What about the Florida Recount?

Jim991 asked this question on 12/13/2000:

If Bush was on the losing end do you feel:
1. Do you feel the Florida supreme court would have ruled the same? Or drug their feet.

2. The Florida Legislature would have had met in an emergency session to establish recount procedures? Or drug their feet as they did, they refused to meet to establish standards, only met to reeestablish electors.

3. The U.S. supreme Court involve themselves in a legislative matter, as they did?

4. The U.S. Congress act in a cowardly matter and not meet to establish standards?

Lastly, looking over the list of electors it seems Florida forgot several provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

"....but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or >>>Profit<<< under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector."

Does this seem fishy or what?

JesseGordon gave this response on 12/14/2000:

My colleague has answered all of the factual points, so let me address the one outstanding point: rephrasing your question, Do judges and legislators act in a partisan manner?

I think the asnwer is Yes, but I also think that they don't BELIEVE they are acting in a partisan manner.

I wanted Gore to be president. I also sincerely believe that the fairest thing to do would be to recount all the votes. But I question whether I believe that BECAUSE I wanted Gore to win. I know that I believe it, and I know that I THINK it's non-partisan, and I also know that I THINK I would say the sane thing if Bush were on the losing end. But it's quite a coincidence, isn't it, that what seems the "right thing to do" to me JUST HAPPENS to match up with the needs of the guy I want to win.

Your question is really epistemological (Gosh, I love big words like that!), which means you're questioning how we come to believe what we believe. I'm pretty sure that the reason I came to believe that "count every vote" was the right thing to do is because that noble statement would have resulted in the victory of my prefered candidate. That doesn't detract at all from its nobility -- nor from the fact that I sincerely believe it. Hence the same is true for the noble statements of Bush supporters -- they sincerely believe, I'll grant them even though I disagree, that a fair count has been done and that closure is needed.

It is simply impossible that every person involved in the Florida debate who was a Republican supporter JUST HAPPENED to honestly believe in Bush's nobel statement for closure, and that every person who was a Democratic supporter JUST HAPPENED to honestly beleive in Gore's noble statement. That's not coincidence -- that doesn't mean their beliefs are insincere, but it's NOT coincidence.

That's where the epistemology comes in. We come to believe in the noble statement we choose to believe in because we see the context. Judge Sauls & Katherine Harris and Antonin Scalia saw the context and picked a course of action that they sincerely believed in AND which supported Bush. The Democrats on the Florida Supreme Court saw the context and picked a course of action that they sincerely believed in AND which supported Gore. Sincere beliefs can be sincere, and yet still based on the context and the results that you foresee.

The only way to come up with truly non-partisan results from judicial decisions would be to keep judges in a black box, away from all news and events. Then you tell them the facts without including names at all, so they have to judge blindly (like that symbol of justice of the blindfolded judge). In the real world, that simply never happens. People's partisan preferences intrude into their beliefs whether they want them to or not. I don't question that most of the people involved acted on their sincere beliefs. But I also don't question that, if the roles were reversed, they would have chosen a DIFFERENT set of sincere beliefs with the opposite result.

The Florida contest gave us a chance to think about issues like this in great detail, because we got to see both sides. When I heard about the Seminole County ballots, which would have required throwing away 1000s of valid ballots to avoid voter fraud, I thought that would be wrong. But I thought that because I had already internalized (i.e., came to sincerely believe) the basic pro-Gore belief of "count every vote." If Seminole had come up first, I think I would have believed differently. Indeed, I listened intently, trying to find some justification where I could reconcile my desired result (throw out those votes) with my sincere beliefs (count every vote). I couldn't find any justification like that.

Same with the military ballot issue -- I couldn't justify throwing them away. But I think my lack of justification was based in part on the fact that I had already internalized the belief that "every vote count."

In short, my answer to your first question is, No, if Bush were on the losing end, the Democrats on the Florida Supreme Court would NOT have ruled the same. They woudl have "drug their feet". And they would have made some noble justification for it, and would have sincerely believed in that justification. That's the way people work, and that's the way politics works.

Priority asked this question on 12/10/2000:

Is it true that in a year or so, all the election ballots will be made available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act?

If the GOP effectively blocks a recount of the undervotes and Bush is certified as winning the presidency, and a year later the votes are available for anyone to count, what would happen if "public" recounts showed Gore the winner?

If it's true that the ballots will be made public in the future, isn't Bush's best strategy to get all the recounting done now?

JesseGordon gave this response on 12/11/2000:

Oh, it'll be less than a year! Florida has strong "sunshine laws" that will allow all ballots to be scrutinized by anyone interested.

The recounts then won't be much less ambiguous than the current situation. They will likely be reported like this:
VOTES BY MACHINE: X for Gore, Y for Bush

Gore supporters could add up X+X2=X3=X4=X5 and decalre Gore the winner -- he'd certainly be ahead on that count. Bush supporters could say that the rules tell us to stop at X & Y, and maybe include X2 & Y2. Bush won just counting X & Y. If X2 & Y2 showed Bush the winner (which would probably be extremely close), Bush supporters could say, "See? A recount wouldn't matter." If X2 & Y2 shows Gore a winner, they could say (correctly), "X2 & Y2 were increased by excessive ballot handling. Without that handling, Bush still would have won."

So the "answer" would still be up to partisan preference. I think, non-partisanly, that everyone will eventually acknowledge two facts: Gore got more votes, if you measure the intent of the voters, and Bush got more votes, if you measure ballots in any standardized way. That split simply will not change, no matter how many times you recount.

