Can this Palm Beach E-mail be De-Bunked?

This is an e-mail I just received. With all the rumors and inneundos flying about, I wanted to see if this could be debonked before I sent it to anyone.

Anyone have any complaints with any of the claims?

1. Claim: 19,000 ballots were thrown out because voters selected more than one candidate for president. This shows people were confused and a revote should be taken.

Fact: 15,000 ballots were thrown out in 1996 for the same reason. Source: CNN Jim Smith, Former Florida Sec of State

2. Claim: The ballot was illegal because Sec. 101.51 of the Florida Statutes provides that the box for selecting a candidate should appear to the right of a candidate’s name. Since the square for punching the computer ballot for Buchanan appeared to the left of his name (he appeared on the right side of the so-called “butterfly” page), the ballot does not comply with Florida law and some legal redress should be given.

Fact: Sec. 101.151 does not apply to the Palm Beach County procedures. Sec. 101.151 provides in pertinent part: “101.151 Specifications for general election ballot-- In counties in which voting machines are not used, and in other counties for use as absentee ballots not designed for tabulation by an electronic or electromechanical voting system, the general election ballot shall conform to the following specifications:…”

“Electronic Voting Systems Act”. This Act was first adopted in 1973 and has been amended frequently since then. 101.5609 Ballot requirements.–

(1) When an electronic or electromechanical voting system utilizes a ballot card or paper ballot which is distributed to electors, the ballot shall meet the following requirements:

Section 6 (6) “Voting squares may be placed in front of or in back of the names of candidates and statements of questions and shall be of such size as is compatible with the type of system used…”

3. Claim: 3407 Palm Beach residents cast their ballots for the Reform Party candidate. Gore allies like Rep. Robert Wexler charge that those votes rightfully belong in the vice president’s column. “These people are mostly elderly Jewish retirees who would never be caught dead voting for a Nazi like Buchanan,” Wexler told reporters Wednesday. Even Buchanan has said those votes don’t belong to him.

Fact: In Buchanan’s 1996 presidential primary, over 4,000 area residents voted for Buchanan.

4. Claim: Proof that the votes for Buchanan were in error is that he received 3407 votes in Palm County while a similar county , Broward, gave him only 790.

Fact: According to the Florida supervisor of elections, Broward County has only 189 members of the Independent Party – Florida’s Reform party. Palm Beach County, on the other hand, has a whopping 14,551 members of the Independent Party. In fact, it has the highest Independent registration in Florida. So as a percentage, Buchanan got almost 7 times the registered independent vote in Broward will getting only 18% of the independent vote in Palm County.

5. Claim: The ballot was confusing and is part of a Republican dirty trick campaign.

Fact: It was designed by a Democrat. It was approved by the local Democrats. It was posted in the local newspaper and in other public places. Every single registered voter in Palm Beach County was sent a sample ballot. Number of complaints reported to the local election officials before Election Day = 0.

Aside from the sour grapes tone, the fact that Buchanan himself said in the media that those 3407 votes were “probably” meant for Gore makes me skeptical of the refutation of no. 4.

Freedom2, when are you going to learn?!? :wink:

First off, I wouldn’t trust anything that has a headline of “that Florida County”. If this person is going to do some research, you’d expect he’d run across the words “Palm Beach County”.

Secondly, every single one of those claims are poorly written and are illogical. Basically, they were handpicked by the OP. While there are facts there that can be refuted, they are worded in such a way to cause an instant dislike for them. However, I don’t dispute either Claim 1 or Claim 2.

Claim 3 also is terribly worded to not support the point its trying to make. Also, just because 4,000 people voted for Buchanan in the PRIMARY means nothing. I know of plenty of Democrats who are registered Republicans just so they can vote for the less competitive Republican for their Democratic candidate to run against in the regular election.

Claim 4, Buchanan isn’t a member of the Independent Party. He’s a member of the Reform Party. Many people who are undecided register as Independent. This point is worthless.

Claim 5: I hate voter apathy as well. At no point has anybody said anything about these ballots being a dirty Republican trick. What I HAVE heard is that it was confusing when in the context of the voting booth, and not in someone’s junk mail.

In other words, Freedom2, don’t send this out. And tell your friends not to send it out. It makes Republicans look really bad. I’m sure that you and your friends are completely capable of intelligent conversation without sending out worthy e-mails.

