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Widespread National Silence about the Possibility of Election Fraud in 2004

I'm currently working with a publisher, Biting Duck Press, to publish a book (title as yet undetermined) on the corruption in our election system. We hope that it will help to make Americans more vigilant and concerned about the way our elections are run. I’ve drafted most of the book. I am currently intending to post large portions of it on DU, in the hope of stimulating discussion and obtaining useful feedback

In my last post, “Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen Too?”, I discussed the initial evidence that pointed to large scale election fraud in the Presidential election of 2004. Much more evidence of election fraud in 2004 will be covered in subsequent chapters of the book. This post discusses the widespread national silence about the question of election fraud in 2004.


WIDESPREAD NATIONAL SILENCE ABOUT THE QUESTION OF ELECTION FRAUD IN 2004

Unfortunately, our corporate owned national news media made every effort to silence talk of election fraud following the 2004 election – reminiscent of how they acted following the awarding of the 2000 Presidential election to George Bush by the U.S. Supreme Court. We were told to “move on” and accept it. Those who talked about election fraud were tagged with the epithet “conspiracy theorist” – as if concern about conspiracies to undermine our democracy is some kind of character defect. Consequently, even some of those who were honestly concerned about the integrity of our election system denied that election fraud had anything to do with the results of the 2004 Presidential election. Perhaps some of them were swayed to adopt this point of view by the reactions of our national news media. Perhaps others simply did not want to be tagged as “nut case conspiracy theorists”.

Why did our corporate communications media want to make talk of election fraud go away? The truth is that as our national communications media has become consolidated more and more into the hands of a small number of very wealthy individuals and corporations, it has become more and more conservative. They want to protect the status quo. If people question the foundations of our democracy they may want to take action to protect our democracy. Some of those actions may include efforts to reform our national communications media, which would infringe on the wealth and power of those who now control it.

This will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 12. For now, let’s consider how silencing of talk of election fraud in 2004 played out.


“Corrected” exit polls

The exit poll numbers discussed above were never broadcast on TV. It is only because of computer screen shots preserved by Jonathan Simon that the information is even available to those who have an interest in looking at it. Steven Freeman points out in his book, “Was the 2000 Presidential Election Stolen?”:

Had it not been for leaks from the media and a technical glitch on the CNN site that caused the unadjusted data [i.e. exit polls] to be aired, the unadjusted exit poll data would never have been collected and preserved, and we might never have known about the exit-poll discrepancy at all. These data were not intended for public release. As slate editor Jack Shafer put it, the {TV networks that contracted with Edison-Mitofsky to receive its exit poll data} “signed a blood oath not to divulge it to unauthorized eyes.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of very interesting pictures regarding the exit poll in Ohio, that appeared on CNN early on Wednesday morning, which are shown on pages 103 and 105 of Freeman’s book. At 12:21 a.m. on Wednesday morning, November 3, the final Ohio exit poll by gender appeared briefly on TV. It showed Kerry with a 2% lead over Bush among males and a 6% lead among females. But by 1:32 a.m. that picture was replaced by another final Ohio “exit poll”. That new “exit poll” showed Bush with 5% lead over Kerry among males and a statistical tie among females. That is perfectly consistent with the official election results in Ohio, which gave Bush a 2.5% lead over Kerry in Ohio. The “exit poll” shown at 1:32 a.m. was not really an exit poll at all. It was, rather, an exit poll that was “corrected” to conform to the official final vote count. Freeman points out that ‘adjusted’ would be a better word to describe it because the use of the word “corrected” implies that the exit poll was wrong and the official vote count was correct.

Many have suggested that the appearance of the 1:32 a.m. “corrected” exit poll on CNN, carrying the designation of “exit poll” without any explanation to the effect that it was a “corrected” exit poll (meaning it was not really an exit poll at all, in the generally understood sense of the term) is indicative of CNN’s attempt to lie to the American people to make them think that the exit polls actually predicted Bush to be the winner. I don’t quite buy that. But to be honest about it, and in the interest of being informative, a network news organization should not do that kind of thing. Even if their adjustment of the true exit poll findings to conform to the official vote count was done innocently to make the exit poll findings more “correct” as they see it, it certainly does not represent the actual exit poll findings. It is simply a depiction of the official vote count, with the exit poll being used to estimate the relative gender distribution of those who voted. If a TV network chooses to show such a picture, they should not label it as an “exit poll”, or at least they should explain what it means.

The bottom line is that such behavior is indicative of a knee jerk response, by news organizations who cover elections for us, to discrepancies between exit polls and official vote counts. That knee-jerk response is to assume that the discrepancy shows the exit polls, rather than the official vote count, to be faulty. The possibility that it is the official results rather than the exit polls that are faulty is simply not considered. That is a very shallow kind of news reporting at best.


Denial

Tom Brokaw – NBC News anchor
A quote on the subject by Tom Brokaw, NBC News anchor at the time, is symptomatic of the coverage of the subject by network news organizations:

The people who ran the exit polling, and all those of us who were their clients, recognized that it was deeply flawed. They were really screwed up -- the old models just don't work anymore. I would not go on the air with them again.

Again, there appears to be no consideration of the possibility that the discrepancy between the exit polls and the official vote counts could have been due to election fraud. Brokaw is simply making the assumption that exit poll bias, rather than election fraud impinging on the official election results, was the problem.

What is the cause of this national silence on the issue of whether or not the 2004 election was stolen? Do those who determine the content of the news we receive believe that it would be bad for our country to discuss such an unpalatable subject? Do they feel that this would rock the status quo? Or do most people simply not want to contemplate such a terrible thing happening in our country? Whatever it is, the phenomenon seems to be rampant in our country. Even many of those who are very concerned about election integrity in our country seem to be aversive to talking or thinking about the subject of a stolen presidential election.

Douglas Schoen – political consultant and professional pollster
Douglas Schoen has been a Democratic campaign consultant for more than 30 years. He wrote a book titled “The Power of the Vote – Electing Presidents, Overthrowing Dictators and Promoting Democracy Around the World”, in which he gives numerous examples of how exit polls (or “quick counts”), combined with vote recounts when necessary helped to preserve democracy. Specifically, he explains how exit polls: proved decisive in removing Slobodan Milosevic from the Serbian presidency in 2000; helped to ensure a fair election in Mexico in 2000]; played a decisive role in electing Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of New York City in 2001; and led to the reversal of the official results of the Ukraine presidential election of 2004, thus elevating Viktor Yushchenko to the Ukrainian presidency.

In 2004 Schoen worked for Victor Yushchenko’s campaign for the presidency of the Ukraine. At the time of poll closing, official election results showed that the opposition candidate, Victor Yanukovich, had won by about 3%. However, an exit poll funded by Western embassies showed Yushchenko ahead by 11% -- a 14% discrepancy from the official results. Fueled by the exit poll results, thirty thousand pro-Yushchenko demonstrators filled downtown Kiev, thereby seizing control of the city. The Bush administration refused to acknowledge the results of the election, and the International Election Observation Mission determined the election to be flawed. Consequently, the government agreed to another round of voting, again overseen by exit polling, and that time Yushchenko won without further problem, with exit polls backing his claim to victory.

So, what does this great believer in the value of exit polls have to say about the substantial red shift in the 2004 Presidential election? Schoen dismisses this whole thing with a single phrase in his book, referring to it as an “exit poll debacle”. Yet, in all the other examples in his book he considers the exit polls to be a better reflection of voter intent than the “official” election results. Indeed, that’s why he advocates using exit polls as a check on the validity of elections. But in this one case, which I suspect is substantially more important to his readers than most of the other examples in his book, he dismisses the whole issue by referring to the exit poll discrepancy as an “exit poll debacle”, with no further explanation.

Americans would do well to give this issue very serious consideration. If exit polls and vote recounts have been shown to be of vital importance in protecting democracy in other countries, then shouldn’t we give them serious consideration in our own country, as tools to protect our democracy?

Andrew Gumbel – one of our first journalists to bring the dangers of computer voting to our attention
Another great example of this denial phenomenon is Andrew Gumbel’s “Steal this Vote”. This book is largely a scathing indictment of electronic touch screen voting machines. Gumbel makes the point that voting machines that are privately owned and use secret software to count votes have no legitimate place in a democracy. He also discusses the substantial amount of evidence that these machines were used in Georgia in 2002 to steal elections for the U.S. Senate and the governorship of Georgia.