In short, the "margin of error" in this election was smaller than the margin of victory. So it's entirely up to the counting method who wins. It's a statisitical tie -- so even after a "public recount," people will still disagree. The only "answer" will come if there's a rematch in 2004. If enough people believe Gore then, he'll win. If not, Bush gets re-elected.

For more details, see

gabrichidze_nick asked this question on 12/4/2000:

I really can not put it together..
1)What if Bush will win his case in Supreme court and Gore will win his case in Florida?Can Bush appeal to the Florida court desision?
2)Gore adressed a nation few times officialy stating that his only intention is to make sure that EVERY AMERICANS VOTE WILL BE TAKEN IN THE CONSIDERATION.
After that statement he can not simply turn at 180
* and accept the victory in the Electoral college if 25 Florida electors will be absent (therefore many expert say that this must be his strategy..)
3)If Gore wins case in Florida about hand recounts but will still lose another hand recount-will he accept a defeat?

JesseGordon gave this response on 12/4/2000:

Yes, Gore SAYS "every vote should count." But what he really MEANS is "every vote should count because then I win."

And Bush SAYS "we need finality and closure." But what he really MEANS is "we need finality and closure because if we get it now, I win."

Both Bush and Gore are somewhat willing to use the other guy's argument when needed.

Gore did pretty much what Bush has been doing, rejecting ballots on technical grounds, in initially rejecting the overseas military ballots (he now accepts them, because he was sounding too hypocritical).

Bush did pretty much exactly what Gore has been doing, demanding that every vote get counted, when he requested a manual recount in New Mexico (he got it, gained a few hundred votes, but still lost, as of yesterday. It may be appealed again).

The noble statements are camouflage -- anmd very thin camouflage at that. Both Gore and Bush want to win, and think they HAVE won, and will justify their belief with whatever stance is needed; if it's noble, that's great, if it's not, well, they'll live with that too.

Do you know what you call a guy who loses the popular vote, throws out thousands of ballots based on technicalities, stonewalls a fair recount, and is accused of stealing the election? If he wins, you call him "Mr. President."

And do you know what you call a guy who fights for his election in courts, refuses to concede even when it's obvious he should for the good of the country, and keeps the country in limbo for weeks? If he wins, you call him "Mr. President" too.

In both cases, their REAL intention is to WIN. Everything else is just camouflage, to try to sway public opinion and court opinion.

See for excerpts on all of the above.

poorrichardjr asked this question on 11/27/2000:

Draw a line from now (Fla vote IN but, also in question) to Bush or Gore traversing the terrain to final Electoral Vote win. Describe the steps each may or should (in your opinion) take in order to succeed. Include steps,qualities, pitfalls to avoid, list all helpful,insitefull ideas and cover any predictions, or archive facts to support your thesis. Preclude no reasonable scenario. Are they taking the proper steps now? What could each be doing better???

JesseGordon gave this response on 11/28/2000:

For Gore:
- US Supreme Court accepts his argument that all Florida counties should use a consistent "dimpled chad" standard for recounting, and therefore Gore wins.
- That's really all it takes for Gore; he believes (and I think he's probably right) that such a counting would yield him a victory. That's really the basis of his whole dispute: he honestly believes he has won, and it's just a matter of getting the votes counted.
- Gore will phrase his request in noble terms like "The American people's voice should be heard and every vote should count," but really he's saying "Count votes so I can win."
- You can see his arguments in detail at

For Bush:
- Bush will fight Gore's requested recount for the same reason Gore wants it: it will likely show that Gore won.
- All Bush has to do now to win is maintain the status quo. He will therefore argue that the die is cast and we should conclude the process with no further changes.
- Bush will phrase his request in noble terms like "The American people need closure and a final result after a fair recount," but really he's saying "End it now so I can win."
- You can see his arguments in detail at

The truth is that there is an inherent error in counting ballots, as there is in any poll. The "margin of error" in balots is very small -- you see "+/- 3%" in polls, and here it is much smaller, because the sample size is 6 million. Let's say the error is 100 times smaller, so it's +/- 0.03%.

The certified vote count difference between Bush & Gore is 537 votes out of 6 million, or just about 0.009%. In short, the number of votes difference is less than the margin of error. What that means is, the Florida vote is a statistical tie -- it's entirely up to the counting method as to who wins. That's why Bush & Gore are fighting about the counting method.

Anonymous asked this question on 11/9/2000:


JesseGordon gave this response on 11/9/2000:

If it's somehow dead even (not very likely, but possible!), I suppose Florida would have to not send any electors to the Electoral College. (It's more likely that Florida concludes that legal problems preclude thei sending electors, which would have the same result).

If they don't send electors, the Electoral College will meet anyway on Dec. 18. Since neither candidate will have enough votes for a majority, the vote will go to the House of Representatives.

In the House, each state gets one vote; the congressional representatives decide among themselves who to vote for. That means if the delegation is majority Republican, they vote for Bush; if it's majority Democrat, they vote for Gore; if it's evenly split, they're deadlocked and get no vote. If one candidate gets 26 votes, he wins. If neither does, it goes to the Senate, with the same process.

However, if it goes to the House, Bush wins. There are 26 states with majority Republican delegations. Hence, if Florida reaches no conclusion by Dec. 18, Bush wins.

JesseGordon gave this follow-up answer on 11/9/2000:

A couple more details:

The deadline for Florida is Dec. 12; they have to have decided their electoral vote 6 days prior to the meeting of the Electoral College.

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