It seems to be lifted mostly from a statement by Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, according to this salon column.

  1. “…in the 1996 presidential election, 14,872 ballots were invalidated for double counting in Palm Beach County, a figure comparable to the number of ballots dismissed this year, considering this year’s higher turnout.”

  2. “According to the Florida Department of State, 16,695 voters in Palm Beach County are registered to the Independent Party, the Reform Party, or the American Reform Party, an increase of 110 percent since the 1996 presidential election. Throughout the rest of Florida, the registration increase for these parties was roughly 38 percent. In contrast, in neighboring Broward County, only 476 voters are registered to these parties.”

As for Buchanan saying he doesn’t think those votes are his- we’ve seen again and again people here saying that Nader wants Bush to win, so that it’ll be easier for his agenda/party to get support in '04. Why wouldn’t the same (in reverse, sort of) apply for Buchanan?

Oh, come on. It does mean something. We’ve heard over and over again that Palm Beach County “doesn’t have 3000 Nazis”, that’s it’s a guaranteed Democratic spot, etc. Yet here’s an example of 4,000 people voting for Buchanan in a previous election. It turns the statement “well, most of those Buchanan votes must have been mistaken Gore votes” into absolute speculation, because it’s now been proven that Buchanan votes in those numbers aren’t that out of the norm.

Except that there was, and possibly still is, the American Independent Party. And the AIP ran George Wallace for President in '68. I find it pretty easy to believe that the people who voted for Wallace in '68 would vote for Buchanan today. Read the Salon article- the way Fleischer phrases it, he’s obviously talking about a specific party.

Buchanan is now on TV claiming those votes are his, regardless of the motivation behind them.
Re: Claim #4

The Independent party is the name of the Florida Reform party. Similiar to the Greens, they do not have the same names in every state.

IOW…Independent Party = Reform Party

Independent Party Does not equal Independent voter.

Do you remember the battle between Buchanan and Hagelin? There was an inner-party battle in the Reform party, and that may account for the different name.

So you’re saying JC that you support this e-mail as a non-misleading and factual account of the events?

Regardless, I don’t feel that the number of people registered to a party, especially the Independent Party (my original Voter Registration card had an “I” on it, didn’t mean I wasn’t a Republican), can accurately speculate where votes belong.

The only fact that I’ve gathered in the last 2 days is that ANY Buchanan votes in that quantity are ENTIRELY out of the ordinary… :wink:

I’m saying that on Claim #1 and #4, this e-mail presents factual information. I can’t find any site with 1996 Primary results, let alone county primary results, so I can’t verify the facts of #3. But I haven’t seen anything that states that the information here is wrong, either.

But the point isn’t to say “oh, yes, these are absolutely Buchanan votes.” The Democrats are trying to overturn the Florida results by saying, “These votes couldn’t possibly be all Buchanan’s.” And the facts given in this e-mail directly oppose that statement. They could nearly all be Buchanan’s. So there’s no reason for a court to call for a new election; the Democrats cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these results reflect the will of the county.

Freedom2 said:

That’s not what I saw him saying on TV.

It was on Neil Cavuto, Fox News 4pm show. What interview did you see? And did you see the entire interview?

As quoted by CNN

I saw the whole Today show interview, and it was clear that Buchanan did not believe that all of the votes were for him.

That’s what he was saying in the morning. Freedom2’s interview was apparently from the afternoon. Perhaps he learned something between the two times. Having not seen either interview, I won’t speculate on them.

Actually, the number I have in 1996 from the Florida Board of Elections is 8,788 votes for Buchanan…Even better you say? Well, not really. No one I think doubts that there might be as many of 3400 people in this populous county who might vote for Buchanan. [Hell, there were over 150,000 nutty enough to vote for G.W. ;)…I’m sure a few percent of these could find Buchanan appealing enough to vote for in a primary!] The question is how the percentages compare. Here’s the percentage of the vote which went to Buchanan in a number of the biggest counties (I am too lazy to add them all up…These are all of the ones I did add up; no editting!):
Brevard 0.26%
Broward 0.14%
Dade 0.09%
Duval 0.25%
Hillsborough 0.24%
Lee 0.17%
Orange 0.16%
Palm Beach 0.79%
Pinellas 0.25%
Sarasota 0.19%
Seminole 0.14%
Union 0.22%
Statewide 0.29% [0.26% if you subtract off 2300 of the 3400 votes that come from Palm Beach]