But when it comes to the 2004 Presidential election he dismisses the possibility out of hand that these machines were used to hand the presidency to George W. Bush, and he denigrates those who seriously consider that possibility as “conspiracy theorists”. He says:

…some of the statistical data inconveniently challenged the conspiracy theorists. First, Bush’s margin of well over one hundred thousand votes proved well-nigh unassailable, even after a recount that was requested… That kind of number can’t easily be created out of thin air by electronic tabulation machines, especially in a state relying almost exclusively on re-countable paper ballots.

Well, that would be a terrific rebuttal to us “conspiracy theorists” IF one of our main arguments was that over 100,000 votes could “easily be created out of thin air by electronic tabulation machines”. I don’t think that many of us have claimed that it would be easy. To the contrary, we believe that Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s Secretary of State, had to work very hard to steal Ohio for Bush. And as far as Ohio being a state relying almost exclusively on re-countable paper ballots, the paper ballots were never re-counted and the tabulating of county-wide votes was performed by central computers. Furthermore, registration of new voters, and purging of voters was done electronically.

Gumbel also says that “Kerry did too well in certain areas to support any argument that his votes were suppressed” – implying here, I guess, that when votes are stolen in a state the thefts must be evenly distributed throughout the state.

Mark Blumenthal – professional pollster
A statement by the well known professional pollster Mark Blumenthal (commonly known as the ‘mystery pollster’) perhaps reveals the type of thinking that facilitates or justifies denial of the dangers to our election system even among highly educated people:

The question has always been whether the exit polls provide affirmative evidence that fraud did in fact occur. This involves a very basic concept of statistical inquiry: We assume no effect until one can be proven, or more technically, we assume a "null hypothesis" until we can prove some alternative. The same principle exists in law as the presumption of innocence. We do not assume a crime has been committed and work backwards to try to disprove it. We presume innocence until enough evidence has been established to prove guilt.

This line of reasoning is wrong on several accounts. First, the question posed by most people who are seriously concerned about the large red shift in the 2004 presidential election is not whether exit polls provide affirmative evidence that fraud occurred. It is whether or not the large red shift is a danger sign that tells us that we need to seriously question and investigate the possibility of election fraud. Second is Blumenthal’s statement of the concept of statistical inquiry. It is true that a general principle of science is that we should not assume a finding to be valid until it is proven. Though that is a general principle of statistics as used in science, statistics is not simply an abstract discipline. It needs to be applied to the realities of life. Proof of election fraud should not be required before action is taken. In fact, perhaps the opposite philosophy should apply to national elections to our highest offices: that they should not be accepted as valid until serious doubts about their validity have been thoroughly addressed. Similarly, Blumenthal’s analogy to the presumption of innocence in criminal law is way off base. It is true that we should not send people to jail or execute them until their guilt is proven. But neither should we award them the presidency of the United States until we have reasonably good evidence that the election results are correct.


Withholding of crucial data

On the issue of national silence regarding the possibility of election fraud, the repeated refusals to release the raw exit poll data to the public for analysis, despite myriad requests from a large variety of concerned citizens and organizations, deserves special mention and emphasis. In claiming that his data showed exit poll bias rather than election fraud, one of the points that Warren Mitofsky repeatedly brought up was that nobody else was in a position to make any definitive conclusions on the question because they did not (and could not) analyze the raw exit poll data. That was precisely the reason for the many requests for the data – although certainly tentative conclusions could be reached on the basis of the publicly available data.

Let’s not blame Mitofsky for his repeated refusals to release the raw data on which he based his (unsupported) conclusions. He was under contract with a consortium of news organizations, and those news organizations refused to allow him to release the data.

Just think about that! What is the purpose of a news organization supposed to be? It’s supposed to be to provide knowledge to the public that helps them to become more informed citizens. In this case, not only did all of our largest national news organizations do nothing to help us unravel the events behind the huge exit poll discrepancies in the 2004 Presidential election, but they actively sought to prevent us from acquiring the information we would need to most accurately analyze those events ourselves. What does that say about our national news organizations?


The effort to challenge the 2004 election in the U.S. Senate

As I was concerned about the large red shift in the 2004 election, as well as a good deal of supporting evidence for election fraud not discussed in this chapter, in early January, 2005, I participated in a four-person delegation to lobby U.S. Senators to officially challenge the official presidential vote count. We believed that the results of the election should not be accepted as is until more investigation was done into allegations of election fraud. At the very least it was important to us that at least one U.S. Senator officially challenge the results. If that was done, it would require by law that the U.S. Senate and House publicly debate the issue for a couple of hours. That was very important to us because we felt that it was crucially important that the American people be aware of the dangers to our election system and our democracy.

Our delegation was able to make appointments with the staff of four Democratic Senators. They all listened to us respectfully, but at the same time it didn’t seem likely to us that their bosses would agree to officially challenge the election results. Only one U.S. Senator made the courageous decision to do so: Barbara Boxer of California. In a public appearance, Senator Boxer publicly acknowledged, “Four years ago I didn't intervene. I was asked by Al Gore not to do so and I didn't do so. Frankly, looking back on it, I wish I had”.

The decision of Al Gore in 2000 to ask Democratic Senators not to challenge the results of the 2000 election was a typical reaction of a politician to fears of being labeled a sore loser, just as John Kerry’s similar request in 2004 was based upon similar motivations. An article by Alan Fram just prior to the U.S. House and Senate challenge of the Ohio election results demonstrates the ambivalence of Democratic congresspersons on this issue:

“I have concluded that objecting to the electoral votes from Ohio is the only immediate way to bring these issues to light by allowing you to have a two-hour debate to let the American people know the facts surrounding Ohio's election," [Senator] Boxer wrote in a letter to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, a leader of the Democratic effort. A group of Democrats hopes to train a national spotlight on claims of widespread Election Day problems in Ohio when Congress formally tallies the electoral votes that gave President Bush his re-election triumph….

"We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election," said a report issued Wednesday by Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

Even so, the effort seems certain to leave Bush's victory intact because both Republican-run chambers would have to uphold the challenge for Ohio's votes to be invalidated.
Underscoring that the outcome was not in doubt, Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, who conceded to Bush the day after the Nov. 2 election, said he would not join the challenge. Instead he… said there are "very troubling questions" about the Ohio voting and said he will present a plan later to improve voting procedures. Many Democrats oppose challenging the Ohio vote, worrying it would do little but antagonize voters who consider the election over.

In large part because of this ambivalence by our Democratic leaders, although the challenge did receive some national attention, it was short-lived and rarely discussed in the public media since.
Posted by Time for change | Sat Jun 30, 2012, 07:15 PM (15 replies)

Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen Too?

I'm currently working with a publisher, Biting Duck Press, to publish a book (title as yet undetermined) on the corruption in our election system. We hope that it will help to make Americans more vigilant and concerned about the way our elections are run. I’ve drafted most of the book. I am currently intending to post large portions of it on DU, in the hope of stimulating discussion and obtaining useful feedback. I have previously posted a draft Chapter 1 of the book, concerning the stealing of the 2000 Presidential election in three parts. This post begins Chapter 2.


WAS THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION STOLEN TOO?

It was well known in the days prior to the 2004 Presidential election that a Bush victory was highly unlikely without Bush carrying both Ohio and Florida. As Election Day unfolded, spirits in the Kerry camp were running high, as it became evident that Ohio’s 20 electoral votes would determine the victor, and Kerry had a comfortable lead in the Ohio exit poll. Even CNN’s right wing hack, Robert Novak, acknowledged that it would be an uphill climb for Bush.

But as the results came in from Ohio, optimism in the Kerry camp began to fade, and by late evening their remaining hope was narrowed down to strongly Democratic Cuyahoga County, and especially Cleveland, where reports of large pre-election increases in new voter registration and exceptionally high voter turnout had circulated. But this remaining hope soon faded, as it became clear that the (official) voter turnout from Cleveland was in fact miserably low, and by noon the next day John Kerry conceded the election, which he officially lost by about 119 thousand votes.

In this chapter I will not discuss all of the evidence for a stolen 2004 election, as I will reserve most of that for later chapters that deal with election fraud by type of fraud. In this chapter I will discuss: 1) the record breaking discrepancy between the many exit polls that were performed as voters left the polls and the official vote count; 2) the widespread silence regarding that discrepancy by our national news media, and; 3) the corrupted vote recounts that were performed when citizens concerned about the integrity of the election challenged the results.


The Discrepancy Between the Exit Polls and the Official Vote Count (The “Red Shift”)

The exit polling on Election Day 2004 was performed by Mitofsky International and Edison Media Research, under contract to six major news media organizations. Warren Mitofsky, who led the project, had been performing exit polls for 35 years and was recognized as the leading expert on exit polling.

