How many of these 2,500 votes might be recoverable in a real-world recount? I'd base my guess on Broward County, which employed a permissive chad-reading standard that included dimples as well as danglers, hangers-on, and swingers. Broward recovered approximately 1,721 of 4,939 undervotes, or approximately 35 percent. Extrapolating from that number, you can project that Gore would gain 35 percent of 2,520, or 882 votes in a manual recount of 18 of 28 punch-card counties. That would leave Gore still 709 votes short of victory, even if all counties had recounted by hand according to Broward's liberal chad-reading standard. Of course, this number would be different in the event of an actual statewide hand recount if only because all counties would participate, not just those that used punch-card systems. Counties that use optical scanners would undoubtedly discover some additional votes on closer examination. But these could be expected to help Bush to a small degree since he did better in the optical-scan counties than Gore did, on average.
Based on these admittedly somewhat speculative figures, I'd posit that a full statewide hand recount--as opposed to the partial recount Gore sought in Florida's three big Democratic counties--would not have changed the legal outcome of the election. But the legal outcome can't change the reasoned judgment that absent Florida's primitive electoral technology, Gore, not Bush, would be our next president.
Click here to read an important correction in which the author partially reverses his original conclusion.
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