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Rich Cowan <[log in to unmask]>


Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>


Mon, 13 Nov 2000 18:43:57 -0500





text/plain (587 lines)

[this was researched over the Internet for 3 days with help from
  people involved in the Red Rock Eater news service.  -rich]

by Rich Cowan

Millions of dollars are now being raised for a public relations
war between the Democrats and the Republicans to determine the
next president of the United States.  Will the outcome of the
election be determined by ratings in the polls?  Will the present
standoff be resolved by escalation and threats?  Or will the
intention of the voters on election day and the right of the
states to choose their own electors actually matter?

Our involvement this week is essential in order to uphold the
principles of democracy.  Propaganda is flying left and right.
To combat this barrage, we present a point by point analysis
of some key myths in the media today, substantiated with
footnotes.  Please read, copy, and forward to friends,
relatives and colleagues!  Thanks!

1) Myth: Al Gore has a responsibility to concede the election.

    Fact:  A 330 vote margin out of 6 million votes cast in Florida is
    incredibly close!  It is roughly equivalent to a 1-vote margin in
    a city with 40,000 people and 18,000 voters.

    It is extremely rare for an election this close NOT to be
    contested for several weeks until a manual recount can take place,
    with observers from both sides taking part and inspecting ballots.
    This kind of detailed recount has not yet taken place.

    According to the US Constitution and the Laws of Florida, it is
    the responsibility of officials in Florida to certify the election
    results.  November 17 is the deadline for absentee ballots sent
    from overseas to arrive.  Since the election is close enough in
    Florida, Oregon, and New Mexico to be affected by absentee ballots,
    the results in those states cannot be certified before that date.

2) Myth: the number of "spoiled ballots" in Palm Beach County was
    typical.   In a press briefing televised live on all networks
    on 11/9/00, Karl Rove of the Bush campaign compared the 14,872
    invalidated ballots in the 1996 Presidential race to 19,120
    ballots for President that were spoiled in the 2000 election.

    Fact: the Bush campaign was comparing apples and oranges.
    There were actually 29,702 invalidated ballots this year in
    Palm Beach County.  This is almost twice the number in 1996.
    The number 19,120 refers to the ballots were thrown
    out for voting for two Presidential candidates.  The remaining
    10,582 ballots had no choice recorded for President

    According to the Palm Beach County elections office
    (, voters this year were not confused at all
    by the rest of the ballot.  For example, less than 1% of U.S.
    Senate votes were invalidated because of multiple punches,
    compared with over 4% in the Presidential contest.

3) Myth: The Palm beach ballot is definitely illegal due to the
    presence of punch holes to the left of some of the candidates.

    Fact:  According to the Secretary of State's office, there is a
    loophole in Florida law that may allow ballots used for voting
    machines to deviate from the rules governing paper ballots.  This
    view has been contested by hundreds of Florida voters.  The final
    decision on the legality of the ballot is likely to be made in
    court, as long as this issue could have an effect on the election.

    It is possible that the ballot could be ruled illegal on other
    grounds, such as the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and
    Handicapped Act or the Americans With Disabilities Act.

4) Myth: "The more often ballots are recounted, especially by hand,
    the more likely it is that human errors, like lost ballots and
    other risks, will be introduced. This frustrates the very reason
    why we have moved from hand counting to machine counting." --
    Former Sec. of State James Baker, speaking on behalf of the Bush
    campaign at a press briefing televised by all networks on 11/10/00.

    Fact: In 1997, George W. Bush signed into law a bill stating that
    hand recounts were the preferred method in a close election in
    Texas.  The bill, "HB 330", mandated that representatives of all
    parties be present to prevent fraud.

    Laws establishing rights and procedures for hand recounts also
    exist in Florida (see Title IX, Chapter 102).  In fact, the Orlando
    Sentinel, ( reported that a partial hand count
    of Presidential ballots this year was ordered by Republicans in
    Seminole County, where Bush led Gore.  This count took place
    on 11/9 and 11/10, widening Bush's lead by 98 votes.  The Bush
    campaign did not complain about this hand count; nor did it complain
    about the hand count on 11/11/00 which put Bush slightly ahead of
    Gore in New Mexico.

