2000 Florida general election
In the 2000 presidential election, Florida was the pivotal swing state. On election night, George W. Bush won by a razor-thin margin, prompting Al Gore to call for a recount. The recount battle dragged on for a month before it was halted by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, awarding the election to Bush. But while the recount was fought over "hanging chads", several other electoral issues lurked beneath the surface.
The VNS exit poll for 2000 Florida gave Al Gore a 6.6% lead. It was significant enough for VNS to call the state for Gore. However, the vote counts turned out significantly different from the exit poll. Bush managed to take the lead on election night, prompting VNS to withdraw their call. Erroneous electronic results then inflated Bush's total and made VNS call Florida for Bush. After VNS corrected the error, they withdrew that call, and Bush's lead started precipitously dropping as more Democratic counties came in. His lead finally reached less than 2000 votes, a virtual tie. Recounts would narrow the margin further.
VNS's exit poll was sufficiently outside the margin of error to make the call for Gore. This makes such a large discrepancy all the more strange. Several reasons were suggested by VNS. One was an issue in their absentee model, but this would only cause about a 2.5% discrepancy (even assuming correct official results):
From the VNS report: "The model had estimated the size of the absentee vote at 7.2 percent. In fact, it turned out to be 12 percent of the total Florida vote. The model also assumed that the absentees would be 22.4 points more Republican than Election Day voters. They turned out to be 23.7 points more Republican" Let x = Bush election day % y = Gore election day % EP_G = (y * 0.928) + ((y - 0.224) * 0.072) = (y * 0.928) + (y * 0.072) - (0.224 * 0.072) = y - 0.016128 VC_G = (y * 0.88) + ((y - 0.237) * 0.12) = y - (0.237 * 0.12) = y - 0.02844 VC_G - EP_G = -0.012312 Bush would have a corresponding shift in the other direction Total margin change: 2.46%
Two other problems with the exit poll were also suggested: discrepancies between the exit poll results and the tabulated vote inside each precinct (often known as "within precinct error" or WPE) and biased precincts not representative of the statewide results. When official vote totals from the first 6 (out of 45) sample precincts came in, it appeared that exit polls underestimated Gore's lead by 1.7%, but at the end of the night, it turned out that average WPE was 2.8% in favor of Gore, concentrated in Miami and Tampa. WPE was said to be "within the normal range" to be caused by "interviewing problems", but only barely. No evidence was presented that interviewing problems were in fact the cause of the WPE. Even ignoring errors within precincts, though, the VNS report claimed that using official vote totals in the sample precincts overestimated Gore's statewide results. That would imply the sample of precincts was biased towards Gore. However, this bias was not quantified in the report, leaving it unclear whether sample bias was a significant factor. As it is customary for exit poll samples to be designed based on previous election results, and gubernatorial winner Jeb Bush outperformed the 1998 exit poll, one would expect the precincts to be tilted more Republican if anything.
Certain exit polling errors might have occurred, but they are weak or unproven. Some of the proposed explanations, like a flawed absentee model and sample bias, rely entirely on the accuracy of official vote counts. There is a good chance that exit polling error does not fully explain the 6.6% red shift to Bush in the vote count. Especially given all of the known election irregularities in Florida, the red shift is likely at least a partial indicator of election fraud. This would make 2000 Florida one of the first elections to exhibit the red shift that would become so pervasive in the 21st century.
[Katherine Harris hired Database Technologies (DBT), a firm founded by cocaine smuggler and possible CIA asset Hank Asher, to provide a list of felons to be purged from Florida's voter rolls. Most counties used this list, which was heavily flawed and led to the disenfranchisement of thousands of people who were not felons. The list was very much racially-based, with blacks making up 44% of alleged felons, even though they only comprised 11% of Florida's registered voters.]
Electronic vote rigging
AccuVote OS miscounts
Most political observers watching the 2000 Florida election were focused on punch cards, not electronic voting machines. But Florida did have several counties using optical scanners in 2000. Many of them were made by Global Election Systems, the precursor to Premier/Diebold. And these scanners produced multiple purported errors on election night, all in Bush's favor.
When a Volusia County precinct with only 600 voters was added to the totals, Gore's total mysteriously dropped by about 16000 votes, while Bush picked up nearly the same amount. The reason for this was a memory card for that precinct that strangely contained -16022 votes for Al Gore (a negative vote count), along with positive votes for Bush and several minor-party candidates.
The precinct initially had a memory card uploaded with the correct results. One hour later, however, somebody put in a second memory card for that same precinct. This second memory card replaced the original results and dropped Al Gore's total. VNS called the election for Bush because of this, and Gore was about to concede. Luckily, a Volusia County official discovered the issue and reloaded the first memory card, which contained the correct results. A campaign staffer stopped Al Gore right before he was set to give his concession speech.
Global Election Systems was asked by a Volusia official, Lana Hires, for an explanation. The engineers suggested that a faulty memory card or glitch might have caused the error, which makes little sense. This issue was fixed by reloading the first memory card, meaning the first card was correct, and there was never any reason to load a second one. Someone intentionally created a fraudulent memory card with -16022 Gore votes and loaded it into the central tabulator. A Global employee did bring up this possibility, suggesting that the card from from an "un-authorised source". Despite mainstream press outlets such as the Washington Post labeling the incident as the "Volusia error", attempted election fraud is the only sensible explanation for what transpired in Volusia County.
Volusia County was not the only place in Florida to suffer from this. Brevard County, which also used AccuVote optical scanners from Global, had another "error" that took away 4000 Gore votes. While the specific details are not known, it is plausible that electronic vote tampering was the cause of the miscount in Brevard as well.
And these are just two incredibly visible cases. Nobody knows the full extent of electronic manipulation. If one or two memory cards could have been forged to change the results, the same thing could have happened across Florida. Adding negative Gore votes was careless and easy to spot, but more subtle alterations might not have been questioned. In fact, these obvious errors might have prevented an inquiry into potentially hundreds of smaller vote thefts that occurred.
Volusia and Brevard counties would both be part of Florida house speaker Tom Feeney's congressional district when he won election to the US House in 2002. Feeney gained attention during the 2000 recount controversy for saying that Florida's electoral votes would be awarded to Bush no matter how the recount turned out. He was later accused by Clint Curtis of requesting prototype vote rigging software from a software company that he represented, Yang Enterprises.
Brooks Brothers riot
Florida Supreme Court appeals
- CBS News, "CBS NEWS COVERAGE OF ELECTION NIGHT 2000: Investigation, Analysis, Recommendations", 2001/01 - gives the 2000 Florida exit poll numbers from election night (i.e. "unadjusted")
- Greg Palast, "Florida’s flawed “voter-cleansing” program", 2000/12/04 - analyzing the "felon" purge
- Greg Palast, "A blacklist burning for Bush", 2000/12/10 - more by Greg Palast about what voters were purged and by whom
- The Nation, "How the 2000 Election in Florida Led to a New Wave of Voter Disenfranchisement", 2015/07/28 - civil rights impact of the voter purge
- Washington Post, "Rights Commission's Report on Florida Election", 2001/06/05 - U.S. Commission on Civil Rights draft report on the 2000 FL voter purges
- Consortium News, "Gore's Florida 'Victory'", 2000/11/22
- The Guardian, "Florida 'recounts' make Gore winner", 2001/01/28
- Sharman Braff, "The Florida Overvote: Tragic Mistake, or Katharine Harris with Tweezers?", 2001
- Alastair Thompson, "Diebold Memos Disclose Florida 2000 E-Voting Fraud", 2003/10/23 - evidence of fraud in Volusia County and potentially elsewhere
- Dave McGowan, "The Unelectable Son", 2000/11: parts I, II
- Florida 2000 election case study by Columbus Free Press
- New York Times, "COUNTING THE VOTE: REPUBLICAN LEADERS; 2 Allies of Jeb Bush at Helm of Florida Legislature", 2000/11/23 - mentions the important role of Tom Feeney as the Florida House Speaker
- Dave McGowan, "A Supreme Injustice", 2000/12: parts I, II, III
- Columbia Journalism Review, "THE BIG MISTAKE" by Neil Hickey, 2001/01-02 - discusses the VNS call
- Media investigations of how recounts would have turned out
- Los Angeles Times, "Bush wins, Gore wins -- depending on how ballots are added up", 2001/11/13
- "The study provides evidence that more Florida voters attempted to vote for Gore than for George W. Bush -- but so many Gore voters marked their ballots improperly that Bush received more valid votes. As a result, under rules devised by the Florida Supreme Court and accepted by the Gore campaign at the time, Bush probably would have won a recount, the study found."
- ""We had a lingering suspicion that we would find more votes in the overvotes," said Ronald A. Klain, who ran Gore's recount operation. "But we were having trouble even getting those four counties recounted." Eventually, Gore did ask for a statewide recount, but his lawyers never pressed for overvotes to be included. [...] When the U.S. Supreme Court took Bush's appeal of the case, Justice John Paul Stevens asked the same question of Gore's lawyer, David Boies. "Nobody asked for a contest of the overvotes," Boies explained. "Once you get two votes, that ballot doesn't get counted for the presidency.""
- "Florida's vote was so close on election night that state law required an automatic retabulation. But officials in 16 counties using optical scanning systems never recounted their ballots; instead, they merely rechecked the electronic records of their election night machine count."
- Los Angeles Times, "Bush wins, Gore wins -- depending on how ballots are added up", 2001/11/13
- Jackson K. Thoreau and Sharon M. Thoreau, We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House, 2002
- Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, 2003
- Theresa LePore and butterfly ballot background
- Slate, "Did Adnan Khashoggi Throw the Election to Dubya?", 2000/12/04: "On Dec. 1, the “Washington Wire” column in the Wall Street Journal published this gratifyingly noir item about the postelection drama in Florida: “Madame Butterfly” Theresa LePore wasn’t always an embattled Palm Beach ballots chief. In the 1980s, she moonlighted as a flight attendant on private planes owned by Saudi weapons dealer Adnan Khashoggi, a middleman in Reagan administration arms sales to Iran. Connoisseurs of Khashoggi-centric conspiracy theories should have little difficulty using this information to finger Khashoggi as the mastermind of the plot to deny Al Gore the presidency. Khashoggi has close ties, from Iran-Contra and elsewhere, to the Republicans, and vaguely defined ties to Dubya’s father. (In a 1990 court case, Khashoggi’s phone records revealed that Khashoggi had spoken at least twice with George Bush’s vice-presidential office during 1985 and 1986.) LePore worked for Khashoggi during the 1980s, when, according to her official biography, she was chief deputy supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, a job she held until 1996, when she was elected supervisor of elections. Ergo, LePore has been working as a Khashoggi asset to elect the son of Khashoggi’s old comrade-in-arms, George Bush!"
- ABC, "Butterfly Ballot Designer Speaks Out", 2000/12/21: "Palm Beach election official Theresa LePore, who designed the “butterfly” ballot that many voters claimed was too confusing and led them to vote incorrectly, says she was just trying to make ballots easier for Palm Beach County voters. [...] “Palm Beach County has a lot of elderly voters. I was trying to make the ballot so that it would be easier for the voters to read, which is why we went to the two-page, now known as the butterfly ballot.” Some Florida voters said left the ballot confused them and caused them to cast their ballots for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Vice President Al Gore. [...] The first complaints, from two elderly men, about the ballot came at 10 a.m. on Election Day. LePore says she hoped it was an isolated incident, but by afternoon there was a groundswell of criticism. She says she tried to send word to her 531 precincts to help voters navigate the ballot, but that the complaints kept rolling in. “People need to take some responsibility as well for what they do,” LePore told GMA. [...] LePore has been an elections worker for most of her life. She started in the Palm Beach office in 1971 at the age of 16. A die-hard Democrat and daughter of a former West Palm Beach commissioner, she slowly moved up the ladder until she was elected to her current post in 1996. She refused to say who she voted for but hinted that she may change her party affiliation to independent."
