Today's Papers

Take It Like a Statesman

The disputed election results still dominate the front pages of all the majors. According to the Florida secretary of state’s office, Bush’s lead stands at 960 votes. The Associated Press estimates the number to be 327. The recount proved indecisive and actually revealed further irregularities that have prompted a second recount, this one to be done by hand. Republicans are urging Gore to concede “for the good of the country,” and Democrats (for the most part–see below) are counseling patience until the official results are known.

The leads in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times both report that Bush, confident of victory, is increasing pressure on Gore to concede. James Baker, Bush’s chief representative, warned that entering into protracted legal wrangling would compromise the “rule of law” and undermine the public’s confidence in the political process. Gore’s representatives strongly defended the recount as a means to ensure that procedural flaws don’t jeopardize the will of the citizenry. The Washington Post leads with the manual recount in four Florida counties where nearly 80,000 ballots were discarded either because of “overvoting,” by which more than one candidate was marked, or because of “undervoting,” by which ballots may have been partially marked but were not tabulated by counting machines.

The NYT off-leads Gore’s legal options. His strategists say that they would prefer not to bring the matter before a judge; nonetheless, they are laying the groundwork for litigation: Lawyers have been studying Florida’s voting laws that may challenge the legitimacy of the ballots. The Gore camp has not filed any suits itself, but it has indicated that it would support individual lawsuits.

An LAT front pager examines the choices that Gore faces. He can challenge the results aggressively, but he risks generating long-lasting ill will toward himself and his party. The WP off-lead reports that Democrats, though they support the call for an accurate recount, “screamed like hell” over the suggestion that Gore might continue the fight deep into December. Prominent party officials have expressed concern that gaining the presidency might be a pyrrhic victory for Gore if the public feels that he had to insinuate his way into the office litigiously.

Republicans are busy deciding on their own strategy. The WP fronts the countermoves leaders in the Bush camp are considering. The first option is to take legal action to block the manual recount. (The LAT reports in its lead that Bush has approved a possible suit.) The second option is retaliation: Demand a recount in Wisconsin (where Gore leads by only 6,000 votes), in Oregon (Gore again by 6,000), and in Iowa (Gore by 5,000). The one definite action Republicans have taken is to appeal to Gore’s statesmanship. James Baker admonished, “For the good of the country and for the sake of our standing in the world, the campaigning should end and the business of an orderly transition should begin.” The WP notes that the Democratic camp is divided on how to proceed. Richard Gephardt has called for patience to ensure a thorough and decisive recount. But Bob Dole is reported to have said, “It’s time for [Gore] to say the election is over–let’s go on with the business of America. The recount was held. Bush is still the winner.”

The LAT fronts an exposé of the United States’ byzantine, low-tech voting apparatus. Twenty-eight different ballot formats are currently in use. Punch cards are clearly unreliable and high-tech alternatives aren’t much better. Online voting experiments have produced only mixed results because of security and encryption issues.

The WP runs two more front-pagers on the election debacle: 1) Voting glitches occur more frequently than is commonly believed. The reasons why? Shortage of ballots; shortage of voting machines; ballots lost in transit; malfunction of tabulating machines; failure to count absentee ballots; and sometimes shabby ballot design. 2) Palm Beach voters complained early and often about problems at the polls. By mid-morning many had called commissioners to complain about the confusing “butterfly” ballot. By mid-afternoon, Theresa LaPore, designer of the confusing ballot, issued an independently baffling memo to polling administrators: “ATTENTION ALL POLL WORKERS. Please remind ALL voters coming in that they are to vote for only one (1) presidential candidate and that they are to punch the hole next to the arrow next to the number next to the candidate they wish to vote for.”

The WP fronts only one non-election story. The Clinton administration is expected to issue a final rule Monday requiring virtually all the nation’s employers to protect workers from repetitive stress injuries.

The NYT and the LAT both front the dip in the Dow and Nasdaq. Analysts attribute the trend to concern about anemic corporate profits and a weakening economy.

Election coverage left little front-page room for other major stories. The NYT and the LAT go inside with today’s general election in Bosnia that will help determine the fate of its nationalist parties. The NYT also runs inside the clashes in Gaza and the West Bank that broke out in the wake of the Israeli assassination of Palestinian paramilitary leader, Hussein Obaiyat.