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How Bush Lost Florida But Won
In The Supreme Court And The Media

by jerry politex,

Ever since Bush was selected by the Supreme Court by a vote of 5-4 to take over the U.S. presidency, the Dems have said that a fair and thorough recounting of the Florida vote would prove that Gore won. While the jury is still out on whether the reported Consortium recount, published late Sunday November 11, was fair and thorough, let's assume that it was. What does it tell us? It tells us that Gore won the Florida electoral vote, the U.S. Supreme Court took the presidency away from him, and the media is wrong in reporting otherwise. Here's how Bush lost Florida.

First, it is an established fact that Gore beat Bush in the national popular vote by over a half million votes. Secondly, Consortium interpretations of the voting data conclude that thousands more people voted for Gore in Florida than Bush. The problem for Gore is that many more votes in his favor, such as the Palm Beach butterfly votes, were declared invalid than similar votes for Bush. Third, discounting such unretrievable invalid votes, Consortium interpretations, which allow only fully-punched ballot cards and correctly marked optical scaned ballots, conclude that Gore still beat Bush in a statewide recount in Florida by a thin margin of over 100 votes. Which brings us back to the Supreme Court decision.

In its Dec. 12 decision the Supreme Court indicated that its conclusions were based upon equal protection law, and decided that in order to have equal voter protection in Florida the entire state should be recounted. However, even though there were weeks left for such a recount prior to the formal reception of the states' electoral college votes in Congress, the court decided that there wasn't enough time for such a recount, so five of nine members of the court decided, along party lines, to select Bush as the winner in Florida. The Consortium data indicates that they were wrong to think that Bush had won the popular vote in Florida. At any rate, in its Dec. 12 decision the Court made clear that if it hadn't selected Bush, its fallback decision would have been to call for a statewide election, since it considered the case to be a matter of equal rights. It further indicated that not taking a position on the matter was not an option.

Strangely, not one media member of the Consortium has reached the conclusion that if the Supreme Court had not selected Bush, Gore would have won the election by a Florida recount. Instead, in every instance of Consortium reporting, the big headlines say the data shows Bush won with more "valid votes," that he won because of the partial recount mandated by the Florida Supreme Court, or that he won because he would have had more votes than Gore under Gore's recount request. Buried in some of the stories are the six ways that Gore could have won. However, all of these suppositions are moot.

The unvarnished fact is that the U.S. Supreme Court had the final say on the election, not the Consortium voting data, and, left with the choice of giving the election back to the people of Florida through a statewide recount or selecting Bush, they selected Bush. That's what makes the New York Times headline for the Consortium story particularly egregious: "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast The Deciding Vote." While the headline represents a badly needed attempt to restore credibility to the U.S. Supreme Court, it fails on the facts and it fails because the media cannot do what the Court, itself, has failed to do since its politicized decision in the case of Bush vs. Gore.

(c) copyright 2001. May be reprinted with attribution and link to

Everything the New York Times Thinks About the Florida Recount Is Wrong!
It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court really did cast the deciding vote ...
By Mickey Kaus
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2001, at 1:18 AM PT

Just when you thought the Florida recount story was settling down into a familiar bitter partisan dispute, the Orlando Sentinel has changed the story line again. The Sentinel, remember, was the paper that first uncovered the hidden cache of valid, uncounted "overvotes"—seemingly double-voted ballots that, as the massive media recount of Florida has now confirmed, were the key to a potential Gore victory, if only he had known it.

Gore instead focused on "undervotes," ballots that initially registered no vote at all. It has been widely assumed that the real-life, statewide recount of Florida votes that was ordered by the Florida Supreme Court a year ago—and then abruptly stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court—was also limited to undervotes. Certainly the Florida court's opinion focuses on undervotes.

But the Sentinel had the wit to call up Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, who was actually supervising the real-life recount on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped it. Lewis told the Sentinel that "he would not have ignored the overvote ballots."

Though he stopped short of saying he definitely would have expanded the recount to include overvotes, Lewis emphasized 'I'd be open to that.'

"If that had happened," the Sentinel notes, "it would have amounted to a statewide hand recount. And it could have given the election to Gore," since salvaging the valid overvotes turns out to have been "Gore's only path to victory." Lewis had apparently planned a hearing for later that Saturday, at which the overvote issue was going to be discussed.

Why is this significant? Because the comforting, widely publicized, Bush-ratifying spin given to the recent media recount by the New York Times(and the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post) has been that—as the Times' lede confidently put it—"George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward." [Emphasis added.] (The Times' front-page headline was "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote.")

