By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Saturday, November 11: Still no President the adventure
If this were almost any other country in the world, troops would be
marching: "Jim Baker orders Bush Army to Washington. Dick Cheney sets up command
center." But there are no such concerns here. Win, lose or draw, the institution
will survive . . . and flourish.
Third world nations, former dictatorships, unstable and budding
democracies have fallen under a lot less confusion and indecision. Fictional candidates in
Hollywood-created banana republics seize such opportunities to grab power. And although
the rhetoric between the Bush and Gore camps is heating up, the most violent
confrontations we can anticipate will be a war of words and lawyers.
And maybe brains . . . .
Now, it is only Saturday this column hits the streets Thursday
and lots can change. But as it appears to this observer now, some smart
strategist/lawyer on the Gore team could have outthought the other guys and possibly made
the definitive move and win the Election. Let me explain.
To make matters worse, the ballot design for Palm Beach County seems to violate
Florida election regulations. Punch outs are supposed to be to the right of the
candidates name. The party receiving the second highest vote total in the last
gubernatorial race (The Democrats) are supposed to have the second ballot position.
Clearly, Al Gores name is second but you must use the third punch out to vote for
him since Pat Buchanans punch out is to the left (not right) of his name. Granted
the ballots were available before the election and there were no objections. However, some
19,000 double votes in Palm Beach County may be attributed to the legal fallacy in ballot
design. Should the voters there be deprived of participating in the election? The Courts
Im getting my info from the tube CNN, FNC,
MSNBC and the like the Saturday Times is way behind the curve. Things are
just happening so fast perhaps too fast for this column draft to survive the test
of a handful of days.
But here we sit Saturday evening and I have spotted what could be the
coup de grace of the war. Let me establish the timetable.
We knew (as if anything is for certain in this election) that the
winner of the popular vote in Florida would get the states 25 electoral votes and
have a majority of the Electoral College and become president. Now, all the other little
changes, challenges and threats are unlikely to have any real effect on the selection of
president only Florida.
Okay, weve established the battleground.
On Tuesday election night, the networks called Florida an early win for
Gore. Then reversed their call. Then it appeared to be in the Bush column and finally too
close to call. When the dust settled, Bush was reported up by 1,700+ votes. The Dems
demanded a recount under Florida Law and got it. Although the official announcement is
procedurally tied up, Bush won the recount by 300ish votes. That was last Thursday
Prior to the weekend, a batch of citizens filed lawsuits in Palm Beach
County, Florida. I say batch because that number has been reported from 5 to 9. The suits
seem to be initiated by Democrats, who claim the illegal printing of the ballot deprived
them of their right to have their votes counted properly.
The Bush folks decried the use of the courts to try to win the
election. Citing the statesmanlike nobility of Richard Nixon, they say allow the current
total to stand and maintain the integrity of the process. The people should decide, the
Bush folks said, not the courts.
Then, on Friday, I believe, the Gore guys asked for a hand recount in
three or four counties, as was their right under election law. Appropriate precincts were
selected and today (Saturday) hand recounting commenced.
Quickly to court flew Jim Baker and the Bush bunch. Stop the hand
count, they cried. Even though permitted by Florida election Law, Baker insisted machine
counting is better. Therefore, he asked the Federal Court to overturn Florida Law and
prohibit hand-counting. Now, the counties in which hand-counting was taking place were all
Democratic counties. And it was likely, that many votes not picked up by machine could be
counted by hand.
Our Florida election vocabulary
Chad: the thingy removed to make a hole in a punch card ballot,
a ballot munchkin.
Dimple: an indentation in the chad made by putting a stylus on
the chad but not punching - a pregnant chad.
Anomaly: an irregularity indicated by an aberration in voting patterns.
You see, with punch ballots (Palm
Beach County), sometimes the little thingy doesnt always fall through and remains
attached to the ballot. This "chad," as it is called, often prevents the machine
from recording the vote. But when the hand-counter holds the ballot card to the light, and
light passes around the punched hole of the partially removed chad, Florida Election
Commissioners decided that the will of the voter can be determined and therefore the vote
counted. There was an extended discussion of this issue but the Commissioners reached a
decision. You cant count it if the Chad is dimpled, only if the chad has been
disconnected enough to allow light to shine through a hanging chad. There are
canvassers from both parties present participating and agreeing on this process as
prescribed by law.
