Saturday, January 24, 2004

The 2000 US Presidential Election

The U.S. presidential election results were unprecidented, not just in U.S. history but likely world history. Let me give this capsule summary as follows:

  • The former president, Bill Clinton, was term-limited and unable to run for election. He had been impeached but not removed from power, over a somewhat "small" issue (lying about who he had sex with and where). There was a concerted effort by the "conservatives" (now called neo-conservatives) to "get" him, and especially to elect a Republican to replace him.
  • The chosen Republican, George W Bush, is the son of the president prior to Clinton (George H.W. Bush). His selection as the party candidate was a shoe-in before the primary season got underway, and was largely determined by the huge campaign donations and not the will of the voters.
  • On election night the race was too close to call, with several states reporting extremely close results between Bush and the then-current Vice President, Al Gore.
  • Though close in many states, only in Florida was the results close enough to be an issue. Hence, for the following month tense events happened in Florida to determine who the winner was.
  • The governor of Florida is George W. Bush's brother Jeb Bush.
  • George W. Bush's campaign secretary in Florida was also the Florida Secretary of State, the official in charge of ensuring a fair counting of the vote.
  • There was a questionable purging in the voter rolls of convicted felons who, under Florida law, are not allowed to vote. The purging, though, was done in a slipshod manner which appears to have disenfranchised people who had never been convicted of anything.
  • Convicted felons have a high probability of being Negro, and Negro's have a high probability of voting with the Democratic party, therefore a case can be made that being overly broad in purging felons from voter rolls you are unfairly impinging Democrats from voting. Indeed, of those purged, most were in counties which vote heavily for the Democratic party.
  • A lot of the angst about the close election fell on the punch card ballots and their hanging chads. Indeed, in trying to determine the actual vote the election officials had to look at those punch card ballots very closely. HOWEVER, the number of felons purged from the rolls dwarfed the number of ballots having hanging chad problems, so therefore any reasonable error rate in the purged felons also would dwarf the number of ballots with hanging chad problems.