We now know, thanks to the Sentinel, that this Times take (and the somewhat more hedged ledes in the Journal and Post) is thoroughly bogus—unfounded and inaccurate. If the recount had gone forward Judge Lewis might well have counted the overvotes in which case Gore might well have won. Certainly the Times doesn't know otherwise.

That Judge Lewis would probably have counted the overvotes at the perverse (in hindsight) urging of the Bush camp (which either wanted to delay the proceedings or erroneously thought the overvotes would boost Bush's total) doesn't alter this conclusion.

It looks as if the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court who stopped the Florida count cast the deciding vote after all.

P.S.: Does this mean Gore's undervote-obsessed recount strategy wasn't foolish, as previously charged in this space? Not necessarily. By the time the issue of the overvotes was raised before Judge Lewis, on Dec. 9, it was almost too late to count them before Dec. 12, the date accepted (foolishly!) by Gore's lawyers as the deadline for selecting Florida's electors. Any recount, even if it put Gore ahead, would have been chaotic and disputed, as this Sentinel companion story suggests. Had Gore instead asked for a full statewide recount immediately after the Nov. 7 election, as some of his aides urged, there would have been plenty of time to count both undervotes and overvotes before Dec. 12.

Background: Gore Wins Popular Vote By Over Half Million

Associated Press, December 22, 2000

"Vice President Gore won the nation's popular vote in the presidential election by more than 500,000 votes, according to official totals made available Thursday to The Associated Press. An AP survey of all 50 states' final election numbers showed that Democrat Gore led President-elect Bush, the former GOP governor of Texas, by 539,947 votes. Final numbers show Gore with 50,996,116 votes and Bush with 50,456,169. Bush won the White House by capturing 271 electoral votes, one more than the Constitution requires. The popular vote total includes all absentee ballots that were counted in the weeks following the Nov. 7 election."


1. Gore Won The National Popular Vote By Over A Half Million (AP)

2. More Florida Voters Voted For Gore Than For Bush (SPT, CT)

3. The Supreme Court Selected Bush, 5-4. (Supreme Court)

4. The Supreme Court's Alternate Plan Was To Recount All Florida Votes. (Supreme Court)

5. A Recount Of All Florida Votes Would Have Gore Winning By Over 100 Votes. (NYT, WP)

As you read the Consortium membership comments (below the Parry summary story) on the Florida presidential election of 2000, please keep in mind that Bush was selected to be president by a U.S. Supreme Court vote of 5-4. If the Supreme Court had not decided to take such a vote, it indicated that neither the Bush solution to accept the State of Florida's count nor the Gore solution to recount four counties would be acceptable. Nor would the Florida Supreme Court's solution to recount 43,000 ballots be acceptable. Rather, the entire state of Florida would have to be recounted, the Supreme Court said. (Supreme Court summary ("equal protection") and decision here.) That scenario would have Gore winning by over 100 votes, based upon the recount by the Consortium. --Politex, 11/12/01

Foreground: Gore's Victory

By Robert Parry
November 12, 2001

So Al Gore was the choice of Florida’s voters -- whether one counts hanging chads or dimpled chads. That was the core finding of the eight news organizations that conducted a review of disputed Florida ballots. By any chad measure, Gore won.

Gore won even if one doesn’t count the 15,000-25,000 votes that USA Today estimated Gore lost because of illegally designed “butterfly ballots,” or the hundreds of predominantly African-American voters who were falsely identified by the state as felons and turned away from the polls.

Gore won even if there’s no adjustment for George W. Bush’s windfall of about 290 votes from improperly counted military absentee ballots where lax standards were applied to Republican counties and strict standards to Democratic ones, a violation of fairness reported earlier by the Washington Post and the New York Times. 

Put differently, George W. Bush was not the choice of Florida’s voters anymore than he was the choice of the American people who cast a half million more ballots for Gore than Bush nationwide. [For more details on studies of the election, see stories of May 12, June 2 and July 16.]

The Spin

Yet, possibly for reasons of “patriotism” in this time of crisis, the news organizations that financed the Florida ballot study structured their stories on the ballot review to indicate that Bush was the legitimate winner, with headlines such as “Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush” [Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2001].

Post media critic Howard Kurtz took the spin one cycle further with a story headlined, “George W. Bush, Now More Than Ever,” in which Kurtz ridiculed as “conspiracy theorists” those who thought Gore had won.

“The conspiracy theorists have been out in force, convinced that the media were covering up the Florida election results to protect President Bush,” Kurtz wrote. “That gets put to rest today, with the finding by eight news organizations that Bush would have beaten Gore under both of the recount plans being considered at the time.”

