November 7, 2004
Stop the presses! Kerry wonBy Lona Manning
Journalist Greg Palast says that John Kerry won the election. If all the votes cast for Kerry in Ohio and New Mexico had been properly counted, writes Palast, Bush would have been the one giving the concession speech on Wednesday.
To make his case, Palast mixes insinuation, anecdote and misleading statistics. He notes that nearly three percent of ballots cast are spoiled (actually more like two percent), and that spoiled ballots are disproportionately found in counties with a high African—American population (true).
Then he suggests that every African—American given a provisional ballot on Tuesday in Ohio:
a) was challenged unfairly by a Republican;
b) cast his vote for Kerry;
c) 'may or may not' have his vote counted.
Hispanics in New Mexico were similarly disenfranchised, he claims.
Palast assumes that all spoiled ballots and all provisional ballots are eligible, valid, votes—for—Kerry. By adding the total number of spoiled ballots and the total number of provisional ballots together, Palast deduces that there are enough uncounted votes for Kerry to close the gap between him and Bush. Ergo, Kerry won the election.
Extraordinary charges require extraordinary proof, and the first thing I'd want to understand is, just what is Palast saying here? Is he saying there was a concerted fraud?
He doesn't come out and say so in so many words. He insinuates, he sneers. He calls Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell a 'rabidly partisan Republican,' but he doesn't say, 'Blackwell stole the election for Bush.' He doesn't say, 'the Republicans are corrupt and racist,' although he uses words like 'Ku Klux Klan,' 'holocaust,' 'ethnically cleansing' and 'Jim Crow' in his articles about the ballot spoilage problem.
On such an important point, couldn't Palast make himself clear?
Is he saying that ballot spoilage in Ohio and New Mexico, and only Ohio and New Mexico, is indicative of fraud? Or is he saying that it's all fraud everywhere? Or is he saying that some ballot spoilage is fraud and some is voter error and some is machine error? When 110 million people go to mark their ballots, including the inexperienced, the illiterate, the elderly, and so forth, what percentage of spoilage is reasonable and what is suspicious?
Does it appear that a concerted effort was made to depress the black vote in Ohio, as opposed to elsewhere? It would certainly look suspicious if ballot spoilage was significantly different in battleground states as opposed to states that were strongly red or blue.
So is ballot spoilage higher in battleground states? We'll await the official results for this election, but in the Gore/Bush contest in 2000, South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Wyoming had HIGHER rates of ballot spoilage than disputed Florida.
So what nefarious plot was going on in Wyoming (where Bush beat Gore 69% to 28%)?
Can Palast show that ballot spoilage problems only showed up in the year 2000, when a Republican won, or was it also a problem in previous elections when Democrats prevailed?
Perhaps he means that Republicans are the passive but knowing beneficiaries of a system that needs improvement. The voting study conducted by the Harvard Civil Rights project concluded that the biggest problem in Florida was poor ballot design, a problem that is inexpensive and comparatively easy to fix.
Can Palast demonstrate that Republicans are less concerned about cleaning up voting problems than Democrats? Frankly, I don't trust him to objectively weigh the evidence.
For example, he writes
'Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson... removed several thousand voters from the state's voter rolls [prior to this year's election]. She tagged felons as barred from voting..... Secretary Davidson declared an "emergency." However, the only "emergency" in Colorado seems to be President Bush's running dead even with John Kerry in the polls.'
But I was unable to verify that Davidson in fact conducted a purge. A Denver Post article indicated the opposite ——— that Davidson instructed election officials
"not to turn felons away from the polls, but to let them cast emergency ballots that likely won't count on Election Day. 'The goal is not to disenfranchise anyone needlessly or accidentally,' she said at an emergency meeting.'
Emergency ballot, emergency meeting, but I can't find a reference to Davidson purging felons from the rolls and calling it an emergency. And Bush won Colorado, 52 to 47 percent.
Palast is even more misleading on the subject of Broward County, Florida. He writes:
'What has not been nationally reported is that Broward's elections supervisor is a Jeb Bush appointee who took the post only after the governor took the unprecedented step of removing the prior elected supervisor who happened be a Democrat.'
The facts are:
Jeb Bush's appointee is Dr. Brenda C. Snipes
Snipes is an African American and a Democrat.
After Snipes was appointed by Governor Bush, she ran in the Democratic primary, won, and then won her post by acclamation when the Republican challenger dropped out.
Bush fired Snipe's predecessor, who happened to be a Democrat. She also happened to be incompetent, according to Florida officials who knew that something had to be done in Broward county if another 2000—style disaster was to be averted.
But Palast only lets his readers know that Dr. Snipes was a 'Jeb Bush appointee.'
If anyone else has the time or the stomach to fisk Palast further, go to it. After seeing how misleading he was about Dr. Snipes, I've seen enough to conclude I don't need to waste my time on him. Palast's work is irresponsible, illogical, sloppy and biased.
But I still don't know if Palast is accusing someone of fraud. Is Palast being coy or is he merely incoherent?
Lona Manning writes for The American Thinker from Canada