The Green Papers Commentary

Florida's voting troubles put Election 2000 on hold

Friday, November 10, 2000

"The Green Papers" Staff

God looks after fools, drunkards and the United States of America
- well-worn 19th century epigram

The Framers of the Constitution of the United States believed in Providence- no, not the capital of Rhode Island or the popular television program the plots of which take place in that city; rather, as the dictionary defines it- "the foreseeing care and guidance of God". The Framers better have had, for not much else is going to get us through all THIS mess!

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just had the first truly botched Presidential Election in American History; those of you reading this very Commentary- whether here in the United States or abroad- are witnesses to something truly historic, a truly unprecedented event: that's not just hype, it's fact! Early in the evening of the Election, as the first returns were coming in and none of us yet had any idea what we were in for, comparisons were made, by the various and sundry pundits and other talking heads, to the Election of 1960- the very close race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. With the first indications of the mess in Florida and the necessity for a recount in that State combined with wrongfully filled out ballots in at least one County in that State, comparisons were being made to the "Disputed Election" of 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden (if the reader would like some detail on this election, please go to the URL

Folks, there IS no comparison now! 1876 was the result of massive fraud- mixed with more than a little violence- in three "reconstructed" states of the old Confederacy, into the mix of which was thrown a relatively minor dispute over an elector from Oregon (how ironic, then, that one of the 3 ex-Confederate States involved in the 1876 mess was Florida and that the only other State yet to be called as the Florida mess unfolded in the wee hours of Election Night was Oregon!); the issue of the then-recently freed African-American ex-slaves in the Deep South was deeply involved in the reasons behind the 1876 dispute. By comparison, Election 2000 is the result of quite a bit of old-fashioned stupidity followed by a rather large amount of silliness.

Both the Bush campaign people and the Gore campaign people tell us incessantly (and I find it all so interesting that both sides are engaged in still "spinning" events as they were during the course of the campaign: guys, no one's going to VOTE anymore! Election 2000 is OVER!! Who the hell are you trying to impress?!) how much they want the outcome of this Election to be "fair": "fairness" is invoked so often, I would simply like to throw up; they should have thought about "fairness" before Tuesday 7 November. It is a fact that thousands (though the exact number be in dispute) of people in Palm Beach County voted for someone other than the candidate they had wished to vote for; the conventional wisdom is, given the political demographics of that county and the persons making most of the complaints, that the bulk of these would have been Gore voters. It is rather obvious that- in an election in which the Bush lead shrank from 1,784 at the end of the original raw tally in Florida in the wake of Tuesday's voting down to 327 at the end of a preliminary recount early this morning (though I suspect the remaining so-called "overseas" absentee ballots yet to come in will trend toward Bush and push his final margin back up a bit)- these Gore votes in Palm Beach County would have given Vice President Gore Florida and, with it, the Presidency.

Is it fair for George W. Bush to be denied the Presidency when the votes- as cast- gave him the plurality of the vote for President in the State of Florida? Hardly. But, by the same token, is it fair to discount the fact that, were it not for mistakes made by voters due to a confusing ballot, Al Gore would be President-elect?- that is, is it fair that Governor Bush can claim the Presidency based on the final disposition of the Electoral Vote from a State in which such a thing took place? Not at all. The two sides- which have been whining this entire Election 2000 campaign, going back to even before the first Caucuses in Iowa and first Primary in New Hampshire some nine months or so ago and which have been sniping at each other like chained dogs in two adjacent junkyards since each man clinched his respective Party's nomination this past Spring- should, frankly, keep their mouths shut about "fairness" because this year's Presidential Election can now no longer even BE fair.

Whoever ultimately wins this test of wills between the titans (and "The Green Papers" presumes it will be Governor Bush- I'll explain in a moment) will come to Washington with a tainted Administration, an air of illegitimacy. Yes, he'll have the power of the Presidency the U.S. Constitution and Election Law of Florida will eventually spit out to him: but fully half of those who voted in this Election for one of the two major Party candidates (those who voted for the final loser in the Electoral College) will not see the new President as having gotten into the White House through the ordinary means of the democratic process. Put this together with a basically split Congress, in which the Senate might very well be tied between the major Parties and the House just barely Republican, and you have a very difficult situation in which the new President will have to govern- or, more likely, attempt to govern. The more involved- let alone the more controversial- portions of the winner's policy package, as presented to the American People in the course of the Fall campaign, basically go right out the window! Nothing significant is going to be passed in this atmosphere.

