May 22, 2008

The Plural of Chad is Chad

By Mary Mancini

Last night Kevin Spacey was on Countdown with Keith Olbermann to promote Recount, the HBO movie about the Florida recount during the 2000 election. I know Kevin Spacey isn’t an expert on all matters electoral, but it was still disappointing that Keith didn’t take the interview one step further - the 2008 election.

And its not just Olbermann. With all the publicity surrounding this movie, now would be the perfect time for journalists to take the national conversation to the next level and ask the most logical follow up questions:

1) Why wasn’t our electoral process equipped, as Kevin Spacey says in the interview, “to handle margins of victory so small and margins of error so big” in 2000?
2) Are we equipped to do so now?

Another great opportunity was lost last night when during the interview Spacey explains the punch-card recount process:

That when you have a margin of victory so small, you have to go to what is called an automatic machine recount and yet, 18 counties, over 1,500,00 votes, didn’t bother to put their ballots back through the machine. They just re-tabulated the memory card, and you always get a different count when you do a machine recount. So, when you kind of realize that, well, that’s ’cause people just couldn’t bother to do it, um, it’s pretty stunning that…that…so..when Baker and Bush kept coming out and saying, “The votes been counted, and they’ve been counted again, and Gore wants to count them a third time,” they were actually never counted.

28 Responses to “The Plural of Chad is Chad”

  1. The BRAD BLOG : Recounting the Recount and Counting the Uncounted Says:
    May 23rd, 2008 at 8:10 am

    […] of the documentary film Uncounted (We’re in it, so see FULL DISCLOSURE at end of this article). Mancini notes that Olbermann, during his interview with Spacey (at left, including clip from film), joined so […]

  2. Steve Carter Says:
    May 23rd, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Putting ballots back through an optiscan should give the same result the second time that it did the first. Otherwise, there’s something wrong with the machine or its programming has been altered since the original count. Spacey suggests that you don’t get the same results necessarily when you recount by just putting the paper ballots back thru the optiscans. Where does he get this idea? Does that idea come from elections officials? From Vendors? Maybe if the ballot definition is off slightly you would get a slightly different read-out. But basically it’s the programming that detemines the count, and the programming is secret.

  3. Brad Friedman/The BRAD BLOG Says:
    May 23rd, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Steve Carter -

    For a start, it was largely punchcards, not op-scan, in question in FL. If you look at the clip shown during the Olbermann/Spacey interview you’ll see that punchcard chad can be pushed back into place when it is re-run through the machine, thus leading to different results.

    For op-scan, however, yes, scientists have found that you can run the same ballots through the same machines and get different results each time. Or run the same ballots through different machines and get different results as well.

    Hence, one of the problems of you using op-scan systems. Many things from a spec of pencil dust, to the wrong type of chemicals in the ink can effect whether a ballot is read correctly or not in op-scan systems.

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