Democracy Undone: Unequal Representation, the Threat to our Election System, and the Impending Demise of American Democracy
Published by Bitingduck Press Introduction: Those Who Cannot Remember the Past Are Doomed to Repeat It
© 2012 Dale Tavris
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Cover image by Dena Eaton
Introduction: Those Who Cannot Remember the Past Are Doomed to Repeat It
“The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another…” Thomas Paine, American revolutionary and Founding Father, 1795, from “Dissertation on the First Principles of Government” , on the importance of the right to vote.
“American history is littered with [election] fraud—but rather than learning from our shameful past and cleaning up the system, we have allowed the problem to grow even worse. If the last two elections have taught us anything, it is this: The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting system. If people lose faith that their votes are accurately and faithfully recorded, they will abandon the ballot box. Nothing less is at stake here than the entire idea of a government by the people.”—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., June 2006, commenting on the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Presidential elections .
It is as true today as it was in the 18th Century when our nation was founded. The right to vote is absolutely fundamental to a free and fair society. If and when that right disappears, all others will go with it. And as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. noted and documented in his Rolling Stone article on the 2004 Presidential election, that right is today in severe jeopardy.
The problems facing our country and the world today are enormous. Unfortunately, we are now at a time in U.S. history when anti-democratic forces in our country are expanding, leading to the concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands, as our nation’s previously robust middle class continues to shrink and become more and more insecure. In many respects this represents a vicious downward cycle. The more power accumulated by the oligarchy, the more power they have to accumulate more power and successfully demand the passage of legislation that adds still more to their increasing power and wealth.
One important key—perhaps the most important key—to breaking and reversing this downward vicious cycle lies in increased awareness by the American people of the true nature of the roots of our nation’s problems, and where our country is headed as a consequence. Finding ways to increase this awareness is one of the greatest and most important challenges of the 21st Century.
To that end, I start my contemporary history with the US Presidential election of 2000. While it would certainly be naïve to think election fraud was new in 2000, the reaction of the public to the blatant theft of that election was surprising. What protest there was, was so feeble and disorganized it could only encourage those who stood to benefit to steal again, and steal they did, with slicker tricks and little fanfare, in 2004. Was this because of lack of awareness on the part of the citizenry, or a confluence of other factors leading to a dismal outcome and continued downturn? One way to find answers may mean revisiting and reevaluating some rather recent events. However unpleasant it may be to go back there, we cannot go forward until we do.
Consequences of the rot undermining our democracy
Of course it is difficult to separate the causes of our problems from their consequences, since they combine to form a long chain of cause leading to consequence, leading to more consequences and so on. Nevertheless, it seems worthwhile to identify some of those causal events that have occurred early in the chain that have led to so many of the tragic consequences we see today. The book begins with an overview of some rather egregious consequences of our continued inaction that we are living with today. It then takes a look at some of the events of our recent past that we failed to grapple with adequately at the time—and which have subsequently contributed to the present sorry state of affairs.
Heading the List of Problems
If we were to make a list, heading it would have to be the systematic bribery of public officials by the powerful corporations whom our government is charged with regulating in the public interest. Instead of calling it bribery, we call it “campaign contributions,” but what we call it isn’t as important as what it is. This provides our very worst candidates for public office with huge money advantages over their more honest opponents.
When bribery of public officials is tolerated as an inevitable aspect of public life, government inevitably grows close to the wealthy interests that shower it with money in return for legislative and other favors. A malevolent symbiosis grows between the state and corporate power, resulting in rule by an oligarchy that is highly detrimental to the lives of ordinary people. What is symbiosis for the rich is parasitism for the poor, as the bribed and the briber grow ever richer by systematically impoverishing the rest of us.
Using their accumulated wealth and power to manipulate our legislative process, the oligarchy grabs for more and more control of the communications media that are used to control the information available to and shape the attitudes of our nation’s people, in pursuit of their own narrow interests. This provides even more substantial advantages to our worst candidates for public office.