    There do exist machine voting systems which are fairly accurate,
    but antiquated punch card systems are notoriously inaccurate.  They
    were outlawed in Massachusetts in 1997 by Secretary of State William
    Galvin after a Congressional primary that was also "too close to
    call."  The problem is that if the punched-out pieces of cardboard
    are not completely removed from the punch card, they can obstruct
    the card reader and the votes will not be counted.  A manual
    recount of such cards can clearly reveal the voter's intentions.

5) Myth: The process is unfair because hand recounts were held only
    in liberal areas of Florida, where Gore stands to pick up the
    most votes.

    Fact:  It is true that a statewide recount would be more fair, and
    the Bush campaign has every right to request one.   According
    to Florida law, hand recount requests must come from the campaigns,
    not from the state.  To fail to request what is commonly referred
    to as a "defensive recount" in conservative areas of Florida, they
    may be making a tactical blunder that will cost them the election.

    It is also true that there were voting irregularities in the
    counties where the Gore campaign requested recounts.

6) Myth: "Palm Beach County is a Pat Buchanan stronghold and that's why
    Pat Buchanan received 3407 votes there.  According to the Florida
    Department of State, 16,695 voters in Palm Beach County are registered
    to the Independent Party, the Reform Party, or the American Reform Party,
    an increase of 110% since the 1996 presidential election" -- Ari
    Fleischer of the Bush Campaign, 11/9/00.  The 2,000 votes received
    by the Reform party candidate for Congress indicate that party's
    strength in Palm Beach County (James Baker on Meet the Press, 11/12/00).

    Fact:  Of those 16,695 voters, only 337 (2 percent) are in the
    Reform Party according to Florida state records.  The Reform
    party candidate for Congress, John McGuire, is connected to a
    more centrist wing of the Reform Party, predating Buchanan's
    involvement.  An analysis of his support indicates that it came
    largely from reform-minded Ralph Nader voters.

    Regarding Buchanan's vote total, the Washington Post reported that
    his vote percentage in Palm Beach county was four times as high at
    the polls as in absentee voting.  Even Buchanan himself admitted on
    11/8/00 on the Today Show that many of his votes actually "belonged
    to Al Gore."  So did his campaign manager, Bay Buchanan.

7) Myth: If Gore (or Bush) ends up winning the popular vote, he really
    should win the election even if he loses Florida and other states.

    Fact: This is not the way the U.S. Constitution is written.  The
    Electoral College decision, imperfect as it may be, is the only one
    that matters.  It may be possible to reform or eliminate the electoral
    college in the future, so that small states would no longer receive
    extra electoral votes out of proportion to their population. But
    until this change is made by Constitutional amendment, the Electoral
    College is still the law of the land.

8) Myth:  The Cook County, Illinois ballot from the home district
    of Gore campaign chair Bill Daley is just like the "butterfly"
    ballot used in Palm Beach County (reported by Don Evans, 11/8/00)

    Fact: According to the Chicago Daily Herald on 11/10/00, the
    ballots in Chicago which had "facing pages" were judicial retention
    questions which only had two punch holes, Yes and No.

9) Myth: The election process in Florida outside of Palm Beach County
    was fair.

    Fact:  Actually, thousands of irregularities in over a half-dozen
    categories have already been reported:

     -Ballots ran out in certain precincts according to the LA Times
      on 11/10/00.

     -Carpools of African-American voters were stopped by police,
      according to the Los Angeles Times (11/10/00).  In some cases,
      officers demanded to see a "taxi license".

     -Polls closed with people still in line in Tampa, according to the
      Associated Press.

     -In Osceola County, ballots did not line up properly, possibly
      causing Gore voters to have their ballots cast for Harry Browne.
      Also, Hispanic voters were required to produce two forms of ID when
      only one is required.  (source: Associated Press)

     -Dozens, and possibly hundreds, of voters in Broward County were
      unable to vote because the Supervisor of Elections did not have enough
      staff to verify changes of address.

