September 20, 2002
The Election

Clearing up the election that won't die

Q: Who actually received the most votes in Florida's 2000 presidential election?

A: Al Gore. State election officials ultimately declared George W. Bush the winner by a margin of 537 votes, but during and after the election dispute, questions remained about the uncounted ballots of 175,010 voters, ballots that had been rejected by error-prone tabulating machines employed in many Florida counties. Confusion and conflict, much of it generated by partisan intrigue, prevented these ballots from being counted during the election controversy. However, in 2001 every uncounted ballot was carefully examined in a scientific study by the University of Chicago, which concluded that when all the votes were counted, more votes had been cast for Gore than for Bush.

Q: Why did some earlier post-election studies say just the opposite, that is, that Bush had actually won after all?

A: They did not really say this. They reported, instead, that Bush might have kept his lead if the manual recounts of machine-rejected ballots had been completed along the lines either requested by Gore or initially mandated by the Florida Supreme Court. In these recount scenarios, not all of the machine-rejected ballots would have been included. However, just before the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, the judge overseeing the final statewide recount was preparing to announce that the recount would cover all of the previously uncounted ballots.

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