Kurtz also mocked those who believed that winning an election fairly, based on the will of the voters, was important in a democracy. “Now the question is: How many people still care about the election deadlock that last fall felt like the story of the century – and now faintly echoes like some distant Civil War battle?” he wrote.

In other words, the elite media’s judgment is in: "Bush won, get over it." Only "Gore partisans" – as both the Washington Post and the New York Times called critics of the official Florida election tallies – would insist on looking at the fine print.

The Actual Findings

While that was the tone of coverage in these leading news outlets, it’s still a bit jarring to go outside the articles and read the actual results of the statewide review of 175,010 disputed ballots.

“Full Review Favors Gore,” the Washington Post said in a box on page 10, showing that under all standards applied to the ballots, Gore came out on top. The New York Times' graphic revealed the same outcome.

Earlier, less comprehensive ballot studies by the Miami Herald and USA Today had found that Bush and Gore split the four categories of disputed ballots depending on what standard was applied to assessing the ballots – punched-through chads, hanging chads, etc. Bush won under two standards and Gore under two standards.

The new, fuller study found that Gore won regardless of which standard was applied and even when varying county judgments were factored in. Counting fully punched chads and limited marks on optical ballots, Gore won by 115 votes. With any dimple or optical mark, Gore won by 107 votes. With one corner of a chad detached or any optical mark, Gore won by 60 votes. Applying the standards set by each county, Gore won by 171 votes.

This core finding of Gore’s Florida victory in the unofficial ballot recount might surprise many readers who skimmed only the headlines and the top paragraphs of the articles. The headlines and leads highlighted hypothetical, partial recounts that supposedly favored Bush.

Buried deeper in the stories or referenced in subheads was the fact that the new recount determined that Gore was the winner statewide, even ignoring the “butterfly ballot” and other irregularities that cost him thousands of ballots.

The news organizations opted for the pro-Bush leads by focusing on two partial recounts that were proposed – but not completed – in the chaotic, often ugly environment of last November and December.

The new articles make much of Gore’s decision to seek recounts in only four counties and the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to examine only “undervotes,” those rejected by voting machines for supposedly lacking a presidential vote. A recurring undercurrent in the articles is that Gore was to blame for his defeat, even if he may have actually won the election.

"Mr. Gore might have eked out a victory if he had pursued in court a course like the one he publicly advocated when he called on the state to 'count all the votes,'" the New York Times wrote, with a clear suggestion that Gore was hypocritical as well as foolish.

The Washington Post recalled that Gore "did at one point call on Bush to join him in asking for a statewide recount" and accepting the results without further legal challenge, but that Bush rejected the proposal as "a public relations gesture."

The Bush Strategy

Instead of supporting a full and fair recount, Bush chose to cling to his official lead of 537 votes out of some 6 million cast, Bush counted on his brother Jeb’s state officials to ensure the Bush family’s return to national power.

To add some muscle to the legal maneuvering, the Bush campaign dispatched thugs to Florida to intimidate vote counters and jacked up the decibel level in the powerful conservative media, which accused Gore of trying to steal the election and labeled him "Sore Loserman."

With Bush rejecting a full recount and media pundits calling for Gore to concede, Gore opted for recounts in four southern Florida counties where irregularities seemed greatest. Those recounts were opposed by Bush’s supporters, both inside Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration and in the streets by Republican hooligans flown in from Washington. [For more details, see stories from Nov. 24, 2000 and Nov. 27, 2000]

Stymied on that recount front, Gore carried the fight to the state courts, where pro-Bush forces engaged in more delaying tactics, leaving the Florida Supreme Court only days to fashion a recount remedy.

Finally, on Dec. 8, facing an imminent deadline for submitting the presidential election returns, the state Supreme Court ordered a statewide recount of “undervotes.” This tally would have excluded so-called “overvotes” – which were kicked out for supposedly indicating two choices for president.

Bush fought this court-ordered recount, too, sending his lawyers to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, five Republican justices stopped the recount on Dec. 9 and gave a sympathetic hearing to Bush’s claim that the varying ballot standards in Florida violated constitutional equal-protection requirements.

At 10 p.m. on Dec. 12, two hours before a deadline to submit voting results, the Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court instructed the state courts to devise a recount method that would apply equal standards, a move that would have included all ballots where the intent of the voter was clear. The hitch was that the U.S. Supreme Court gave the state only two hours to complete this assignment, effectively handing Florida’s 25 electoral votes and the White House to Republican George W. Bush.

A Third Hypothetical

The articles about the new recount tallies make much of the two hypothetical cases in which Bush supposedly would have prevailed: the limited recounts of the four southern Florida counties – by 225 votes – and the state Supreme Court’s order – by 430 votes. Those hypothetical cases dominated the news stories, while Gore’s statewide-recount victory was played down.