     -Voters were mistakenly removed from voter rolls because their names
      were similar to those of ex-cons, according to Mother Jones magazine.

     -According to Reuters news service (11/8/00), many voters received
      pencils rather than pens when they voted, in violation of state law.

     -According to the Miami Herald, many Haitian-American voters were
      turned away from precincts where they were voting for the first
      time (11/10/00)

     -According to Feed Magazine (, the mayoral candidate
      whose election in Miami was overturned due to voter fraud, Xavier
      Suarez, said he was involved in preparing absentee ballots for
      George W. Bush. (11/9/00)

     -According to, CBS's Dan Rather reported a
      possible computer error in Volusia County, Florida, where James
      Harris, a Socialist Workers Party candidate, won 9,888 votes.
      He won 583 in the rest of the state.  [11/9/00]  County-level
      results for Florida are available at

     -Many African-American first-time voters who registered at motor
      vehicles offices or in campus voter registration drives did not
      appear on the voting rolls, according to a hearing conducted by
      the NAACP and televised on C-SPAN on 11/12/00.

10) Myth: "No evidence of vote fraud, either in the original
     vote or in the recount, has been presented." -- James Baker,
     representing the Bush campaign on 11/10/00, in a Florida briefing.

     Fact: The election was held just last week, so of course many
     instances of fraud have not yet been substantiated.  Even so,
     authorities have already uncovered clear evidence of voter fraud
     involving absentee ballots.

     In Pensacola, Florida, Bush supporter Todd Vinson never received the
     absentee ballot he requested.  According to the Associated Press on
     11/9/00, it was determined after an investigation that this ballot
     was received by a third party, filled out with a forged signature,
     and then sent in.  Assistant State Attorney Russell Edgar, when asked
     if other absentee ballots might had been intercepted, said, "I agree
     there may well be many more than just this one."

     Much media attention on the issue of voter fraud has been focused
     on Wisconsin where cigarettes were offered to homeless people
     who were casting absentee ballots, presumably for Gore.  The
     Gore campaign claims the cigarettes were not used to "buy" votes.
     The London Times has reported a suspected pro-Bush vote fraud
     operation in Miami involving over thousands of ballots (11/13/00).

11) Myth: It is highly unusual for judges to intervene after an election.
     Since the designer of a disputed ballot in Florida is a member of
     the party contesting the election, a legal challenge is impossible.

     Fact: The most fundamental right of a democratic society is the
     the right to vote, and to have one's vote correctly counted.  The
     legal system exists to ensure that people's rights are not violated.
     Whether the person committing a violation is a Democrat or a
     Republican does not affect how that violation should be treated.

     Elections are ultimately struggles for political power so it should
     not be surprising that disputes are often resolved in court.  Of
     course judges can be biased.  That is why they must explain their
     decisions and why bad arguments can be overturned on appeal.

     The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1998, in connection with
     a disputed Volusia County election, that if there is "substantial
     noncompliance" with election laws and a "reasonable doubt" about
     whether election results "expressed the will of the voters" then a
     judge must "void the contested election, even in the absence of fraud
     or intentional wrongdoing." (source:  Wall St. Journal, 10/10/00).
     The Journal indicated that there was little legal precedent for
     a revote in just one area where an election occurred.  It would
     be more likely for a court to order a new election or to overturn
     the result.

     These issues have arisen in other states as well.  In a Massachusetts
     Democratic primary in 1996 for the US House, the election was so close
     after recounts that a judge had to make the final decision after
     examining some of the ballots that were incompletely punched, to
     determine the intention of the voter.  The law clearly dictated that
     it was the will of the voter that mattered, and the candidate who was
     behind, William Delahunt, went on to win the final election.  Call the
     Capitol Switchboard if you have any doubts at 202-225-3121.

12) Myth: Richard Nixon's party in 1960 did the honorable thing in not
     contesting the results of the election.