For ease of discussion I will refer to the discrepancy between the exit poll results and the official vote count as a “red shift”, the term that is commonly used to describe it. ‘Red’ refers to the fact that the TV networks colored states red that had voted for George Bush. The term ‘red shift’ refers to the fact that the exit polls predicted a Kerry win nationally and in most states, but when the official results were tallied, the vote count was found to be shifted nationally and in the vast majority of states towards Bush.

An analysis by Jonathan Simon and Ron Baiman examined the red shift. The final exit polls, posted at 12:23 a.m. on Wednesday morning, November 3, predicted Kerry with 50.8% of the national vote and Bush with 48.2% of the national vote – a difference of 2.6%. In marked contrast, the machines that were responsible for the official vote count registered a national vote of 50.9% for Bush and 48.1% for Kerry, a 2.8% Bush victory. The difference between the exit poll results and the official vote count – the red shift – was thus 5.4%. The statistical odds against such a large discrepancy occurring by chance were astronomical, approximating one in a million.

Steven Freeman, in his book, Was the 2004 Election Stolen?, reports an analysis of the red shift in the 11 states recognized as battleground states (or swing states) just prior to Election Day. His results showed red shifts in ten of those states, no blue shifts (shifts towards Kerry from the exit poll to the official vote count), and one state (Wisconsin) where there was no shift at all. These are the results:

State …… Exit poll result ….….… Official vote count ….. Red shift
NH………… Kerry by 10.8% ........ Kerry by 1.3% ....... 9.5%
OH………… Kerry by 4.2% ......... Bush by 2.5% ........ 6.7%
PA………… Kerry by 8.7% .......... Kerry by 2.2% …….. 6.5%
MN………… Kerry by 9.0% ......... Kerry by 3.5% …….. 5.5%
FL……….… Bush by 0.1% .......... Bush by 5.0% …….. 4.9%
NV……..… Kerry by 1.3% .......... Bush by 2.6% …….. 3.9%
NM……..… Kerry by 2.6% ......... Bush by 1.1% ……… 3.7%
CO……..… Bush by 1.8% .......... Bush by 5.2% ……… 3.4%
IA ………… Kerry by 1.3% ………… Bush by 0.9% ………. 2.2%
MI ……….. Kerry by 5.0% ………… Kerry by 3.4% …….. 1.6%
WI ……….. Kerry by 0.4% …….…. Kerry by 0.4% …….. 0.0%

Thus, if the official vote count had approximated the exit poll findings, Kerry would have won not only the national popular vote, but four additional states, including Ohio, Nevada, Iowa, and New Mexico (and maybe Florida). Ohio was the only one of those states (other than Florida) whose electoral votes would have swung the election to Kerry. Thus the vast majority of focus by those concerned about a stolen election was on Ohio.


Reasons for discrepancies between exit polls and official vote counts

When exit polls differ substantially from official election results, there can be only three reasons (or combination thereof):

1. Random error, or chance
2. Biased exit polls
3. Impaired election integrity

Let’s consider these possibilities one at a time:

1. The role of random error (or chance)
The first step in the assessment of any statistical discrepancy is to assess the role of chance in producing the discrepancy. This can be accomplished easily with statistical tests. As noted above, the likelihood of the discrepancy between the national exit polls and the official national results occurring by chance was calculated statistically by Jonathan Simon and Ron Baiman as being close to one in a million. US Count Votes (USCV) estimated that the likelihood of the discrepancy between the combined state exit polls and the official state results occurring by chance was about one in ten million.

2. The potential role of exit poll bias
It is unfortunate that the knee jerk response of the national news media was to assume that the only legitimate explanation for the red shift was that there was something wrong with the exit polls, rather than consider that there may have been a problem with the election itself. Mitofsky himself conducted a quick analysis and produced a report that supported the news media assumptions. Paramount among the conclusions of the report were two statements: “Exit polls do not support the allegations of fraud due to rigging of voting equipment” AND “Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polls than Bush voters”. The first of these statements implies that a problem with the election was not the reason for the red shift. The second statement implies that exit poll bias was the reason for the red shift. Unfortunately, both of these statements were stated as conclusions rather than as hypotheses, even though there was almost nothing in the report to back them up. I will discuss both of these hypotheses separately in a moment, but first let’s consider two basic types of exit poll bias.

Exit poll bias can be broken down into two components: Biased sampling of precincts AND bias within precincts – referred to as “within precinct error” (WPE). The former can be easily tested, and the latter cannot be easily tested (and many question whether or not it can be accurately tested at all). Mitofsky tested bias due to sampling of precincts and concluded that this bias actually favored Bush. Therefore, the hypothesis that the exit poll bias (in favor of Kerry) might explain the discrepancy between the exit polls and the official election results becomes less likely, since all of this bias must be concentrated within precincts (WPE), and this bias must account for not only the discrepancy between the poll results and the official election results, but also it must cancel out the bias in the opposite direction due to sampling of precincts, which works in Bush’s favor.

So with that in mind, let’s consider the Mitofsky statement that “Exit polls do not support the allegations of fraud due to rigging of voting equipment”. What was this statement based on? The report states:

Our analysis of the difference between the vote count and the exit poll at each polling location in our sample has found no systematic differences for precincts using touch screen and optical scan voting equipment….

This is the sum of the report’s evidence for the absence of election fraud.

But both touch screen and optical scan machines count the votes by computer. And so do all other methods of vote tabulation except for the hand counting of paper ballots. Deep in the report, but not in the executive summary, is the average WPE data by type of voting equipment:

Type of voting …....WPE – i.e. within precinct “error”
Paper ballot: ………. -2.2
Mechanical: ………. -10.6
Touch screen: ………-7.1
Punch cards: ………. -6.6
Optical scan: ………..-6.1

Note that the magnitude of the negative WPE (i.e. within precinct error, with the negative sign meaning that the official vote favored Bush compared to the exit poll results) is considerably less in precincts where paper ballots were used, compared to any other method. How does the finding of a much smaller WPE (i.e. less negative) for precincts with paper ballots than for precincts using machines to count the vote support the conclusion that “Exit polls do not support the allegations of fraud due to rigging of voting equipment”?

Next let’s consider the statement in Mitofsky’s report that “Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polls than Bush voters”. This is commonly known as the “reluctant Bush voter hypothesis”. If the reluctant Bush voter hypothesis was valid, where would you expect the lowest voter response rates to be? One would think that the lowest voter response rates would be most likely to occur in precincts that leaned heavily to Bush – since the hypothesis postulates that the reason for the biased polls (producing the red shift) is reluctance of Bush voters to participate in these polls. However, when USCV analyzed the data presented in the Mitofsky report, they found exactly the opposite: Precincts with the highest percentage of Bush voters had the highest, not the lowest response rate. This must certainly strongly count against the reluctant Bush voter hypothesis. Yet that hypothesis was put forward in the Mitofsky report and thus in the national news media as the primary explanation for the difference between the exit poll results and the official vote count (i.e. the red shift).

But don’t yet give up hope on the reluctant Bush voter hypothesis. It can be (and was) revised to say that, although Bush voters in general were more reluctant to participate in the polls than Kerry voters, this did not apply to precincts where there were a very high percentage of Bush voters, because in those precincts the Bush voters would perhaps feel more comfortable participating in a poll.

This revised hypothesis can also be tested. If the hypothesis applied only to precincts without a heavy preponderance of Bush voters, then one would expect that those precincts would be where the highest WPE would be found. But in fact, by Mitofsky’s own data, precisely the opposite is the case: The average WPE is highest, not lowest, in precincts where there were a very high percent of Bush voters (80% or more). This too must count as further strong evidence against the reluctant Bush voter hypothesis.

So where did Mitofsky come up with the idea of the reluctant Bush voter? This is it:

It is difficult to pinpoint the reasons that, in general, Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polls than Bush voters…. We can identify some factors that appear to have contributed, even in a small way, to the discrepancy. These include:

 Distance restrictions imposed upon our interviewers by election officials …
 Weather conditions which lowered completion rates at certain polling locations
 Multiple precincts voting in the same location as the precinct in our sample
 Interviewer characteristics such as age
 Polling locations with a large number of total voters where a smaller proportion of voters were asked to fill out questionnaires (i.e. participate in the poll)

So how do all these factors that contributed to a high discrepancy between the exit polls and the official results (i.e. red shift) support the contention that Bush voters were less likely to participate in the exit polls than Kerry voters? Mitofsky doesn’t explain this in his report. As I noted above, the only analyses that looked directly at the reluctant Bush voter hypothesis provided strong evidence against it. Nor does the Mitofsky report contain any quantitative assessment of the extent to which he believes that the above factors caused exit poll bias.

