On the ninth of October 2000, there was considerable debate among my colleagues in regard to the impending election. At that time, I remember discussing the contest between Gore and Bush and mentioning that I didn't trust Bush because I figured he was plotting, with considerable effort, a massive voter fraud that would allow him to seize the presidency.
I remember my colleagues laughing at me, calling me a "conspiracy nut" and telling me that there was "no way" that Bush could pull off such a stunt.
When the election finally happened, and the returns were being postedwith the exception of Florida, a few of my colleagues asked me what I knew and how I came to know it.
Would it have been more polite to tell them my prediction was made half in jest, or to just give them a serious look and let them think about it?
I still have the serious look.
On November 7, 2000, approximately 100 million American voters went to the polls after a somewhat tedious and uninspiring presidential campaign. Nothing untoward had happened during the campaign insofar as the voters were concerned, and throughout the nation people cast their votes in what seemed, for many voters, a normal trip to the polls.
As the election progressed, the media were surprised by the numbers generated by democratic voters in the industrial states and in what were termed "battleground states" such as Pennsylvania and Michigan. The biggest surprise was when the networks announced, early in the evening of November 7, that Gore had carried the state of Florida and was well on his way to becoming the president.
What transpired after the initial announcement were a number of strange and unexpected events that would leave the majority of American voters in a state of disbelief. After the networks announced a Gore victory in Florida based on exit poll results, Bush assembled a press conference to announce that contrary to the results of the exit polls, he was going to be the winner in Florida because his brother Jeb "promised to deliver the state" to him.
How ironic, that a candidate with an apparently overwhelming deficit in the polls, would announce that he was confident that he would win a state governed by his brother and notorious for repeated incidents of voting fraud. The appearance by George Bush on national television, openly questioning the networks' assessment of exit polling, and practically telling the American public that he was going to win a disputed state, was completely out of place for a presidential candidate. His statement would, because of its brevity and arrogant certainty, be the first of many indications that something was rotten in Florida.
With the definitive statement in the ears of the election watchers, Bush's senior campaign officials were hammering the American media, demanding that Gore's apparent victory be immediately changed to favor Bush. Within an hour of the original reporting and shortly after Bush's press conference, the networks reported that results in Florida showed Gore losing to Bush by a narrow margin. Shortly after the networks made the announcement of a projected Bush win in Florida, Vice President Gore made the customary concession call to Bush. However, after Gore made the concession call and was on his way to make a public concession speech, his aides informed him that the vote tallies in Florida again showed a potential for him to win. After several Gore aides prevailed in their arguments, the Vice President made the decision to withdraw his concession and subsequently made a second call to Bush to formally announce his intent.
By the morning of November 8, there was still no clear winner in the Florida election and no clear winner of the presidency. To the majority of Americans, this was an unprecedented event. They had never awakened on November 8 and not known who their president was. In the entirety of American history, there have never been as many "unusual" and "extraordinary" events that accompanied an election. Even though Bush held a minuscule lead of one hundred votes out of six million cast in Florida, the majority of voters in the country cast their ballots for Gore.
While the average American was trying to make sense out of the election, the news media began to report a number of irregularities among Jewish voters. Apparently, these voters had overwhelmingly cast their ballots for the notorious anti-Semite Pat Buchanan. Furthermore, there were reports in the African-American community that many voters had been turned away from the polls because their names did not appear on the voter rolls even though they had a valid voter registration. There were reports of intimidation of African-American voters by Florida State Police and voting machines in predominately democratic precincts that would not cast a vote for president.
The ambiguous results of the Florida election became even more muddled with further reports of voter intimidation, unconventional ballots, ballots that could not be properly inserted into the machines, incorrect copies of voter rolls in many precincts, missing and hidden ballot boxes as well as rumors of republican operatives deliberately interfering with voters by telephone and at the polls.
This entire scenario was the beginning of a counting process that would be fraught with even more problems. The initial counts showed that Bush had won by a scant hundred votes, but with the irregularities and numbers of ballots uncounted, Vice President Gore called for a recount. In such a close election, with no clear winner, a recount should have been automatic, but as soon as the call for a recount came from the democrats' camp, the republicans began to raise objections and attempt, by any means, to obstruct or distort the recount as an illegal action.