Now, in the 1996 Republican Primary…Unfortunately my data here is limited because I couldn’t get the entire across the page and I only wrote down numbers for Palm Beach and Pinellas by hand…and, for obvious reasons, I suppose, the Florida Board of Elections website is not responding now:
Palm Beach 15.3%
Pinellas 15.5%
Statwide 18.1%

Another way to look at it is to consider the contribution from Palm Beach to Pat Buchanan’s state total:
this election: 19.6%
1996 primary: 5.4%

If anything, one might naive expect that Palm Beach would have lower amounts for Buchanan (relative to other counties like Pinellas) when you consider the break amongst all voters than when you consider just the Republican primary (because it is more heavily Democratic and because the ethnic group particularly identified amongst voters very unlikely to vote for Buchanan is a group that votes primarily Democratic), although perhaps other demographic explanations are possible.

Just to conclude with some opinion: One can argue that there is nothing that can or should be done about these mistaken ballots and even that they can’t be proven if the evidential standard is set to “you must prove absolutely and positively conclusively” (which, frankly, is absolutely, positively impossible with a secret ballot).

But, I really think that, barring some other “mechanistic” explanation that could account for this anomaly in Buchanan votes relative to other counties and relative to the 1996 primary, one really can conclude with a very high degree of certainty, in a statistical sense, that there were a significant number of votes in error…probably about 2200–2800 (although someone with a better demographic understanding of the county could make a slightly better guess at this).

Buchanan reiterated this in the afternoon interview. He said that there were probably some mistakes in there,but regardless of the motivation the votes were his. Otherwise, how would we protect our democracy?

Should we always take the vote totals and then just reassign them based on what we believe is right?
For those of you who are using statistics to prove your case here, I would just like to point out that statistics helped start this whole debacle in Florida around 7:30 when the networks called Florida for Gore. We need to use real vote counts, and we need to follow the law.

*Originally posted by Freedom2 *

As I noted, I am not saying anything about what, if anything, should be done. I’m just addressing the question about whether the vote is anomalous or not. And, by the way, if you are trying to imply that the statistics in this case are uncertain…Let me just say that if, on a purely statistical basis, you had an event you expected to occur with a probability of 0.29% (statewide average for Buchanan vote) and you ran 430000 trials (total vote in Palm Beach county), then getting 3400 occurrences (number of Buchanan votes) is a 62-sigma result. I don’t have any books here at home that can tell me what this translates into in terms of probabilities that this many or more occurrences would happen, but we are probably talking way less than the chance that it would happen even once if you ran a simulation of this once every nanosecond since the beginning of the universe. (Outside of 1-sigma occurs about 1 in 3 times, 3-sigma about 1 in 100 times, and 6-sigma about 1 in a million times to give you some idea of how it goes.) Believe me, they don’t do exit polling to get results good to 62-sigma!!!

Now, like I said, there could be a “mechanistic” explanation; i.e., some reason why this county would be more inclined to vote for Buchanan this election. But, my point is that such a vote does not occur as some sort of statistical fluctuation without such an underlying cause!

Buchanan is on Larry King right now. Freedom2’s reporting is correct. Pat is claiming the votes as his. He admits the ballot may have been less than clear; however, he does not believe anyone can read “intent” into those votes and distribute them elsewhere. No re-vote. If Bush has the votes, Gore should admit defeat and not drag this out. Pat doesn’t feel guilty or responsible for any after-the-fact second thoughts or claims. They voted for him for whatever reason, and election rules must stand.

They’re still talking as I write this.

I’m sorry if I was unclear. My point was not whether or not statistics were uncertain in this case, but that they were irrelevant. I don’t want elections determined by statistics, just like I don’t support using them to determine our census instead of using an actual count.

A vote is a vote is a vote.

Freedom2 wrote:

And just to confuse you even more:

“The American Independent Party” is the name of the California “Constitution Party.” (Which used to be called “The Taxpayer’s Party” until the patriot/sovereign-citizen crowd objected.) They were formed because those darn Republicans were just waaaaaay too left-wing for them (!).