|The Florida Overvote: Tragic Mistake, or Katharine Harris with Tweezers?
By Sharman Braff
"You say overvote, I say Katharine Harris with tweezers"
(from a website I could not find again or I'd give credit)
Gentle reader, why should you slog through this overlong article if you read
the previous version? Because there's lots of new evidence, and I'm a little
smarter, thanks largely to the input of readers responding to the first
version. Most significantly, Washington Post reporter Dan Keating furnished
me detailed data, previously unpublished, from the Post's study of 57,000 of
the overvotes. These data confirm my suspicions in several respects. Some
I now know how the 5800 Bush/Gore overvotes (what voter makes that odd
mistake?) fit into the tampering scheme. These suspicious ballots alone
prove the fraud. There may be physical evidence of tampering, and we have
some insights into how the tampering was accomplished. Please read - and
pass it on!
It is a crime that the Republican Party stopped the counting of Florida's
60,000 undervotes. But perhaps the real crime is in the overvote.
There were 120,000 overvotes in Florida, ballots rejected because more than
one choice was marked for president. Overwhelmingly, the spoiled ballots
were Gore votes. It was the overvote, much more than the dangling and
dimpled chads of undervote, that cost America the president we really
Did tens of thousands of voters screw up their ballots by mistake, or was
the second hole punched by someone other than the voter?
NOW ITS OFFICIAL: GORE WON BY 50,000. BUT FOR THE OVERVOTE, THAT IS
Seven counties, Duval (22,000), Palm Beach (19,100), Miami-Dade (18,000),
Broward (8,000), Hillsborough (5,000), Pinellas (4,000) and Pasco (2,000),
account for 78,000 of the overvotes. We'll call them the suspicious
The Washington Post was able to study computer records from all the
suspicious counties except Duval.  The Post determined that 46,000 Gore a
nd 17,000 Bush votes were spoiled by double- punches; these totals include
5,800 ballots punched for both Bush and Gore. If the 5,800 Bush/Gore
overvotes are all Gore votes (believe me, they are. see further below),
that's 46,000 spoiled Gore votes to 11,000 of Bush's.
The ratio of spoiled ballots thus ran more than 4:1 to Gore's detriment. If
Duval's 22,000 overvotes followed approximately the same ratio (say,
18,000/4,000), that's 64,000 spoiled Gore votes to 15,000 for Bush.
Gore would have won by 50,000. If not for those spoiled ballots.
THE OVERVOTE NUMBERS ARE OFF THE CHARTS
As the public now knows, many votes go uncounted in every election. But most
rejected ballots are undervotes. Overvote is relatively rare, and it is
particularly rare with punchcard ballots. All seven of the suspicious
counties use punchcard ballots.
One expert put the normal rate for punchcard overvote at 0.1% of total
ballots cast, while another expressed the rate as 2% of total rejected
ballots. By either measure, one would expect only a few thousand such
ballots out of Florida's 6,000,000 total. In the words of the two experts,
Florida's punchcard overvote was "phenomenal," "outrageous." 
The Republican Party has spun a number of arguments to downplay the overvote
statistics. A common ploy was to recite statistics for total rejected
ballots (combined over and undervote), for example, comparing Palm Beach's
14,000 rejected ballots in 1996 with its 19,100 overvotes in 2000. (Palm
Beach had only 3,000 overvotes in 1996.)  My personal favorite was the
GOP chairman who cited the overvote in Duval, a Republican county, as proof
that there was nothing suspicious about the overvote in Democratic Palm
Beach.  (Duval is in fact Republican by majority. But it has a large
black population in urban Jacksonville, which is-surprise-where the overvote
But no one really disputes that the overvote in Duval and Palm Beach was
extraordinary. That has been the subject of many a news report. And no one
disputes that the rejected ballots came disproportionately from Democratic
precincts. (Gore votes, as now confirmed by the Washington Post.) In some
black precincts, the spoilage rate ran as high as 30%. 
But it's not just Duval and Palm Beach. There were 18,000 overvotes in
Miami-Dade, and 19,000 from Broward, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco
combined. Again, mostly Democratic precincts, mostly Gore votes. 78,000
total, 50,000 net lost.
5,800 BUSH/GORE OVERVOTES THAT'S PROOF RIGHT THERE
There were 5,800 Bush/Gore overvotes in the Washington Post study. The Post
did not have data for Duval's 22,000 overvotes, so there may be more. 5,800
voters who do not know the difference between Bush and Gore? More likely,
5,800 Gore votes lost when, for speed, ballots were stacked and mass-punched
for Bush. A handy tactic, to quickly ruin your opponent's votes without
endangering your own. 
There is no explanation for Bush/Gore overvotes but tampering. In optiscan
counties, where such mass-tampering is impossible, there are no Bush/Gore
overvotes. And not because optiscan voters are smarter, or aren't prone to
overvote. There were 25,000 overvotes in optiscan counties, including 15
counties dubbed "most error prone" by the Miami-Herald. 
Furthermore, the Bush/Gore overvotes are found more often in Republican
precincts than Democratic.  If voter error were really the cause,
wouldn't we find most of these ballots in the error- prone (Democratic)
precincts, the precincts with the most overvotes? Or was "Bush/Gore" a
mistake peculiar to the otherwise much smarter Republicans?
The more likely explanation: In the heavily Democratic precincts, which
voted 80 - 90% for Gore, you could mass-tamper without fear of hitting many
Bush votes. The Bush/Gore ploy was reserved for Republican and split-vote
precincts. See the Addendum for further evidence that the ballots were
ruined by mass-punching.
VOTER CONFUSION MY ASS
Confusing ballot designs, coupled with inexperienced and uneducated
first-time voters, is the official explanation for Florida's extraordinary
overvote. The get-out-the-vote effort (raising Afro- American turnout from
10% of the State's votes in 1996 to 15% in 2000) was impressive, but
tragically undermined by voter error. 1) Can that many voters be that dumb?
Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco (37,000)
The public has been fed cover stories about the overvote in Duval (broken
ballot error) and Palm Beach (butterfly ballot confusion). But that still
leaves 37,000 overvotes in Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Pinellas and
Pasco. There were no reports of misleading ballots or voter confusion there.
The overvotes in these 5 counties give no clue as to how 37,000 voters could
be so badly misled. Indeed, there is no discernable pattern at all. A
breakdown (furnished to the author by Washington Post reporter Dan Keating)
listed the following fifteen most common overvote combinations in these
Gore/Browne 5420 Gore/Harris 1017 Bush/Nader 613 Bush/Gore 5157
Gore/Buchanan 1015 Gore/Hagelin 611 Gore/Nader 1700 Bush/Brown 782 Punch all
560 Gore/Moorehead 1278 Bush/Moorehead 722 Every other candidate 525 All but
Bush 1271 Gore/Phillips 619 Bush/Buchanan 508
Can you discern any pattern? Any theme that shows where these voters went
Nor is it likely that thousands of voters just punched at their ballots
randomly, either in protest or ignorance. "Random" does not explain it, when
virtually every ballot includes a punch for either Gore or Bush, and Gore is
punched four times more often than Bush.
2) Can that many voters be that dumb? Palm Beach (19,100)
The infamous butterfly ballot was confusing, causing 3,400 Jewish seniors to
mistake the Buchanan hole for Gore's. That's true. But it has yet to be
explained to me how picking the wrong hole causes a voter to punch twice. If
you knew you'd just punched the wrong hole, you would know you could not
correct the mistake by punching a second time.
Another butterfly ballot theory has it that voters thought they were to vote
for both president and vice-president, because two holes lined up inside the
Gore-Lieberman box. I have read of one voter admitting to this error, and
perhaps some did make that mistake. But 19,100?
In fact, the Post study disproves both theories. There were only 5,282
Gore/Buchanan ballots, the combination you would expect from Buchanan
confusion or the president/vice-president error. And there were only 2,868
Gore/McReynolds, the only other combination that might be explained by the
president/vice-president error. (Again, these are unpublished data furnished
to the author by Post reporter Dan Keating.) That leaves 11,000 overvotes
not accounted for. Like the other Post study counties, most of Palm Beach's
overvotes are random combinations, not explained by the butterfly ballot.