Corporate Control of Elections
Since the 1980s an orchestrated campaign has been underway to demonize “big government,” thereby paving the way for private corporate control over more and more functions that were previously deemed intrinsic functions of government. Among those functions is the running of public elections—the function that symbolizes democracy perhaps more than any other single function.
Unverifiable Vote Counting
More and more of the counting of votes in our public elections have been turned over to private corporations, which count our votes using electronic machines that use secret software to produce vote counts that cannot be verified by anyone. Do we really imagine we can trust results we cannot verify?
Voter suppression and intimidation are playing larger roles in our elections. Restrictive voting laws by various U.S. states have accelerated greatly, beginning in 2003, with the purpose of disenfranchising the poor and minorities. The purge of selected registered voters from our computerized voter rolls has become a routine recurring event throughout much of our country, and without a doubt determined the results of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as well.
These laws are reminiscent of the “poll taxes” used to prevent minorities from voting, which were outlawed by the 24th Amendment to our Constitution in 1964.
Psychopaths with Power, or murder.gov
The book includes the story of two men, believed to have information on how the 2004 election was rigged, who died mysteriously. One was about ready to release the results of his investigation into an alleged attempt to program vote counting machines to switch votes from John Kerry to George W. Bush. The other was about ready to testify on the issue in court. One death was ruled a suicide, and the other was ruled an aviation accident. Abundant evidence contradicts those rulings. You can judge the reasons for those deaths yourselves. And consider what this means about Lord Acton’s remark that power corrupts, while absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Thus it is that our democracy is becoming more and more undermined, as wealthy interests conspire to disenfranchise the poor and ordinary Americans, for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful. As long as the American people fail to recognize the presence and magnitude of this problem, it will continue and it will get worse. The book ends, as all books of this type must, with some suggestions about what actions we can take to halt and even reverse this process.
When enough Americans recognize our problems as problems, stripped of the gloss and spin put on them by our oligarchy, my hope is they will do something about them. If they do not there will be no progress, indeed there will be regression, for we will be headed in the direction taken by so many of the former empires of our planet, which have ended in collapse of financial and social institutions, mounting environmental catastrophes and widespread suffering. The direction we choose will decide our future.
Chapter One: Consequences of a Failing Democracy
When elections of our public officials are for sale to the highest bidder… when our public officials are so addicted to the “campaign contributions” of their wealthiest constituents that they develop a symbiotic relationship with them… when our communications media are owned and controlled by an oligarchy of wealthy elites… when our citizenry lack the ability to differentiate propaganda from reality… when we allow machines provided by private corporations to count our votes using secret electronic software… then we should expect that the consequences will not be pretty or comfortable for the vast majority of our citizens. Here are just a few:
Consequences of Our Failing Democracy
Representatives We Love to Hate
Wouldn’t you think that a nation governed by democratic principles should be able to elect a national legislature that receives the approval of at least half of its population? Well, not in the United States. When a so-called “democracy” repeatedly fails to elect high government officials whose job performance receives the approval of half the population that voted those officials into office, the citizens of that “democracy” ought to seriously consider the reasons for that failure.
Here is a graph of Congressional job approval in the United States since 1974:
In the 23-year period between 1974 and the beginning of 1998, Congressional job approval consistently varied between slightly below 20% and slightly above 40%. From the beginning of 1998 to September 2001 it did considerably better, varying between about 40% and 60%, coincident with the economic bubble of the latter Clinton years. It then shot up to over 80% coincident with the September 11 attacks of 2001, as usually happens when a nation perceives itself to be in danger. But that didn’t last very long at all, as it dipped back below 50% by mid-2002, shot back up to 60% with the onset of the Iraq War in the spring of 2003, and then dipped back below 40% by the beginning of 2005, where it has remained ever since. The latter Bush II years were characterized by Congressional approval ratings in the low 20s and even into the teens. At the onset of 2007 and again in 2009 Congressional approval briefly shot back up to about 40%, following the election of the first Democratic Congress in 12 years and the first simultaneous election of a Democratic Congress and President in 14 years, respectively. But the hopeful expectations generated by the national elections of 2006 and 2008 were quickly dashed, and were followed by the dipping of Congressional approval back into the low twenty’s and below.
