Faithless Elector Watch: The Dimple Dilemma

You turn your back on this story for five minutes, and all the facts change on you. On Wednesday Chatterbox wrote that the Nov. 21 Florida Supreme Court decision “could clear the way for a dimpled-chad Gore victory.” Now the abrupt end to the Miami-Dade recount makes that possibility more remote. What’s more, the very legitimacy of a dimpled-chad victory is being called into question. On Tuesday night, James Baker said that the Illinois court decision embraced by the Gore forces (and alluded to vaguely in the Florida Supreme Court decision) had to do with hanging chad, not dimpled chad. Everybody (including Chatterbox) assumed Baker didn’t know what he was talking about. Two days later, the Chicago Tribune published a story by Jan Crawford Greenburg and Dan Mihalopoulos showing that Baker was right. How annoying! Then, today, the Washington Post carries a story by John Mintz revealing that although dimpled chad are considered countable in Texas, they are almost never considered acceptable anywhere else. And even the Texas law allowing dimpled chad predates Bush’s governorship! Doubly annoying!

This new information doesn’t give much moral boost to Gore’s reported next move should he lose the hand recount, which is to contest the election. Pressure seems to be mounting for Gore to give it up if he isn’t ahead on Monday. But there remains the gambit of trying to persuade Republican electors to ditch Bush for Gore on the grounds that Gore won the popular vote nationally. (The latest to join the burgeoning Electoral College Naughtiness Caucus is Gregg Easterbrook of the New Republic.) Although Chatterbox remains agnostic-but-intrigued by this option, he believes it to be vastly superior to Gore’s challenging a certified Florida victory. Why? For starters, the court precedents are gratifyingly favorable. Faithless electors in years past have not had their votes tossed out by judges. Also, challenging a certified election would seem sufficiently contentious that the moral difference between honoring Florida voters’ will and not doing so would be muddied beyond recognition. Finally, a rumble in the Electoral College would be beneficial even if Gore lost because it would demonstrate what mischief this odd institution might do and thereby increase pressure to get rid of it

Down-and-dirty suggestion: In making the case to Bush electors, Gore supporters might point out that the steadying hand of Dick Cheney on a Dubya presidency can’t be depended on, in view of Cheney’s Thanksgiving heart attack.