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


Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender” Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?