|Published on Tuesday, May 15, 2001 in the Madison Capital Times
McVeigh Gets 2nd Chance, Gore Doesn't
by John Nichols
Who would have thought that convicted Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh would
have a better chance of getting his case reopened than recount-denied
presidential candidate Al Gore?
Consider two big news headlines from last week:
"FBI failed to deliver 3,000 pages of documentation to McVeigh lawyers."
"Florida election errors cost Gore the election."
Guess which headline created a stir that led to talk of reopening the case
at hand? Here's a hint: It wasn't the one involving the question of whether
the choice of the American people for president was reflected in the results
of the Nov. 7, 2000, election.
That's right: The revelation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had
conveniently failed to share information with McVeigh's lawyers resulted in
a one-month delay of the execution of the man convicted of killing 168
people in the Oklahoma City federal building.
What's a little disturbing is that, while the revelation regarding McVeigh
may eventually lead to a new trial for the convicted bomber, the revelation
regarding monumental screw-ups in Florida's presidential voting last fall
will result in no shift in circumstances for Gore, or the voters whose
choices were thwarted by Bush family retainers in Florida and on the bench
of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Had Florida election officials adhered to a long-standing state rule
requiring them to review discarded ballots with an eye to ascertaining the
intent of voters, it is now quite clear that Gore would have won that state
-- and with it the Electoral College votes required to make the winner of
the popular vote president.
As USA Today, which has just completed a review of Florida ballots in
conjunction with the Miami Herald, noted on Page 1 of its Friday editions:
"Who does it appear most (Florida) voters intended to vote for? Answer:
The newspaper's front page featured an illustration that summed up the
denial of democracy. It was the photo of a ballot on which a voter
mistakenly placed a mark next to the name of George W. Bush. The voter
crossed the mark out and then, to ensure that there was no confusion,
clearly wrote "No" next to the mark and Bush's name. Finally, the voter
carefully, and unequivocally, filled in the space next to Gore's name --
indicating a vote for the Democrat. This ballot, USA Today explained, was
Though the intent of the voter to register a vote for Gore was clear, it was
not counted as such. A hand recount of discarded ballots -- conducted by
nonpartisan experts -- found that 1,871 could be counted without any real
doubt as votes for Gore, while 1,189 registered votes for Bush.
What that means is that an honest recount of discarded ballots clearly
marked for Gore or Bush would have given Gore an additional 682 votes --
more than enough to reverse the "official" Bush margin in Florida of 537.
These are just the ballots that can be established without any serious
debate as votes for Gore.
Add in the tens of thousands of additional ballots that featured mistaken
votes for Gore and a second candidate -- resulting from poor ballot design
and instructions -- and the true sentiments of the electorate become clear.
But we'll leave the explaining to Anthony Salvanto, a University of
California-Irvine political science professor who specializes in computer
analysis of voting patterns.
"You get a pretty clear pattern from these ballots," Salvanto says of the
so-called "overvotes." "Most of these people went to the polls to vote for
Too bad those votes weren't hidden in FBI files. If that had been the case,
Gore might have won a new trial in front of the Supreme Court.
Copyright 2001 The Capital Times