The Center for Public Integrity hosts a version of the recount written by freelance journalist Susan Q. Stranahan. Here is Stranahan's account of it:
Stranahan places the focus on the makeup of the crowd that protested the recount. Her treatment is fairer than some others that assert or imply deliberate intimidation of the election workers. But her account ends up just as misleading as the more plainly biased accounts in that it leaves out the most important part of the story. The election officials were proceeding to count the votes in a manner inconsistent with state law, which mandates that any manual recount be open to the public. I documented that requirement at one of my associated blogs. Here is the relevant portion of the law:
On November 22, four days before the deadline the Florida Supreme Court had set for certifying the vote counts, election officials gathered on the 18th floor of the Miami-Dade government building to resume the hand count. A total of 10,750 ballots awaited, and the outcome could cement George Bush’s slim lead in the state — or give the lead to Al Gore. The clock was ticking.
A large crowd of spectators gathered outside the glass-walled conference room, and as the day wore on, the mood grew increasingly tense. When the officials decided to relocate to a smaller office one floor up, the crowd set up such a ruckus that the canvassers abruptly halted the vote count. It was a major blow to the Gore campaign.Although the crowd was initially described as locals, “There were no guayaberas. This crowd looked tweedy,” one observer told Salon.com. Within days, they had been identified as Republican operatives and their protest was dubbed the “Brooks Brothers Riot.” Among the leaders were aides to Republican Representative Tom DeLay of Texas. (Four years later, The Washington Post’s Al Kamen and others provided a handy guide to the protesters, titled, “Where are they now?” One was serving as White House political director; another became deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and several had joined powerful Washington lobbying groups. Another year later, one of the group replaced Karl Rove as Bush’s policy director.)
Note provision (6): "Any manual recount shall be open to the public."
(5) If the manual recount indicates an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election, the county canvassing board shall:
(a) Correct the error and recount the remaining precincts with the vote tabulation system;
(b) Request the Department of State to verify the tabulation software; or
(c) Manually recount all ballots.
(6) Any manual recount shall be open to the public.
(7) Procedures for a manual recount are as follows:
(a) The county canvassing board shall appoint as many counting teams of at least two electors as is necessary to manually recount the ballots. A counting team must have, when possible, members of at least two political parties. A candidate involved in the race shall not be a member of the counting team.
(b) If a counting team is unable to determine a voter's intent in casting a ballot, the ballot shall be presented to the county canvassing board for it to determine the voter's intent.
I'm looking forward to the day when any of my friends to the left of the political spectrum demonstrate themselves aware of this aspect of the 2000 Florida recount. The legendary version of it seems destined to dominate history. The scandal, evidently, is not that election officials were poised to carry out a recount contrary to the provisions of the law, but that Republican operatives stopped them from doing it (Note: see update below)
Of course I am not the sort to leave the Center for Public Integrity unquestioned for hosting the misleading Stranahan version of the 2000 Florida recount. I submitted the following comment just after posting this entry.
The article you host about the presidential election in 2000, focusing on the Florida recount, contains a glaring omission of fact. The author, Susan Q. Stranahan, fails (to note) in her section on the so-called "Brooks Brothers" riot that the county election commission was conducting its recount illegally. Stranahan simply reports that the officials proposed moving the recount: "When the officials decided to relocate to a smaller office one floor up, the crowd set up such a ruckus that the canvassers abruptly halted the vote count. It was a major blow to the Gore campaign." She neglects to mention that the Florida statutes in effect at that time stipulated the any manual recount would be open to the public.I'll update this entry if I receive any reply.
How's that for "public integrity"? An election commission conducting its recount contrary to the law? If you're serious about public integrity then you cannot continue to post this story without attaching some sort of correction.
That isn't the only error in the account, mind you. But it's one that you can't ignore without making a mockery of your organization's name.
Update: While reviewing one of Stranahan's listed sources I was reminded of an additional critical element of the story that exposes an additional flaw in her version as well as a problem with my would-be correction. The Vanity Fair account of the occurrence states that the reconvened manual recount would have been open to the public. While I am not fully convinced that is true I will suppose that it is sufficiently true to nullify the law-based objection I made above.
However, there is an additional law-based objection from which there is no escape. The Miami-Dade elections officials had decided to proceed with a manual recount of only the contested ballots, and that because of the limited time frame they were offered by Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris.
That limited recount conflicts with provision (5)(c) listed above.