The United States exhibits the greatest level of income inequality of any of the rich nations of the world. Consequently, as of 2007 a study showed that more than a third of the wealth in the United States was held by the top 1% of households, while about 15% was held by the lower 80% .
Here is a graph that shows the relationship of income inequality to the two worst economic catastrophes of our history: The Great Depression of the 1930s and our current recession. It is titled “Re-creating the Gap that Gave us the Great Depression”:
The chart plots income inequality, measured as the ratio between the average income of the top 0.01% of U.S. families, compared to the bottom 90%. Note that preceding the great stock market crash of 1929, which plunged us into depression, the ratio rose from about 250 at the start of the 1920s to a peak of about 900 by 1929. The ratio then plunged, and by the start of WW II it had declined to about 200, where it remained with some relatively minor ups and downs until the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency. It then began another precipitous climb, with a sharp decline beginning during the last year of Clinton’s Presidency, but then another sharp increase beginning at about the time that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy first went into effect, so that by the end of 2006 we exceeded even the peak ratio of 1929 that preceded the Great Depression. The three green bars in the chart represent the stock market crash of 1929, the last pre-Reagan year, and the end of the time period represented by the chart, which shortly preceded the great recession of 2008, in which we are still mired.
Epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett demonstrate in their book, “The Spirit Level—Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger,”  numerous troubling non-economic consequences of obscene income inequality that are independent of absolute income or wealth. These consequences include more mental illness, greater use of illegal drugs, higher imprisonment rate, higher infant mortality rate, more homicides, lower educational performance of our children, lower index of child well-being, lower trust in our fellow citizens, and lower status of women, among other adverse societal effects.
A nation’s level of income and wealth inequality is largely a product of its laws and policies. A high level of national income and wealth inequality generally means that its elites have been successful in arranging its laws and policies to enhance their own wealth and power at the expense of their fellow citizens.
The U.S. contribution to global climate change
Climate change is threatening to destroy our planet. Brian Fagan describes the catastrophes that are likely to befall humanity if climate change is not adequately addressed, in his book “The Great Warming—Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilization.”
Today, we are experiencing sustained warming of a kind unknown since the Ice Age. And this warming is certain to bring drought—sustained drought and water shortages on a scale that will challenge even small cities… Imagine how many people might uproot themselves if the choice were between famine and food. Many believe the wars of coming centuries will not be fought over petty nationalisms, religion, or democratic principles, but over water, for this most precious of all our commodities may become even more valuable than oil. They are probably correct.
The U.S contribution to climate change is greatly out of proportion to its population. It is responsible for approximately one quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions. Yet, in 2001 President Bush pulled the United States out of its international commitment to the Kyoto protocol, leaving us and Australia as the only two industrialized countries uncommitted to the international effort to respond to the climate change threat.
President Obama has not been much better. At the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, the United States committed to a 4% reduction in greenhouse gas emission from 1990 levels by 2020—a puny and laughable gesture compared to the 80% reduction by 2050 that climate scientists say is necessary in order to avoid catastrophe.
Effects on small islands are already being seen. In December 2006, the first inhabited island, Lohachara Island, disappeared beneath the sea . Several nearby islands have been affected as well, with tragic human consequences. Several other islands face catastrophic consequences in the immediate or foreseeable future if global warming isn’t soon halted or at least slowed considerably. For that reason, many small island nations made evacuation plans  and at the same time collectively made a June 2009 resolution plea to the United Nations Security Council to address the problem .
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Organization reported 111 major hurricanes in the tropical Atlantic from 1995 to 2008, a 75% increase over the previous thirteen years. A researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research noted that “Storms are not just making landfall and going away like they did in the past… Somehow these storms are able to live longer today.”
