk him into it.
posted by baylink at 6:46 AM on November 10, 2000

Colin Powell is too smart to run for president. What normal, sane person would want the job?!?
posted by Mr. skullhead at 8:50 AM on November 10, 2000

johnb: yes, you could ask for a better outcome: a Nader victory. If you wanted the radicaliazing effects of a Bush presidency, why didn't you just vote for him directly?
posted by grimmelm at 9:02 AM on November 10, 2000

Mr. skullhead: you actually meant to say what normal, sane person would want *to run* for the job... don't you?
posted by gyc at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2000

The telling thing for me is that they had 15,000 invalidated votes last time around. That's an astonishing number. I blogged about the old punch-card problem of "hanging chad", which used to bedevil programmers and election officials, but apparently they use the same system as Cook County (Chicago). We didn't have anything like that here (can't recall, statement yesterday was something in the low hundreds countywide). Our ballots -- for President, anyway -- had space in between the designated punch-holes. That says to me that the ballot design was bad, bad, bad.

Not fraudulent, just badly designed. Whether that's enough is for a judge to decide.
posted by dhartung at 10:46 AM on November 10, 2000

I don’t think, however, that simply dropping the EC and letting the PV choose representation is a better system. Proportional representation from the top down seems to work much better elsewhere. I fear Specter will move to drop the EC, weakening the power of the states in favor of federal government.

That said, our system is certainly rather acked and should be modernized. Hopefully, this talk of the mechanics of democracy will turn to campaign finance reform. I’d love to see a line or two about public funding of races in the Constitution. Wishful thinking, but hey, I voted Nader.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:10 AM on November 10, 2000

>>yes, you could ask for a better outcome: a Nader victory.

Not necessarily. I voted under the (correct) impression that Nader would not be elected president. I based my decision on other considerations (below)

>>If you wanted the radicaliazing effects of a Bush presidency, why didn't you just vote for him directly?

Because that's not the primary motivation. The primary motivation was (and is) to energize and expand the pro-democracy movement. Nader's candidacy helped in this effort by spreading pro-democracy memes, and building a third party. Now that the point of his candidacy has been fulfilled, I look to other arguments (including the "heightening the contradictions" argument) to decide between Bush and Gore. In these circumstances, an illegitimate-seeming Bush victory might be preferable, all things considered.
posted by johnb at 11:30 AM on November 10, 2000

I fear Specter will move to drop the EC, weakening the power of the states in favor of federal government.

I'm in favor of local empowerment -- and federal disempowerment -- but how would dropping the EC be counterproductive in this regard?
posted by johnb at 11:47 AM on November 10, 2000

Because that's not the primary motivation. The primary motivation was (and is) to energize and expand the pro-democracy movement. Nader's candidacy helped in this effort by spreading pro-democracy memes, and building a third party.

um, uh, "building" as in all of the politicians who left the Green party and started criticizing it harshly when it looked like Nader might be a spoiler?

I fear we're finishing out this election season with a net loss of one viable third party.
posted by grimmelm at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2000

The electoral college is designed to give states a voice in national elections. The Framers didn’t want one government passing laws for all it’s people, as that is too close to a monarchy. So, they designed the electoral college which mandates representatives from the states elect the president.

You knew that. Here’s my arguement.

§ Taking away the EC in favor of the popular vote bypasses state power in national elections. It removes local power in favor federal power.

§ The most populous states stand the chance of electing the President, creating an imbalance of power over smaller states. The irony here is that this turned out to happen with the EC, but capturing large states in a presidential election doesn’t garner enough votes to become president. Candidates must speak to small states too.

§ The EC requires the popular vote to be distributed across the country. If say, the North has one Candidate and the South another, whomever has the larger population could elect the president if all we used the PV. This could easily create a dominance of one group of voters over another. In essence, the Constitution holds state populations more important than the national population taken as a whole.

§ The EC enhances minority interests. “This is so because the votes of even small minorities in a State may make the difference between winning all of that State’s electoral votes or none... It is because of the ‘leverage effect’ that the presidency, as an institution, tends to be more sensitive... than Congress. Changing to a direct election of the president would therefore actually damage minority interests since their votes would be overwhelmed by a national popular majority.”

That sounds familiar.

(The above two points cribbed from William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director of the FEC Office of Election Administration.)

Grimmelm: Registered Green Party members nearly tripled since May. A few city council members in Seattle not withstanding, the Greens did great this year.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 6:15 PM on November 10, 2000

And another thing, damnit:

Another major concern, says Gans, is shifting from the principle of federalism. "Different states in different regions have important interests to which the candidate should be subjected and to which the candidates should be required to speak." Gans argues that the Electoral College should not be abandoned, but the winner-take-all approach should be reformed to allow minority candidates to be represented, and the "faithless" elector should be outlawed.
Time to Reform the Electoral College?

We could have proportional representation in our current system with an amendment.

Don’t hold the PV over the EC! Thankyougoodnight.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 6:54 PM on November 10, 2000

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