recounting likely to favor Gore
The Washington Post December 10, 2000
WASHINGTON — An analysis of recent manual vote recounts and a precinct-level review of some Florida counties suggest the hand recount ordered Friday by the state Supreme Court will be close, but is likely to favor Vice President Al Gore.
If newly found votes follow the same pattern as the previous county tallies, then Texas Gov. George W. Bush would have a minuscule advantage. But an examination at the precinct level indicates Gore may come out ahead because Democrats statistically are more likely to have mismarked ballots than Republicans.
The count is likely to be so close, however, that the standards each county canvassing board decides to apply — such as whether to count indented or "dimpled" ballots that are not properly punched through — could be decisive.
If experience holds true from recent hand recounts, the examination of 45,000 "undervoted" ballots — ones on which no vote for president was registered by machines — could yield about 10,000 additional votes for Gore and Bush combined.
If the votes fall in line with the last machine recounts, Bush stands to gain about 600 votes.
But a Washington Post analysis shows that the most heavily Democratic neighborhoods had the most uncounted ballots.
One reason, according to election experts, is that elderly, inexperienced and new voters are the most likely to make mistakes on their ballots. A huge surge in African-American turnout — which overwhelmingly favored Gore — produced many new or infrequent voters Nov. 7.
Moreover, Democratic voters tend to outnumber Republicans in areas that use antiquated voting machines, which are most likely to misread ballots.
Precincts that Gore won heavily were six times more likely to have at least 10 percent of their ballots not register a vote for president as were Bush’s strongholds, The Post found in a sample of more than 1,400 precincts.
Gore has already reaped all the extra votes he will get from three of his Democratic redoubts — Broward, Palm Beach and Volusia counties.
The biggest pots of votes that remain are the approximately 10,000 uncounted ballots in Miami-Dade, 5,500 in Hillsborough (Tampa), 5,000 in Duval (Jacksonville) and 4,000 in Pinellas (St. Petersburg). Bush won Duval and Hillsborough, while Gore won Miami-Dade and Pinellas.
But having won a particular county is no assurance that a candidate will gain the same proportion of that county’s new votes. An examination of undervotes at the precinct level indicates Gore may have more to gain from the new tally.
In Duval County, which has several large Naval aviation bases, Bush won 57 percent to 41 percent. One out of six ballots in the precincts Gore won did not count as a vote for president, compared with 1 in 14 in the Bush precincts. The vast majority of those ballots, however, were "overvotes," in which the voter punched holes for two candidates. Such ballots — of which there are more than 100,000 statewide — are considered spoiled and not subject to the recount.
Duval’s overvotes have been attributed to a confusing ballot, on which the list of presidential names were spread over two pages, and instructions in a sample ballot that told people to vote on each page. In some heavily African-American precincts in Jacksonville, as many as one in three ballots were spoiled.