Bush's 'Incredible' Vote Tallies
By Sam Parry
November 9, 2004
George W. Bush's vote tallies, especially in the key state of Florida, areso statistically stunning that they border on the unbelievable.While it's extraordinary for a candidate to get a vote total that exceedshis party's registration in any voting jurisdiction - because ofnon-voters - Bush racked up more votes than registered Republicans in 47 outof 67 counties in Florida. In 15 of those counties, his vote total more thandoubled the number of registered Republicans and in four counties, Bush morethan tripled the number.Statewide, Bush earned about 20,000 more votes than registered Republicans.By comparison, in 2000, Bush's Florida total represented about 85 percent ofthe total number of registered Republicans, about 2.9 million votes comparedwith 3.4 million registered Republicans.Bush achieved these totals although exit polls showed him winning only about14 percent of the Democratic vote statewide - statistically the same as in2000 when he won 13 percent of the Democratic vote - and losing Florida'sindependent voters to Kerry by a 57 percent to 41 percent margin. In 2000,Gore won the independent vote by a much narrower margin of 47 to 46 percent.[For details on the Florida turnout in 2000, seehttp://www.msnbc.com/m/d2k/g/polls.asp?office=P&state=FL. For details on the2004 Florida turnout, seehttp://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/FL/P/00/index.html]Exit Poll DiscrepanciesSimilar surprising jumps in Bush's vote tallies across the country -especially when matched against national exits polls showing Kerry winningby 51 percent to 48 percent - have fed suspicion among rank-and-fileDemocrats that the Bush campaign rigged the vote, possibly throughsystematic computer hacking.Republican pollster Dick Morris said the Election Night pattern of mistakenexit polls favoring Kerry in six battleground states - Florida, Ohio, NewMexico, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa - was virtually inconceivable."Exit polls are almost never wrong," Morris wrote. "So reliable are thesurveys that actually tap voters as they leave the polling places that theyare used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third Worldcountries. . To screw up one exit poll is unheard of. To miss six of them isincredible. It boggles the imagination how pollsters could be thatincompetent and invites speculation that more than honest error was at playhere."But instead of following his logic that the discrepancy suggested votetampering - as it would in Latin America, Africa or Eastern Europe - Morrispostulated a bizarre conspiracy theory that the exit polls were part of ascheme to have the networks call the election for Kerry and thus discourageBush voters on the West Coast. Of course, none of the networks did call anyof the six states for Kerry, making Morris's conspiracy theory nonsensical.Nevertheless, some Democrats have agreed with Morris's bottom-linerecommendation that the whole matter deserves "more scrutiny andinvestigation." [The Hill, Nov. 8, 2004]Erroneous VotesDemocratic doubts about the Nov. 2 election have deepened with anecdotalevidence of voters reporting that they tried to cast votes for Kerry buttouch-screen voting machines came up registering their votes for Bush.In Ohio, election officials said an error with an electronic voting systemin Franklin County gave Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, morethan 1,000 percent more than he actually got.Yet, without a nationwide investigation, it's impossible to know whetherthose cases were isolated glitches or part of a more troubling pattern.If Bush's totals weren't artificially enhanced, they would represent one ofthe most remarkable electoral achievements in U.S. history.In the two presidential elections since Sen. Bob Dole lost to Bill Clintonin 1996, Bush would have increased Republican voter turnout nationwide by awhopping 52 percent from just under 40 million votes for Dole to just under60 million votes for the GOP ticket in 2004.Such an increase in voter turnout over two consecutive election cycles isnot unprecedented, but has historically flowed from landslide victories thatsee shifting voting patterns, with millions of crossover voters strayingfrom one party to the other.For example, in 1972, Richard Nixon increased Republican turnout by 73.5percent over Barry Goldwater's performance two elections earlier. But thisturnout was amplified by the fact that Goldwater lost in 1964 to LyndonJohnson by about 23 percentage points and Nixon trounced George McGovern by23 percentage points.What's remarkable about Bush's increase over the last two elections is thatDemocrats have done an impressive job boosting their own voter turnout from1996 to 2004. Over this period, candidates Al Gore and John Kerry increasedDemocratic turnout by about 18 percent, from roughly 47.5 million votes in1996 to nearly 56 million in 2004.What this suggests is that Bush is not so much winning his new votes fromDemocrats crossing over, but rather by going deeper than many observersthought possible into new pockets of dormant Republican voters.Bush's GainsBut where did these new voters come from, and how did Bush manage toaccelerate his turnout gains at a time when the Democratic ticket was alsosubstantially increasing its turnout?While the statistical analysis of these new voters is only just beginning,Bush's ability to find nearly 9 million new voters in an election year whenhis Democratic opponent also saw gains of about 5 million new voters is thestory of the 2004 election.Exit polls also suggest that voters identifying themselves as Republicansvoted as a greater proportion of the electorate than in 2000 and that Bushwon a slightly greater percent of the Republican vote.The party breakdown in 2000 was 39 percent Democrats, 35 percentRepublicans, and 27 percent independents. In 2000, Bush won the Republicanvote by 91 percent to 8 percent; narrowly won the independent vote by 47percent to 45 percent and picked up 11 percent of the Democratic votecompared with Gore's Democratic turnout of 86 percent. [Seehttp://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2000/epolls/US/P000.html