Where are the Bloodhounds?

Is the media coverage of the election fiasco biased in favor of Gore?

Many small instances of bias show up in reporters’ choice of words. When Democrats take to the streets, for example, they are always described as “demonstrators” or “protesters” — but Republican protesters in Florida are described as a “mob.”

But a more insidious form of bias can be seen, not in what the media says, but in what it does not say. It can be seen in the big stories the press has failed to investigate.

The biggest story is the 19,000 double-punched ballots in Palm Beach County. The Democrats cite these “over-votes” as evidence that the county’s ballot format was confusing. But the statistics point to a more sinister explanation.

Here is the pattern, as reported by statistician Robert Cook. The usual rate of double-punching due to error and confusion is about one-half of one percent; out of the 460,000 ballots cast in Palm Beach County, that would explain about 2,300 ballots. But the actual rate of double-punching was more than 4 percent, almost 10 times greater.

Just a bunch of confused voters? Well, consider this. Usually, double-punching errors occur for all offices; you would expect to see the same rate for House and Senate races as for the presidential race. But in Palm Beach County, the high rate of double-punching occurred only on the ballot for president.

And here’s the most damning evidence: Most of those double-punched ballots came from a few precincts, where the double-punch rates were 10 or 15 percent — more than one can reasonably brush off as mere voter error or confusion. Such glaring statistical anomalies, Cook concludes, are prima facie evidence of vote fraud.

The fraud would work like this. An election official forms a neat stack of ballots and runs a long metal punch — say, a dulled ice-pick — through the whole stack, punching out holes for Gore. The result: Ballots with no votes for president become Gore votes — and ballots punched for Bush become double-punched ballots and are thrown out. This is the simplest explanation for the huge rates of double-punched ballots in those selected precincts in Palm Beach County.

But so far this evidence has only been reported on the fringes, carried on a few Web sites, and alluded to in articles by small newspapers.

Which raises the question: Where are the bloodhounds? Where are the reporters tracking down election officials to grill them about these accusations? The potential scandal in this case would be bigger than Watergate. So where are all the would-be Woodwards and Bernsteins?

But of course, this case would be very difficult to prove. The vote-stealing, if it occurred, was hidden and furtive.

But at least the press could cast a bright spotlight on the vote-stealing that is going on out in the open. Here, the story is the Gore camp’s instant deployment of a ready-made recount team, a cadre of lawyers trained in exploiting legal technicalities and subjective recount procedures. These racketeers and their strategy are detailed (somewhat admiringly) in a Nov. 27 New Republic article by Ryan Lizza.

On the night of the election — before the first count was even complete — the Gore racketeers hired a telemarketing firm to call up Palm Beach residents and recruit complaints about “confusing” ballots. These complaints were not “spontaneous” — they were manufactured by the recount racketeers in an attempt to undercut the legitimacy of Bush’s victory.

Then the recount team trained dozens of official observers to make sure the hand count generated as many new Gore votes as possible (and as few as possible for Bush). Given the subjectivity of the process, in which officials are asked to “divine the intent” of dented ballots, this was a deliberate campaign to conjure hundreds of new Gore votes out of thin air. Then, in a supreme example of hypocrisy, the recount racketeers sent out a memo instructing these observers on how to invalidate pro-Bush absentee ballots.

Finally, the recount racketeers launched a wave of litigation to change the rules of the election after the fact — combined with a smear campaign attacking any official, such as Katherine Harris, who stood in their way.

The total picture is one of a ruthless, unprincipled and premeditated attempt to overthrow the Florida vote. The recount racket has done it before — in a questionable House race in 1984 and a Senate contest in 1996. They think they can do it again.

And so long as the press stays silent, maybe they can.

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