3. The potential role of election fraud
What about the role of election fraud. Mitofsky barely discusses that possibility except to say that their data doesn’t support that possibility, and to offer as evidence for that statement the fact that he found “no systematic differences for precincts using touch screen and optical scan voting equipment”. The fact that there was a great difference between precincts using paper ballots and those using machines to count their vote is not mentioned in their report at all, except that it appears in the table that I reproduced above.

Direct evidence of various kinds of election fraud will be discussed in subsequent chapters. In this chapter I will simply mention a couple lines of evidence that were immediately apparent from looking at available data.

If the 2004 Presidential election was fraudulent, one would expect more fraud to have occurred in those states where there was a reasonable chance of switching their electoral votes from Kerry to Bush (i.e., the swing – or battleground – states). Of the 11 main swing states (OH, FL, PA, WI, MN, NM, IA, NV, NH, MI, CO), according to Mitofsky, in five of them there was a discrepancy between the exit polls and the official election results that were outside of the margin of error (I’m defining outside of the margin of error as less than a 5% probability of occurring by chance). These five swing states included Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. Of the remaining 39 states, only 8 were outside of the margin of error (In all 13 states that were outside of the margin of error, the exit polls favored Kerry, compared to the official election results). I believe that this finding supports the suggestion of election fraud.

Secondly, Mitofsky acknowledges in his executive summary that the “exit poll error” was higher in 2004 than in previous years for which he has data (going back to 1988). It seems to me that concurrence in time of the record-breaking discrepancy between the exit polls and the official vote (red shift) with a greater ability than ever to use secret software codes to fix elections is not a coincidence. Rather, that concurrence suggests election fraud as a primary explanation for the discrepancy.

4. Summary of immediately apparent reasons for the great red shift of 2004
In summary, based on information and data that was readily available following the 2004 election, the following can be said about the reasons for the red shift (exit polls that suggested that Kerry won the presidency, in the face of an official victory for Bush).

Random error (chance) is easily ruled out through routine statistical tests as an explanation for the red shift.

Exit poll bias cannot be completely ruled out. However, the following can be said against the likelihood that exit poll bias accounts for the discrepancies between the official election results and the exit polls:

An analysis of potential bias from the choosing of precincts to participate in the exit polls shows no red shift at all. In fact, it shows a slight blue shift.

Although the Mitofsky report proposes that Bush voters were less likely than Kerry voters to participate in the exit polling, it provides no direct evidence for that. Other groups, which have tested that hypothesis directly, have found that the data provides evidence against that hypothesis rather than in favor of it.

The following can be said in favor of election fraud as an explanation for the red shift.

According to Mitofsky’s own report, the red shift was outside of the margin of error in 5 of the 11 crucial swing states (OH, FL, PA, NH, MN) and in only 8 of the other 39 states. That is consistent with the likelihood that if election fraud were committed in the 2004 presidential election it would be most likely to be committed in states where it really mattered – the swing states.

The concurrence of by far the largest exit poll discrepancy (2004) demonstrated in any year since Edison-Mitofsky began conducting exit polls with the greatest use of machine voting suggests that voting machines played a role in producing the red shift (i.e. that the official election results did not fully measure the intent of the voters.)

The fact that precincts that used paper ballots (rather than methods in which the votes were counted by machines) demonstrated by far the smallest red shifts lends further support to the idea that voting machines played a role in producing the red shift.

There is much more evidence than this, but much of that will be covered in later chapters.


The next post in this series will consider the widespread silence of our corporate owned news media on this issue, and asks why, since the United States government officially condones the use of exit polls to identify election fraud in other countries, was there such deafening silence in this country when the winner of the official vote was predicted by the exit polls to be the loser.
Posted by Time for change | Thu Jun 28, 2012, 09:03 PM (67 replies)

How the Miami Herald Helped Legitimize the Florida 2000 Selection of George W. Bush as President

I'm currently working with a publisher, Biting Duck Press, to publish a book (title as yet undetermined) on the corruption in our election system. We intend to have it published prior to the November election, and hope that it will help to make Americans more vigilant and concerned about the way our elections are run. I’ve drafted most of the book. I am currently intending to post large portions of it on DU, in the hope of stimulating discussion and obtaining useful feedback.

My first post on this topic dealt with Election Day 2000, and included explanations for the national networks’ two wrong calls that day and the automatic machine recount – all of which helped to explain how screwed up this election was. My second post dealt with the 36 day Florida recount, ending with the SCOTUS decision to stop the counting and award the presidency to Bush. In this post, the third and last portion of Chapter 1 of my developing book, I discuss how the Miami Herald helped to legitimize Bush’s “victory” by conducting their own recount of Florida’s undervotes in a manner that was highly biased towards making Bush appear to be the legitimate winner of the election. Included in this discussion is the illegal voter purge conducted by Florida’s Jeb Bush administration, which was probably more decisive in George W. Bush’s victory than any other single factor.


Spinning the 2000 election to make it look like Bush would have won anyhow

In a purported effort to find out who would have won the election had the Supreme Court not stopped the vote counting, the Miami Herald undertook an investigation. Following their re-count of the Florida 2000 Presidential undervotes in 2001, they made public statements about their findings which, though very misleading, tended to legitimize that election to the American public. Those statements were then parroted by the corporate owned news media, with the result that many or most Americans believe even today that Bush’s ascendance to the Presidency in 2000 was legitimate. Therefore, it is important to understand why the public statements made by the Miami Herald about the re-count of the 2000 Florida election were misleading.

Here is the most important of the statements I refer to, made by the Miami Herald in their 2001 book, “The Miami Herald Report – Democracy Held Hostage – The Complete Investigation of the 2000 Presidential Election Including Results of the Independent Recount”, found on page 167:

Finally conclusions emerged. Paramount among those conclusions: Bush almost certainly would have won the presidential election even if the U.S. Supreme Court had not halted the statewide recount of undervotes ordered by the Florida Supreme Court.

The Herald’s conclusion was based on their counting of the undervotes in Florida, as had been mandated by the Florida Supreme Court before the vote counting was stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court. In other words, the Herald looked at all ballots that did not register a vote for President, in order to see if they could ascertain the intention of the voters. In the case of counties that used optical scan machines, that meant looking for ballots that had marks on them (but had not been read by the machines) indicating a choice for President. In the case of punch card counties that meant ballots (not read by the machines) where there appeared to be an attempt to punch through an area of the ballot that indicated a choice for President. This included ballots with clear punches, hanging chads, small holes known as “pinpricks”, and indentations in the ballot (sometimes called “pregnant chads”).

Bush had been certified the winner of the Florida election by Secretary of State Katherine Harris, by 537 votes. That total represented a Bush lead in machine counted votes of 1,202 minus a 665 Gore lead among the undervotes recounted in Broward and Volusia Counties, which were the only two counties whose recounted undervotes were accepted into the official vote count by Secretary Harris. So, in order to come to the conclusion that Gore won the election, he would have to have enough of an advantage among the undervotes to overcome that 1,202 vote Bush lead among the votes that had been registered excluding the counting of any undervotes. The Herald goes on to add up the numbers, based on their analysis and counting, and they come up with a total which shows a Bush “victory” by 1,665 votes. That’s their final and most publicized conclusion. That conclusion rests on their specifying a total net undervote count in the state of 463 in favor of Bush (which added to the pre-undervote count of 1,202 gives 1,665).

But wait. Look at the Appendix at the back of the book, and add up the totals. Gore has 995 more undervotes than Bush in the punch card counties and 319 more votes than Bush in the optical scan counties. That’s a total of 1,314 more votes than Bush among the undervotes. That overcomes the 1,202 lead that Bush had prior to the counting of any undervotes: Counting of all the undervotes results in a win for Gore of 1,314 votes minus 1,202 votes = 112 votes.
How did that happen? How do you get a Bush victory of 1,665 when the Herald does its calculations in the text of the book, and yet the numbers in their own Appendix clearly show a Gore victory of 112 votes? That’s a discrepancy of 1,777 votes. To understand how this happened, go back to page 171, and you see that the Herald did not include in their calculations (though they ARE included in their Appendix) seven counties (Palm Beach, Broward, Volusia, Hamilton, Manatee, Escambia, and Madison) plus part of another county (Miami-Dade)*. Still, there would have been no discrepancy had the Herald’s count of the votes in those counties (as depicted in their Appendix) matched the counts that they actually used for these counties in their calculations. But they didn’t match at all. Most important, the Herald counted 907 more net votes in Palm Beach County for Gore, and they counted 908 more net votes in Broward County for Gore than what they used in their calculations that gave Bush the “victory”. That accounts for a 1,815 vote discrepancy in favor of Bush, of the 1,777 vote discrepancy in favor of Bush between the Herald’s calculations and their Appendix that I noted above. The remainder of the discrepancy came from Volusia, Miami-Dade, Escambia, Hamilton, Madison, and Manatee Counties. Those discrepancies were all much smaller than the discrepancies in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, which voted heavily Democratic. But the important thing to note is that Gore has a 112 votes lead when all of the undervotes are counted by the Herald.

