Politics, vote counting always go hand-in-ballot

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2001

The following editorial appeared in today's San Jose Mercury News:

You can educate voters. You can buy better voting machines and service them more often. But as the latest probe into Florida's infamous presidential election shows, you'll never separate politics and vote counting.

Analyzing the tally of absentee ballots from overseas, the New York Times found these were counted more often in counties that went heavily for George W. Bush, even when they were mailed late and otherwise flawed. Problematic overseas votes were more likely to be disqualified in counties carried by Al Gore.

This was no accident, the Times found. Republican strategists used all their influence to ensure that overseas votes were counted by lenient standards in counties that were mostly for Bush.

It was against the letter of the law, and probably even the Constitution, but it was no different from the Gore push to have votes manually recounted in heavily Democratic counties. Think of it as the GOP equivalent of hanging chad.

Like other newspaper analyses, this one fails to prove that if all votes had been counted properly, Gore would have defeated Bush. There were too many variables.

Mainly it shows that political connections and smart strategy worked to Bush's favor.

As the White House says, it's time to move on. But we doubt history will ever move beyond the conclusion that this was an election whose outcome was determined not by votes alone.

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