Most certainly, the butterfly ballot does not explain Palm Beach's 343
3) Can that many voters be that dumb? Duval (22,000)
The presidential race in this county's ballot ran onto two pages, and a
sample ballot printed in the newspaper instructed voters to "vote every
page." Get-out-the-Vote volunteers with the Democratic Party, working with
poorly educated, first-time voters, repeated the bad advice. Faithfully
following directions, voters punched for president on both the first and
second pages, voiding their votes.
Did this really happen? Of all the evidence for an innocent explanation of
the overvote, this is the most convincing to me. Not because it sounds
plausible, but because Democratic Party and elected officials, and groups
such as the NAACP, have publicly repeated the story.  Presumably they
were able to verify it by interviewing voters. But 22,000? How many GOTV
volunteers did it take to screw up that many voters?
Or perhaps some Democratic leaders were intimidated into supporting the
"dumb voter" line. I wouldn't blame them; they should be scared. The bad
guys have both houses of Congress, the Executive Branch, and I guess we know
where the Judiciary stands. The Republicans have shown themselves to be
without scruple, vicious. Is Jesse Jackson supposed to take them on alone?
If you shoot at the king, don't miss.
Duval generally stinks. Republican by majority, with Republican elections
officials, it also has large concentrations of Democratic votes in the black
precincts of Jacksonville: The perfect setup. Duval was among the most
egregious in stories of voters turned away from the polls, intimidated, etc.
Most suspicious of all, this county has waged a determined, and thus far
successful, campaign to keep its ballots from inspection. See
"Coverup--Physical evidence?" below. .
4) No, voters are not that dumb. Look at the optiscan overvote.
As previously noted, mass-tampering is impossible with optiscan ballots.
Also, optiscan counties tend to be smaller, and vote majority Republican. In
short, they are not likely targets for Republican tamperers.
There were about 25,000 overvotes in Florida's optiscan counties. (Overvote
is not uncommon with optiscan, for reasons that will become clear below,
though it is rare with punchcards.) These are innocent overvotes, and they
give us some insight into true voter error. The optiscan lesson is: voters
do make mistakes, but not irrational mistakes, in overwhelming numbers,
costing one candidate much more heavily than the other. 
Some of the optiscan overvote was caused by smudges and erasures; in some
instances, voters wrote notes on the ballot to indicate they were correcting
a mistake. Another common error occurred when voters voted for their chosen
candidate, and also wrote the name on the write-in line. Note, in none of
these overvote patterns does the voter deliberately vote for two different
candidates, as we see in the punchcard overvote. Note also, these errors are
either impossible or unlikely with punchcard ballots, and indeed, were not
found (in any numbers I've seen reported) in the punchcard overvote.
In counties where the list of presidential candidates ran onto two pages,
some optiscan voters voted on both pages, apparently believing the second
list was a separate race. A variation of this so- called "broken ballot"
error is what's supposed to have occurred in Duval. But apart from Duval,
"broken ballot" does not account for the overvotes we see in the punchcard
counties. Palm Beach had the butterfly ballot, and I am pretty sure
Miami-Dade had a single-page ballot. (I do not know about the others.) In
any event, we know from the Post data that broken ballot does not explain
the punchcard overvote.
Finally, while the optiscan overvote cost Gore more heavily than Bush, it
was not by a factor of four.
In short, optiscan counties experienced neither irrational overvote patterns
like we see in the punchcard counties, nor astronomical numbers of Gore
overvotes. Further, the mistakes found on optiscan ballots do not explain
what we're seeing in the punchcard overvote.
And it bears repeating, no optiscan voter voted for both Bush and Gore.
5) The overvote was not confined to under-privileged, first-time-
at-the-polls black voters. In the 120 Jewish seniors precincts of Palm
Beach, one out of every 13 ballots was double-punched. 
Two Florida populations: (1) Afro-Americans, underprivileged, less
well-educated, first time voting. (2) Jewish seniors, well-off,
well-educated, been voting for decades. What two things do they have in
1) Their ballots were invalidated for double-punching at far greater rates
than any other group in Florida and
2) (Pick one):
(a) They're too dumb to vote. (b) They vote heavily Democratic.