So why was there almost a two thousand vote discrepancy between the Miami Herald’s re-count of the undervotes and those undervotes that had already been counted (most of the discrepancy being from Palm Beach and Broward Counties)? For one thing, Palm Beach County, under the leadership of Theresa LePore (the creator of the “butterfly ballot”), had used a ridiculously stringent standard for their re-count. Broward County is more difficult to explain, but it should be remembered that they were in a great hurry to re-count the votes, and they were under tremendous pressure from the Bush machine in Florida and from the corporate media.

In other words, one can demonstrate a Bush “victory” in Florida only if one uses a very stringent standard for counting the undervotes in the two most heavily Democratic counties in the state (Broward and Palm Beach) but uses the more reasonable standard mandated by the Florida Supreme Court (which was to ascertain the intention of the voter) to count the undervotes in most of the rest of the state. That’s how the Miami Herald came up with a Bush “victory”. Their own re-count of the state-wide undervote clearly showed a Gore victory. But they didn’t emphasize that. However, they do discuss it on pages 168-9 – as if it isn’t of primary importance:

In a finding certain to interest Gore supporters, the review also discovered that many hundreds of ballots were discarded in predominantly Democratic Broward and Palm Beach Counties even though those ballots contained marks identical to marks on ballots that were officially tallied. That was the result of several factors… At any rate, the bottom line of that analysis is this: If not for the inconsistencies in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Gore might have netted enough new votes to have swung the election – and long before the Florida Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court Acted.

I will now try to put this whole confusing mess in simple language, since it is so important. The Miami Herald conducted an analysis of the undervotes in all Florida counties in order to ascertain who really won the election. But they did not use all the vote totals that they came up with in their analysis. Instead, most importantly in heavily Democratic Palm Beach and Broward Counties, they used pre-existing vote counts produced by county election officials. Those vote counts were much less favorable to Gore than what the Miami Herald obtained using standards identical to what they used for the rest of the state. In other words, the constant Republican pressure exerted during the recounts in Palm Beach and Broward Counties apparently paid off. That pressure was exerted in the form of demands to “compromise” on the standard for counting the votes. Whereas the Florida Supreme Court decision of December 8 required that votes be allocated on the basis of voter intent, during the county hand recounts, Republicans successfully pressured those responsible for the recounts to adopt a much stricter standard.

* The Herald did not use the results of their count from Broward or Volusia Counties because those counties had already performed a full recount, which had been officially certified. They did not use their results from Palm Beach and part of Miami-Dade Counties because the Florida Supreme Court had instructed that votes from those counties from previous re-counting were to be added to the total without re-counting them again – and the Herald used those counts in their final calculations. And, the Herald did not use their results from Escambia, Madison, Manatee, and Hamilton Counties because those counties had reported completion of their counting before the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the state wide recount – and the Herald accepted those reported counts for their calculations.


Voter purging in preparation for the 2000 Presidential election in Florida

An illegal voter purge appears to be the most important factor in Bush’s victory. If not for that purge, Gore’s margin of victory would have been great enough that no recounts would have been required, so the U.S. Supreme Court would not have been enabled to steal the election. Yet the Miami Herald barely mentions this in their report and attach almost not importance to it. They state:

Some claim that many legitimate voters – of all ethnic and racial groups, but particularly blacks – were illegally swept from the rolls through the state’s efforts to ban felons from voting. There is no widespread evidence of that.

Note that they don’t say that they did any investigation of this matter. They simply state that there is “no widespread evidence” of it.

As initially reported by Greg Palast, in preparation for the 2000 election the state of Florida conducted a massive voter purge of presumed ex-felons, who were not allowed to vote by Florida law. This resulted in the purging of approximately 58,000 Florida voters. The problem was that a very loose computer match to a known felon was required to perform the purge. Consequently, an investigation by Salon.com found that approximately 15% of the purged voters were purged incorrectly. This was by design, as the state of Florida requested very loose matching criteria. Partly because race was often used as a match criterion, according to one analysis 88% of purged voters were black, even though blacks accounted for only 11% of Florida voters. Given the 15% error rate for the computer matches, as well as information that 2,883 of the purged voters were found to be from states that restore voting rights when their sentence is served – therefore, Florida had no legal right to purge them – it was estimated that almost 12,000 voters were purged incorrectly. Given that a very high percentage of them were black and that blacks voted for Gore by an overwhelming margin (more than 90%), it is obvious that the illegal voter purge alone cost Gore several thousand net votes. This is a very conservative analysis of how many votes Al Gore lost from illegal voter purging in this election. Later analysis, based on admissions by the database company that conducted the purging, revealed the net loss to Gore to be tens of thousands of votes (See Chapter 6).


Conclusions on the 2000 Presidential election

So who really won the 2000 election? Al Gore won the national popular vote by about half a million votes, but he lost in the Electoral College when he lost Florida by an official margin of 537 votes. The U.S. Supreme Court awarded the election to Bush in a 5-4 decision that stopped the recount, in one of the most blatantly political and legally unsupported decisions in U.S. Supreme Court history. The Miami Herald investigation determined that even if the recount had been allowed to continue Bush still would have “won” the election. But that statement accurately applies only in a very narrow sense. It disregards all of the following:

The undervote
The stated purpose of the Herald investigation was to analyze and count only the previously uncounted undervotes. That analysis showed a Bush victory. However, although the Herald investigation analyzed and counted the two most Democratic counties in Florida (Palm Beach and Broward) they did not use those counts to form their final conclusions regarding the Bush “victory”. Instead they used the count produced by county election officials, which the Herald acknowledged produced a vote count that favored Bush by almost two thousand votes compared to the Herald’s own analysis. Nobody knows the precise reason for that huge discrepancy. It can only be assumed that intense Republican pressure during the recount intimidated election officials from counting many valid votes.

The over-vote
The Herald’s investigation did not count the over-votes at all in arriving at their vote totals , despite the fact that a good amount of evidence suggests that Gore probably lost thousands of net votes to ballots with double votes on them. One reason for not analyzing over-votes is that in individual cases it can be almost impossible to determine the intent of the voter. However, at least one category of over-votes could easily have been examined to determine the intent of the voter – those with the candidate’s name written on the ballot. Had that been done, Gore would have netted an additional 873 votes – far more than enough to overcome his official deficit of 537 votes.

Voter purging
The illegal purging of predominantly black voters from the voter rolls resulted in a net loss of several thousand votes for Gore. This was not considered at all in the Herald’s calculations.

Electronic vote switching
Then there is the possibility of electronic vote switching. We know that Volusia County alone deleted more than 16 thousand votes from Gore through an electronic “glitch”. That deletion resulted in the premature calling of the election for Bush, until the glitch was caught and reversed. Nobody (except those most intimately involved) knows if that glitch was an accident or whether it was the result of an attempt to steal the election. Nor does anyone know if other smaller “glitches” occurred in Florida on Election Day, which were not caught and reversed.

Other issues
This chapter deals only with some of the most important and obvious means by which the will of Florida voters was subverted on Election Day 2000. There were several others, not discussed her, such as 680 illegal overseas ballots that the Bush team managed to get into the official vote count.

I will discuss just one other means by which Gore undoubtedly lost numerous net votes – unobservable undervotes. We all know that poor, black, and Democratic areas used much older punch card voting machines than wealthier and Republican areas. This was true not only in Florida in 2000, but in most past elections in counties throughout the country. The failure to completely punch holes in ballots resulted in a disproportionately large number of undervotes for Gore. Many of these votes were reclaimed during the recount process. However, in cases where hole punching was a complete failure, there would have been no opportunity to assess the will of the voter from looking at the ballot. That means that the wealthy have a big advantage over the poor with regard to their opportunity to vote. This will remain true until something is done about it.
Posted by Time for change | Tue Jun 26, 2012, 08:13 AM (32 replies)

The Stealing of the 2000 Presidential Election: Ch 1, Part 2 – The 36-Day Battle to Recount the Vote

I'm currently working with a publisher, Biting Duck Press, to publish a book (title as yet undetermined) on the corruption in our election system. We intend to have it published prior to the November election, and hope that it will help to make Americans more vigilant and concerned about the way our elections are run. I’ve drafted most of the book. I am currently intending to post large portions of it on DU, in the hope of stimulating discussion and obtaining useful feedback.

