Five Hundred and Thirty Seven
On Election Day in 2000, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was given pretty grim statistics, a pretty bleak outcome, and not much promise for things to swing my way. But I’m writing this and you’re reading it, because here I still am. It was a hell of a fight.
But I’m not here today about what happened to me personally twenty years ago, other than it was a day I will never forget, and it was shrouded in all kinds of uncertainty and data and statistics. The uncertainty and the data was also about the election. So let’s look at that and why it matters right now, because you will be surprised, if you don’t already know.
The 2000 presidential election (between Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice-President Al Gore) was too close to call, and was left to the courts to decide. Essentially, the votes in two counties in Florida would prove to be the deciding factors. If Al Gore won either county, he would win the presidency. One of the counties in question was Martin County, where Republicans were pushing for mail-in voting (yes, that is the opposite of their tactics today — which is a topic for a different day).
Due to a printing error, Republican voters in these two counties submitted absentee ballot requests that lacked required voter identification numbers. The request forms themselves should have been discarded, and new ballot requests should have been submitted, according to Florida law. Instead, Republican elections supervisors allowed the Florida GOP to correct the forms of Republican voters so they would receive their ballots. The Florida Democratic Party was given no such chance to correct or resend the ballot requests. This allowed Republicans to send nearly 700 ballots to GOP voters in Martin County who would not legally have received a ballot. The other county sent out 2,000 extra ballots. Much later it was discovered a Republican official was allowed to take the incomplete ballot requests from GOP voters from the office, fill in the missing information, and return them, without any supervision. The requests from Democratic voters were discarded.
Democrats sued to have all the incorrect ballots on both sides thrown out. They lost the case, and Bush won the presidency with 537 votes.
One of the lawyers for this case in Martin County, where 700 illegal ballots counted for a Bush win by a margin of 537 votes, was Amy Coney Barrett.
Two other lawyers that worked for the Republican Party in the Bush v Gore case were John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh.
To be clear, the two most recent additions to the Supreme Court were not due to overturning ACA or Roe, though both issues get them noisy support; they were about insuring that an election close enough to a margin can be ruled in court in Republican favor, again.
On Election Day, I will be working from 6 a.m. until we finish, opening and scanning absentee ballots. In training, we were told to prepare to be there 18 hours. On Election Day, please reach out and make sure your neighbors and friends and family have voted, will vote, have a ride, have their ballots turned in, know where ballot drop boxes are, have phone numbers for support, are ready and able to have all votes counted.
If a voter arrives to vote on Election Day, and has been purged from the voter roll, they are able to vote with a provisional ballot — this is the law. If you are in line to vote and the polls close, you are allowed to vote — this is the law. If you make a mistake on your ballot, ask for a new one — you can have a replacement. If the voting machine goes down/is not working/does not tabulate your vote, ask for a paper ballot — you are allowed to have one. You can call the Election Protection Hotline any time (1–866-OUR-VOTE /1–888-VE-Y-VOTA).
If you read this far, and you have friends who will read this too, please share. We can get the message out to far more than 537 people.
(Sources: WaPo, billmoyers dot com, Miami Herald, aclu dot com, The Daily: Shadow of the 2000 Election podcast, and HBO’s 537 Votes documentary)