As testament to that fact, we’ve seen in the past few years: the earliest category 5 hurricane ever reported (Emily, 2005); the first January tropical cyclone (Zeta, 2006); the first tropical cyclone in the South Atlantic (Catarina, 2004); and, the first known tropical storm to strike Spain (Vince, 2005).
The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters conducted research that gives us an indication of the magnitude of the increase in severe weather events. That research found that there was four times the number of weather disasters in the last thirty years as in the first 75 years of the 20th Century.
The United States is now virtually in a state of permanent war. It spent $712 billion on defense in 2009, and routinely spends on its military almost as much as the rest of the world combined. It has been estimated that it now has more than 700 military bases scattered throughout the world.
During the latter half of the 20th Century the United States engaged in violent interventions against sovereign nations more than any other nation of the world, mostly on behalf of right wing dictators who promised to protect elite American interests.
U.S. leaders always have propaganda ready to justify those interventions that it can’t or doesn’t care to hide from the American people. That propaganda serves to placate too many U.S. citizens. But the rest of the world isn’t much fooled.
Tom Engelhardt, in his book “The American Way of War—How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s Wars,” provides an apt analogy for the U.S. invasion and long occupation of Iraq:
An uninvited guest breaks into a lousy dinner party, sweeps the already meager meal off the table, smashes the patched-together silverware, busts up the rickety furniture, and then insists on staying ad infinitum because the place is such a mess that someone responsible has to oversee the cleanup process.
What’s remained in all this, remarkably enough, is our confidence in ourselves, our admiration for us, our—well, why not say it?—our narcissism. Nothing we’ve done so far stops us from staring into that pool and being struck by what a kindly, helpful face stares back at us…
The United States has by far the largest imprisonment rate of any nation in the world—751 persons per 100,000 population in 2008. That amounts to more than two million imprisoned Americans.
You would think that this fact would give some pause to those who loudly proclaim the United States to be the “land of the free.” But it seems that most Americans either aren’t aware of this fact, or they are not very concerned about it—or both.
There are many reasons for our excessively large imprisonment rate—none of them good. In part it is racially driven, as suggested by many studies that show our justice system to be pervaded by racial bias. It is used to disenfranchise minorities, as was done in the 2000 presidential election in Florida, to hand the presidency to George W. Bush. It is facilitated by demagogic politicians who wish to enhance their image by appearing “tough on crime.” And it is fueled by the private prison industry, which spends millions to lobby our government for harsher and longer prison sentences in the interest of adding to their profits.
It is just plain shameful that our government hands off criminal justice responsibilities to private corporations that use the power given them in pursuit of their own private interests. Torture in our prisons is one of many tragic manifestations of that abrogation of responsibility. As one investigator explained:
You’re not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying. In one horrible scene, a naked man, passive and vacant, is seen being led out of his cell by prison guards. They strap him into a medieval-looking device called a ‘restraint chair.’ His hands and feet are shackled. There’s a strap across his chest. His head rolls forward. He looks dead. He’s not. Not yet. He’s being punished for having a pillowcase on his head in his cell and refusing to remove it. Why? He has a long history of schizophrenia…
Imprisonment for victimless crimes is a prominent feature of our criminal justice system. It has been estimated that in the United States today, there are approximately 750 thousand individuals incarcerated for victimless crimes—mostly drug related. The presence of laws that allow for imprisonment for victimless crimes facilitates the introduction of racism into our criminal justice system. It contributes to organized crime. And it is a major reason for single parent households and impaired socio-emotional development in children in our country.
Abrogation of international law
Just as a system of laws within nations is necessary to prevent the strong from crushing the vulnerable, and to maintain order with a minimum of violence, so is a system of laws necessary in international affairs—for very similar reasons. Following World War II the need for a strong system of international laws became widely apparent. The effort to establish such a system—The United Nations Organization—was successfully led by two U.S. presidents in succession, Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Truman also played a lead role in the creation of the Nuremberg Tribunal of 1946, which led to the conviction of 16 Nazis for the war crimes which had recently resulted in monumental suffering and death.
