Whereas the 60,000 undervotes--ballots not punched well enough to register a choice in machine tabulations--had no partisan, educational or racial correlation, the 13,000 overvotes and many of the otherwise rejected ballots were largely cast by the old, the poor and the easily confused. In Palm Beach County, for example, because of the confusing butterfly ballot used locally, the Palm Beach Post found that 6,606 voters, mostly in elderly Jewish districts, had marked boxes for both Gore and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan. Another 2,910 mistakenly voted for both Gore and Socialist David McReynolds. That would have been the election right there.
Some piecemeal tabulations have already been made of portions of the overvote. A late December Orlando Sentinel check of about 3,000 overvotes in Republican Lake County found more than 600 valid ballots ignored by counting machines, producing a Gore margin of 130. In late January, a Chicago Tribune sampling in 15 counties found more than 1,700 ballots with a clear choice, yielding a net gain of 366 votes for Gore. A Washington Post check in eight large counties found the overvotes trending to Gore by 3-1.
There is no question about the legal outcome. That was determined by a 5-4 vote in the U.S. Supreme Court. But the probability is that the real result--the moral outcome, the full and tedious calculation for the tenuous purposes of embattled democracy--will show that several thousand more votes that should have been validated and counted were cast for Gore rather than for Bush.
Beyond this are the ballots in Palm Beach County, in which 8,000 or 9,000 obvious votes for the former vice president were mismarked and became legally uncountable. In a nutshell, it should become clear that a plurality of Floridians tried to vote for Gore--and where that will leave Bush's moral claim to be the chief policymaker of the United States is unclear.
Part of the reason lies with Democratic failure. Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, heading Gore's team in Florida, was a strategic naif. Bill Clinton, despite being president, lacked the standing to invoke either morality or clean elections. And congressional Democrats, who might have been expected to call for ideological restraint from a Bush who was rejected in the popular vote, have been inept in not using that case against his tax bill or his environmental maneuvers.
The example of Kennedy, who may not have really won in 1960 and was aware of his weakness, should be front and center. JFK carried both the electoral and popular vote narrowly, but because of the tightness of his margin, he appointed two Republicans, Robert S. McNamara as Defense secretary and Douglas C. Dillon as Treasury secretary. His tax proposals were bipartisan, as was the tenor of his showdown with the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis. There were few, if any, attempts to undo the regulations of the outgoing Eisenhower administration.
As we have seen, Bush and his barely Republican Congress have good reason to try to rush through their regulatory withdrawals and their attempts to implant high-end tax cuts that would be hard to rescind in later years. The rest of America, however, might well prefer the new administration to abandon what can only be called raiding-party conservatism and to adopt the centrism and restraint shown by JFK. *