RECOUNT COULDN’T ELECT GORE

Reed Irvine
Chairman, Accuracy in Media

March 1, 2001


To borrow a phrase from Dan Rather, you can take it to the bank that CBS, NBC and ABC would have led their evening news shows on Feb. 25 with reports on the results of the Miami Herald/USA Today recount of the votes for president in Miami-Dade County IF it had shown that Gore got enough votes to win Florida. The New York Times and the Washington Post would have put it on page one. Editorials and columns would have cited it as proof that the wicked Bush people and the partisan U.S. Supreme Court had stolen the election from Al Gore.

We were spared all that because the recount showed that Gore picked up only 49 addi-tional votes in Miami-Dade. He needed 930 more votes to just draw even with Bush when the hand recounts began. When the Miami-Dade canvassing board voted not to proceed after a manual recount in 20 percent of its precincts had produced a net gain of 157 votes for Gore, the Democrats spread the story that a Republican mob had intimidated the canvassing board, forcing it to call a halt because Gore was sure to pick up enough votes to win if the remaining 80 percent of the precincts were counted.

There had been no intimidating mob. There were a number of young Republicans who noisily protested the fact that they were being barred from observing the recount. The board explained that it had decided not to proceed because it had taken them four days to recount 20 percent of the precincts and they did not believe they could complete the count in the four days remaining. The precincts already counted were predominantly Democratic, and as the Herald/USA Today recount has shown, it was not realistic to assume that Gore's net gain in those precincts would be replicated in the rest of the county.

There were 10,646 ballots in Miami-Dade that had shown no vote for any Presidential candidate when counted by machine. There were over 60,000 of these "undervotes" in all of Florida, 28,000 of them in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The Gore campaign believed these three counties, whose canvassing boards were controlled by Democrats, would easily find enough Gore votes in their large undervote pools to overcome Bush's narrow lead. They requested manual recounts there and in Volusia County, where there had been a major anomaly in the vote count. The Broward canvassing board managed to give Gore a net-gain of 567 votes from its pool of 6,716 undervotes.

Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, with over 10,500 undervotes each, were expected to help Gore as much as Broward, but in Palm Beach his net gain was only 215 votes. If they had not been submitted too late to be counted and if the Miami recount had been completed with the same results produced by the two newspaper recounts, first the Palm Beach Post and then by the Miami Herald and USA Today, Gore would have lost by 99 to 142 votes.

The Palm Beach Post manual recount of Miami-Dade produced a net gain for Bush of six votes. It got less attention than the Miami Herald/USA Today project which covers the whole state and is being conducted by the national accounting firm of BDO Seidman. As of March 1, they had examined the undervotes in all but two of Florida's 67 counties, but the totals will not be made public until all 67 are completed.

Maybe the votes needed to justify the claim that Gore really won Florida will be found in the other counties, but Mark Seidel, the Miami Herald city editor who supervised the project, says that the Miami-Dade results show that Bush would have won if manual recounts had been completed and the results counted in the four counties targeted by Gore. Millions of disappointed Democrats must come to grips with the fact that the evidence is now in: Bush won legitimately. The news media should report the evidence.

NBC 's Nightly News ignored it. CBS and ABC gave it 30 seconds. Dan Rather used his time to cast doubt on the integrity and significance of the recount. He said the "study" by "what are called independent accountants" "suggests" that Gore "still might have lost the election" if the hand count had been completed in Miami. ABC was brief, but straightforward. Fox News and CNN provided good coverage, as did the Miami Herald, USA Today and the Washington Times. The New York Times and Washington Post, which are backing a rival recount, relegated the story to the inside pages. Terry McAuliffe, the Clintonoid chairman of the Democratic National Committee, still insists that the election was stolen.

Reed Irvine can be reached at ri@aim.org


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