By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The NORC study will take eight to 10 weeks and cost about $500,000, the St. Petersburg Times reported. Under the guidance of a steering committee of news-organization representatives, NORC will hire and train three-person teams of independent coders who will sort ballots into a variety of categories -- the now-famous dimpled or dangling chads, write-ins, and ballots spoiled by marks or punches for more than one person. Calculations could then be made, said Washington Post election expert Dan Keating, who helped design the survey, to see what the outcome would have been if various standards had been applied in a statewide count.
In their annoying, objectivity-beats-truth manner, media types were careful not to characterize the project as a “re-count.” (No one simply said: “We’re not sure who won the election because not all of the votes were counted, and that‘s what we intend to do -- count ballots.”) Instead, the media stepped back with varying degrees of reticence from appearing to challenge the legality of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision anointing Bush president. “The re-counts have already been done, and the next president has been elected,” said L.A. Times editor John Carroll -- in spite of a November Times article pointing out that no re-counting of ballots had been done in many Florida counties. “This is an effort to find out what useful information those ballots may contain. We‘ll leave it up to our readers to decide what they think about whatever we find,” Carroll added. Similarly, “We are not going to determine whether a ballot with a pregnant chad is a vote for somebody,” said Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. “We will describe them and how they were apportioned. This is not an attempt to discover whether one candidate or another should have won the election. That is not our job.” Mike Silverman, managing editor of the Associated Press, said, “A thorough inspection of all the disputed ballots and a public categorization and description of them will become part of an important historical record, but we are not going into this with any notion of being able to say who really won or anything of that sort.”
The media group has asked election authorities in all of Florida’s 67 counties to segregate ballots without a recorded vote for president. Some large counties have said that doing so would be difficult, time-consuming and costly. One of those is Duval County, where more than 20,000 ballots were thrown out when voters, especially in Jacksonville‘s African-American precincts, followed misleading sample-ballot instructions and cast votes on both of the pages listing presidential candidates. The media group has agreed to pay any costs incurred in preparing for the ballot examination.
A separate Miami Herald survey, focusing on the 60,000 undervotes, is already well under way, and results are expected to be published soon. After two days, a total of 872 ballots were reviewed in Broward County. With about 6,600 ballots to be examined, the tabulation could take about three weeks. The review includes all the ballots that were contested and decided by the canvassing board. The Herald hired the national accounting firm of BDO Seidman to look at ballots in all Florida counties.
As the Herald’s review of Broward County ballots crept along on its second day, Republican Congressman Mark Foley blasted the process, saying it would “cast a pall over the presidency. Mr. Bush is the president-elect. Mr. Gore has conceded. It is not time to start speculating on what voters might have meant.” Foley did not indicate when the appropriate moment might occur. Congressman Peter Deutsch, a Gore supporter who observed the Broward review, praised the Herald and other news organizations for their work. “The truth is the truth,” Deutsch said. “For the good of the country I hope the review shows that George W. Bush wins, but if he doesn‘t, Americans have a right to know that.”