An Inclusive Litany

11/10/00

From the instructions distributed to voters in Palm Beach County, Florida, November 7, 2000. This was the only bold, capitalized text to appear there:
Note: If you make a mistake, return your ballot card and obtain another. AFTER VOTING, CHECK YOUR BALLOT CARD TO BE SURE YOUR VOTING SELECTIONS ARE CLEARLY AND CLEANLY PUNCHED AND THERE ARE NO CHIPS LEFT HANGING ON THE BACK OF THE CARD.

The Washington Post, November 10, 2000:

Faced with a cliffhanger election, the Democratic Party directed a telemarketing firm on Election Night to begin calling thousands of voters in Palm Beach, Fla., to raise questions about a disputed ballot and urge them to contact local election officials.

The Democratic National Committee paid Texas-based TeleQuest to make the calls Tuesday night—while polls were still open—alerting voters in the heavily Democratic enclave in Florida of possible confusion with the ballots they cast.

"Some voters have encountered a problem today with punch card ballots in Palm Beach County," the script for the call said. "These voters have said that they believe that they accidentally punched the wrong hole for the incorrect candidate."

"If you have already voted and think you may have punched the wrong hole for the incorrect candidate, you should return to the polls and request that the election officials write down your name so that this problem can be fixed," the script said.

If voters were about to go to the polls, the script called for the caller to instruct them to "be sure to punch Number 5 for Gore-Lieberman" and "do not punch any other number as you might end up voting for someone else by mistake."...

"I think those kinds of calls make perfect sense," Nelson said. "In terms of people getting riled up, it would be a tactic that might energize voters who might otherwise not have realized they may have mistakenly voted for the wrong candidate."...

[Ed.: "I don't think we have 3,000 Nazis in Palm Beach County," said County Commissioner Bert Aaronson of the Buchanan votes. However, Alex T. Tabarrok, an economist at the Independent Institute, noted that widely published statistics suggesting a disproportionate number of people voting for Pat Buchanan in Palm Beach County, presumably in error, were a statistical illusion. The statistics compared the total number of people who voted for Buchanan in Palm Beach County with the number who voted for him in other counties, expressing that as an alarmingly skewed percentage. But Palm Beach is an unusually populous county, so one would expect there to be a higher total of Buchanan voters as a result. When comparing the number of Palm Beach residents who voted for Buchanan with the number who voted for other candidates, it turns out that Buchanan received .78 percent of the vote, compared with an average of .46 percent in other counties. Even that averaged share can be misleading, since Buchanan's share of the votes varied widely from one county to the next. In many other counties where there was no question of voter confusion, Buchanan received a much larger share of the vote than in Palm Beach.

In one regard, however, Palm Beach County was statistically anomalous. Gore initially won the county by a 63.8 to 36.2 percent margin. But the state-mandated electronic recount not only added to Gore's totals as can be expected, but added votes to Gore's benefit at the rate of 88.2 to 11.8 percent. An unbiased machine recount should have shown roughly the same ratio of votes, 1.75-to-1, as the initial count. The far more dramatic 7.5-to-1 ratio suggests that chads fell from ballot cards selectively for Gore. Recounts in Dade and Brower counties, on the other hand, revealed the expected proportional additions to the original count. In Duval county, the recount revealed many ballots that were written on rather than punched. This added 184 votes for Gore but only 16 for Bush, suggesting that Gore supporters were less likely to be able to follow simple instructions.]

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