Florida 2000 Recount Revisited

In a previous journal entry, I cited a passage from a Newsday review of F9/11 that discussed the recount in the Florida presidential election in 2000 and its depiction in the movie. The upshot of the passage was that several major news outlets studied the issue and concluded that Gore would not have won under the recount scenarios he was seeking. In a comment, Rochelle pointed to a page at FAIR that took issue with the reporting of that story.

One aspect of the Florida voting mentioned neither in the Newsday piece (which was critical of Moore) nor in the FAIR piece was the question of the purge of voter rolls before the election by Data Base Technologies. F9/11 presents the purge essentially as part of Bush's election strategy:

Second, make sure the chairman of your campaign is also the vote count woman. And that her state has hired a company that's gonna knock voters off the roles who aren't likely to vote for you. You can usually tell 'em by the color of their skin. Then make sure your side fights like it's life or death. [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

As the Palm Beach Post and David Kopel (scroll down to "Deceit 4") point out, and as Moore's film fails to note, the purpose of the purge was to remove the names of convicted felons from the voting rolls. The Palm Beach Post claims that about 1,100 law-abiding voters were incorrectly identified as felons. However, the story also notes:

Skeptical of the [list of felons's] accuracy, elections supervisors in 20 counties (including Palm Beach) ignored it altogether, thereby allowing thousands of felons to vote.

Kopel points to a study on the voting patterns of felons:

When allowed to vote, felons vote approximately 69 percent Democratic, according to a study in the American Sociological Review. Therefore, if the thousands of felons in the non-purging 20 counties had not been illegally allowed to vote, it is likely that Bush's statewide margin would have been substantially larger.

Thus this aspect of the fallout from the botched purge (felons being allowed to vote in 20 counties) seems to cut against Bush. The Post story continues:

Since the election, the felon purge has become a public-relations nightmare for the state.

Civil rights groups saw it as a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise black voters: Blacks accounted for 44 percent of those removed from the rolls, though they make up only about 11 percent of Florida's voters.

The list was a major issue in post-election hearings before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and it's being challenged in an NAACP lawsuit.

But a review of state records, internal e-mails of DBT employees and testimony before the civil rights commission and an elections task force showed no evidence that minorities were specifically targeted.

Blacks make up nearly 49 percent of the felons convicted in the state, according to the FDLE, so any purge of felons would include a disproportionate number of blacks.

Records show that DBT told the state it would not use race as a criterion to identify felons. The list itself bears that out: More than 1,000 voters were matched with felons though they were of different races.

If indeed blacks account 49% of the target population of the purge (Florida felons), but they made up 44% of those wrongfully purged, then they were disenfranchised in disproportionately small numbers. That is of course exceedingly small comfort to those who were disenfranchised in the 2000 election, and I for one cannot in the least blame them for being well and truly pissed about it, whatever their politics. However, if this aspect of the Post story is true, it too cuts against Bush and not for him. It also shows Moore's suggestion that people were purged because of the color of their skin to be base demagoguery (as well as factually incorrect).

I still think it is difficult to know how the vote in Florida "would have turned out". What is the net effect of the pro-Gore disenfranchised, the pro-Bush disenfranchised, the wrongly-enfranchised (and ostensibly mostly pro-Gore) felons, and the questionable over- and undercounted ballots? I don't think that the FAIR piece gives a complete picture of the matter (it doesn't even address the question of the voter purge), though it does add some information to the recount scenario question. Based on what I have read so far, the notion that Bush stole the election seems to me rather hard to defend, whether or not you think he won. There were too many factors bearing on the election that were under no-one's conscious control to make that claim very plausible to me at least. I am, however, convinced more than ever that Michael Moore is a master of distortion and manipulation.


This type of second guessing is exactly what happens in close football games when there is some controversial play at the end. Everyone focuses on the controversy, but in reality an entire game was played, with mistakes on both sides that also could have affected the outcome.

There were a bunch of other states that were as close as Florida, and a bunch of states who had problems with the eligible voter lists. Florida was just the play at the end that everyone remembers. (And it doesn't help that Florida had problems with the felon list AGAIN!)

I totally agree it is difficult to know how the vote in Florida "would have turned out", and everyone who says "Bush stole the election" needs to stop. There's always next season!

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