In the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, November 8, 2000, Vice President Al Gore led George W. Bush in the electoral count, 266 to 246. The only state too close to call was Florida. If Gore could capture Florida’s 25 electoral votes he would finish with 291votes, 21 more than was needed to win the presidency. On the other hand, if Bush could maintain his slim lead in the Florida popular vote, he would win the presidency with just 271 electoral votes, one more than the required 270.
Earlier that evening, as the polls closed at 7:00 PM everywhere in Florida, except for the heavily Republican Panhandle, that part of Florida extending into the Central Time Zone, the network anchors went to work on Gore’s behalf.
As Karl Rove recalls in his book, Courage and Consequence, just two minutes after the polls closed all along the eastern seaboard, CNN’s Bernard Shaw announced that his inability to call Ohio and West Virginia was “bad news for Republicans.” Rove quotes Shaw as saying that Bush’s inability to capture West Virginia was “a marvel.” Before the night was over, Bush had carried Ohio by 3.5 points and West Virginia by 6.3 points.
Rove recalls that, “At 7:48 PM, with polls still open in the Florida Panhandle, NBC became the first network to project that Gore had won Florida.” Two minutes later, at 7:50 PM, CNN’s Judy Woodruff proclaimed, “A big call to make. CNN announces that we call Florida in the Al Gore column.” Bernard Shaw chimed in, gleefully, saying, “Can you think of the agony and the anguish unfurling in the Bush camp and the Bush family?”
One by one, the networks called Gore the winner in Florida. Under the circumstances, many Bush voters in the western counties didn’t bother to vote, even though the polls in those counties were still open. Many simply turned around and went back home.
As Rove recalls the events of the evening and early morning, after enjoying a 51,000 vote lead at 2:08 AM, Bush’s lead fell to 39,600 by 2:48 AM when Valusia County discovered a 20,000 vote error in Bush’s totals. It was then that Gore telephoned Bush a second time to retract his earlier concession. At 3:00 AM the lead fell to 11,000 votes as final returns from Palm Beach County were reported. By 3:10 AM the lead was down to 10,000, by 3:40 AM it was down to 6,000, and by 3:47 AM it was down to less than 2,000. By 4:15 AM, when all of the counties had reported, Bush’s lead stood at just 1,784 votes out of a total vote of 5.8 million.
Because of the closeness of the race, the Florida recount slowly descended into chaos. For weeks afterward, the American people sat glued to their television sets as Florida’s county and precinct canvassers could be seen inspecting “butterfly” ballots, checking to see if the now-famous “chads” were dimpled, dangling, or completely punched through, while Gore’s high-priced lawyers urged the Democrat-dominated Florida Supreme Court to order recounts in just four of Florida’s most heavily Democratic counties. Had they been allowed to proceed with that plan the election would have been over. History tells us that once Democrats get their hands on the ballot boxes in a recount, they rarely lose.
But it was the drama taking place behind the scenes, in the darker recesses of American politics where Democrats do what they do best, that was most appalling to Republicans and to other fair-minded people. Realizing that military people normally vote heavily Republican, Democratic election law attorney, Mark Herron, distributed a five-page letter to the Gore organization and to Democratic organizations all across Florida, instructing them on the many ways that overseas military absentee ballots could be challenged. The letter was distributed on November 15 when Bush was still leading by a razor-thin margin of 300 votes.
As Herron indicated in his letter, State and Federal law provided for the counting of qualified overseas absentee ballots for up to ten days after the day of the election. However, he continued, “You are being asked to review these overseas absentee ballots to make a determination whether acceptance by the supervisor of elections and/or the county canvassing board is legal under Florida law. A challenge to these ballots must be made prior to the time that the ballot is removed from the mailing envelope…”
Herron instructed Florida Democrats and Gore campaign personnel to insure that: a) the voter affirmatively requested an absentee ballot, b) the ballot envelope was signed by the voter, c) the signature on the envelope matched the signature on the voter registration books, d) the ballot envelope was properly witnessed, e) the ballot envelopes contained an APO, FPO, or foreign postmark, and f) the voter had not already voted in person or by absentee ballot.
To be fair, Herron did provide the appropriate legal cautions. He concluded his instructions by quoting 18 USC 241, which states that if anyone conspires to “injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person… in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States… they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
Of course, the threat of a ten year stay in a federal penitentiary has never deterred Democrats in pursuit of fraudulent votes. Within days, overseas military absentee ballots were challenged by Democratic operatives all across Florida and more than 1,000 ballots were disallowed… most for lack of a postmark, and most containing votes for the Bush/Cheney ticket.
This in spite of Florida Administrative Code Title 1S-2.01(7), which stated, “With respect to the presidential preference primary and the general election, any absentee ballot cast for a federal office by an overseas elector which is postmarked or signed and dated (emphasis added) no later than the date of the Federal election shall be counted if received no later than 10 days from the date of the Federal election as long as such absentee ballot is otherwise proper.” (WorldNetDaily, November 29, 2000)
If the Democrats demonstrated anything that night, it is that they have no soul. There is no political act more despicable than to deny the right to vote to the best and brightest of our young people… those who are overseas, risking their lives, wearing the uniforms of the U.S. armed forces. But that’s what the Democrats did in Florida in 2000.
Of course, their strategy didn’t work. The people of Florida gave George W. Bush a small but clear majority and he went on to become President of the United States. One would think that Democrats would have at least suffered pangs of conscience for their attempt to disqualify the votes of overseas military personnel… but apparently not.
In October 2009, the Congress approved the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment (MOVE) Act, ensuring that members of our overseas military forces are aware of their voting rights and that they have every opportunity to register to vote and to have their absentee ballots cast and counted.
The impetus for the new law was a Senate Rules Committee study which showed that roughly one in four overseas military voters who requested absentee ballots did not have their votes counted in the 2008 General Election because they never received their ballots. The MOVE Act requires that every state send absentee ballots to overseas military voters no later than 45 days prior to an election so that time in transit will no longer be an issue.
However, in a July 28, 2010 Fox News story we learn that the Obama Justice Department is now urging the states to use waivers to avoid having to abide by provisions of the MOVE Act.
Former litigation attorney for the DOJ Voting Rights Section, Eric Eversole, is quoted as saying, “It is an absolute shame that the (Voting Rights) section appears to be spending more time finding ways to avoid the MOVE Act, rather than finding ways to ensure that military voters will have their votes counted.”
According to J. Christian Adams, another former litigator in the Voting Rights Section, “Everybody in Washington knows it doesn’t matter how good the law is, it comes down to who’s enforcing it.”
Both attorneys point out that the Department of Justice website makes absolutely no mention of the MOVE Act, but it does contain a detailed section devoted to instructing convicted felons on how to have their voting rights reinstated.
It is no secret that members of our military services, veterans, and retired military personnel vote heavily Republican. It is also no secret that the party of choice among prison inmates, convicted felons, and parolees is the Democrat Party. (Birds of a feather…?) As for me, I’ll take our guys and they can have theirs. In the meantime, let’s let Barack Obama and Eric Holder know that it’s time they started enforcing the laws, ALL the laws, that are on the books.