Citizens for Legitimate Government, a multi-partisan activist group established to expose the Bush Coup d'Etat and oppose the Bush occupation in all of its manifestations.

 

Letter to Marty Merzer of the Miami Herald: "Who Won," in Context --by Michael Rectenwald

Dear Mr. Merzer

I received from Josh, one of my group's members, the text of an e-mail you sent him about the Herald's recount coverage, in particular the article of April 4th (Ballot review shows Bush retaining lead). I told him simply that he might want to refer you the Herald's own subsequent articles, in which the Herald more or less recants and reframes this declaration within the larger context of a "Full Report."

On the web version at least, the recount story is now broken into parts, under the major rubric of "Full Report," with the artilcles not listed in terms of finality, but strictly in chronological order in terms of the release dates of the individual articles (see Figure 1, below). The layout here is indicative of the fact that the "Ballot review shows Bush retaining lead" is not the final word, but merely *ONE* report of several of that day, which day is now merely one of several days of recount reporting.

This layout appears to be a post-hoc decision to systematize the stories with reference to the "Full Report." Now, instead of the first story being the "full report," as suggested by its peremptory heading on Wednesday, April 4th, "Ballot review shows Bush retainig lead," this article is now subsumed within a larger whole, called the "Full report." It is merely one story under "Day 1."

Figure 1
Full report


Day 1
Ballot review shows Bush retaining lead
About The Herald recount project
Law: Check 'defective' ballots
Voters did odd things in picking candidates
Unlikely scenario puts Gore ahead by 3 votes
Reviews by other newspapers
Ballots probably will be saved for history
Examining the Ballots

Day 2
Recounts could have given Gore the edge
Comparisons in precincts show some differences
Republicans, Democrats talking about findings, need for reforms
Most states follow tough rules

Day 3
Optical scanning isn't perfect
Rampant errors, ironies mark Florida's ballot-count crisis
How demographic factors were linked to undervotes

Day 4
"No precedent" for ballot scrutiny
Review imposes heavy loads

Day 5
Lawmakers far apart on new election laws
The key players in election reform



Now, for a few instances of the recantation. In the first article listed below, the Herald admits that they hadn't checked Palm Beach and Broward Counties in the article of the day before (Day 1. article 1). In the second article listed below, published Sunday, April 8, the writer (albeit Herald editorialist) adds:

"If the recount had been started from scratch in each of Florida's 67
counties, The Herald concluded 'Gore would be in the White House
today.'"


This is a direct quote of one Herald author quoting another. The Wednesday story is misleading because it doesn't aim to show who really won, but rather, who would have won, given the carrying out of the FL SC ruling. But even in that case, there is a split. Gore won under the stricter standards that the Bush team had requested. But, the main point here is that the PBC and Broward ballots, which the paper had already reviewed, are considered moot or inadmissable. While the article 1, Day one is meant to represent what would have happened had the FL SC count gone on as ordered, it is not the definitive word on "who won," although its headline is suggestive of the same. The irresponsibility in this reporting is not so much the content, as the headline ascribed to it. Unfortunately, the headline, not the subsequent (or even coterminous articles) is what is remembered by the broadest audience.

Further, the Herald admits that over-votes weren't even considered, and it is generally known now that over-votes are the real tragedy of this past election.

But perhaps even more importantly, the DBT/ChoicePoint/State of Florida Purge is utterly absent from any of these accounts. The purge, while covered by the Palm Beach Post after Gregory Palast's ground-breaking coverage, has still not been discussed within the context of any of the Herald's "who won" scenarios. The Herald never mentions the Purge in the context of "who won" articles, but as an aside, with reference to voting reforms.

Yet, the question of fraud still looms very very large. The Herald's "Who won" stories have generally been framed in the context of a fair, equitable election. However, they should always take into consideration the illegal (whether or not "intentional") purging of voters as reported so blatantly in the Civil Rights Commission hearings and a recent hearing in Georgia.

References:

http://www.miami.com/herald/special/news/flacount/docs/038575.htm

http://www.miami.com/herald/content/opinion/columnists/fiedler/digdocs/078536.htm

Michael Rectenwald
Founder and Chair
Citizens for Legitimate Government


(Merzer)

Sorry, Michael, but you have it wrong. The second story simply fleshes out elements of the first. It concentrates on the official manual recounts conducted by broward and palm beach counties before the florida supreme court issued its order. It shows where those recounts might have gone wrong. But, and this is very important, to see where the florida supreme court order would have led, we were required to accept the results of those earlier recounts in broward and palm beach, because the florida supreme court order exempted those counties from counting their votes yet again. There is and was no effort to ''recant.'' Only to further detail our findings. The second story was prepared in parallel with the first. Some people seem to be having a real hard time with this, but our main objective was to determine what would have happened if the U.S. Supreme court had not terminated the recount as it was implemented by the florida supreme court, and thus the main findings of our first story and the entire package. I'm afraid you are reading too much into our online department's efforts to list our stories.

Marty Merzer


(Rectenwald)

Martin, I appreciate and fully understand what you're saying here, and acknowledged as much in my previous email. I understand what your "article 1" was saying: "Given the FL SC ruling and x criteria, Bush would have won" (despite Gore winning with Bush's criteria). My point is that the connotation of your "article 1" is that "Bush won" Florida, period. And that, simply, is untenable.