     Fact: According to a column in the Los Angeles Times, 11/10/00, "on
     Nov. 11, three days after the election, Thurston B. Morton, a Kentucky
     senator and the Republican Party's national chairman, launched bids
     for recounts or investigations in not just Illinois and Texas but also
     Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico,
     Nevada, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.  A few days later, Robert
     H. Finch and Leonard W. Hall, two Nixon intimates, sent agents to
     conduct what they called "field checks" in eight of those 11
     battlegrounds.  In New Jersey, local Republicans obtained court orders
     for recounts; Texans brought suit in federal court.  Illinois
     witnessed the most vigorous crusade. Nixon aide Peter Flanigan
     encouraged the creation of a Chicago-area Nixon Recount Committee. As
     late as Nov. 23, Republican National Committee general counsel
     H. Meade Alcorn Jr. was still predicting Nixon would take Illinois."
     Recounts continued into December, but did not succeed in overturning
     the result of the election.

13) Myth: "Governor Bush is still the winner, subject only to counting
     the overseas ballots, which traditionally have favored the Republican
     candidates" -- James Baker, Press Briefing, 11/10/00

     Fact: The number of yet-to-be-counted overseas military ballots is
     likely to be in the range of 500 to 2000, based on the 1996 election
     in which there were 2,300 oversees absentee ballots overall, with
     roughly 60% of them coming from people enlisted in the military.
     According to CNN [11/10/00], the military overseas ballots that
     arrived before the election were already counted.

     The biggest difference from 1996 is that Clinton -- who avoided the
     draft -- was running against Dole, a decorated military veteran.

     In 2000 George W. Bush -- who avoided service in Vietnam and actually
     lost flying privileges in the Texas Air National Guard -- is running
     against Al Gore, a veteran who served in Vietnam.

     It is just as possible that Gore will gain a few hundred votes from
     veterans as the other way around.  It is also possible that the Gore
     ticket will pick up votes from Democratic diplomatic appointees, or
     temporary residents and dual citizens of Israel.

PLEASE HELP DISTRIBUTE THIS FLYER!  We plan to make it easy for
you to obtain a paper copy for distribution at your workplace, church
or campus.  If you post this on the web, please let us know!  HTML
and printable (Word, PDF) versions will be available at:

Internet references sometimes change, so they will be updated at:

To participate in a discussion on responding to conservative attacks
on democracy and social justice, please send a blank email to:
   [log in to unmask]

Tips on E-Organizing:

Additional Footnotes, References
(the web links may change; please report errors)

Myth 1: Time to Concede the Election
330 votes out of 6 million is 0.00550% of the vote.
1 vote out of 18 thousand is  0.00555% of the vote.
A margin of 0.500000% of the vote is the Florida recount threshold.

Myth 2: Number of Spoiled Ballots.
Article giving counts for invalidated ballots in 2000:

Odd ballot prompts allegations of widespread mistaken voting
by MITCH LIPKA, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, 11/9/00.

See Also:

Myth 3: Ballot Definitely Illegal
Those Florida Ballots Were Clearly Illegal

Some Florida Ballots Illegal, Dems Say

Palm Beach Ballot Illegal, Demo Lawyers Say

United Press International Story:  Eye doctors say palm beach ballot
confused voters, 11/9/00, filed from Ft. Lauderdale at 4:11:44 PM EDT.

Access to Voting for Disabled and Elderly Citizens

Myth 4: Hand Recounts Introduce Errors
Seminole County delivers edge to Bush in recount

Election Workers' Nightmare

William Galvin, interviewed on CNN, 11/8/00.

Texas State Law, HB 331 (also § 212.005(d), Texas Election Code)

Hand recounts used in New Mexico, overturn Gore lead

Bush Signed Recount Rule in Texas

Myth 5: Selective Recounts are Unfair
Bush Team Prepares 'Scorched-Earth Plan'

Volusia Elections Votes for Manual Recount

Votes may be missed in Broward County,1136,36000000000124832,00.html

Myth 6: Palm Beach a Pat Buchanan Stronghold
Numbers Add Up to More Dispute

State of Florida Party Registration

Buchanan Says Disputed Florida Votes Are Gore's

Bay Buchanan strongly denounced the Republican spin:

Precinct-level Correlations Between Reform Party Candidate for Congress
John McGuire and all presidential candidates, analysis by
Paul H. Rosenberg" <[log in to unmask]> based on Palm Beach County data.