My first post on this topic dealt with Election Day 2000, and included explanations for the national networks’ two wrong calls that day and the automatic machine recount – all of which helped to explain how screwed up this election was. In this post I’ll discuss the highly controversial 36-day Florida recount, which ended when the U.S. Supreme Court abruptly ended the vote count and awarded Florida and thereby the national election to George W. Bush in what many consider to be one of the three worst U.S. Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history.


Controversies over the hand recounts and vote counting standards

The effort to initiate and conduct a hand recount was a long and arduous affair, with a great amount of legal wrangling, arguments, and posturing before the press, finally ending on December 13th, 36 days after Election Day, when the U.S. Supreme Court abruptly stopped the vote counting and essentially declared Bush the winner.

In the initial days following Election Day, the Bush team went to great effort to stop the recount from occurring, despite the fact that it was specifically allowed by Florida statute. Publicly, they tried to cast Gore as a "sore loser" for trying to obtain the recount. They even began to develop and use (in protest marches) big signs which read "Sore Loserman", as a pun on Gore/Lieberman.

Bush team arguments to stop the recount
Their most common arguments were several versions of the allegation that the Gore campaign was trying to obtain "recount after recount after recount, no matter how many times Bush won the election". This was the favorite refrain of James Baker, Bush's campaign chief in the post-election. Of course the phrase "recount after recount after recount" was meant to convey the impression that Gore was trying to obtain an infinite number of recounts, until he won the election. This impression was apparently facilitated by the fact that the networks had originally called the election for Bush.

But the fact of the matter is that only one recount was even close to being completed, and that was the recount that took place automatically, immediately after the initial election returns put Bush ahead with a margin of less than a tenth of a percent of the total vote, without the Gore team having to request it. The hand recount that Gore requested, on the other hand, was completed in only three counties prior to the Florida Supreme Court decision (see below) ordering every county in the state to perform a hand recount, with the exception of Broward, Volusia, and Palm Beach counties (which had already completed their hand recount), and part of Dade County.
In the same vein, the Bush team frequently noted that Bush won the election after each recount. Apparently what they meant by this was that every time a county stopped counting and a new vote total was announced, with Bush still ahead, that was considered to be another winning of the election. As time went on, this line of attack became less and less frequent, as it became obvious that not enough people were buying it.

Another line, which I associate with Mary Matelin, was that "These votes weren't meant to be counted by hand, they were meant to be counted by machine because machines are much more accurate," (why didn't someone ask her how she knew this?) After a parade of voting experts made the point that nothing could be further from the truth, this line of attack also slowed to a crawl.

The fact is, as the experts explained it, that an unknown number of ballots that were not counted in the second machine count (i.e., the automatic recount) may still have had hanging chads or have been partially punched through, indicating the intent of the voter to vote for a given candidate. In order to get a better look at what the voter intended, the best way to do this is to look at the ballots with the human eye. This was in fact what Florida law allowed for, as did the law of many other states. Yet the Bush team tried repeatedly to give the impression that the request for the recount was some sort of radical request.

When it was pointed out that Bush himself, as Governor of Texas, had signed into law in Texas a similar statute, which in fact clearly stated that hand recounts are preferable to machine counts because they are more accurate, this contention was made less often. But it didn't stop completely, because the Bush team was still able to think of all sorts of implausible explanations as to why the Texas law was different from Florida’s.

Then there was the contention that repeated handling of the ballots changed their nature, therefore magically producing additional votes for Gore. To "prove" this point, the Republican "observers" in counties where the votes were being counted actually photographed chads that had fallen onto the floor during the vote counting process. Apparently they believed that since they had photographic evidence of this, a certain number of unknowledgeable people would believe that this was important information. But it seems to me that a reasonably inquisitive person should have been able to question what the ballots looked like before the chads fell onto the floor. Did the chads that fell to the floor originate spontaneously from being handled by the vote counters, or were they created by the voters when they voted?

When Bush team people were finally challenged to explain how it was that these chads that ended up on the floor originated in the first place, they claimed that it happened from mere handling of the ballots. Chris Matthews of MSNBC wouldn't totally buy this, and I heard him at least once say to a Bush team person that he didn't see how that could happen (and noted that he couldn't do it himself). He even asked the guy to show him how it was done. When the man made a lame excuse for not being able to do this, rather than embarrass him further, Matthews quickly dropped the matter – thus missing a great opportunity to shed light on the fraud being perpetrated upon the American people.

Another excuse was that the recount would take too long, so that it would not be finished by Inauguration Day, or by the time that the Electoral College was supposed to vote. There might have been some believability to this originally. However, the individual canvassing boards made it clear that it would not take anywhere near as long as the Republicans would have us believe, and later events were to prove this beyond any doubt.

Another Bush team argument was that a hand recount could allow for cheating, whereas machines don't cheat. That could be theoretically possible, I suppose, but the fact that "observers" from both sides were on the scene at all times made that argument considerably less powerful. And machines do cheat when they’re programmed to do so.

Another theoretically plausible argument for not doing the hand count was that there was a big question as to what standard to use for counting the ballots. The Florida statute merely said that "the clear intent of the voter" should be ascertained. Nobody quite knew precisely how that should be done, and many of the canvassing boards sought legal input into this question and had a great deal of trouble in deciding upon the appropriate standard. The Bush team point of view on this was that since there was no well defined standard it would be unfair to count these votes at all, because that would "dilute" other votes cast in Florida. I will come back to this all important point later.

The great majority of arguments that the Bush team made for public consumption were not made in their court challenges because they knew that no court would buy them. In court they argued:

1. The count was unfair because only selected Democratic counties were chosen by the Gore team.

2. The law specified that the count should take place only when there was a demonstrated problem with the machine count.

3. The count was unfair because the standards for counting votes varied between one county and another, and there were no uniformly agreed upon standards. As such, it violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by applying different standards to different voters.

Gore team arguments to continue the recount and extend the deadlines
The main Gore argument was that Florida law required that counties be given the opportunity to hand count votes in a close election. Given that, the part of the law that specified a deadline for certifying the returns did not make sense because it did not leave enough time to count the votes. The Bush team had no real counter argument to that (in my opinion), other than to reiterate that the law specified a deadline.

In court the Gore team rebutted the above noted Bush arguments with the following:

1. In response to the fact that the Gore team had requested only that selected counties be counted, the Court asked the Gore team if they would have any objections to Republican Counties being counted as well. Gore’s answer was that there would be no objections to that. The Court then asked the Bush team if they would like to do that, and the answer was no, they would not.

2. With regard to the issue of a demonstrated problem with the machines, the Gore team noted that there were in fact problems with the punch card machines, as it was demonstrated statistically that counties that used them had five times the undervote rate as counties that used other voting methods. Furthermore, the very fact that the first machine recount resulted in many additional Gore votes, and that the hand counting so far in every disputed county resulted in many additional Gore votes was further indication to this effect.

3. With regard to standards, the Florida statute said plainly that the ballots shall be evaluated to determine the clear intent of the voter. True, that statement could and was in fact interpreted in different ways. But that is what the statute said, and it was up to the individual counties to decide how to interpret it. With regard to the issue of equal protection, how could that even be an issue? It was obvious that different voting methods were used in different counties. So how could different ways of evaluating the votes make protection less equal? In any event, it seemed clear that hand counting the undercounted ballots made the protection more equal than it would be without any counting at all.


The Brooks Brothers riot

The Brooks Brothers riot occurred in the midst of all the legal and public controversy over the recount. Made to appear as if it were a spontaneous protest against the recount, which the Bush team vociferously argued against at so many levels, it was later found to be organized by the Republican Party. In fact, many of the participants later went on to jobs in the Bush administration or other high level Republican positions. The riot/protest is commonly referred to as the Brooks-Brothers riot because the expensive clothes that many of the rioters wore were not exactly what you’d expect of protesters.

The purpose of the riot was to intimidate Miami-Dade County election officials and thereby prevent them from concluding their recount in time to get the results officially certified. That goal appears to have been successful, as the Miami-Dade County recount officially ceased on November 22.

In the long run it does not appear that the episode had any effect on the final results, as the Florida Supreme Court later ordered the partial results of the Miami-Dade County recount to be added to the official vote count and that the counting be resumed as part of a state-wide total hand recount effort. The counting then was stopped a couple days later by order of the U.S. Supreme Court. Nonetheless, this episode is worth recounting as an example of the violent extent to which some will go to win an election.