And speaking of "this atmosphere", both Governor Bush and Vice President Gore argued- throughout their campaign against each other- about each of them being the one best equipped to end the edgy inability to compromise (the buzz word for which is, nowadays, "partisanship") which currently permeates the Federal Government; what was that phrase the Texas Governor used? "a uniter, not a divider"?? But unity in Washington is going to be mighty hard to come by after THIS election is finally resolved!

Now a word about our site's projection of Governor Bush as the apparent victor in Florida (and, therefore, the next President of the United States); quite a few people e-mailed me about this and some even saw "bias" on our parts in favor of the Texas Governor simply because of a mere projection. Here is an explanation:

What one sees on our graph on the home page of this site is in the nature of an Election Night projection- no different in degree or kind from those seen in the mainstream media as the returns came in during the course of Election Night. Our calling FLORIDA for Bush is just such a projection: it is our opinion (based on reasoning out the most likely scenario of how this Election will ultimately be resolved) that, when the official vote is certified by the Florida Secretary of State after all the recounts and the counting of the remaining overseas absentee ballots are completed, Vice President Gore will not have made up enough of the difference to overtake Governor Bush and, therefore, the Texas Republican will be certified the winner of the recounts when all is completed some time shortly after 17 November. Under Florida law, he will be then be considered to have won the State and its 25 electors (which gives him 271 so far and, since that is 1 more than the 270 needed to elect a President under our Constitution, he will therefore be presumed to be President-elect pending the votes of the Electors come 18 December and the tabulation of the Electoral Vote before Congress early next January).

Now, I know what some of you out there reading this are thinking: what about all the potential legal challenges the Democrats can bring relative to the outcome in Florida? First of all, these will- technically- be legal challenges to the official result of the recounts (note that, for example, Palm Beach County- in its recount- did not include the approximately 19,200 ballots invalidated in that county which are the subject of so much controversy: the recounts have nothing at all to do with the court cases being filed which will attempt to make sure that Gore voters who may have accidentally voted for someone else have their votes counted for the Vice President). Secondly, what is the legal remedy being sought by those bringing these lawsuits in Palm Beach County? To allow some- if not all- of the voters in Palm Beach County to vote again for those they had wanted to vote for in the first place.

Here we come to the next part of our projection in favor of Governor Bush: it is our opinion that, based on past judicial practice, the state courts in Florida- as well as judges on the the Federal bench in Florida and in the appellate courts above- will not, in the end, permit a re-vote in Palm Beach County. Courts generally stay away from what are known as "political questions" (a legal term of art for any issue brought before the court which a judge might rule is better handled outside the courts: by the legislature, the executive, the recounting of an election [as opposed to holding a new election] or even the pressure of public opinion on non-judicial institutions of government): even if a judge of a court of general trial jurisdiction (state or Federal) were to order such a re-vote, we at "The Green Papers" feel such a ruling would be overturned on appeal somewhere along the line. If so, the certified recount in Florida would then stand and our projection, again, is that this will give the State and the Presidency to Governor Bush.

Finally, projecting Florida now is an odd call because we have to also take into account the future actions of Vice President Gore: it is our opinion that, at some point- and sooner rather than later, Vice President Gore will- however reluctantly- concede to the Texas Governor, if only if not to drag this whole thing on into the time when the Electors meet next month or- even worse!- perilously close to Inauguration Day come 20 January (which is a date mandated by the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and cannot be pushed back, unlike the date of the meeting of the Electors which is statutory and could be pushed back by a "one-time only" statute passed by both houses of the current Congress [who are coming back into so-called "lame duck" session anyway] and signed into law by President Clinton). All in all, this added up to our feeling that, absent something really bizarre that topples all our reasoning above, Florida will eventually go to Governor Bush: if we're wrong, we can always- of course- change our current projection for Florida (like that's never happened before this past week!)

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