Chad-eating Democrats seek to devour election

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November 20, 2000 FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. More affidavits have been filed in a federal lawsuit challenging hand counts of presidential votes in three South Florida counties, with at least one claiming ballot counters have been eating chads. "One of our guys observed another guy licking his finger and putting chads in his mouth," said George LeMieux, a Republican observer who is watching the hand count of 588,000 Broward County ballots. "We have also found that the Democrats were telling workers that if they found stray chads to get rid of them." Chads are the minuscule pieces of paper punched out to cast a vote. Also yesterday in Democratic-leaning Broward, a county attorney informed the election canvassing board that the current standard used to count a vote a chad attached to a ballot by at least two of its four corners may be loosened. The opinion means that ballots to which either side objects are being set aside until the new standard is further considered. The prevailing wisdom is that the looser the standard, the more likely a ballot is to go to Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. "It means that Gore wasn't getting enough votes here," Mr. LeMieux said. Chad-eating is one more charge made by Republicans who maintain that the hand count in three of Florida's most Democratic counties is tainted and geared toward giving the vice president the Florida vote and thereby a presidential victory. The latest figures here give Texas Gov. George W. Bush a 930-vote margin out of some 6 million votes cast. Mr. Gore leads in the nationwide popular vote by about 200,000 votes. Only three times in the nation's history has a candidate won the popular vote but lost the presidential race, the last time being in 1888. While there were no reports of chad-eating in Palm Beach County "I think these counters are well fed," noted Bush spokesman Tucker Eskew Republican attorneys continue to collect loose chads from the floors of counting rooms. "Every day there are more incidents and we continue to file affidavits," Mr. Eskew said. In one such incident, a counter dropped a box of ballots, spilling its contents over the floor of the counting room. The counters are county employees and by mandate must be equally divided between the two parties. Reports of loose chads continue to come in, as the ballots are handled repeatedly, sometimes by several people. "These are not the same ballots turned in on Nov. 7," said Jim Higgins, a Republican Party worker and local lawyer. County Judge Charles Burton, the Palm Beach County canvassing board chairman, has cautioned workers to be gentle with the ballots. Judge Burton said Republicans in particular are too concerned about stray chads, recalling what happened when a scrap of paper fell to the floor. With a chuckle, he quoted a GOP monitor yelling, "There's a chad on the floor. Help." "We just sent a bag of 283 chads to Austin," noted Scott McClellan, a Bush spokesman. The chads were collected from the floor of the counting room at the Broward County's emergency operations center, where county workers have been counting the ballots since Friday.

Chad-eating Democrats seek to devour election

-- Ain't Gonna Happen (Not Here Not@ever.com), November 21, 2000

Answers



-- (don't look now but she has a Ch@d in her. theeth), November 21, 2000.

Saturday, November 18 -- Since Election Day, George W. Bush has kept the goal posts moving continually back and forth to prevent Florida's southern, mostly Democratic, counties from hand counting their ballots until they were too late to be added to the certified total. But lost among the Bush camp's legal and rhetorical objections to hand counting is this small fact: since the Fateful Day, Bush has benefitted from hand counts in other counties, hand counts that have secured his lead by margins that began at 1784 and reportedly went as low as 225 votes before rising again in recent days with the arrival of more absentee ballots. On the basis of those slim and changing margins, the nation's pundits called upon Al Gore to concede, even in the face of widely reported voting irregularities that involve tens of thousands of ballots. For example, the Orlando Sentinel reported that over 180,000 ballots had been kicked out of Florida's computerized counting machines, indicating they had some sort of problem and went uncounted toward the final result.

Adding to questions about the vote total of Florida's sixty-seven counties certified by the Secretary of State Katherine Harris on Tuesday, November 14, the Washington Post reported intriguing news, without explanation, that eleven counties did not do the machine recount last week that is mandated by law in close elections.

Harris's November 14 tally officially gave George W.Bush a 300-vote lead. The next day, Harris, a co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Florida, said that, exercising her legally sanctioned "discretion," she would not allow hand-counted votes from the southern counties to be added to the certified total, and would add to the tally only those absentee ballots received after Election Day. She also issued her opinion, further confusing local election officials, that absentee ballots did not have to be post-marked on or before Election Day, November 7.

Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes last Tuesday accused the Democratic counties of "no longer counting ballots. They are 'reinventing' them," she said, a comment seemingly aimed to again raise doubts about Gore's character and alleged exaggerations, a story that got legs earlier in the election thanks to shoddy media reporting and misquotes.

