For some diehards, the myth that Al Gore's presidency was stolen from him in Florida during the 2000 election won't disappear.
After seven years, some people can’t let this argument die.
John Nichols of The Nation, perhaps the best-known progressive magazine that exists, doesn’t see Ralph Nader as a spoiler in the 2000 presidential election. On his blog, Nichols wrote a piece over the weekend anticipating Nader’s announcement that he will run for president; Nader declared his intention to run on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“(Nader’s) most notable run, in 2000, won 2.7 percent of the national vote, along with anger from Democrats who thought he tipped Florida — and the presidency — from Al Gore to George Bush,” Nichols wrote. “In fact, Gore won Florida, only to have the results manipulated into Bush’s column by the Republican nominee’s many allies in state government, with an assist from the Supreme Court.”
People can think whatever they want about Nader’s role in the 2000 election. But to persist in this argument about who won Florida is utter nonsense.
A group of media outlets hired the National Opinion Research Center, affiliated with the University of Chicago, to study the contested ballots to see if any conclusions could be made about the election (in the interest of full disclosure, I worked for NORC for a few months in 2004, but not on the Florida election project).
Dan Keating of the Washington Post wrote a paper about NORC’s research; he concluded that the only scenario under which Gore could have won Florida is if all ballots were recounted statewide (no one ever presented as an option) and all “overvotes” (selecting at least two candidates on a ballot in a category where one is permitted) were allowed as part of the total.
We never count overvotes in an election. In trying to divine the intentions behind an overvote, you’re substituting your judgment for that of the voter — and we’ll never know for sure what he or she had in mind.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard the arguments in Bush v. Gore on Dec. 11, 2004. The “safe harbor statute” (the time states have to certify their own election results without interference from Congress) was set to expire Dec. 12, the next day. The Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s method of allowing recounts was unconstitutional (7-2 decision) and that there was no time to establish and implement an acceptable recount process (5-4 decision). Case closed.
For good or ill, Bush won Florida and the presidency in 2000. Cynics would rest easier if they just came to grips with reality and dropped this fruitless debate.
Jerry Moore is a news editor with GateHouse Media. He can be contacted at email@example.com.