The canvassers were, under law, to review
precincts selected by the Dems, which amounted to 1% of the countywide vote. In Palm Beach
they selected four precincts to determine if a hand-recount would affect the outcome.
So now, it seems that the Gore guys may
have an advantage. The counties they selected because of (get this one)
"anomalies" (irregularities to us normal folk) in the process would likely
produce additional Democratic margins upon hand-count. So why didnt the Bush folks
identify Republican Counties with "anomalies?"
They missed the deadline. Yup, you gotta
ask for the hand-count within 72 hours and the Friday night deadline was past. So all that
was left for the Bush and Baker boys was to go to court to try to overturn the Florida
law. Hmm! Wonder what brother Jeb thinks?
So the guys who criticized the Gore group
for talking lawsuit, were the first into court and now are threatening additional court
action in other states. This is not a question of preserving the institution of the
presidency; this is a question of winning.
And as of this moment, Saturday night, the
best move in the presidential campaign has been the Democratic timing of their request for
a hand recount.
Now, five other factors deserve mentioning.
1) There is still a large batch of overseas
absentee ballots to be counted in Florida. They usually are predominantly military voters
and traditionally Republican. So even the holds are on hold while hand-counts, recounts
and courts run the process; there are still the overseas absentees to confound the
2) Brother Jeb. Yup, the Governor of
Florida is the Brother of Dubya. What does this mean? Were not quite sure. But
scrutiny will take on new meaning, as Florida is the focus of the universe.
3) Other states are awfully close and could
be revisited. However, it appears the total swing possible would not affect the outcome.
4) A judge, on a batch of levels, can still
throw a monkey wrench into this zoo-like election. If you think its confusing now,
wait till the lawyers get their turn.
5) This year, George W. Bush, signed into
law in the State of Texas, a law providing for hand-recount in his state.
Sunday November 12: Still no
President the adventure continues.
Was up last night (this morning) at 2:30
a.m. watching the Palm Beach County Election Commissioners announce the result of their
canvass of 1% of the vote and proceed, based on that number, to call a countywide hand
recount some 440,000 ballots. It seems the 1% recount increased Al Gores
margin by 19 votes (he got 33 more and Bush 14) in Palm Beach County. Extrapolating it to
a countywide figure, it could be a 1,900 vote swing thus affecting the outcome in Florida
and the nation. Under Florida law, the three commissioners by a 2-1 vote called for the
hand recount of all Palm Beach County ballots.
Mon, 11/13 - 1) Broward County to
recount 1% or 3 precincts in hand recount canvass. 2) Palm Beach County to begin
countywide hand recount.
Tues, 11/14 - 1) Florida deadline for all counties to certify results. 2) Miami-Dade
County to plan hand recount.
Fri, 11/17 - Overseas absentee ballot deadline.
Dec 18 - Florida Electors (and all other states) cast their votes for President.
Jan 5 or 6 - Congress counts Electoral College votes.
Jan 20 - Inauguration.
Now, Palm Beach (and I believe one
other county) will be hand-recounted starting Monday. The courts still could be heard
from. The overseas absentee ballots must be counted. The several lawsuits against the
controversial butterfly ballot, which seemingly violates Florida Election Law, still must
Simply explained, the Palm Beach ballot
(pictured on this page) is supposed to have
a punch out to the right of the name and Al Gore is supposed to be the second name.
However, to vote for Al Gore you had to
punch the third punch-out; the second belonged to Pat Buchanan whose punch-out was to the
left (not right) of his name. Hmmm! This matter was not considered in the recount and only
the courts can act on this. It doesnt seem likely.
The issue, to this writer is clear. To both
sides, it is not a question of procedure; it is not a question of sanctity of the process;
it is a question of winning or losing. Those aloof elitists citing the nobility of Richard
Nixon not going to court against John Kennedy are as absurd as James Baker calling for the
Gore folks to stay out of court and then running there himself.
Now dont get me wrong. You read the
above and know which side Im on. However, I readily admit that the Gore guys are
playing by no higher standards than the Bush guys and where are the women? If the
lead shoe were on the Gore foot and not the Bush foot, it would stink there too. Neither
side is nobler should they be?
The process becomes politicized. The courts
The talk shows continue to spin. The former
Secretaries of State continue to spin. The lawyers continue to spin. Our heads continue to
And the process goes on.
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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