Recount Alert: Gore and the "overvotes." 

Political commentary and more.
Nov. 11 2001 12:38 AM

Media Recount Alert: Did Gore Blow It?

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Surprisingly, the results of the media consortium recount of the Florida presidential ballots, scheduled for publication on Monday, haven't leaked out yet—and it's already Saturday night. But Joshua Micah Marshall's mezine has a partial scoop. Marshall hears that the impending consortium tally will find that "if you count overvotes, Gore would have won big." (Remember overvotes? They're ballots disqualified when the ballot-counting machine detects votes for more than one candidate. But they can be legal votes—if, for example, a voter marks the little circle next to "Gore" and also marks the circle next to "write-in" and writes in "Gore" also.)

Good news for the Gore team? Not quite. The barb, for them, is that they didn't ask that the overvotes be counted! Instead, their entire effort was directed at counting "undervotes," ballots on which no vote was detected by the machines, but which might have a partially perforated "chad" detectable by humans.

Relying on intercepted communications, Marshall predicts a massive self-exculpatory spin offensive by former Gore campaign aides, all designed to erase the impression that they foolishly ignored the very ballots that would have given them the presidency. Indeed, since the results are out Monday, this spin campaign has probably been underway for several days. There is a significant possibility it will succeed—Gore aide Ron Klain played the Washington Post like a fiddle earlier this year, for example. (Details here.)

To help avert this possibility, kausfiles inaugurates its branded Spinoculator™ service, which provides both reporters and ordinary citizens with information that may protect them and their loved ones from misleading spin attacks.

In this case, the antidote to the looming Gore-team spin can be found in the transcript of the final U.S. Supreme Court hearing in Bush v. Gore. Several justices were concerned that the Florida Supreme Court's recount was focused on undervotes and ignored overvotes, even though some overvotes might be valid, a concern that had prompted Florida's chief justice to dissent. Here is the relevant excerpt from the dialogue between the court and Gore's lead lawyer, David Boies [emphasis added]:

JUSTICE STEVENS: What is your response to the chief justice of Florida's concern that the recount relates only to undervotes and not overvotes?

MR. BOIES: Well, first, nobody asked for a contest of the overvotes. …

Later in the argument, the overvote issue comes up again:

MR. BOIES: … when you're dealing with overvotes—and remember, this is a machine issue. When you're dealing with overvotes, the machine has already registered two votes. Now, there may be another vote there, a dimpled vote or an indented vote, that the machine did not register. But once you get two votes, that ballot doesn't get counted for the presidency.

JUSTICE BREYER: They gave an example. The example they gave in their brief was, there's a punch for Governor Bush, and then there's a punch for "write-in," and the write-in says, "I want Governor Bush." And so I think their implication is that that would have been rejected by the machine, but if you looked at it by hand, the intent of the voter would be clear. I don't know if there are such votes, but they say there might be.

MR. BOIES: There's nothing in the record that suggests there are such votes.

But there is plenty in the record, you now know, to suggest that the Gore team blew it by ignoring a trove of potentially valid Gore ballots. Resist all spin to the contrary!

P.S.:If the overvotes do turn out to be crucial, I told you so!

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Update: Yes, the overvotes were the key.

Mickey Kaus' political commentary can be found at www.kausfiles.com.

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