Yet, the newspapers made little or nothing of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision represented a third hypothetical. Assuming that a brief extension were granted to permit a full-and-fair Florida recount, the U.S. Supreme Court decision might well have resulted in the same result that the news organizations discovered: a Gore victory.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s proposed standards mirrored the standards applied in the new recount of the disputed ballots. The Post buries this important fact in the 22nd paragraph of its story.

“Ironically, it was Bush’s lawyers who argued that recounting only the undervotes violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. And the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Dec. 12 ruling that ended the dispute, also questioned whether the Florida court should have limited a statewide recount only to undervotes,” the Post wrote. “Had the high court acted on that, and had there been enough time left for the Florida Supreme Court to require yet another statewide recount, Gore’s chances would have been dramatically improved.”

In other words, if the U.S. Supreme Court had given the state enough time to fashion a comprehensive remedy or if Bush had agreed to a full-and-fair recount earlier, the popular will of the American voters – both nationally and in Florida – might well have been respected. Al Gore might well have been inaugurated president of the United States.

Favored Outcome

But this outcome was not the favored hypothetical of the news organizations, which apparently wanted to avoid questions about their patriotism. If they had simply given the American people the unvarnished facts, the reality that the voters of Florida favored Al Gore might have bolstered the belief that Bush indeed did steal the White House. That, in turn, could have undermined his legitimacy during the current crisis over terrorism.

In its coverage of the latest recount numbers, the national news media also showed little regard for the fundamental principle of democracy: that leaders derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, not from legalistic tricks, physical intimidation and public-relations maneuvers.

It is that understanding that is most missing in the news accounts of the latest recount figures.

Presumably, the American people are supposed to accept that everything just turned out right – the Bush dynasty was restored to power, the proper order was back in place. Anyone who begs to differ is a “conspiracy theorist” or a “Gore partisan.”

Chicago Tribune, 11/12/01

"The most comprehensive study of the troubled presidential election in Florida shows the main culprits were simple and fixable: ballot design, inconsistent election rules and voter error. The yearlong review of the Florida election reveals that even if the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed a recount of ballots, there is no clear indication that Democrat Al Gore would have gained enough votes to triumph over Republican George W. Bush. A close examination of the ballots also suggests that more Floridians attempted to choose Gore over Bush. But more Gore supporters improperly marked their ballots, leaving Bush with more valid votes.

"The independent study offers an unprecedented look into the haphazard process of the making of a president, highlighting a fragmented system in 67 counties that invalidated thousands of votes and clouded the unprecedented legal odyssey to the White House. A consortium of eight news organizations, including the Tribune Co., commissioned the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to take the deepest look yet into the Florida ballot box, trying to determine why the state’s voting system broke down.

"A close examination of the ballots also suggests that more Floridians attempted to choose Gore over Bush. But more Gore supporters improperly marked their ballots, leaving Bush with more valid votes. The independent study offers an unprecedented look into the haphazard process of the making of a president, highlighting a fragmented system in 67 counties that invalidated thousands of votes and clouded the unprecedented legal odyssey to the White House."

Los Angeles Times, 11/12/01

"Bush Wins, Gore Wins-- Depends on How Ballots Are Added Up
Comprehensive study of uncounted Florida votes reveals mixed results.

"If the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed Florida's courts to finish their abortive recount of last year's deadlocked presidential election, President Bush probably still would have won by several hundred votes, a comprehensive study of the uncounted ballots has found.

"But if the recount had been held under new vote-counting rules that Florida and other states now are adopting-- rules aimed at recording the intentions of as many voters as possible-- Democratic candidate Al Gore probably would have won, although by an even thinner margin, the study found."

New York Times, 11/12/01

"A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.Contrary to what many partisans of former Vice President Al Gore have charged, the United States Supreme Court did not award an election to Mr. Bush that otherwise would have been won by Mr. Gore. A close examination of the ballots found that Mr. Bush would have retained a slender margin over Mr. Gore if the Florida court's order to recount more than 43,000 ballots had not been reversed by the United States Supreme Court. Even under the strategy that Mr. Gore pursued at the beginning of the Florida standoff — filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties — Mr. Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted for a consortium of news organizations.

"But the consortium, looking at a broader group of rejected ballots than those covered in the court decisions, 175,010 in all, found that Mr. Gore might have won if the courts had ordered a full statewide recount of all the rejected ballots. This also assumes that county canvassing boards would have reached the same conclusions about the disputed ballots that the consortium's independent observers did. The findings indicate that Mr. Gore might have eked out a victory if he had pursued in court a course like the one he publicly advocated when he called on the state to "count all the votes...."

