Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recount - A Film About the 2000 Election Problems

Kevin Spacey will star in HBO's "Recount" which will be shown Sunday and dramatically address issues that still swirl around the 2000 USA Presidential Election where GW Bush beat our Al Gore despite losing the popular vote and a razor thin margin in Florida.

We've talked a lot about the recount here at President Picker. Gore clearly should have won Florida, but not for the reasons often cited which are vote fraud (no indication of much of that) and Supreme court stopping the recount proposed by Gore (which was not a full recount and would have left Bush with the win according to most standards of counting). However, Gore *would have won* if you factor in the clear intention of voters in Florida. Thousands of the punched butterfly ballots of Palm Beach County were spoiled because they had votes for both Pat Buchanon and Al Gore when the voters clearly would have voted only for Gore if they had understood the poorly designed ballot. Also, an analysis of overvotes indicates that counting them would have shifted the win to Gore (overvotes are where voters left scratches or marks or extra punches).

Recount is somewhat biased towards a Democratic partisan viewpoint but otherwise does a commendable job of detailing how complicated and political the decision making became in Florida 2000.

I personally take a bit of comfort in recognizing that the founders anticipated resolving this type of vote trouble which is why the "safe harbor" provision left it to the state legislature to allocate the electors (as they used to do in all cases - popular vote allocation of electors is a somewhat modern notion).

Still, the system failed - dramatically - and could fail again. How to prevent this? Abolish the Electoral College before we have this happen again. This means fraud or irregularities in a given area will matter much less, and be far less likely to affect the outcome.

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