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The Silly Florida 2000 Analogy

[ 9 ] May 28, 2008 |

Jon Chait makes the first obvious point about Rich Lowry’s silly attempt to claim that there’s some contradiction between Democratic arguments that ballots that indicated the intent of the voter should be counted in Florida 2000 and the position of many Democrats about current dispute over the Democratic nomination: the argument was that Gore was cheated of the presidency because in a fair contest in Florida he would have won the electoral college. Similarly, had 200,000 votes shifted in Ohio in 2004 Kerry would have been entitled to the presidency despite losing the popular vote. These results would (in my view) be good reasons to get rid of the electoral college, but not for changing the rules after the fact. Lowry tries to manufacture a contradiction by attributing Clinton’s attempted ex post facto change in metrics to the Dems in 2000, but that won’t fly.

In addition, however, the analogy is also null because (especially in Michigan) the Clinton campaign wants to count the results of a “primary” that obviously does not offer a meaningful recording of voter intent. To believe that the ballots cast in a multi-candidate election conducted according to agreed-upon rules should be interpreted when possible to count votes that make a voter’s intent clear hardly requires the counting of ballots in an election with one major candidate on the ballot that every candidate and the authoritative decision-maker claimed wouldn’t count. Elections in North Korea don’t suddenly become legitimate even if every ballot for Kim Jong-il is, in fact, counted, and people who wanted to “count all the votes” in Florida in 2000 are not required to include online straw polls in presidential election counts in 2008. And, therefore, Lowry’s argument makes no sense.

Comments (9)

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  1. jon says:

    You’re just saying that to hurt Kim’s feelings…

  2. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    I think the question of meaningfully recording voter intent is beside the point.
    Many states–though certainly not Florida–have highly restrictive ballot access laws that make it very difficult for voter intent to be meaningfully recorded.
    In my state of Oklahoma, for example, not only is it extraordinarily difficult for third party or independent candidates to appear on the ballot, but write-in votes are also outlawed. I wanted to vote for Nader in 2000, but it was literally impossible for me to do so. Does that render Oklahoma’s presidential ballot null and void? I think not.
    For better or for worse, voters do not have the right, as a general principal, to register their desires when voting. The SCOTUS has consistently upheld the rights of states to have restrictive ballot laws and to ban write-in voting.
    I totally agree that the analogy between Florida in 2000 and the Florida and Michigan “primaries” is faulty. I just don’t think the difference involves a putative right for voters to meaningfully record their intent. There is no such right.

  3. John Cole says:

    It will never, ever stop. Ever.

  4. Daniel Nexon says:

    I think that a shift of a little less than 60K votes would have shifted the election to Kerry.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._presidential_election%2C_2004%2C_in_Ohio

  5. dms says:

    Well, Scott, you win with this sentence:
    “To believe that the ballots cast in a multi-candidate election conducted according to agreed-upon rules should be interpreted when possible to count votes that make a voter’s intent clear hardly requires the counting of ballots in an election with one major candidate on the ballot that every candidate and the authoritative decision-maker claimed wouldn’t count.”
    I’ve read it several times and I’m still not sure what it means. But to put together 50+ words without any but the the necessary punctuation is really a feat to be commended.

  6. mattH says:

    Lowry’s argument makes no sense.
    This, always. Not much else you need to say.

  7. rea says:

    dms–what’s difficult to grasp about that sentence? I don’t have any trouble with it, and I’m no transcendent genius. Not everything written for adults needs to be in the language of Dick, Jane & Sally.

  8. dms says:

    I think you mean Dick Jane and Sally.

  9. Joe says:

    I think long sentences without punctuation are beautiful (provided they make sense). Read Dubliners again and be amazed at how infrequently you see Joyce use a comma. My general rule is commas separating compound sentences are OK, but anything else and you need to think three times about it.

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