OF COURSE, I KNOW that the FL SC did not order the PBC and Broward recounts. But your accounting firm had already done them by the time of this first article. The Herald should have clearly framed, from the outset, the "Bush Won" scenario within the context of your "complete" recounts. Thus, the article might have been headed: "Recount as Ordered Gives Bush Win: But With Our Larger Count, Gore Wins." That, as you know, is the story in full. (Now, please, read the next paragraph).

But once again, you utterly fail to address the PURGE! As a savvy news person that you are, I find it very hard to believe that you can't see the relevance of this story, that has been effectively submerged to date. Why is the Purge never mentioned in the context of the "who won" articles? Winning implies winning fair and square. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary, which (apparently) the Herald is not at liberty to report on.

Given a real reading of the over-votes, the undervotes, and the Purge, it is obvious who Florida chose for President. I understand what your "article 1" was saying: "given the FL SC ruling and x criteria, Bus would have won." But, you surely know how that plays in a nation waiting to find out the WHOLE story. It serves as a substitution for the whole story, placcating the Republicans and angering the rest. You announce this first and peremptorily, as if this IS the whole story, when indeed, you are fully aware that it is not. That is where the Herald's sleight of hand lies.

Michael Rectenwald


(Merzer)

All of the factors that yielded invalid votes already have been explored in great detail by The Herald and other newspapers. Many times over. Again, the purpose of our ballot review and most recent reports was, as described, to see what would have happened under the Florida Supreme Court's order, which by its nature only could have included valid votes. I completely understand your point, and I understand the frustration that has been so evident in my e-mail traffic, but you and the others must recognize the distinction here. To focus on the question at hand -- what would have happened under the FlaSupCo order -- our project had to limit itself to valid, legally accepted votes. In this context, it could not speculate on what MIGHT have happened if invalid votes had been valid votes. Sure, all those people intended to vote, and many of them for Gore. But botched votes are not valid votes, no matter the intention. To cover all of the factors that caused invalid votes, all over again, would have required a book, not a newspaper story. As luck would have it, we have just finished such a book. It explores many of the factors -- bad machines, poor ballot design, inexperienced voters, etc. -- that yielded the enormous volume of invalid votes. It will be available next month. Perhaps, you will find more satisfaction there. But again, at the time of the Florida Supreme Court's order, the starting point for our ballot review, only valid votes would and could have been considered.


(Rectenwald)

Martin, You are preaching to the choir if you are still trying to get me to understand what article 1 was reporting on. I know that it was saying: "Given the FL SC ruling and 'x' criteria (Gore's, btw), Bush would have won." That was perfectly clear to me after the first two paragraphs of the article. I read texts closely for a living. Given my close reading, I have the following issues:

But, please address: 1) the question of connotation given the context--that is, how the story comes off as suggesting that Bush is the winner of Florida, period, upon your own recount. YOUR own firm's recount has a different picture--if considered in whole. That is what we expected to read about: what YOU found, in whole. Why aren't the other sub-topics subsumed within this whole: What you found en toto? The story runs first, before all these others, and suggests that it is THE story in whole, when indeed it is later framed with reference to other stories--and specifically, within YOUR whole recount.

2) the reason that the Purge is never mentioned in the context of "who won." Perhaps you are not familiar with the story of Database Technology/ChoicePoint's Purging of legal voters at the behest and with the explicit knowledge (if we are to believe their sworn testimony on at least two occasions) of the State of Florida, and the office of Katherine Harris (at least)? I have asked you to address the question three times now, to no avail. Don't you see this as relevant within the context of "who won?"


(Merzer)

I do not understand your first point. You did read about what we found. As for the second point, the supposed results of ''the purge'' appear to be a myth. We are well aware of the state's effort to remove felons from state voting rolls, as required by law. We are well aware that many non-felons got caught in that net. We are not aware of a large number of non-felons people who were prevented from voting because of this. Our investigations have found, and our stories have reported, that virtually all of those wrongly ensnared by that program corrected the record before Election Day and were permitted to vote. We know of fewer than 12 documented cases of non-felons who were not allowed to vote on Election Day because of that program.



(Rectenwald)

I do not understand your first point. You did read about what we found.

1) My first point is this: why didn't you first publish a story on YOUR total findings, and frame all other scenarios within a total picture of YOUR "complete" recount? We all want to know who REALLY won, not who WOULD have won based on the legal contortions that the count/courts/lawyers and others went through. Your story basically says, "like the other totals before it, this one, too, is incomplete: Bush wins!" That is unsatisfactory. It is more of the same, not the story. I know that this may have become a novel idea to you by now, but what we're looking for is the complete picture, not the picture as distorted by the courts and the incomplete counts of counties/canvassing boards/judges/media. "The whole truth, and nothing but the truth" Not a sophisticated concept, but a useful one nonetheless.

(subpoint: And why favor the Gore team standard, rather than the Bush standard, which makes Bush rather than Gore the winner? Why not split that headline between the two, rather than posing the Gore win as some "argument" the Gore people might have?)

2) As for the second point, the supposed results of ''the purge'' appear to be a myth. We are well aware of the state's effort to remove felons from state voting rolls, as required by law. We are well aware that many non-felons got caught in that net. We are not aware of a large number of non-felons people who were prevented from voting because of this. Our investigations have found, and our stories have reported, that virtually all of those wrongly ensnared by that program corrected the record before Election Day and were permitted to vote. We know of fewer than 12 documented cases of non-felons who were not allowed to vote on Election Day because of that program.

That is, cases of people who came forth, or actual names found who were purged? We all know that people, ballots and other things have a way of disappearing in Florida. So, what numbers shall we use here--the number of actually purged voters, or the number of those who could be found for comment?

 

  

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