for details.]According to exit polls this year, the turnout broke evenly among Democratsand Republicans, with about 37 percent each. Independents represented about26 percent of the electorate. Kerry actually did better among independents,winning that group of voters by a narrow 49 percent to 48 percent margin.However, Bush did slightly better among the larger number of Republicanvoters, winning 93 percent of their vote, while matching his 2000performance by taking about 11 percent of the Democratic vote.Registration UpWhile this turnout might strike many observers as unusual in an electionyear that witnessed huge voter registration and mobilization efforts byDemocrats and groups aligned with Democrats, the increased GOP turnout doesseem to fit with the campaign strategy deployed by the Bush team to run tothe base.From the start of the 2004 campaign, political strategist Karl Rove and theBush team made its goals clear - maximize Bush's support among social andeconomic conservatives - including Evangelicals and Club forGrowth/anti-government conservatives - and turn them out by driving up Kerry's negatives with harsh attacks questioning Kerry's leadership credentials.This strategy emerged from Rove's estimate after the 2000 election that 4million Evangelical voters stayed home that year. The Bush/Rove strategy in2004 rested primarily on turning out that base of support.But, even if one were to estimate that 100 percent of these Evangelicalvoters turned out for Bush in 2004 and that 100 percent of Bush's 2000supporters turned out again for him, this still leaves about 5 million newBush voters unaccounted for.Altogether, Bush's new 9 million votes came mainly from the largest statesin the country. But nowhere was Bush's performance more incredible than inFlorida, where Bush found roughly 1 million new voters, about 11 percent allnew Bush voters nationwide and more than twice the number of new voters thanin any other state other than Texas.Bush increased his turnout in all 67 Florida counties, marking the secondconsecutive election in which Bush increased Republican vote totals in allFlorida counties, and overall achieved a 34 percent increase in Floridavotes over his 2000 total.Since Bob Dole's 1996 turnout of 2.24 million Florida votes, Bush hasincreased the GOP's performance in the state by an astonishing 74 percent.Making Bush's gains even more impressive, Kerry also saw gains in all butfive Florida counties and in 22 counties earned at least 10,000 more votesthan Gore earned in 2000.Exceeding KerryBut Bush's vote gains exceeded Kerry's in all the large counties in thestate except in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade, where Kerry increased histurnout by 56,000 new votes compared with Bush's 40,000 new votes. ThisDemocratic improvement in Miami-Dade seems to have come in large part fromDemocratic success in registering new voters in the county by almost a2-to-1 margin over Republicans.In spite of this new-voter registration advantage, Kerry only earned a7-to-5 increase of new voter turnout over Bush in Miami-Dade, a statisticaloddity given the fact that Kerry did a better job than Gore in turning outhis Democratic base, earning a vote total equaling 85 percent of allregistered Democrats in the county compared with Gore's total in 2000equaling 83 percent of all registered Democrats.In other Democratic strongholds of Broward and Palm Beach counties, Kerrygained 114,000 new voters, earning nearly 770,000 votes, and bested Bush bymore than 320,000 votes. But, this was actually a modest improvement forBush over 2000, thanks to Bush's increase of 119,000 new voters in thesecounties, from 330,000 votes in 2000 to 449,000 votes in 2004.Bush's performance in these two counties is worth studying in greaterdetail. In both counties, Democrats saw a significant increase in new voterregistration since 2000, more than 77,000 newly registered Democrats inBroward and 34,000 newly registered Democrats in Palm Beach.Republicans on the other hand only registered 17,000 new voters in Browardand a bit more than 2,000 new voters in Palm Beach. While both counties sawsubstantial numbers of new unaffiliated or third party registered voters,the Democratic advantage in both counties combined of more than 111,000newly registered Dems against fewer than 20,000 newly registered GOP voters,as well as the voter intensity that these new registration rates usuallyrepresent, suggested that Kerry should have done better than Bush relativeto the 2000 election.Instead, Bush actually increased his vote total in the two counties byearning about 5,000 more new voters than Kerry.New LevelBeyond southern Florida, Bush took turnout throughout the state to a newlevel, testing the bounds of statistical probability by winning votesseemingly from every corner of the state, from the panhandle to the GulfCoast, from the I-4 corridor to the Atlantic Coast from Jacksonville toMiami.Another county worth examining in some detail is Orange County, a swingcounty home to Orlando in the center of the state. As in Miami-Dade, PalmBeach, and Broward counties, Democrats successfully registered substantiallymore new voters than Republicans, about 49,000 new Democrats against about25,000 new Republicans.These gains broke what was once a statistical tie in registered votersbetween the parties, giving Democrats a 214,000 to 187,000 advantage acrossthe county. But Kerry only managed a narrow countywide victory with 192,030votes against 191,389 votes for Bush. In 2000, Gore carried the county with140,115 votes against 134,476 votes for Bush.While it's conceivable Bush might have achieved these and other gainsthrough his hardball campaign strategies and strong get-out-the-vote effort,many Americans, looking at these and other statistically incredible Bushvote counts, are likely to continue to suspect that the Republicans put athumb on the electoral scales, somehow exaggerating Bush's tallies throughmanipulation of computer tabulations.Only an open-minded investigation with public scrutiny would have much hopeof quelling these rising suspicions.


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