2000 Florida general election

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In the 2000 presidential election, Florida was the pivotal swing state. On election night, George W. Bush won by a razor-thin margin, prompting Al Gore to call for a recount. The recount battle dragged on for a month before it was halted by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, awarding the election to Bush. But while the recount was fought over "hanging chads", several other electoral issues lurked beneath the surface.

Exit polls

The VNS exit poll for 2000 Florida gave Al Gore a 6.6% lead. It was significant enough for VNS to call the state for Gore. However, the vote counts turned out significantly different from the exit poll. Bush managed to take the lead on election night, prompting VNS to withdraw their call. Erroneous electronic results then inflated Bush's total and made VNS call Florida for Bush. After VNS corrected the error, they withdrew that call, and Bush's lead started precipitously dropping as more Democratic counties came in. His lead finally reached less than 2000 votes, a virtual tie. Recounts would narrow the margin further.

VNS's exit poll was sufficiently outside the margin of error to make the call for Gore. This makes such a large discrepancy all the more strange. Several reasons were suggested by VNS. One was an issue in their absentee model, but this would only cause about a 2.5% discrepancy (even assuming correct official results):

From the VNS report: "The model had estimated the size of the absentee vote at 7.2 percent. In fact, it turned out to be 12 percent of the total Florida vote. The model also assumed that the absentees would be 22.4 points more Republican than Election Day voters. They turned out to be 23.7 points more Republican"


Let x = Bush election day %
    y = Gore election day %


EP_G = (y * 0.928) + ((y - 0.224) * 0.072)
     = (y * 0.928) + (y * 0.072) - (0.224 * 0.072)
     = y - 0.016128

VC_G = (y * 0.88) + ((y - 0.237) * 0.12)
     = y - (0.237 * 0.12)
     = y - 0.02844

VC_G - EP_G = -0.012312


Bush would have a corresponding shift in the other direction

Total margin change: 2.46%

Two other problems with the exit poll were also suggested: discrepancies between the exit poll results and the tabulated vote inside each precinct (often known as "within precinct error" or WPE) and biased precincts not representative of the statewide results. When official vote totals from the first 6 (out of 45) sample precincts came in, it appeared that exit polls underestimated Gore's lead by 1.7%, but at the end of the night, it turned out that average WPE was 2.8% in favor of Gore, concentrated in Miami and Tampa. WPE was said to be "within the normal range" to be caused by "interviewing problems", but only barely. No evidence was presented that interviewing problems were in fact the cause of the WPE. Even ignoring errors within precincts, though, the VNS report claimed that using official vote totals in the sample precincts overestimated Gore's statewide results. That would imply the sample of precincts was biased towards Gore. However, this bias was not quantified in the report, leaving it unclear whether sample bias was a significant factor. As it is customary for exit poll samples to be designed based on previous election results, and gubernatorial winner Jeb Bush outperformed the 1998 exit poll, one would expect the precincts to be tilted more Republican if anything.[1]

Certain exit polling errors might have occurred, but they are weak or unproven. Some of the proposed explanations, like a flawed absentee model and sample bias, rely entirely on the accuracy of official vote counts. There is a good chance that exit polling error does not fully explain the 6.6% red shift to Bush in the vote count. Especially given all of the known election irregularities in Florida, the red shift is likely at least a partial indicator of election fraud. This would make 2000 Florida one of the first elections to exhibit the red shift that would become so pervasive in the 21st century.

Issues

Voter purging

[Katherine Harris hired Database Technologies (DBT), a firm founded by cocaine smuggler and possible CIA asset Hank Asher, to provide a list of felons to be purged from Florida's voter rolls. Most counties used this list, which was heavily flawed and led to the disenfranchisement of thousands of people who were not felons. The list was very much racially-based, with blacks making up 44% of alleged felons, even though they only comprised 11% of Florida's registered voters.]