Washington Post, 11/12/01

"In all likelihood, George W. Bush still would have won Florida and the presidency last year if either of two limited recounts – one requested by Al Gore, the other ordered by the Florida Supreme Court – had been completed, according to a study commissioned by The Washington Post and other news organizations.

"But if Gore had found a way to trigger a statewide recount of all disputed ballots, or if the courts had required it, the result likely would have been different. An examination of uncounted ballots throughout Florida found enough where voter intent was clear to give Gore the narrowest of margins...."

St. Petersberg Times, 11/12/01

Certified margin: Bush by 537 votes
Statewide recount margin: Bush by 493
Margin with overvotes: Gore by 107 votes.

George W. Bush would have won if counties continued the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 8. But another recount scenario puts Gore ahead....More than 2,100 Florida voters who wanted Al Gore to become president tried to make doubly sure of their choice. So did more than 1,300 voters who backed George W. Bush. They marked a ballot for their candidate and then wrote in his name for president, too. Or they circled the name, or tried to scratch out a mistake, or otherwise made a second mark to emphasize their choice.

"Those votes could have turned the election for Gore. But the extra emphasis ensured they wouldn't count. Instead, the ballots were labeled as overvotes, or ballots which machines read as having marks for more than one candidate and were never recounted by hand. Had election officials looked at them, the intent of these voters would have been abundantly clear...."

Associated Press, 11/12/01

"A vote-by-vote review of untallied ballots in the 2000 Florida presidential election indicates George W. Bush would have narrowly prevailed in the partial recounts sought by Al Gore (news - web sites), but Gore might have reversed the outcome - by the barest of margins - had he pursued and gained a complete statewide recount. Bush eventually won Florida, and thus the White House, by 537 votes out of more than 6 million cast. But questions about the uncounted votes lingered.

"The new data, compiled by The Associated Press and seven other news organizations, also suggested that Gore followed a legal strategy after Election Day that would have led to defeat even if it had not been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites). Gore sought a recount of a relatively small portion of the state's disputed ballots while the review indicates his only chance lay in a course he advocated publicly but did not pursue in court - a full statewide recount of all Florida's untallied votes."

CNN, 11/12/01

"A comprehensive study of the 2000 presidential election in Florida suggests that if the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed a statewide vote recount to proceed, Republican candidate George W. Bush would still have been elected president. On December 12, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Florida Supreme Court ruling ordering a full statewide hand recount of all undervotes not yet tallied. The U.S. Supreme Court action effectively ratified Florida election officials' determination that Bush won by a few hundred votes out of more than 6 million cast. In addition to undervotes, thousands of ballots in the Florida presidential election were invalidated because they had too many marks. This happened, for example, when a voter correctly marked a candidate and also wrote in that candidate's name. The consortium looked at what might have happened if a statewide recount had included these overvotes as well and found that Gore would have had a margin of fewer than 200 votes."

Palast Clarifies Gore Won Statements

posted at Bush Watch ( 10/22/01


On 15 February, for BBC TV, I reported that inside information from the news Consortium (National Opinion Research Center) showed Gore picking up about 20,000 votes.


1. Norc did not allow its workers to designate a ballot as 'Gore' or 'Bush.' Rather each of 5 workers independently described the physical ballot ('circled Gore and checked box; double-hanging chad etc.')

2. Because of this, no one, not even Norc, has a 'tally' of 'votes.'

3. Each member of the consortium may analyze the descriptive data as they wish.

4. As a result, it is unlikely they will come to any agreed conclusion as to their findings. 5. Norc reviewed 180,000 ballots uncounted by florida.

6. Based on a 'loose' interpretation of data as leaked to me, that is, based on voter intent regardless of marking errors, Gore would pick up about 20k votes. I reported that in February, and there's no reason to believe much has changed. But caution: this is leaked stuff and could be biased by the limit of data known to any one person.

7. Due to the excessive number of 'spoiled' ballots in minority counties, it's a no-brainer that the 180k uncounted ballots will showed more uncounted ‘Gore' votes (i.e. discernable intent to vote Gore.)

8. However, anyone who says they have Norc's final tabulation of who 'won' is off the wall- because Norc has made no such tabulation and will not.

9. I believe the consortium will eventually release data - and it will seem conflicting and useless. The Norc work was set up to fail, so the delay in its release means nothing.

10. As the chairwoman of the Civil Rights Commission said, it wasn't the count, but the 'no count,' the pre-vote disenfranchisement, which settled the election.

I hope that helps.
Greg Palast,
The Observer, London
Reporter for "What Really Happened in Florida" BBC Television

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