Myth 7: Candidate Should Win Without Electoral Majority
see the US Constitution.

Myth 8: Butterfly Ballots in Chicago Too
Cook ballot designer says his ballots are not like Florida's

Myth 9: Florida Respects Voting Rights
Jesse Jackson Questions Florida Voting

On Pencils Vs. Pens
NAACP Alleges Voter Suppression in Florida, Reuters, Wednesday November 8

Broward County
Problems at Polls Prevent Hundreds from Casting Votes (Miami Herald)

Ballots Ran Out According to St. Petersburg Times

More Irregularities Alleged

Voting Scrutinized All Over Florida

Florida Ballot Quirks Scrutinized,1597,247897-412,00.shtml

Florida Cops Accused of Harassing Black Voters

Election Day Allegations Could Form Basis for Legal Challenges, Experts Say

Moving Toward a Lawsuit

Many Mistakenly Removed from Voter Rolls

Xavier Suarez Involvement in Absentee Drive

Florida Recount Continues As Lawsuit Threats Rise

NAACP Says Fraudulent Calls Surface in Florida (before election)

NAACP Alleges Voter Suppression in Florida

Voting Irregularities, Chaos Reported in Florida,1162,oso-nation-82375,00.html,1162,sunsentinel-elections2000-82375,0

Voters Statewide Say They Had Poll Troubles

Widespread Voting Irregularities Marred Presidential Results in S. Florida,1136,36000000000124144,00.html

After Bizarre Vote, Experts Question Whether Election Process Is Fair,1136,36000000000123968,00.html

Dade's Ballot System Delays Tally

New York Times, "African Americans Demand Revote"

Registered Voters' Names Failed to Appear on Voting Rolls,1162,oso-nation-82375,00.html

Myth 10: No Vote Fraud in Florida
Transcript: James A. Baker III on Fla. Recount, Nov. 10, 2000

Associated Press story was available as of 11/9 at:

Wall St. Journal Article

NAACP hears testimony of Florida voting irregularities
Breed, Allen G, Associated Press Wire, 11/11/00.
(Hearings Televised on CSPAN, 11/12/00)

Pensacola Ballot Prompts Fraud Investigation

Cigarettes Distributed for Gore Vote

Gore camp demands FBI inquiry,,34812,00.html

Myth 11: Judges Stay Out of Elections
PHIL KUNTZ and DAVID S. CLOUD, "Neverending Election Draws Questions
About Electoral Process, Constitution," WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/11/00


Myth 12: Nixon Didn't Fight in 1960
It's a Myth That Nixon Acquiesced in 1960

The Fallacy of Nixon's Graceful Exit

Was Nixon Robbed? (October 16 article)

Senate History Interview (1987): The "Good Old Days" Were Not

“Illinois Republicans Lose,”  New York Times, Dec. 13, 1960, p. 23.
“Texas Recount Denied,” New York Times, Dec. 13, 1960, p. 23.

Myth 13: Republican Absentee Advantage
Texas Air National Guard

See also:
London Sunday Times, June 18, 2000, "Bush flies into an air force cocaine
cloud," online at

[This flyer was prepared with lots of help from Paul Rosenberg.
This is version "4A".  Thanks also to Dan Kohn, Mark Sobel,
Susan Yabis, Mark Graffis, B.K. Delong, subscribers to the Red
Rock Eater News Service and the electronic mail discussion
[log in to unmask], and the Yale Law School
Student Campaign for a Legal Election, 127 Wall Street New Haven,
CT 06511 -- [log in to unmask]]

Organizers' Collaborative      PO Box 400897, Cambridge MA  02140
[log in to unmask]               

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