For days, George W. Bush's consigliere, James Baker III, has said that hand-counted votes present "tremendous opportunities for human error and ... mischief." Baker accused the hand counters of "subjective" attempts to "divine the intent of the voter," thereby denigrating the whole hand-counting process -- the time-honored gold standard for deciding close elections. Democrats have called Baker's statements hypocritical, pointing out that six mostly Republican counties have partially hand counted their ballots and found 418 additional votes for Bush. (Those counties are: Franklin, Hamilton, Seminole, Washington, Taylor, and Lafayette.)

So where in all this flurry is there any media discussion of hand- counted ballots for Bush versus hand-counted ballots for Gore? If hand-counted votes are so suspect, Democrats say, why not remove them from Bush's count? The answer, of course, is that doing so would have put Gore ahead.

Baker's Democratic counterpart, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, said in a news conference Thursday that the fact that "Republicans have hand counted in many of the counties themselves" belies Republican charges that "we have picked out a certain few counties" thought to hold promise for a Gore victory.

When a reporter asked Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes if Bush would accept his hand-counted votes, she did not respond, and ended the press conference. Likewise, on Wednesday Baker avoided a reporter's question about the Bush hand-count tally saying, "Some hand-counting was done from which we benefited," whereupon he also ended his press conference.

In fact, Bush has accepted those 418 hand-counted votes as part of his total, as well as 143 hand-counted votes from Volusia County, and probably many others tallied before Secretary of State Harris's deadline.

But despite much hand wringing from the punditocracy over the hand recounts in strongly Democratic counties, there have been few reports in the major media about the manual recounts in Republican-dominated counties and how they were conducted.

Meanwhile, Bush is blaming Gore for delaying the final vote count, and hoping the American people will, too. But Bush lawsuits and challenges to hand counting are responsible for most of the delays.

In Gadsden County, where Gore's hand-counted total exceeded Bush's, Republicans complained loudly about the result. On Thursday, Bush lawyers in Tallahassee argued that since Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties had not submitted their manual recounts by 5 p.m. on November 14, as ordered by Harris, they no longer had the right to do so. Bush also went to federal court to stop hand counting. Failing there he appealed to the conservative 11th Federal District Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which, on Friday, rejected the appeal. On Tuesday the 14th, Secretary Harris issued an edict ordering the hand-counters to cease, which was quickly overruled by Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat. Broward went ahead with its count, but Palm Beach and Miami-Dade waited for the Florida State Supreme Court's decision on Thursday which gave them the go ahead. Harris had also petitioned the state Supreme Court to stop the hand-counting, saying it was being done without "coherent standards" and threatened "the integrity of the ballots." She didn't say whether that also applied to Bush's hand counted ballots. Her petition was rejected by the Court without comment. And on Friday, in a major victory for Gore, the Florida Supreme Court enjoined Harris from certifying the election totals "until further order from this Court."

That's just a sample of the wrangling that has delayed a final vote tally. As those events unfolded over the last two weeks, the Bush camp was also maligning the local election officers ("canvassers") in Palm Beach County, alleging that they are committing fraud. Harris, under heavy fire herself, has said that the outspoken Democratic canvasser, Carol Roberts, should recuse herself, and Roberts has been accused of corruptly manipulating and over-handling the ballots in an affidavit signed by a Republican count watcher. Roberts refused to recuse herself, and denies the charge of corruption, as did a lawyer who is a Palm Beach Democratic count observer. That lawyer said on CNN that any charge of corruption against Roberts is "a lie."

The Democrats haven't gotten much traction from citing the "Texas Election Code." Under "Manual Counting, Chapter 127, section 127.130," it says: "Standards by which to judge votes: At least two corners of chad are detached, light is visible through hole, an indentation on the chad from the stylus or other object is present and indicates a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote, or the chad reflects by other means a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote."

Burning the village in order to save it.

The news media have been slow to grasp the game that Bush and his operatives are playing -- one of stopping hand counts by Democratic counties, then saying it's too late for those votes to be counted, and all the while tearing down the process and maligning the intent of local (Democratic) officials.

In the last few days the Bush partisans have resorted to an extreme tactic: forcefully asserting that the Gore camp is trying to "steal" the election. The charge was replayed all over the media this weekend, and especially on the more sensational and hyperventalating cable news networks that must stoke the fires continuously (if only because they burn twenty-four hours a day). This amounts to the Bush camp jumping ahead of the process and sowing land mines, and thus ensures that whatever the outcome, voters around the nation will never be able to have confidence in the process that yielded the final result.

No matter who prevails in the closest presidential election in American history, this last tactic may be the one we all remember. It elicits a memory from the Vietnam era: "We had to burn the village in order to save it."

-- Chew on this (chew@this.com), November 21, 2000.


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