The Free Congress Commentary:
By Thomas L. Jipping
The Miami Herald has reported that.... George W. Bush won the Presidential election. No one, of course, was wondering about that or had put vacation plans on hold awaiting the outcome. And those who continue publicly to question the legitimacy of President Bush's election do so not because the law was not followed or the outcome was in doubt, but because policies they don't like are simply illegitimate.
Just when you thought it was safe to talk about politics again, let me refresh our collective memory of the facts. After George Bush won the election-night machine count and the automatic recount, the Gore forces asked for a manual recount in four heavily Democratic Counties. They hoped that by manipulating standards and interpreting hanging chads and pinpricks, they could produce votes on ballots that did not contain any.
Volusia County completed its manual recount within the week allowed by state law. Broward County completed its manual recount within the extra time ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. Palm Beach County got most of its manual recount finished by that court-imposed deadline. And Miami-Dade County decided not to conduct its manual recount after all. Standards differed from one county to the next, a fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately said violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. Because the Gore lawyers litigated so much, however, they simply ran out of time to fix the problem.
So the question has remained - what would have been the outcome had those manual recounts all been completed? Democrats have long said, for example, that Al Gore would gain at least 600 votes in Miami-Dade County, more than enough to erase Bush's final 537-vote margin of victory. Since election day, various organizations have conducted their own search for the answer. They are able to do so under Florida's so-called open government laws since ballots are public records.
The most important thing to emphasize is that these counts are less reliable than the original ones. The ballots being examined here are called "undervotes," those ballots the counting machines could not count because they did not contain or exhibit a clear vote. The chad, or piece of paper the voter was required to remove, was only dented or partially punched. These ballots, many with these tiny chads dangling from one or two corners, have already been handled several times by machines and county election workers. While certainly that's more than enough to dislodge partially connected chads, it is also more than enough to punch out a chad that had not been touched at all by a voter on election day. That's right, many of the ballots that now appear to contain votes and even fully punched chads did not contain those votes on election night.
We all saw on the evening news how hundreds of chads were found on the counting room floor. This means that hundreds of ballots that once did not exhibit a vote now did, not because someone cast that vote but because repeated handling of paper ballots and tiny chads created them. There's no way these ballots are in the same condition as they were on election night. But unless they are, unless what is being counted this time is the same thing as was counted last time and the time before that, each of these counts is essentially different.
Not a single news report about these continuing counts, however, even suggest this problem. They all report the results of this latest count as if what was being counted was the same thing as was counted before, but it's not.
Even so, three news organizations joined up to ask an independent accounting firm to count the undervotes in Miami-Dade County. Wouldn't you know it, even under the most liberal standard which turned the slightest dimple or pinprick into a vote, Gore gained just 49 votes. So even through all the counts and recounts, repeated manipulation of standards and ballots, the four counties Gore challenged as his best hope of finding more votes simply did not do the job. Yes, Bush won the election.
Republicans should not trumpet this as conclusive "proof" of Bush's election, though, because an illegitimate count is not made legitimate because you like the results. Since there was no fraud anywhere in the state of Florida, no recount has been more accurate or legitimate than the one prescribed by Florida, the original count and recount that tallied the same ballots, in their freshest condition, the same way using the same standards. No recount since then is more accurate or more legitimate, including ones that tomorrow might give Bush an even greater lead.
By the way, the story about these results made major newspapers including USA Today, Detroit News, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, and Houston Chronicle, and electronic news organizations such as CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, and ABC. Yet the New York Times, while claiming it includes "all the news that's fit to print," included not a single word in today's paper. Don't worry, it's not because they thought, as I do, that the original results were the most accurate. They just like these results even less.
Thomas L. Jipping is Vice-President for Legal Policy at the Free Congress Foundation. His WorldNetDaily column appears on Thursdays.