I would have been quite proud of my country at the time for taking the lead role in these activities. But since that time the United States has done much to destroy the very system for the establishment of international peace that it had done so much to create, by failing on so many occasions to comply with that system. Its failure to comply is represented by its many acts of military aggression directed at sovereign nations and more recently its widespread use of torture.
A great amount of evidence indicates that torture—a war crime—was widespread and condoned at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including George Bush and Dick Cheney themselves. Now Bush has even admitted to this crime in his memoirs, and yet the reaction from our country has by and large been one of passive acceptance. Much of that torture has continued under the Obama administration.
The Bush administration’s perpetration of war crimes was bad enough. Many Americans hoped that the Obama administration would aggressively pursue investigation followed by prosecution of those war crimes, as a means of sending a message to the international community of nations that it was serious about international law. Yet President Obama has steadfastly refused to have his Department of Justice investigate potential war crimes committed by high level personnel of the Bush administration.
Support of the International Criminal Court (ICC) would have been one of the best ways for our country to signal its support for international law. The purpose of the ICC is to prevent the most heinous of crimes that cannot or will not be addressed at the national level.
Though the Bush administration provided many excuses for its hostility to the ICC, the underlying issue appeared to be that it could not tolerate the possibility that an American could ever be tried before the Court. For example, Bush claimed that the Court’s jurisdiction could not extend to Americans because that would undermine “the independence and flexibility that America needs to defend our national interests around the world.” As Philippe Sands, a lawyer specializing in international law, suggests in his book “Lawless World,” such an excuse amounts to an assertion that U.S. leaders have no intention of adhering to the ICC’s prohibitions against some of the worst crimes imaginable. I am deeply troubled by the fact that my country has done so much to destroy our system of international law by refusing to hold itself subject to so many international laws.
President Obama has not done a great deal to improve the situation. An article in the New York Times talks of a “kill list” that lists targets for assassination by the U.S. military. An editorial in The Nation expressed grave concern over this policy:
For those concerned about the constitutional protection of civil liberties and the rule of law… the extraordinary practices (represented by the kill list) was profoundly disturbing. The drone policy the president has developed not only infringes on the sovereignty of other nations, but the assassinations violate laws put in place in the 1970s after scandals enveloped an earlier era of CIA criminality…
The kill list makes a mockery of due process by circumventing judicial review, and turning the executive into judge, jury and executioner. Even worse, the “signature” strikes described in the Times article, in which nameless individuals are assassinated based merely on patterns of behavior, dispense with any semblance of habeas corpus altogether. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, signature strikes account for most of the attacks in Pakistan today, and they were recently approved for use in Yemen.
The article speaks of hundreds of associated civilian deaths, when civilians are mistakenly targeted or just happen to be nearby when the assassination occurs. With regard to the issue of whether such a program makes us safer:
It is hard to argue that they are making us safer when, for every suspect killed, one or more newly embittered militants emerge to take his place. This is not a prescription for American security but for an endless war that will sap our moral core and put in jeopardy our most cherished freedoms at home.
The editorial concludes:
We know more than enough to conclude that President Obama’s continuation and expansion of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” has further eroded legal barriers built over decades to limit executive power. For those who believed Obama would restore the rule of law after Bush’s imperial overreach, learning the details of these operations has been troubling. Liberals raised a ruckus about Bush’s abuses. Silence now is not an option.
Our problems in perspective
The many catastrophic problems described above are mainly the result of a small elite in our country who fight hard to elevate their own individual wealth, status, and power way above that of the vast majority of Americans.
