FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why is George Bush President?

by ALLAN J. LICHTMAN

George W. Bush is president today because the votes counted in Florida’s presidential election did not match the ballots cast by the state’s voters. But the outcome in Florida–which determined the presidency–was not decided by hanging chads, recounts, or intervention by the Supreme Court.

Al Gore lost Florida’s presidential vote because electoral officials tossed into the trashcan as invalid more than one out of every ten ballots cast by African-Americans throughout the state. In some counties, nearly 25 percent of ballots cast by blacks were set aside as invalid. In contrast, officials rejected only about one out of every fifty ballots cast by whites statewide.

This vast racial disparity in ballot rejection rates defeated Al Gore. If black ballots had been rejected at the same minimal rate as white ballots, more than 50,000 additional black votes would have been counted in Florida’s presidential election. Given that more than 90 percent of blacks favored Gore over Bush, Gore would have won Florida by at least 40,000 votes, prevailed in the Electoral College, and become President of the United States on January 20, 2001.

These were the results of a statistical study that I was commissioned to conduct for the United States Commission on Civil Rights and a subsequent analysis published in the Journal of Legal Studies (January 2003). Independent studies by Professors Phil Klinkner of Hamilton College and Anthony Salvanto of the University of California, Irvine have confirmed the finding of major racial disparities in ballot rejection rates as have studies by the New York Times and Washington Post.

My studies pointed no fingers of blame at any official involved in Florida’s 2000 presidential election. But the studies did call for a thorough investigation by federal authorities to find out why ballots cast by blacks were disqualified at such a higher rate than ballots cast by whites.

Two members of the Civil Rights Commission who filed a dissenting report did not substantively dispute the finding of wide racial disparities in ballot rejection rates in Florida. But they denied the need for investigation, placing blame squarely on black voters, who allegedly lacked the education and literacy to fill out their ballots properly.

Analysis showed, however, that blacks were much more likely to have their ballots set aside than whites even after controlling for ballot design, voting technology, education, income, poverty, literacy, and first-time voting–a finding that independent analysis likewise confirmed. According to a New York Times study, “even after these factors [education, income, ballot design] and others were accounted for the study showed a significantly higher rate of rejected ballots in precincts with a large proportion of black voters.”

The Right has desperately sought to suppress the truth about Florida’s presidential elections both to silence any questions about the legitimacy of Bush’s victory and to validate their assumption that race no longer matters in America today. Racial problems, they would have us believe, were solved long ago in the era of the civil rights movement. Never mind the wealth of studies documenting racial disparities not only in voting rights but in matters of everyday life including police stops, mortgage lending, heath care, hiring and promotion.

Imagine, however, if Democrats had controlled the government of Florida in 2000 and Al Gore had won the state and the presidency because more than one out of ten white voters had their ballots disqualified, compared to only one out of fifty black voters. This would have been the crime of the millennium for ideologues of the Right demanding investigation by every federal official that could be summoned to the state.

But slumbering liberals are no less to blame than militant conservatives for the lack of national attention to an extraordinary injustice to minorities that determined the outcome of a presidential election. Why no mobilization of protest from the NAACP? The Urban League. The ACLU. The Democratic Party.

Absent public outrage, the United States Department of Justice has never conducted the necessary investigation of Florida’s presidential election to discover the reasons behind racial disparities in ballot rejection rates. So we must wish away what really happened in Florida and never find out why African-Americans disproportionately lost their right to vote or how to make sure this doesn’t happen again–anywhere in America. Unfortunately, despite passage of a federal election reform bill, another Florida remains a tragic risk for 2004.

ALLAN J. LICHTMAN is Professor of History at American University in Washington, DC He conducted the study of ballot rejection rates in Florida for the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has been an expert witness in more than 60 federal voting rights cases.

Copyright held by ALLAN J. LICHTMAN

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail