Have Voting FAQs, Will Travel

Answers to your questions about the news.
Nov. 22 2000 5:56 PM

Have Voting FAQs, Will Travel

What happens if Florida sends two slates of Electoral College votes to Congress, one for Al Gore and one for George W. Bush?

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Because it's happened before, the U.S. Code (3, Chapter 1, Section 15) has a provision for how to deal with it. Both houses of Congress must agree on which slate they will accept as legitimate. But this year the houses could be divided over such a vote if the Republican-controlled House of Representatives votes for the Bush slate, and if the Senate ends up split 50-50 and the still-sitting vice president, Gore, breaks the tie by voting for his slate. In that case, bad news for Gore. The statute says the slate that will be accepted is the one "certified by the executive of the State." That would mean either Gov. Jeb Bush or Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

What would happen if Dick Cheney were to become incapacitated and withdraw from consideration as vice president?

George W. Bush could, and probably would, announce a replacement so that if he finally was declared the winner, his pledged electors would have someone to select as his vice president. When the electors from each state get together, they cast separate ballots for president and vice president, not for them as a team. So the replacement of Cheney would not invalidate the Bush-Cheney ticket that the citizens of that state selected in the popular vote.

What do people do when they "canvass"?

It's a final audit of how the voting went--it does not involve actually examining ballots to determine how people voted. For example, a precinct might have a record that 1,000 people showed up to vote, but the tally for president was 500 to 400. The canvassers would try to determine whether the missing 100 votes were due to bookkeeping error or "undervoting"--that is, a voting machine recorded that 100 ballots did not have a presidential choice. Canvassing often turns up small errors, the kinds that have been reported widely this year, but that usually don't amount to enough difference to make a change in the Election Night results. According to Merriam-Webster, the word first appeared in 1508 and has this derivation: "to toss in a canvas sheet in sport or punishment." This year would be a good one to revive this tradition, starting with the presidential candidates.

How come when we see pictures of people in Palm Beach staring at ballots that look like regular ballots and not butterfly ballots?

Because voters each received a punch card unmarked with candidates names that they inserted into a device underneath the printed butterfly ballots. As they read the ballot they punched their selection (or not, as the case may be) into the card underneath. That card is now being examined in the recount.

Are former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and James Baker billing for the services to the respective Gore and Bush campaigns?

Christopher is volunteering his time. Baker's office would not reveal to Slate his financial arrangements.

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