In the Lakes of Delray precinct (85% elderly), 1500 votes went to Gore,
about 50 to Bush, 47 to Buchanan, and 253 were double-punched. It's Delray
Beach, Boca Raton, as well as the black precincts of Jacksonville, Miami,
etc., that you go to if you're looking for Gore votes to spoil.
6) If 78,000 voters screwed up their ballots, costing the most scrutinized
election of our lifetimes, why haven't we heard from them?
Tampering first occurred to me just three days after the election, when all
we knew about was the 19,100 overvotes in Palm Beach. While considerable
evidence has come in since then, the days immediately following the election
furnish what remains, to me, a particularly compelling piece of evidence.
The butterfly ballot caused 3,400 Jewish seniors to vote for Buchanan by
mistake. This set off a small tempest that, with the as-yet- undecided race
on the line, quickly drew the nation's attention. Palm Beach was swamped
with reporters, as well as black and Jewish leaders. The 19,000 overvotes
were also brought to light, becoming instant front-page news.
Voters were asked to search their memories. We heard from many hundreds of
voters who realized that they had voted for Buchanan in error. But even
though there were far more overvotes than Buchanan mistakes, I have heard of
only "a few thousand" seniors who "weren't sure," but might have punched
their ballots twice. 
To be sure, there is also Duval, where Democratic leaders have confirmed the
voter confusion story. But the evidence of Palm Beach is more convincing to
me, perhaps because I saw it with my own eyes, on TV, right after the
election. There were dozens of Jewish seniors recounting how they had voted
for Buchanan by mistake. But despite all the attention from the media, from
the many black and Jewish leaders on the scene, I saw not a single
face--black or elderly-come forward with personal testimony of overvoting.
7) How unlucky can one guy be?
An utterly unprecedented number of voters made utterly inexplicable errors,
costing Gore 50,000 votes, which just happened to be the margin of victory,
in the one state that was key to the whole election.
Is that guy unlucky or what?
SURELY IT'S PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO RUIN THAT MANY BALLOTS IN ONE NIGHT
Point well taken. There were hundreds of precincts affected by the overvote,
and punching 78,000 ballots is a huge task to accomplish in a very short
time. Plus, these were Democratic-voting counties, presumably under the
control of Democratic officials.
So how did they do it? The answer is,
HELL, I DON'T KNOW. I'm not a detective. But me not knowing how to tamper
with ballots is not proof that it is impossible. I do not know how to burgle
houses or rob banks either. But I can offer a few thoughts.
1) There was plenty of time. Nine hours elapsed between the polls closing at
7 pm and the final tally around 4:00 am. As of 2:00 am election eve, 280,000
ballots still remained uncounted. 
Apparently, the very last ballots tallied were thousands of Democratic votes
from Palm Beach. As described in one story, Bush maintained his lead until
4:00 am, when "a rush of Democratic votes from Palm Beach brought the race
to a virtual tie." 
Here's a theory. The Republicans had excellent access to the vote counts
throughout election night, both through the media (the cousin at Fox News),
and through the Secretary of State's office. They sat on a pile of Palm
Beach's Democratic ballots until the end, so they could calculate how many
votes they needed to spoil. Jeb caught hell at Thanksgiving for cutting it
Remember, it did not take operatives in every precinct punching ballots. The
ballots were all brought to the county elections offices election eve. It
was the Republicans' good fortune that Democratic votes were concentrated in
just a few densely populated counties.
2) For speed, the ballots can be stacked and mass-punched. (This insight was
furnished by reporter Keating.) In heavily Democratic precincts, you will
not spoil many Bush votes. In precincts with a larger percentage of
Republican voters, you punch the Bush chad (resulting in the Bush/Gore
overvotes), so you don't ruin any Bush votes. In precincts with Republican
votes, you might take some time to pre-sort. And you spoil fewer ballots. In
any event, you want some Bush overvotes, to divert suspicion.
In fact, the Post overvote data show patterns consistent with
mass-tampering. Tables with the data (and analysis) are set out in the
3) Many ballots could have been prepunched before they were distributed to
the counties. There were in fact anecdotal reports of voters handed
prepunched ballots at the polls.