- From p.46-47 of The Miami Herald Report: Democracy Held Hostage by Martin Merzer (2001):
The juiciest rumor about LePore ran dry as soon as it surfaced. On December 1, the Wall Street Journal carried the tantalizing snippet that LePore had once been a flight attendant on former Saudi Arabian arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi’s palatial private jet. On December 4, Slate Magazine’s Chatterbox column, calling the Journal item “gratifyingly noir,” followed up: “ ‘Madame Butterfly’ Theresa LePore wasn’t always an embattled Palm Beach ballots chief. In the 1980s, she moonlighted as a flight attendant on private planes owned by Saudi weapons dealer Adnan Khashoggi, a middleman in Reagan administration arms sales to Iran.”
LePore was stunned that this bit of past-life trivia had surfaced. She explained that in the late 1970s and early 1980s she had worked part-time as a ramp attendant at the West Palm Beach airport, where she waved planes to their gates. She was in her early twenties at the time. She said she never worked for Khashoggi. “It was outdoors on the weekend, and it was fun. [Khashoggi] used to come in all the time,” because he vacationed in Palm Beach. “I started dating one of his pilots.” The romantic liaison took LePore to exotic locales in Europe and Africa. She insists that her conversations with Khashoggi never extended beyond mere pleasantries.
- Sun-Sentinel, "LePore turns independent after 'shabby' treatment by Dems over ballot", 2001/05/09: "This is not the first time LePore has changed parties. She first registered as a Republican in 1973 but switched to non-party in 1978. She has since said she followed her parents in registering with the GOP but changed when she increasingly was working with political candidates and campaigns in the elections office. Before running for office in 1996, she became a Democrat, in part because her predecessor was a Democrat."
- DU post by Nancy Waterman of a canned Vanity Fair article from a friend of hers who investigated 2000 Florida vote fraud: "I was involved in uncovering some serious irregularities that occurred in Florida's 2000 election. At the time, we had neither the mandate nor the resources to conduct a further investigation. Based on the irregularities we found, we concluded that an election equipment manufacturing company called Election Systems and Software deliberately supplied different types of paper ballots to predominately Democratic Counties than were supplied to predominately Republican Counties. The differences, which are nearly impossible to ascertain without sophisticated tests, resulted in the statistically high number of undervotes or hanging chads in Democratic areas."
- Daniel Hopsicker, "BACK IN THE USSR: CIA “Helpful” in Florida, Ukraine Elections", 2004/12/08: "A retired CIA agent, whose illegal and unfettered access to election rolls in Martin County Florida was a major source of legal contention after the 2000 Election, traveled to the Ukraine four years earlier to teach “grass-roots politics” to people there, The MadCowMorningNews has learned. [...] In a bitterly ironic twist, Charles Kane, former Director of Security at the Central Intelligence Agency, and member of the Florida Republican Executive Committee, spent four days in Kiev, the capital of the former Soviet republic, hosting training sessions for Ukrainian political parties in 1996."
- Michael Parenti, "The Stolen Presidential Elections", 2007/05
- "Some 36,000 newly registered voters were turned away because their names had never been added to the voter rolls by Florida’s secretary of state Kathleen Harris."
- "By virtue of the office she held, Harris presided over the state’s election process while herself being an active member of the Bush Jr. state-wide campaign committee."
- "In several Democratic precincts, state officials closed the polls early, leaving lines of would-be voters stranded."
- "Under orders from Governor Jeb Bush (Bush Jr.’s brother), state troopers near polling sites delayed people for hours while searching their cars" - matches what Tom Feeney allegedly said about "police patrols" to suppress the black vote
- "Some precincts required two photo IDs which many citizens do not have. The requirement under Florida law was only one photo ID. Passed just before the election, this law itself posed a special difficulty for low-income or elderly voters who did not have drivers licenses or other photo IDs."
- "Uncounted ballot boxes went missing or were found in unexplained places or were never collected from certain African-American precincts."
- WhoWhatWhy, "It's Not Just Who Votes, It's Who Counts the Votes", 2018/11/02 (MP3 link) - covers Stolen Future: The Untold Story of the 2000 Election by Stephen Singular (2018)