According to Democratic County Chairman Joe Geller:

Suddenly, I was surrounded by a screaming, shoving, insane crowd, shouting that I had done something I hadn’t done… People grabbing at me and my clothes and there was almost no security. I couldn’t believe those people weren’t arrested.

The New York Times reported:

The subsequent demonstrations turned violent on Wednesday after the canvassers had decided to close the recount to the public. Joe Geller, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, was escorted to safety by the police after a crowd chased him down and accused him of stealing a ballot. Upstairs in the Clark center, several people were trampled, punched or kicked when protesters tried to rush the doors outside the office of the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections. Sheriff's deputies restored order.


Florida Supreme Court Decision – December 8

Following a series of bitter legal challenges, hand recounts initiated in four Democratic counties selected by Gore, failure to meet recount mandated deadlines, stops and starts in the various county recounts, and the waxing and waning of Bush’s lead as recount results came in, Florida Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified Bush as the winner of the Florida election on November 26. On December 4, the Leon County Circuit Court ruled against Gore’s contest of the election results, thus upholding Secretary Harris’s certification of Bush as the winner. Gore immediately appealed that ruling to the Florida Supreme Court.

On December 8, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gore by a 4-3 margin, totally repudiating the Leon County Circuit Court’s ruling. They ordered not just a review of the ballots that the Gore team requested, but a recount of all of the undervotes in Florida that had not been previously recounted by hand. The majority ruled:

The {Florida} legislature has recognized the will of the people of Florida as the guiding principle for the selection of all elected officials… We vigorously disagree that we should … abandon our responsibility to resolve this election dispute under the rule of law… We are confident that with the cooperation of the officials in all the counties, the remaining undervotes in these counties can be accomplished within the required time frame… [A ballot] shall be counted as a legal vote if there is clear indication of the intent of the vote.”

The Court also ruled that the results of the Palm Beach County hand recount and the partial Miami-Dade recount, both which had been rejected by Secretary Harris for being late, be added to the official record – thus dwindling the Bush lead to a little over 100 votes. As the statewide recount began, it appeared that Gore would win.


None Dare Call it Treason – The awarding of the Presidency to George W. Bush by the U.S. Supreme Court

On December 12, four days after the Florida Supreme Court had ordered the hand recounting of the 2000 Presidential election by all of Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court, in their Bush v. Gore decision, by a vote of 5-4 ordered the vote counting to cease, thereby awarding the U.S. Presidency to George W. Bush. Many constitutional scholars consider Bush v. Gore to be one of the three worst U.S. Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history.

In his article, “None Dare Call it Treason”, Vincent Bugliosi (best known for his successful prosecution of Charles Manson before he wrote his expose on the Bush v. Gore decision) goes a little further, as the title of his article implies. His bottom line point is that the Court, in rendering their decision, acted as a surrogate of the Republican Party, rather than as arbiters of the law, as they are required to do. I believe his reasoning is quite sound.

His first point is that only grounds on which the Supreme Court was justified in even hearing the case would be to prevent the petitioner (Bush) from being harmed. Yet the only harm that could accrue to Bush from a full counting of the votes would be that he would lose an election – if Gore received more votes than him.

The first argument that the Supreme Court used to justify their decision to stop the vote counting was based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. They argued that since different interpretive standards were used in different counties to count the undervotes, equal protection was not provided to voters from different counties. So their solution was to not allow any of the hand counted undervotes to count. That decision was absolutely bizarre on several levels. First, every state, and most counties within every state use different methods of voting, which impinge on election results. By the reasoning of the Court, the whole Presidential election would have had to have been invalidated on that basis. Furthermore, how are the voters protected by having their votes not count at all? Yet the Court argued that their decision was meant to preserve the “fundamental right” to vote. And their decision was tragically ironic because the 14th Amendment was initially passed to protect minorities, and yet it was largely minority voters who were disenfranchised by their decision. Bugliosi notes that the real violation of the Equal Protection Clause was the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the vote counting. Thus Bugliosi concludes (correctly in my opinion) that:

With the election hanging in the balance, the highest court in the land ordered that the valid votes of thousands of Americans not be counted. That decision gave the election to Bush. These five justices deliberately and knowingly decided to nullify the votes of 50 million Americans who voted for Al Gore and to steal the election for Bush…. The stark reality, and I say this with every fiber of my being, is that the institution Americans trust most to protect its freedoms and principles committed one of the biggest and most serious crimes this nation has ever seen – pure and simple, the theft of the presidency.

Bugliosi marshaled several other lines of evidence, which I won’t go into, to prove that there was no legal foundation on which the decision was rendered. He provides his final argument by first noting that decisions by high courts are supposed to stand for legal principles, yet the Court’s majority gives plenty of evidence that they knew that their decision did not stand for any legal principle. Based on their decision, all future national elections could easily be invalidated on the same grounds that the Court invalidated this one, since every state and most counties within states use different equipment and voting machines in their elections. So, to get around that problem, the Court majority wrote that their ruling was “Limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities”. Bugliosi comments on this:

In other words, the Court, in effect, was saying its ruling “only applied to those future cases captioned Bush v. Gore.” Of the thousands of potential equal protection voting cases, the Court was only interested in, and eager to grant relief to, one person and one person only, George W. Bush. This point… all alone and by itself, clearly and unequivocally shows that the Court knew its decision was not based on the merits or the law, and was solely a decision to appoint George Bush president.

Another way of putting this is that the majority justices said that their decision should definitely not be used as a precedent for any future cases – an unprecedented statement in the annals of U.S. Supreme Court history. Bugliosi concludes with the consequences of the decision:

The Republican Party… nominated perhaps the most unqualified person ever to become president, and with the muscular, thuggish help of the Court, forced Bush down the throats of more than half the nation’s voters… That an election for an American president can be stolen by the highest court in the land under the deliberate pretext of an inapplicable constitutional provision has got to be one of the most frightening and dangerous events ever to have occurred in this country.

John Paul Stevens, one of the four dissenting judges in the case, was slightly more cautious than Bugliosi in his criticism of the decision. Stevens was a life long Republican, appointed by Richard Nixon to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1970 and nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by Gerald Ford in 1975. Sevens’ 7-page dissent may be unprecedented as a scathing indictment of his fellow justices in the annals of U.S. Supreme Court history. At the end of his opinion, Stevens writes, after noting that the majority decision represented an assault on Florida election law caused by an utter lack of confidence in the Florida judges who ordered the recount:

Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true background of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted today. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.


My next post will complete my coverage of the 2000 Presidential election in Florida. In that post I’ll discuss: 1) the Florida voter purge prior to the election; 2) how the Miami Herald spun the results of its own recount to make it appear that Bush won the election anyhow, and: 3) a summary of the many ways in which Al Gore was cheated out of the presidency in Florida.
Posted by Time for change | Sat Jun 23, 2012, 10:59 PM (46 replies)

The Stealing of the 2000 Presidential Election

I'm currently working with a publisher, Biting Duck Press, to publish a book (title as yet undetermined) on the corruption in our election system. We intend to have it published prior to the November election, and hope that it will help to make Americans more vigilant and concerned about the way our elections are run. I’ve drafted most of the book. I am currently intending to post large portions of it on DU, in the hope of stimulating discussion and obtaining useful feedback. I’ll start with a portion of the first chapter:


THE STEALING OF THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Going into Election Day 2000, the Presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush was judged to be very close. Three battleground states with early closing times – Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan – were polling very close and held the key to victory. Pundits had been saying that if either candidate won all three of them, that would be the ball game.


Election Day 2000

Florida initially looked very promising for Gore. Turnout appeared to be very high, especially in African-American and other Democratic areas. Florida was called for Gore early in the evening, beginning at 7:52 p.m., less than an hour after their polls closed. Then the Pennsylvania polls closed, and the election there was said to be too close to call. Shortly after that, the Michigan polls closed and Michigan was immediately called for Gore. An hour or so later, Pennsylvania was called for Gore. With the polls yet to close in the western states, the election appeared to be virtually over, with a victory for Gore.

But then, in a very rare reversal of a network call, starting at 10:13 p.m., the networks took Florida out of the Gore column and called it “too close to call”. Not long after that, it became evident that the winner of Florida would win the election. Then, at 2:16 a.m. Wednesday morning, the networks began calling Florida for Bush. At 2:30 a.m. Gore phoned Bush to concede Florida and the national election. It was at that point that I went to bed.

At about 3:30 a.m. my wife woke me up to tell me that Florida – and with that the whole election – had been put back in the undecided column. I didn’t believe her. The professionals surely wouldn’t reverse their call on the same state twice in the same election! I went back to sleep.

