Butterfly Ballot Bingo

florida election ballot
A ballot design that confused voters into choosing two candidates cost Al Gore 6,607 votes in Palm Beach County, The Palm Beach Post reported in its Sunday editions.

The newspaper counted more than 19,000 "overvotes," or ballots on which more than one vote was recorded for a presidential candidate. It concluded the net gain of votes for Democrat Gore would have been 10 times more than he needed to erase Republican George W. Bush's slim margin of 537 votes in the Sunshine State.

Mr. Bush secured the White House in December after weeks of legal wrangling with then-Vice President Gore over the outcome in Florida. The Republican was ultimately declared as the popular vote winner in that state, giving him Florida's 25 electoral votes and the presidency.

Many voters in Palm Beach County had complained that the so-called "butterfly ballot" was confusing because candidates' names appeared on both sides of the punchcard with holes in the middle. They expected the holes to select Mr. Bush and Gore to be the first two choices as required by Florida statutes, but instead found Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, on a facing page, located between them.

According to the newspaper's review, 5,330 ballots were thrown out because voters punched chads for Gore and Buchanan, whose name appeared just above Gore's.

Another 2,908 voters punched Gore's name and Socialist David McReynolds, the candidate whose name appeared just below Gore's.

Mr. Bush lost 1,631 votes because people selected both him and Buchanan. Buchanan's name appeared just below Mr. Bush on the ballot.

The two Gore combinations, minus the Bush-Buchanan votes, add up to 6,607 lost votes for Gore.

"What it shows is what we've been saying all along there is no question that the majority of people on Election Day believed they left the booth voting for Al Gore," said Ron Klain, Gore's former chief of staff and his lead legal strategist in Florida.

Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, a vocal Bush supporter, dismissed the findings.

"You're trying too hard to find a correlation here," Racicot said. "You don't know these people, you don't know what they intended."

The Post reported that even if 1 percent of the 6,607 votes were intended for Buchanan or McReynolds - more than their combined percent of Palm Beach County's total vote - Gore would still have received 6,541 votes.

Three-fourths of the overvotes had punches for two candidates, most of which experts said can be attributed to the ballot design. The rest were for three or more candidates, which experts called voter error, not a design problem.

There were 5,062 voters who punched three or more choices for president. Twenty-eight voters selected all 10 presidential candidates.

The newspaper's review of overvotes was conducted between Jan. 17 and Jan. 29.

The Post inot the only newspaper reviewing Florida ballots. Two groups are conducting examinations in all 67 counties.

The first group, which consists of The Miami Herald, its parent company Knight Ridder, and USA Today, had completed its examination in 65 of 67 counties as of last Wednesday.

The other group consists of The Post, The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, St. Petersburg Times, The Wall Street Journal and Tribune Publishing, which owns The Orlando Sentinel and The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. As of last Tuesday, it still had 20 counties remaining.

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