[2][3][4][5]

Uncounted ballots

[6][7]

Electronic vote rigging

AccuVote OS miscounts

Most political observers watching the 2000 Florida election were focused on punch cards, not electronic voting machines. But Florida did have several counties using optical scanners in 2000. Many of them were made by Global Election Systems, the precursor to Premier/Diebold. And these scanners produced multiple purported errors on election night, all in Bush's favor.

When a Volusia County precinct with only 600 voters was added to the totals, Gore's total mysteriously dropped by about 16000 votes, while Bush picked up nearly the same amount. The reason for this was a memory card for that precinct that strangely contained -16022 votes for Al Gore (a negative vote count), along with positive votes for Bush and several minor-party candidates.

The precinct initially had a memory card uploaded with the correct results. One hour later, however, somebody put in a second memory card for that same precinct. This second memory card replaced the original results and dropped Al Gore's total. VNS called the election for Bush because of this, and Gore was about to concede. Luckily, a Volusia County official discovered the issue and reloaded the first memory card, which contained the correct results. A campaign staffer stopped Al Gore right before he was set to give his concession speech.

Global Election Systems was asked by a Volusia official, Lana Hires, for an explanation. The engineers suggested that a faulty memory card or glitch might have caused the error, which makes little sense. This issue was fixed by reloading the first memory card, meaning the first card was correct, and there was never any reason to load a second one. Someone intentionally created a fraudulent memory card with -16022 Gore votes and loaded it into the central tabulator. A Global employee did bring up this possibility, suggesting that the card from from an "un-authorised source". Despite mainstream press outlets such as the Washington Post labeling the incident as the "Volusia error", attempted election fraud is the only sensible explanation for what transpired in Volusia County.

Volusia County was not the only place in Florida to suffer from this. Brevard County, which also used AccuVote optical scanners from Global, had another "error" that took away 4000 Gore votes. While the specific details are not known, it is plausible that electronic vote tampering was the cause of the miscount in Brevard as well.[8]

And these are just two incredibly visible cases. Nobody knows the full extent of electronic manipulation. If one or two memory cards could have been forged to change the results, the same thing could have happened across Florida. Adding negative Gore votes was careless and easy to spot, but more subtle alterations might not have been questioned. In fact, these obvious errors might have prevented an inquiry into potentially hundreds of smaller vote thefts that occurred.

Volusia and Brevard counties would both be part of Florida house speaker Tom Feeney's congressional district when he won election to the US House in 2002. Feeney gained attention during the 2000 recount controversy for saying that Florida's electoral votes would be awarded to Bush no matter how the recount turned out. He was later accused by Clint Curtis of requesting prototype vote rigging software from a software company that he represented, Yang Enterprises.

Recount

Brooks Brothers riot

Florida Supreme Court appeals

SCOTUS decision

Aftermath

References

  1. CBS News, "CBS NEWS COVERAGE OF ELECTION NIGHT 2000: Investigation, Analysis, Recommendations", 2001/01 - gives the 2000 Florida exit poll numbers from election night (i.e. "unadjusted")
  2. Greg Palast, "Florida’s flawed “voter-cleansing” program", 2000/12/04 - analyzing the "felon" purge
  3. Greg Palast, "A blacklist burning for Bush", 2000/12/10 - more by Greg Palast about what voters were purged and by whom
  4. The Nation, "How the 2000 Election in Florida Led to a New Wave of Voter Disenfranchisement", 2015/07/28 - civil rights impact of the voter purge
  5. Washington Post, "Rights Commission's Report on Florida Election", 2001/06/05 - U.S. Commission on Civil Rights draft report on the 2000 FL voter purges
  6. The Guardian, "Florida 'recounts' make Gore winner", 2001/01/28
  7. Sharman Braff, "The Florida Overvote: Tragic Mistake, or Katharine Harris with Tweezers?", 2001
  8. Alastair Thompson, "Diebold Memos Disclose Florida 2000 E-Voting Fraud", 2003/10/23 - evidence of fraud in Volusia County and potentially elsewhere

External links