I woke up later that morning to go to work, looked at the TV, and noticed that Florida was now colored white instead of red on the electoral map. What the hell was going on? I listened to the news reports and discovered that Bush was still ahead in the election by 1,784 votes – about three hundredths of a percent lead. Because of the narrowness of the Bush lead, an automatic recount was proceeding, as required by Florida law. That recount, conducted by the same machines that produced the original vote count with Bush up by about 1,784 votes, ended on Friday, November 10, with Bush leading by about 327 votes according to the Associated Press, with all counties having reported their results. By that time, Gore had already requested a full hand recount of four Democratic counties.


Why couldn’t the TV networks get it right?

The TV networks explained their two bad calls (calling Florida for Gore, reversing that, calling it for Bush, and then reversing that too) with the simple phrase, “bad data”. In other words, they hardly explained it at all. But a consideration of those two bad calls – for Gore, and then for Bush – is very important in providing an understanding of what went wrong in this election. Similarly, it is also very important to understand why the automatic machine recount reduced the Bush margin of victory by about 80%.

First bad call – The butterfly ballot and exit polls deviating from the official vote count
First, let’s consider the first bad call – for Gore. Why was Florida called for Gore so early? The fact is that early election predictions and calls are based on a combination of exit polls and official vote counts. Exit polls measure who the voters think they voted for. Normally voters know who they voted for. But in Palm Beach County, Florida, in 2000, a “butterfly ballot” was used for voting for President. The butterfly ballot was very confusing, as Al Gore’s name was listed next to two third party candidates – Patrick Buchanan and Socialist candidate David McReynolds – on the adjacent page, making it difficult to tell which hole punches corresponded to which candidate. This undoubtedly caused many voters who intended to vote for Gore to vote for either Buchanan or McReynolds or one of those candidates plus Gore – in which case the ballot would be rejected as an “over-vote”. As noted in “The Miami Herald Report: Democracy Held Hostage”, page 15:

The controversial, confusing butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County siphoned many additional votes from Gore. Does anyone really believe that the largely Jewish or black populations of that county intended to vote for conservative Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan at rates far higher than the rest of the state? … “I came out of the ballot box totally confused,” said Lillian Gaines, sixty-seven, of West Palm Beach, one of hundreds of people in Palm Beach County who complained they were led astray by the poorly designed punch-card ballot…”

Even the far right wing fringe candidate Patrick Buchanan acknowledged as much, noting that of the 3,407 votes he received in Palm Beach County, only about ten percent of them were meant for him. “The rest, I’m quite sure, were Gore votes”, he said.

Another line of evidence that supports the idea that Gore lost large numbers of votes due to ballot confusion is the fact that thousands of ballots were rejected as over-votes because they contained votes for more than one candidate. This could have happened when a voter felt that s/he had mistakenly voted for one candidate, so attempted to correct the error by voting for the originally intended candidate. With the Palm Beach County butterfly ballot, there were 5,352 over-vote ballots marked for both Gore and Buchanan, in contrast to only 1,676 marked for both Bush and Buchanan (Another 2,864 voters voted for both Gore and McReynolds). All of these ballots were rejected in the final vote count. Making the logical assumption that the vast majority of Gore/Buchanan ballots were meant for Gore and the vast majority of Bush/Buchanan ballots were meant for Bush, Gore would have netted at least 1,500 additional votes in Palm Beach County had these voters voted as intended.

Finally, the most direct evidence of who the voter intended to vote for when an over-vote was produced would be the writing in of a candidate’s name at the bottom of the ballot. Voters wrote in Gore’s name on 2,182 over-votes, while they wrote in Bush’s name on 1,309 over-votes. Many of these ballots involved two votes for Gore – one next to his name and the other for the write-in candidate, where Gore’s name was added by the voter. All of these ballots were excluded from the vote count. Had these ballots on which the intent of the voter was clearly indicated been counted, Gore would have picked up 873 additional net votes, far more than he needed to win the election.

The bottom line of all this discussion with regard to the question of why the election in Florida was initially called for Gore is that many thousands of voters who thought they were voting for Gore actually voted for Buchanan or Reynolds or produced over-votes that were excluded. These voters would have responded to exit polls by saying they were voting for Gore – hence the initial call for Gore. But as the official vote count became more and more complete, the exit polls became irrelevant to predicting the official election results. That is when the call for Gore was reversed. In other words, the “bad data” was the result of voters who intended to vote for Gore and thought they had voted for Gore, but whose vote, whether or not they wrote Gore’s name on the ballot, was never counted for Gore.

Second bad call – due to an electronic “glitch”
The basis of the second bad call, which caused the networks to make the call for Bush as having won both Florida and the national election, at 2:16 a.m. on Wednesday, November 8, can be explained by the following report:

Deland, FL, Nov. 11 -- Something very strange happened on election night to Deborah Tannenbaum, a Democratic Party official in Volusia County. At 10 p.m., she called the county elections department and learned that Al Gore was leading George W. Bush 83,000 votes to 62,000. But when she checked the county's Web site for an update half an hour later, she found a startling development: Gore's count had dropped by 16,000 votes, while an obscure Socialist candidate had picked up 10,000 – all because of a single precinct with only 600 voters.

At 2:09 a.m. Volusia County’s erroneous numbers were added to Voter News Service’s tabulations, and less than ten minutes later Florida and the U.S. election were called for Bush. The error in Volusia County had cost Gore (temporarily) 16,021 votes. Another computer error in Brevard County reduced Gore’s vote total by another 4,000 votes.

After the call was made for Bush, as Jeffrey Toobin writes in his book, "Too Close to Call: The Thirty-Six Day Battle to Decide the 2000 election":

Unwilling to take the television networks reports at face value, one of Gore’s campaign staffers did a little investigating and discovered that the networks erred in stating that 50,000 votes from Volusia county were cast for Bush. Turns out that Gore was ahead by 13,000 votes in Volusia and trailing Bush by 6,000 votes overall. Something was wrong in Volusia it would be revealed later.

The computer glitches in Volusia and Brevard Counties were discovered and corrected, and consequently the TV networks again reversed their call, taking Florida out of the Bush column and calling it “too close to call”, where it remained for several weeks.

The computer error in Volusia Counter was later publicly said to be due to a faulty memory card, with little or no further explanation. It was considered to be accidental, nobody was prosecuted for it, and it stirred up little national attention or concern. The bigger questions are: 1) Were these computer errors purposeful or accidental; and 2) How many other computer errors occurred that night that were not caught?

Probably few people will ever know the answers to these questions. After all, as I will discuss in Chapter 3, the results produced by these electronic voting machines cannot be verified. So unless the errors are massive, as they were in Volusia County, there is little chance of catching them. At least one computer voting expert, Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting, believes she has good evidence that the error was purposeful, though it didn’t work exactly as planned.


Why did the automatic machine recount reduce Bush’s lead by 80% – from 1784 to 327?

In order to understand the 2000 Presidential election and its importance to future elections in our country, it is instructive to understand the reason why the machine recount reduced Bush’s lead by 80%.

The reduction in Bush’s lead following the machine recount was due almost entirely to the addition of Gore votes in counties that used punch card voting machines. As punch card machines get old they become less efficient at what they are supposed to do – punch holes in ballots. Consequently, use of the older machines often results in failures to fully punch a hole in the card. In some cases the hole may be nearly complete, so that a piece of cardboard (called a chad) is barely hanging from the card, in other cases there may be just a small hole in the card, and in still other cases there may be no tear at all, but only a little dimple. The vote counting component of the machine can only count votes for hole punches that are complete, that is, where any remaining cardboard material is not covering the hole. Thus it is that failures to punch complete holes in the card reduce the vote count. But the act of running cards through the machine a second time tends to cause stray pieces of cardboard that are only loosely attached to the card to fall off, thus enabling the machine to read the ballots as votes where the hole is punched.

For a variety of political reasons, poor areas generally have to make do with older machines than wealthier areas. Consequently, poor areas are generally characterized by a much greater number of undervotes (ballots that register no vote because the hole is not complete) than wealthier areas. Since poor areas tend to vote Democratic, that means that Democratic candidates tend to suffer from this problem. Thus it was that as the cards were run through the machine a second time and many of the hanging chads broke off, the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, gained ground.

This is a problem that almost routinely occurs in almost all elections that use the Votomatic punch card voting machines, not just the 2000 Presidential election in Florida.


In my next post in this series I’ll discuss the highly controversial 36 day Florida recount, which ended when the U.S. Supreme Court abruptly ended the vote count and awarded the Florida and thereby the national election to George W. Bush in what many consider to be one of the three worst U.S. Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history.
Posted by Time for change | Fri Jun 22, 2012, 08:02 PM (82 replies)
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