I’ve stayed out of the whole “stolen” election issue, because I tend to believe that both sides play pretty dirty whenever they can. I’m all for creating a more transparent system, and having a paper trail, and a host of other electoral reforms (such as instant runoff voting) but I’ve never seen anything conclusive showing that either Florida 2000, or Ohio 2004 was an orchestrated fraud. Sure, there was lots of hanky-panky to make it difficult for Democrats to vote in both states, but that’s a little different than outright rigging the election. So I was surprised to see Krugman come out so strongly in today’s op-ed:
In his recent book “Steal This Vote” — a very judicious work, despite its title — Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I’ve seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: “Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election.”
Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida’s ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris’s “felon purge,” which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.
This is such a strong statement that I felt it was worth taking a look to see whether it holds up. I found this interesting comment by Rick Hasen, who runs the Election Law blog:
I have not yet had a chance to read Gumbel’s book, but Krugman’s statement is misleading. It is true that the NORC study found that had all the state’s undervotes and overvotes been counted, Al Gore would have come out ahead of George Bush. But it is also true that Gore did not request such a count—he requested a count only of the undervotes, and only in certain counties. And, if I recall correctly, a statewide recount of the undervotes (what had been ordered by the Florida Supreme Court but stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court in its stay order in Bush v. Gore) also would have gone for Bush. It is also true that the NORC counters’ views of which ballots counted for Gore depended in part on the partisan affiliation of the counters. (I review the literature on the count in this review essay.)
Rick argues that the vote was a statistical tie, and so any number of factors affecting the recounting could have tipped it one way or another, but the fact is that no matter what the decision had been in Bush v. Gore, the election would still probably have gone for Bush.
Kevin Drum earlier made similar remarks over claims regarding fraud in Ohio. (With more here.)
In the end, I think we need to do better to remove the stench of corruption from these elections, but I think it is even more important for the Democrats to construct a broadly appealing progressive agenda so that the election outcome will not rely upon one percent of the population swinging the vote this way or that. Remember, Gore lost his home state and he lost states where Democrats were elected to Governor and Senate. It never should have come down to Florida in the first place!