By the second day after the election, both camps brought in observers to monitor the recounts. Both camps sought the counsel of former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher for the democrats, and James Baker for the republicans. Baker's initial claims of the illegality of recounting the Florida ballots merely parroted the original claims of the Bush camp. Although the press portrayed both men as "distinguished", only Warren Christopher lived up to the description. The appearance of James Baker as the spokesman for Bush and the republicans would only serve as a further indication of impropriety and potential wrongdoing by the Bush campaign. Baker's comments were consistent with the kind of rhetoric used by a political entity after a coup d'etat constantly intoning the mantra of finality, telling the press and the world that the election was over and Bush had won so get over it.
However, when the republicans were pressed to answer for the questionable circumstances of the Florida election, instead of taking the moral high ground or insisting on their claims of a definitive margin of victory, the republicans deliberately sought to obstruct and disrupt a lawful recount that could have proven their claim having won Florida. What began with an arrogant press conference by the son of a corrupt former president was clearly developing into something entirely more sinister.
That's when I knew for certain that there had been a coup d'etat. With Bush calling his poppy's hit men and former CIA heavies into the fray, I knew that nothing short of a miracle could stop what was taking place. I recalled the words of First Lady Hillary Clinton when she was describing the constant assaults against President Clinton from the republicansthis was truly the work of "a vast right wing conspiracy", and it was furthermore the work of George H.W. Bushstill smarting over his loss to Clinton in the election of '92.
What was clear during the ensuing days of the recount was that there was a certain intensity to the republican activities that belied the truthfulness of their putative "compassionate conservatism". From the outset, the republican machinery had ensured their success by placing operatives that would defy the will of the voters and force their conservative agenda at any cost. This became increasingly apparent as the recounts progressed. Governor Jeb Bush made a considerable effort to avoid the appearance of conflicting interests by recusing himself from the recount process, but even with this supposed demonstration of non-partisanship, Jeb left his secretary of state Katharine Harris in charge of the process and ultimately as the final arbiter of the outcome. However, Harris was, in fact, a co-chairman of the Bush campaign in Florida and was under consideration for an ambassadorship in Europe!
To the news media and apparently to the nation as a whole it did not make a difference that the key member of the Bush campaign was in a position to block the recount process in disputed counties as well as throughout the state. Katharine Harris was determined to declare her candidate as the winner regardless of the outcome of the recount. The entire incident in Florida began to take on a surreal qualitythe country had voted overwhelmingly for Gore, yet the republicans had installed their operatives beforehand in order to install their choice for president over and above the will of the majority of voters.
As more information became available during the thirty-six days of the recount in Florida, it was apparent that the media had no interest in reporting any suggestion of political bias or any manipulation of votes or voting rules by officials that were in charge of the election. The constant barrage of disinformation and partisan slander that was obviously being fed to the media by the republican political machinery was dutifully reported by all of the major news outlets without one single journalist questioning or investigating the source of the information. Unfortunately, the only source of information for the majority of Americans was under corporate control, and the corporations themselves all had a significant interest in ensuring the success of the republicans bid for control of the government.
However, some information did manage to surface as many blatant republican-incited riots occurred in and among the peaceful protests that were being conducted by the disenfranchised Florida voters. There were a number of reports of republican instigators traveling from city to city in order to overwhelm the protestors and incite violent assaults so that the media would portray the Florida demonstrations in a negative manner. In several well-documented incidents, well-organized republican groups attacked democratic observers and smashed windows during the recounts. In one outstanding incident that took place in Miami-Dade county, a well-organized squad of men that were later identified as republican congressional aides, stormed a room where votes were being counted and caused the counting of votes to be stopped for fear of further violent attacks.
While disingenuously portraying these violent attacks as "spontaneous grass-roots efforts," the republican operatives were not protesting through civil disobedience, they were instead leading a concerted effort to instigate violent attacks that were designed to intimidate and threaten the people that were engaged in conducting a lawful counting of votes. Clearly the republicans did not (and still do not) want the American public to know the true outcome of the Florida election. In fact there was and still is a considerable effort to deliberately distort the actual results of the Florida vote.