Thus, in the quest for private profit our elites buy politicians to pass legislation to consistently favor the few over the many. They lead us into one war after another, always with some rationalization, which usually lacks even a semblance of sincerity. They proclaim that the international laws aimed at producing world peace don’t apply to the United States because we are too special to be constrained by such laws. They develop a criminal justice system in which record portions of our population are sent to prison for no good reason, while proclaiming our country to be the “land of the free.” Our democracy is greatly corrupted when their wealth is used to sway elections and to buy politicians who are intent upon conducting our nation’s business in their own interests rather than in the interests of the voters who elected them. And giant corporations spend millions of dollars on propaganda to deny the climate change that threatens world-wide catastrophe for billions of people—in the interest of enhancing their profits.
Yet most Americans have been led by our elites to accept these things as natural or benign. These are the elites who refer to those who express opinions against the wars that they generate or support as “unpatriotic” or “treasonous.” They are the people who use the term “class warfare” to attack those who believe that the wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes, commensurate with what their country does for them. They are those who use the epithet “socialist” to describe anyone who believes that government should play an active role in providing opportunities for the most vulnerable of our citizens. They coined the term “loony conspiracy theorist” to describe anyone who expresses serious disagreement with their own version of history. They wield the term “big government” to express their ideology that only private individuals and corporations are capable of making contributions to society, thereby advancing the argument that government has no right to control their private activities in the public interest. They use the term “bleeding heart liberal” to describe anyone who expresses empathy for the poor or unfortunate.
There is a purpose behind all of this. Being at the top of the hierarchy, they wish more than anything else to preserve the status quo at the least, or better yet to expand their wealth and power. In the service of that goal they pronounce and propagate a world view that lauds the current power structure in our country. They do this in their attempt to justify the fact that they have many magnitudes more wealth and power than the rest of us. After all, who would accept having many magnitudes less wealth and power than other people unless a justification is provided? In other words, they propagate their justifications in order to keep the vast majority of American citizens content and quiet, and convince some of them even to put their lives on the line by going to war in support of their various causes. The elites of all nations do this to some degree—some more than others.
Americans need to be much more skeptical about all these things than they have been. They should question whether the counting of our votes on electronic machines using secret computer programs and producing unverifiable results is consistent with democracy. They should question the widespread disenfranchisement of American voters, as well as many other aspects of our election system. They should ask why American citizens have to pay almost as much for their military as the militaries of all the rest of the nations of the world combined. They should ask why their country has the highest imprisonment rate in the world, and how that conflicts with its view of itself as “the land of the free.” They should wonder about the value of the “contributions” that billionaire CEOs make to our society while so many millions of Americans live in poverty, lose their homes or die for lack of access to health care.
Going Backwards To Go Forward
One moment in history when Americans, acting as responsible citizens, had a wonderful opportunity to do all of the above has come and gone. If, in the aftermath of the 2000 election we had been more skeptical, raised more questions and refused to accept the decisions of the ruling elite because we conflated their interests with our own would it have made a difference? I believe it would have. Instead our inaction made it easier for a similar theft to take place in 2004.
Unfortunately, our continued reluctance to examine these two painful episodes, as well as the continuing deterioration of democracy in our country in general, simply compounds the mistakes we made then. There are important lessons to be learned that will have a bearing on how we conduct future elections—indeed, times are now so perilous this may well be our last chance to learn from the past. Fool me once, shame on them, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me three times—well, you fill in the blank.
PART I: EVIDENCE OF ELECTION FRAUD
Chapter 2: How the 2000 Presidential Election Was Stolen
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. (That recount was later found to be incomplete in 16 counties, but nobody seemed to notice that at the time). 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, 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” :
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.
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 ever 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. The hand recount was necessary and provided for by Florida law because the intent of the voter in many cases could not be ascertained by machine. In those cases, the intent of the voter could be ascertained only by viewing the ballot with the human eye.
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.
Voter purging in preparation for the 2000 Presidential election in Florida
Though the voter purge occurred prior to the events described above in this chapter, I am discussing it after my discussion of the election itself because it appears to the most important factor in Bush’s victory. If not for the illegal voter 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.
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).
