Why Is George Bush President? Discrimination against Black Voters Led to Bush's Election

By Lichtman, Allan J. | National Catholic Reporter, December 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

Why Is George Bush President? Discrimination against Black Voters Led to Bush's Election


Lichtman, Allan J., National Catholic Reporter


George W. Bush is president today because the votes counted in Florida's presidential election did not match the ballots cast by the state's voters. But the outcome in Florida--which determined the presidency--was not decided by hanging chads, recounts or intervention by the Supreme Court.

Al Gore lost Florida's presidential vote because electoral officials tossed into the trash can as invalid more than one out of every 10 ballots cast by African-Americans throughout the state. In some counties, nearly 25 per cent of ballots cast by blacks Were set aside as invalid. In contrast, officials rejected only about one out of every 50 ballots cast by whites statewide.

This vast racial disparity in ballot rejection rates defeated Al Gore. If black ballots had been rejected at the same minimal rate as white ballots, more than 50,000 additional black votes would have been counted in Florida's presidential election. Given that more than 90 percent of blacks favored Gore over Bush, Gore would have won Florida by at least 40,000 votes, prevailed in the Electoral College, and become president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2001.

These were the results of a statistical study that I was commissioned to conduct for the United States Commission on Civil Rights and a subsequent analysis published in The Journal of Legal Studies (January 2003). Independent studies by Professors Phil Klinkner of Hamilton College and Anthony Salvanto of the University of California, Irvine, have confirmed the finding of major racial disparities in ballot rejection rates as have studies by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

My studies pointed no fingers of blame at any official involved in Florida's 2000 presidential election. But the studies did call for a thorough investigation by federal authorities to find out why ballots cast by blacks were disqualified at a much higher rate than ballots cast by whites.

Two members of the Civil Rights Commission who filed a dissenting report did not substantively dispute the finding of wide racial disparities in ballot rejection rates in Florida. But they denied the need for investigation, placing blame squarely on black voters, who allegedly lacked the education and literacy to fill out their ballots properly

Analysis showed, however, that blacks were much more likely to have their ballots set aside than whites even after controlling for ballot design, voting technology, education, income, poverty, literacy and first-time voting--a finding that independent analysis likewise confirmed. …

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