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Election 2000

Palm Beach County Hand Recount

Some Skullduggery? Or LOTS of Skullduggery?

Skullduggery: treacherous intrigue - Webster's 21st Century

Sunday, November 12, 2000.

The following is somewhat confusing - maybe intentionally so by those involved in and behind the skullduggery. Please read and follow closely the turn of events being reported by CNN news on Saturday. You may end up with the same questions we have.

The hand count in four of the five-hundred precincts within Palm Beach County, Florida, began Saturday, November 11th at around 2pm eastern time.

The Palm Beach County Canvassing Board is made up of three Democrats. 1) Charles Burton, Circuit Court Judge appointed by Jeb Bush, is Chairman of the Board. 2) Theresa LaPorte (sp?), is the woman who designed the "butterfly ballot", which - it has been reported - was approved by State Attorney General and Gore State Campaign Chair, Bob Butterworth; and 3) Carol Roberts, former mayor of Palm Beach and 14 year member of the county's legislative body.

Before the re-count got under way, the Canvassing Board set a very hard, fast and clear policy on "how to judge invalid ballots". In fact, the policies (rules) set forth for this re-count were changed from a policy which had been set in 1990. We've heard no reason given for the policy-change.

As reported by CNN, the four precincts being re-counted by hand allegedly represent 1% of the total vote in the entire county of five-hundred precincts, or around 4,000 ballots. During the count, questionable ballots were set aside for further scrutiny.

The policy set by the Canvassing Board for judging the present hand-count was explained like this:

Counters (people) were instructed to hold the ballots up to the light to inspect the chad to determine whether it had been punched by the voter.

Chad is the part that comes out when the squarish hole is punched. The chad is attached to the ballot only by its four corners.

The counters were to determine what the "intent" of the voter was, based upon whether or not it "appeared" that somebody "attempted" to punch the hole.

Valid ballots were those with chads described as:

1) a "swinging door" - a chad with two of the four corners disconnected, two still intact;

2) a "hanging door" - which has three corners disconnected, only one intact.

A ballot was to be judged invalid (assumed no voter intent to punch the hole) if only one of the four corners was disconnected. Also to be ruled invalid is the "pregnant chad" - a chad puffed out like the belly of a woman with child, and a "dimpled chad" which is a little puffed out but isn't quite pregnant. The pregnant and dimpled chads, still attached at all four corners, are not to be counted as voter intent to punch the hole either.

About five hours into the count - a few minutes before 7:00 pm (just before Capital Gang came on ) - Bob Nichols, Palm Beach County Spokesman, announced to the press that the ground-rules had suddenly been changed by the Canvassing Board. Nichols said at that time that they were about 1/8th of the way through the hand-count. Under the new policy, set by the Board, chad which had just one corner detached was now to be counted as valid. A vote. Voter intent to punch the hole. This chad, with only one corner detached, is called a "tri-chad".

So from around 7:00 pm on, three types of chad were now considered as a valid vote. The valid chads are 1) "tri-chads" - one corner detached. 2) "swinging doors" - two corners detached and 3) "hanging doors" - three corners detached. The "pregnant" and "dimpled" chads were still invalid.

Interestingly, Nichols showed the reporters how nearly impossible it is to punch that hole and get only one corner detached. Yet, the tri-chad from that point forward was considered as voter intent to punch the hole. CNN's Andria Hall explained that this new policy actually returned them to the policy which had been set in 1990. Nichols made it emphatically clear that the decision to alter the policy had been made by the all-Democratic, three-person Canvassing Board.

At 7:30 pm - in the middle of Capitol Gang, an update was shown. Martin Savage - CNN National Correspondent - made the comment that (paraphrasing): "Five and a half hours into the hand-count operation; out of 49 questionable ballots deemed valid, 19 have gone to Bush, 30 to Gore. Republicans are not happy with the way things are going."