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 its 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 567 Gore lead among the undervotes recounted in Broward and Volusia Counties, which was the only county 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 it’s 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 vote 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 use 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Chapter 3: 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.
The ‘red shift’
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:
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:
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 likely 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
* 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)
* Interviewer characteristics such as age
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.
Widespread national silence about the possibility of election fraud
“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 :
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 confirm 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.
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 averse 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 presidential 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 they have been proven to be valid. 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.
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.
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?
A corrupted recount in Ohio
Because of the numerous suspicions surrounding the election in Ohio, an assurance to the citizens of this country that fraud played no major role in the outcome of this election should have been based on a full investigation. A fair, lawful and transparent recount of the votes, as mandated by Ohio law would be the first step in this process, and money was soon raised for such a recount. The law required that 3% of randomly selected precincts from each county be selected for an initial recount, and then if the recounted vote totals from those randomly selected precincts did not match the initial count of the respective precincts, the whole county would be recounted by hand.
Yet from start to finish, every effort was made to prevent full county recounts, as described in a review by Georgia10 , so that when it all ended, only one county in the whole state had been recounted. In order to accomplish this, numerous violations of Ohio law were perpetrated, including: At least 17 counties where the recount was chosen by Ohio election officials rather than randomly; at least 6 counties where tampering with the tabulating machines by voting machine company technicians was confirmed, including a case in Hocking County where the technician actually gave the election officials a “cheat sheet” with instructions on how to make the counts match (The whistle blower of this felony, Sherole Eaton, was subsequently fired from her job) , and; at least 6 counties for which, even when it turned out that the vote totals from the recount didn’t match the official count, election officials still refused to do the required recount.
And to top it all off, when workers were attempting to examine records during the recount in order to identify discrepancies, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell issued a surprise order stating that the public voting records were now private rather than public, and disallowed access to them—contrary to Ohio law. Then, when Congressman John Conyers’ U.S. House Judiciary Democratic Staff attempted to question Blackwell about this and numerous other violations of Ohio law, Blackwell repeatedly refused to answer any questions of the Committee, as described in the Committee’s landmark report, “Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio” .
Cuyahoga County (containing Cleveland) was of particular concern, as there was much evidence suggesting that that county’s officially reported vote totals were wrong. One good way to find out if votes were deleted by the Cuyahoga County central tabulator would be to compare the individual precinct totals, as reported by precincts prior to being sent to the Cuyahoga County central tabulator (pre-tabulator results), with the official results reported after the central tabulator added up the votes in all the precincts (post-tabulator results).
I tried numerous times to obtain the pre-tabulator results from Michael Vu, the Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. He promised them to me several times, but he never delivered on his promises. Consequently, I collaborated on this issue  with a computer science professional, Ron (last name withheld), who worked for Ray Beckerman’s Ohio Project . Ron’s initial audit of 15 precincts identified an apparent vote undercount of 163 votes that resulted in a net loss to the Kerry/Edwards ticket of 140 votes. Ron tried to proceed with a more thorough audit of the Cuyahoga County vote, but he ran into numerous technical problems, and he was never able to complete it.
There was also a “recount” of a 3% “random sample” of the Cuyahoga County votes. However, we now know that that recount appears to have been rigged. Three elections workers faced criminal charges for that, and at least two of them were convicted . As reported by The Free Press :
Three criminal prosecutions in Ohio’s biggest county have opened with strong indications that the cover-up of the theft of the 2004 presidential election is starting to unravel… According to the AP, County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter opened the Cuyahoga trial by charging that “the evidence will show that this recount was rigged…”
Jacqueline Maiden, the county election board’s third-ranking employee, faces six counts of misconduct involving ballot review. Rosie Grier, the board’s ballot department manager, and Kathleen Dreamer, an assistant manager, are also charged…. Cleveland, which usually gives Democrats an extremely heavy margin, was crucial to Bush’s alleged victory of roughly 118,000 votes out of 5.5 million counted….Official turnout and vote counts varied wildly and improbably from precinct to precinct… Several predominantly black precincts, where voters went more than 80% for Kerry, reported turnouts of 30% or less. In one ward, only a 7% turnout was reported, while surrounding precincts were nearly ten times as high…
In the Cuyahoga case, the poll workers are charged with circumventing state recount laws that require a random sampling of at least three percent of the votes cast in a given precinct, to be recounted by hand and by machine. The prosecution charges that the workers instead hand picked sample precincts to recount that they knew did not have questionable results. Once they were able to match those recounts with official results, they could then do the rest of the recount by machine, in effect rendering the entire process meaningless. “This was a very hush operation,” said prosecutor Baxter.