With thousands of precincts in the punchcard counties, a few ballots per
precinct would likely go unnoticed, and could add up to many thousands.
Should one or two be noticed, it would be shrugged off as accidental damage.
Prepunched ballots could be directed more heavily to Democratic counties,
such as Palm Beach or Broward, which voted 65% for Gore, or prepunched for
Bush in more mixed counties.
Among other things, this ploy puts some overvote in every precinct, making
it appear more random. The fact that there was "a handful" of overvote in
"each and every precinct" was the evidence that convinced Reporter Keating
of its innocent.
4) Democratic counties controlled by Democrats? Look again.
The three biggest blocks of overvote came from Duval (22,000), Palm Beach
(19,000) and Miami-Dade (18,000). Duval is a Republican county, with
thoroughly partisan elections officials. Nor would anyone seriously regard
Miami-Dade as controlled by the Democratic Party, after what the nation
observed during the election contest. That leaves Palm Beach. Just recently,
I have seen reports questioning the loyalty of Theresa LePore, Palm Beach's
allegedly Democratic Elections Supervisor, including her role in obstructing
the Palm Beach hand count. 
3) When your daddy is the former head of the CIA and your brother is cozy
with South American criminal elements, you have some of the best criminal
talent in the world on the family rolodex. 
THE COVERUP--PHYSICAL EVIDENCE?
Where there's crime, there's coverup, and there's plenty going on here. In
particular, there seems to be a determined effort to keep Duval's ballots
First, Duval's Republican Party officials lied about the number of rejected
ballots, as a result of which Democrats did not learn the numbers until too
late to request a hand count.  Duval did not furnish any records for the
Washington Post, the only major punchcard county not to do so. (They claim
their software did not create such records.) Duval has refused to give the
media access to the ballots for the handcount, despite a lawsuit by the
Miami-Herald. And now scuttlebutt has it that Jeb is trying to sneak a bill
through the Florida Legislature to seal the ballots.
This last, sealing the ballots, is a huge red flag. Why would Jeb care who
sees the ballots? The media hand count is no big deal. The papers have
already reported tallies that put Gore over the top, and vice versa, and it
was a big yawn. To attempt such a blatantly fascist act as sealing the
ballots, there is something more than chad dimples Jeb doesn't want us to
Physical evidence, maybe? Maybe someone got careless with the hole- punch.
(Editor's note: I have also heard mention that some voters complained they
were handed ballots that already had a hole in them. Such holes, apparently
just a possible data-processing mark, would probably not even be remarked by
most voters. )
I have heard one secondhand report of physical evidence, observed by a
volunteer who counted ballots during the hand count. The county is unknown.
As posted on an Internet discussion board, the account goes:
She said that of all the ballots they counted the LARGEST amount of
disregarded ballots were overvotes. She said the person had obviously voted
for Gore and someone had stuck something into the punched ballot and ripped
it right through up to Bush's name.
THE DEMEANOR EVIDENCE
There is the boil, of course. George Bush's corrupt soul festering to the
But did any one else notice Bush Senior after the election? First, the Gala
Dinner at the White House, the night after the election, all the living
presidents gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the White House.
There was George Senior in his tux, on his way to the fete as the newsguys
caught up with him. Did he seem stressed out to you? He couldn't wait to get
away from the cameras. Then a few weeks later, he was interviewed on TV (I
can't remember by whom- Barbara Walters, or the like). Asked about his son
the President-Apparent, Dad stumbled through something with the word "pride"
in it, then made it clear he did not want to talk about the election, or his
son. I swear I remember him saying something like "I want to talk about
A GIRL CAN DREAM, CAN'T SHE?
A month before the election, an amateur astrologer predicted that "secrets
will be uncovered to Gore's advantage," and "Bush may be declared the
president, only to have it taken away later." 
Gore in the White House and Bush in jail. There's a sweet thought.
Even if I'll never realize this fantasy, I can hope to get the evidence made
public. So please pass it on. Write to your newspapers, representatives,
demanding an investigation. Get this reported in the mainstream press, and I
bet our President breaks out in boils all over again. I bet we wipe the
smirk right off his face.
How's that for a rallying cry? WIPE THE SMIRK OFF. I'd put that on my car.