As more information leaked through the hastily constructed containment apparatus of the republican machine, more evidence of intentional tampering with the vote surfaced as the days after the election wore on. In October of 2ooo, evidence was uncovered in Seminole County concerning two unidentified republican operatives being allowed access to absentee ballots supposedly in order to "correct" approximately 4700 incorrectly printed (republican) ballots. Due to a printing error, over 15,000 absentee ballots were inadvertently printed with the voter's birth date instead of a voter identification number. What was strangely compelling about this particular incident was that the republican operatives were allowed access to election offices by Election Supervisor Sandra Goard, an elected republican official. The men were supposedly allowed access to the election supervisor's office only to "correct" the republican absentee ballots. However, Goard allowed the two men to have access to the election supervisor's office without asking for any kind of identification whatsoever. The two men were allowed to "correct" the incorrect republican absentee ballots while Goard dutifully discarded the remaining ten thousand (predominately democratic) absentee ballots as prescribed by law. Furthermore, Goard allowed the men to work unsupervised for fifteen to twenty-one days in a room that had access to the computer system that held all of the information regarding Florida's voters. Not surprisingly, each of these men came equipped with a laptop computer that could have been used to hack into the Florida voter database given that they had fifteen to twenty-one days to work at the task!
Incredibly, when more evidence surfaced as to voter rolls being "scrubbed" before the election by Database Technologies, an organization based in Boca Raton, Florida. Further inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission into the history of DBT and its parent company ChoicePoint Incorporated, showed that the company had been acquired only one month before the purged voter rolls had been turned over to Florida election officials. Although the voter rolls had been supposedly purged of convicted felons and other ineligible voters, many eligible voters were also victimized by the purge. What is even more remarkable in regard to this voter purge is that ChoicePoint had obtained their lists of supposed "felons" from the state of Texas. ChoicePoint Incorporated has been identified as being closely associated with the Republican Party.
Nobody can tell me that this was not a concerted effort on the part of the republican political machine to undermine and cause considerable damage to the election process in this country. After all, as junior Bush said in an off the cuff statement shortly after the election debacle; "This would be a lot easier in a dictatorshipas long as I'm the dictator."
With all of the probable vote fraud interwoven with deliberate attempts to interfere with the recount and multiple lawsuits being filed over disenfranchisement of voters, the legal community established their presence almost from the beginning of the catastrophic 2000 election. The legal question was not whether there was widespread voter fraud perpetrated in the State of Florida, but whether Florida law provided for a recount under the circumstances that prevailed after the initial counts had occurred. For the republicans, there was no question that the recount should be stopped and the results from the original counts, showing a Bush victory, be certified as the official result. The democrats, however, decried the republican contention as improper under Florida law.
Which side was right? Common sense and logic dictates that election officials, sworn to uphold the law, should have pursued an accurate recounting of the state's ballots and enlisted the authority of the state itself to protect this indisputable right. But, the voters in Florida knew, as well as the nation, that there would be no logical, rational conclusion to the election as long as the republicans had one of their key players in the gameSecretary of State Katherine Harris.
Many Americans know how incomprehensible and muddled an issue becomes once it lands in the confines of a courtroom. Attorneys and judges tend to parse any legal issue until the semantics are as tenuous as dust motes. In other words, once the lawyers are involved, the whole thing becomes a mess. This is what happened in the Florida courts as the legal issues surrounding the election recount were argued. Representing Vice President Gore and the democrats was the distinguished Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and David Boiesthe resolute prosecutor of the Microsoft antitrust suit brought by the U.S. Government.
The entire sequence of legal maneuvers that took place over the four-week period between November 11th and December 12th is difficult to explain without going into detail. However, a brief overview of the outstanding events that happened from the 11th to the 13th of December explains the basic legal points of the disputed election.
On the 11th of November, Bush attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the hand counts requested by Gore. The hand counts were to be conducted in predominately democratic Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Volusia counties; counties that had shown a large number of votes not counted by the machines. By the time this lawsuit was filed, Bush's narrow 1,700-vote lead had dwindled to less than 300 votes as the hand counts proceeded. Fearing that that their miniscule lead would be overwhelmed if the counting continued, the Bush machine pressed for a decision in their suit. On November 13th, when the federal circuit in Atlanta denied Bush's petition to stop the hand counting, Katharine Harris set the deadline for certifying the vote for the presidency at 5 p.m. the following day. By the end of the 13th, Volusia county and Gore's attorneys filed suit to finish the manual recount.