Similar allegations have been made in other counties. Indeed, such illegal non-random recounting procedures appear to have been common throughout the state, carried out by board of election employees with the tacit consent of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell was officially charged with administering the election that gave Bush a second term while simultaneously serving as the Ohio co-chair of his Bush’s re-election campaign.
Additional evidence of a corrupted recount comes from the observations of an election observer representing the Green Party of Ohio at the recount, who noted :
Anomalies were found. Almost all of the witnesses that I spoke with felt that the ballots were not in random order, that they had been previously sorted. There would be long runs of votes for only one candidate and then long runs for another, which seemed statistically improbable to most. From what they were able to get through, witnesses found that signature counts were very much different from the official recorded number of ballots
More than anything else, it was the discrepancy between the exit polls and the official vote count, in conjunction with the fact that they each favored different candidates (Kerry favored by the exit polls, Bush favored by the official vote count), that initially generated widespread concern about a stolen presidential election. The fact that the hand recount required by Ohio law was never accomplished except in one county adds greatly to the suspicions surrounding this election. The fact that ballots and election records from 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties were destroyed despite a federal order to preserve them substantially exacerbates that suspicion .
This chapter discussed initial evidence that pointed to a problem with election integrity as the major cause of the red shift. This initial evidence led to numerous investigations into the integrity of the 2004 election, which found a great amount of additional evidence for a stolen election. Chapters 3 through 7 discuss that additional evidence, as it pertains to the 2004 Presidential election, as well as to other elections.
Editor's note:These hyperlinks were valid as of September 1, 2012.
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This book makes extensive use of quotes and ideas from many great investigative journalists and election experts. It would not have been possible without them. I won’t name them here, as their many contributions are acknowledged within the book.
I wish to acknowledge the many election integrity activists with whom I have collaborated or communicated, or whose writings I have read. These people typically do their election integrity work for little or no money. Their primary reward is the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing work that is of immense value to their country and fellow citizens. They have been a source of much inspiration for me.
I wish to acknowledge two political web sites that I belong to: The Democratic Underground (DU), which I have belonged to since 2004 and have blogged for extensively under the screen name of “Time for change”—I have acquired an enormous amount of information and understanding from my participation at DU, and I especially appreciate those who urged me to write this book, without whom I may not have done so; and Old Elm Tree, which I have belonged to for a much shorter period of time and also blogged for as “Time for change,” whose members I very much appreciate.
I wish to acknowledge my son Kevin, for his editing of this book; my daughter Carrie for the support she’s given to my writing and her many ideas; and my wife Carol, for her frequent urging me not to postpone the writing this book, without which it probably would have been delayed for another few years.
About the Author
Dale Tavris, MD, MPH, has worked as an epidemiologist and public health physician in state public health departments, the U.S. Air Force, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1979. He has published dozens of scientific articles in medical and public health journals, and two books (Philosophy in Epidemiology and Public Health and The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream).
In recent years, he has become a prominent poster at many political websites, focusing especially on problems with the U.S. election system. He currently writes one of the most widely read journals on the website DemocraticUnderground.com under the screen name “Time for Change.” As a result of his articles on vote-counting machines, he was invited to work for the Election Defense Alliance as its data coordinator and to participate in a delegation with the purpose of lobbying the U.S. Senate to challenge the results of the 2004 election.