At 8:02 pm - Martin Savage, reporting live, said for the second time, quote:

"...hand re-count is about 6 hours into their operations here... and reports from the inside say that there has [sic] been some additions to the vote columns of both presidential candidates. Specifically, 19 votes have been added to the column of George W. Bush, and 30 votes have been added to the column of Vice-President Albert Gore. That is about only half of a precinct here ... ".

Savage also mentioned that Democrats were suggesting (as early as 8pm) that based on these early outcomes they should probably do a hand re-count in all five-hundred precincts in Palm Beach County.

During the report, the cameras were giving us a view of the counters holding the ballots up to the light, squinting at them, turning the cards round and round, conferring with one another, etc. Savage made it a point to emphasize how "closely, carefully, very delicately" they were looking at the ballots.

At 9:10 pm spokesperson, Nichols, made another announcement. When asked, "How many have they gone through?" Nichols responded, quote:

"As I mentioned they went through four... they've counted all four of the precincts that were selected - under the law - for 1% on the hand-count. They've counted all four, set aside the questionables and they're looking at those now."

When asked how far along they were, Nichols called a man out to get an approximation. The man said, "about a quarter". Nichols repeated that they were about 25% finished, which represents about 1,000 in numbers. It is our understanding they intended to complete the remaining 3,000 under the new rules, then go back to the first 1,000 which had been done under the original rules, and re-do them.

The final outcome, as we heard around 3 or 4:00 am today on CNN Breaking News, was that the final tally showed Gore had gained 33 votes and Bush had gained 14 votes. A reported net gain for Gore of 19 votes.

What's going on? At 7:30 pm and again at 8:00 pm Savage said Gore had 30 additional votes and Bush had 19 additional votes. Remembering that at 9pm they reported 1,000 complete we can assume that was at a point where 3,000 or more of the questionable ballots had not yet been scrutinized.

However, the final tally shows Bush only gaining a total of 14 votes, losing 5 since 8:00 pm while Gore, during the same time period, gained only 3 more, with a final tally of 33 votes gained. What happened to those five votes that disappeared from Bush's column? And why the irregularity? Let's look at that again.

By 8:00 pm, out of 1,000 ballots counted, Gore had gained 30 and Bush had gained 19 votes.

The next 3,000 ballots gave Gore only 3 additional votes, and took 5 away from Bush. Does something seem amiss here?

Final tally: Gore, 33 additional votes. Bush, 14 additional votes giving Gore a total gain of 19 votes.

According to Board member, Carol Roberts, the net gain of 19 votes for Gore, reflects only 1% of the 425,000 ballots cast county-wide. Extrapolating the 19 votes, so she says, could result in Gore gaining 1,900 votes. Enough to change the outcome.

Citing Florida State law, Roberts claimed that the outcome warranted a vote, by the Canvassing Board, to call for a hand re-count of all 425,000 ballots cast in Palm Beach County. Many people urged her to hold the vote until advice could be given relating to the interpretation of the State law, taking into consideration the tens of thousands of dollars a full re-count will cost the county (not to mention the profound impact and repercussions that could be caused nation wide.)

Roberts appeared deaf, dumb and blind to the precautions expressed. At each new appeal, she stated that she was not "asking for advice", she was calling for a vote, or sarcastically suggesting they take a vote to decide whether to vote. She called her vote, which passed two to one... Burton voting "no" or abstaining. (It was difficult to hear.)

Opinion: Burton's meek suggestion to "not jump the gun" appeared to be a charade to give the impression that there was "deliberation" involved in this vote-call. Later this evening, Roberts, an obviously seasoned politician, was not so seasoned an actor. The impression she gave was a feigned awareness of the seriousness of her decision while barely able to repress her excitement of having "made history". "It was awing to think about the impact that I and the members of the Canvassing Board are going to have on American history". Too bad Carol Roberts didn't think about this before she ram-rodded through a vote at 3 or 4 am in the morning.

Guess we'll see what Monday brings. Keep your ears open for their rhetoric about a Constitutional Amendment to get rid of the Electoral College.

Jackie Patru