On Tuesday, November 14th, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the state should collect the returns for all 67 counties but that the manual recounts should continue after the deadline and late results be taken into consideration by Harris for each of the counties filing a late return. Harris' response was to announce the official result, not including overseas ballots, naming Bush as the winner by 300 votes. Harris also extended the deadline to justify late returns until 2:00 p.m. on the following day.
On Wednesday, the 15th, Harris petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to stop the hand counts and consolidate all of the state election lawsuits. The Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected Harris' petition and decided that it would not be unreasonable to extend the ballot counting deadline to November 26th. This was a reasonable interpretation of the inherently vague Florida election statutes that dealt with ballot counting and certification of election results. However, in an astonishingly quick legal maneuver, attorneys for Bush petitioned a federal appeals court in Atlanta to hear arguments on Bush's attempt to stop hand counts, and from three republican voters who claim their rights were being violated because their counties had not re-canvassed votes by hand. Bush attorneys also petitioned a Broward County circuit court to stop the hand counts, but ultimately Bush lost in both courts, even with repeated attempts at appeal.
After two major legal setbacks, Bush seemed to be on his way back to Texas, but even as the recounts began again, the odor of something distinctly rotten wafted over Floridathis time in the form of absentee ballots from overseas.
On Friday, the 17th of November, the Florida Supreme Court, at the behest of the democrats, blocked Katharine Harris from certifying any results until they could fully consider the democrats' motion to allow the hand recounts to be counted. Midnight on the 17th was the deadline for receiving overseas absentee ballots, and the zero hour was rapidly approaching with hopes that the numbers of ballots would be low. The curious fact that these ballots numbered approximately 446 on the 13th of November, with the numbers increasing to over 2,500 on the 16th and to a remarkable 3,700 the next day, caused consternation among Gore and the democrats.
Having worked at the post office and knowing exactly how overseas and military mail is handledespecially absentee ballots on or near Election Daythe numbers seemed to be awfully inflated for typical mail processing. This would have amounted to roughly ten trays of mail in two nights of processing. Had I been running a machine or pulling letter mail and a holdout suddenly got a tenfold increase, I would think something was unusual. But I would have just thought about it and continued doing my job?I would have never thought about looking at the postmark.
The absentee ballots proved to be a public relations boon to Bush's advisors. Two of Bush's legal team publicized a memo from the Gore camp that outlined the democrats' strategy concerning overseas ballots that arrived late without a postmark. Advisors from both camps agreed that late ballots without a postmark should not be counted. But with typical calumny, the republicans took Gore to task over the counting of military absentee ballots, suggesting that Gore was reluctant to count the votes of soldiers overseas in service to their country. The memo, albeit completely misrepresented by the republicans, was anathema to Gore in regard to the overseas absentee ballots.
With the absentee ballots added to the votes already counted, 1,380 went to Bush and only 750 to Gore. This placed Bush in the lead again with a slim 930-vote margin.
On the 20th of November, Bush attorneys again asked the Florida Supreme Court to stop the recounting. The court took the issue under consideration but did not indicate when they would make a decision. The next day the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the recounts could continue in three counties and the result of the recounts must be included in the final tally. The Florida court further ordered that the new deadline for recount certification was to be on November 27th.
On the 22nd, Bush's attorneys filed two appeals with the U.S. Supreme Court to shut down the manual recounts in Florida. Bush also filed a challenge to the court asking that 13 counties recount overseas ballots. Miami-Dade decided to stop their recount because supervisors did not believe that the recount could be completed by the deadline set on the 27th. The decision to stop the recount was upheld by the Florida appeals court after the democrats attempted to get the county to continue. The democrats made plans to take the matter to the Florida Supreme Court, but Katharine Harris certified the results of the count and again declared Bush the winner by 537 votes. Bush chortled along with his cronies and immediately begins naming his transition team and filling his cabinet. However, President Clinton refused to give the republicans any of the office space reserved for them, and withheld all of the transition funding until he was satisfied that the election issues were finally settled.
Gore's attorneys filed three objections to the vote certification in Florida that declared Bush the winner. The legal challenges consisted of: ordering Miami-Dade county to recount 10,000 disputed votes, including the late results from Palm Beach County in the final tally, and requiring Nassau County to disclose its recount numbers instead of the election night numbers already certified. A hearing was set for Saturday, the 28th.
The Florida Circuit Court heard the Gore arguments and ordered 13,000 ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties be removed to Tallahassee in case the decision included another vote count. On the following day, the media made a spectacle of the yellow Ryder truck rented to transport the ballots.
The case before the U.S. Supreme Court was heard on December 1st. This was to be a major historical event, for the U.S. Supreme Court had never sought to intervene in a presidential election before this one. The landmark case of Bush v. Gore was destined to be the most significant event in American history.
By December the 2nd, Florida's House Majority Leader announced their intention to hold a special session on the 6th to pick 25 republican Electoral College representatives. The attorneys for both democrats and republicans continued their arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court for a second day, with expert testimony regarding the kinds and numbers of problems with voting machines.
On the 3rd of December, the matter before the Supreme Court continued for a third day, again focusing on the problems encountered with voting machines. The president of the Florida Senate rejected the House Majority Leader's claim to hold a special session. (Such an action requires an agreement between the Senate and the House Speaker.)
On the 4th of December, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the Florida Supreme Court ruling to extend the counting deadline for certifying Florida's ballots back to the Florida court for further clarification. When the Florida court explained their decision, the U.S. Supreme Court took the matter under advisement and promised to look at the validity of the lower court's decision. Also on the 4th, in a Leon County Circuit court, Gore's request to recount 14,000 disputed ballots from two counties was denied. The reason cited by the judge was that there was no evidence that a recount would overturn Bush's lead in the Florida election.
On the 5th, the democrats appeared before the Florida Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn a state court decision that rejected their request for recounting of thousands of disputed ballots in a number of counties. Gore's attorneys also attempted to convince the court to stand by its decision to extend the deadline for vote certification and allow manual recount totals to be included in the final, certified count.
The federal appeals court in Atlanta refused to throw out the results of hand recounts in three Florida counties that Bush had filed injunctions against. Further hearings in state court in regard to republican operatives tampered with application forms for absentee ballots. This was a separate charge of the one filed in Seminole county. This case had to do with removal of application forms from the election supervisor's office. The Seminole case with Sandra Goard as the prime focus for alleged vote tampering also began hearings on the 6th.
The 7th marked a one-month anniversary of the disputed presidential election as the judges of the Florida Supreme Court retired for the day without ruling on the manual recount.
On Friday, the 8th of December, the Florida Supreme Court decided to add 383 recount votes to Gore's total. This included the 215 from Palm Beach and the 168 from Miami-Dade. Bush's lead dropped again to a miniscule 154 votes out of six million and looked as if it would continue to dwindle with further recounts. A desperate Bush team filed a 41 page appeal to the U.S. Supreme Courtagain asking for a halt to the recounts and for the Court to overrule the Florida Supreme Court in their decision to order recounts of the Miami-Dade ballots. The Supreme Court cast their votes on the 8th to halt the hand counts in Florida with a 5-4 vote.
On Monday, the 11th of December, the U.S. Supreme Court finalized the hearings in regard to the hand counting of votes. On the afternoon of December 12th, the justices ruled that the Florida Supreme Court violated constitutional protections in its order for a manual recount of thousands of disputed ballots. The 5-4 ruling, split definitively along party lines, reversed the Florida court's decision and effectively installed George W. Bush as president, literally appointing him to the office without a clear mandate.
On the 13th of December, Vice President Al Gore conceded defeat even though he won the national popular vote by over half a million votes. Even in defeat, Vice President Gore maintained a more refined and dignified appearance than his opponent.
I object to this administration. Junior Bush was appointed by five republican judges to the office he now occupies, and I truly believe that the republican machinery, led by George Herbert Walker Bush, led a coup d' etat in order to establish an outmoded, outdated and potentially dangerous government, over and above the will of the majority of people in the United States Of America.
Yes, Dr. Thompson, I do have my passport. But I think I'll stick around to see if I can undo the harm done by these people. I still believe in America.
Timothy D. Walker
March 5, 2001
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